Letting Go Of The Daughter I'll Never Have

Heather Jones wouldn't change a thing about her sons, but closing the door on her "wish daughter" is tough

Your name is Emily. The dark, curly hair that you got from me frames the sun-kissed face you got from your father. Like your brothers before you, your big, bright eyes sparkle and dance, and make it difficult for us to get through a shopping trip without stopping to chat with admirers.

Your fierce stubborn tenacity is tempered by your kind nature and affectionate cuddles. You are a sensitive, compassionate, force to be reckoned with.

Your beloved twirly dresses are constantly grass-stained and muddy from your adventures saving the world (or at least the backyard.) You don’t need the protection of your two older brothers, you take care of yourself quite nicely. A fact you let them know regularly and with emphasis. They know not to mess with you.

In the evenings, you love listening to your biggest brother practicing for band, while the younger reads you the book your dad and I are tired of reciting for the 50th time. You wake up in the morning with a lion’s mane of tangled hair, and the roar to match.

You are loved. Fiercely. You complete our family, and it is hard to imagine being without you. But you don’t exist, and you never did.

“You’ll just have to try again for a girl.” The words filled me with anger and bitterness. The ultrasound at 35 weeks discredited the 20-week ultrasound’s prediction of a daughter. I wasn’t angry by this news, not even disappointed really. The truth is I had suspected a boy all along, so it didn’t come as a huge shock. We had a unisex name and a unisex nursery chosen for our girl, all of the girl clothes we had were hand me downs and easily replaced with boxes of clothing from our first son, and I had bought the Minnie Mouse car seat because I liked it, not because I was expecting a girl. This revelation changed nothing but the spelling of the unisex name we chose. We were not disappointed to be welcoming another son.

What disappointed us were the reactions from others. The people who had previously congratulated us on our forthcoming “million dollar family” were suddenly quiet. I wondered if we had been downgraded to a hundred-thousand dollar family. I was told over and over that I needed to try again for a girl. I wasn’t done being pregnant with the current one. He wasn’t even born yet, and people were disappointed with him. We weren’t. He is exactly the child we wanted, and we were disappointed with the people who couldn’t see that.

I would not change a single thing about either of my beautiful sons, and we never wanted three kids, so for a long time, I was genuinely content with my single-sex family. But as I get older, and I am faced with the reality of never having a daughter, I’m realizing that my previous contentment was enabled by the small part of me that knew there was still a possibility that we might still have a girl. The longing has always been there, deep down, and the possibility of her was enough.

The closer we get to closing the door on our wish-daughter, the more real she becomes, and the more I mourn the loss of her. As I struggle to accept that my little girl will never come to be, I find it harder to even look at other little ones. Videos of my niece, photos of my friends’ children, now come with a tinge of hurt mixed with the usual love. I’ll never hear my mother talk about how fun it is to shop for girl clothes for my daughter, or swoon over my husband playing with his Daddy’s Girl.

And I know it shouldn’t matter. I am one of the biggest advocates for gender neutrality, so this longing for a daughter feels hypocritical and foolish.  I meant it when I snapped back at the “try for a girl” chorus that I was quite happy with two boys, thank you very much. I mean it now. But I still feel her loss.

So, my dear Emily, my beautiful wish-daughter I will never get to meet, I am starting to let you go. You were never here, but accepting that you never will be leaves a hole nonetheless. I will get to the point where you no longer feel so tangible, just out of my reach, but I am not there yet.

You would have been someone amazing, Kiddo.

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