to be sad for what isn't.

Three and a half years ago, I bought a pair of gold sparkly shoes for my future daughter.

They were marked down to $3.24 in the clearance aisle at Target, and while I knew I was nowhere near ready to have kids at the time, I at least knew this much: I wanted a daughter someday.

I have always wanted a daughter, ever since I was a little girl and was given a doll from the American Girl Bitty Baby collection. I named her Kimber, because even back then I knew that Kimberly was too popular and I wanted my daughter to have a unique name to match her one-of-a-kind personality.

When I got pregnant at the age of 25, I knew instantly that I was having a boy. Call it mother’s intuition or a lucky guess, but I was convinced in my heart of hearts that the baby in my belly was a boy. Which is why, on a Friday night in December, I was not shocked in the slightest when we cut into a blue cake in front of our family and friends. I screamed and clapped in excitement, because it was exciting—even though the blue cake confirmed what I already knew to be true.

24 hours later, the reality of that blue cake set in, and any tiny sliver of hope I was holding onto at that point was gone. The gold sparkly shoes, her hypothetical long eyelashes, the prom dress, the mother/daughter talks, all of it. Poof. 

I sat on our green couch that night and confessed to my husband with tears in my eyes, “Part of me is sad that we’re not having a girl.”

Releasing the words out loud provided some relief, but the guilt of my disappointment was almost too much to bear. I ugly cried all over my husband's sweatshirt while he calmly reassured me that my feelings were valid, a truth I refused to believe. The next day, I hesitantly blogged about my feelings hoping that at least one other mother could relate to me. I was shocked to find not just one, but many who could relate. In addition to all the comments on my post, I received dozens of e-mails and texts that day, all of which said some rendition of those precious words I needed to hear so desperately: “I felt that way, too.”

And then on a sunny Monday morning in May, Everett Hudson was born, and you could not have pried that baby boy from my arms if you tried. He was the second fiercest love of my life, and I would not have traded him for anything. He is everything I never even knew I wanted, and then some.

I’m pregnant with my second child now, and unlike the first, I felt no hunches regarding the gender this time. To be honest, I thought it would be easier to find out I was having a boy again, simply because of Everett. Because now I know what it’s like to have a boy and I cannot imagine my life without him. I know what it’s like to stare at those adoring blue eyes all day and watch him throw a tennis ball clear across the yard and feel his little toy trains roll up and down my legs while he sits next to me on the couch. I’ve been a mother to this boy for two whole years and they have been two of the best years of my life.  

But when we opened that envelope last month and I read “it’s a boy!” on the ultrasound picture, there was no stopping the flood of tears that followed. There was no 24 hour wait period. There was just me, crying, in the middle of the restaurant, while I waited for my French toast with strawberries to arrive.

I was hung up on a single thought: what if I never have a daughter? Ever?!

The mere possibility of that crushed me, as I realized that the daughter I've dreamed of having my entire life might be just that—a dream. A dream that might never, ever, come true. I cried on and off all day, all weekend, and quite a few times the week that followed. Every time I cried, I felt guilty, which only made me cry more. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't feel excited about having another boy, and I hated myself for that. Everyone around me was more excited than I was, and my own self-loathing was torture. I felt unworthy to be a mom, ungrateful, un-everything that I should be.  

Desperate to feel better, I reminded myself of my favorite motherhood mantra—grace is greater than guilt. I repeated those words in my mind close to ten times a day, and slowly but surely, I started to believe them again.

A few weeks later, with prayer and time, my heart began to feel excited about having another boy. It was not effortless, but each day I felt a little more excited than the day before. I started reading name books and putting together nursery ideas, simple things that brought me joy during my first pregnancy, and have been equally therapeutic the second time around. I started to feel better. I started to forgive myself. 

But most of all, I started to realize that it’s okay to be happy for what is, and to be sad for what isn’t. I started to realize that those feelings are not mutually exclusive, and that it’s okay to feel happy about having a boy while also feeling sad about not having a girl. It’s okay to celebrate the reality of what is, while simultaneously mourning the possibility of what could-have-been.

These feelings don’t make me a bad mother, or an ungrateful mother, or an unfit mother. 

They simply make me human.

And maybe, just maybe, becoming a mother is the most human thing I’ve ever done.   

Written by Ashlee Gadd