I was absolutely terrified that I'd give birth to a little girl
I'd be a horrible, terrible mom if I had a little girl.
I never wanted one. Since I was young, I wanted to be the mom of two little boys and dreaded the possibility of having a girl. I can hear the choir sing now: As long as your child's happy and healthy, you shouldn't care. Judge me if you will, but I'm unapologetic for wanting to have little boys as opposed to having a daughter.
I suppose it began around the age of 5. My mom was feuding with my paternal grandmother. It's a fight centered on a topic still difficult to discuss today. Born with a rare form of dwarfism called Diastrophic dysplasia, my long bones are only capable of reaching 36 inches. My grandmother, Pauline, grew fearful of the responsibilities tied to having a family member with a handicap. She fell victim to the ignorance of her time and she pushed for my mom to give me up for adoption. My dad, caught in the middle, sided with her.
You can always have more, Pauline said to my mom. My mom, whom I lovingly call G.I. Jane in my memoir, replied by serving divorce papers.
Through the thin walls of my home I overheard my parents arguing about it all. My dad begged for forgiveness and asked my mom to please forget what was asked of her. Gifts after gift arrived at our door from Pauline. I remember my mom yelling, "She can't buy our love!" And just as quickly as all the presents arrived, they were sent back. All but one package, a set of twin boy Cabbage Patch dolls. It was too late. I had peered around the bedroom corner and spotted them in the living room.
They wore yellow knit overalls and matching hats. Their hair was blonde and looped short. And their eyes were blue. They held hands in their giant yellow box and looked beautiful. I pretended to feed and wash them, took them to the doctors and then the park. When it was time for me to have surgery in order to correct my bowing bones, I took them with me to the hospital.
I never cared for the little girl Cabbage Patch dolls. I never asked for the dolls with long silky blonde hair. And I certainly never played tea party with multiple bright-eyed little girl dollies. Even when I didn't know how to pinpoint the nature of my disability, I knew these dolls were unlike me, and I struggled to relate to them.
Here's the second issue; I didn't want to relate to them.
When my friends came over to play, the way they pretended to raise their dolls involved a focus on things like playing dress up, going on picnic dates with Prince Charming and even marriage. That's not how I played. It made me uncomfortable, because even though I had many friends, I still felt a disconnected with fully physically functioning little girls.
I wanted to teach my boys how to do other things. I imagined bringing them to school and then switched roles as their teacher. I wanted to show them how to be strong when it was time for their doctor's appointments with Dr. Duck (a stuffed animal I had). These were all things I knew how to do. I cared less about pretend picnics, because I had never had the ability to go on a real one.
"Tiffy," my mom said to me in the toy store, "look at this Cabbage Patch preemie. Isn't her little gown pretty? Look, she comes with her own baby monitor." I wanted nothing to do with her. I didn't want to plan her wedding, play dress up or send her on stupid dates with Prince Charming. I kept to my boys, because it was easier.
Not every little girl dreams of doing those things. I dreamed of other things first before marriage, like being the general of my own army, being a nurse and performing open-heart surgery, sailing the ocean to find long-lost treasures. Even finding ways to make sharks pets (I was that weird girl who rooted for the great white in Jaws).
As a teenager, I made the choice to undergo bone-lengthening surgery. It was a procedure that took me out of high school and away from most of my friends. I spent 14 grueling hours on the operating table. The hope was to lengthen my bones enough to help me live independently. While my girlfriends fussed over how to straighten their hair and curl their bangs, the labels in their clothes and what time they needed to be at Roller Kingdom (where all the cool kids went to skate in my neighborhood), I was concerned with reaching the top of my head, so I could brush my hair. I stressed over reaching my feet to put my socks on. And I worried over the thought of reaching the pedals of any car to go anywhere.
The consequence was a divide not just between my friends, but also between me and the idea of what it meant to be a girl.
My definition of a woman is this: A total boss. A bitch with class who never takes the word No at face value. And I'm not afraid of that word, either... bitch. I rather embrace it, because my mom has had to be one many times to ensure I was cared for correctly in the hospital.
On numerous occasions my mom also said to me, "Don't ever be like a typical woman. They are catty. Too boy crazy." She often called the majority of them chicky-dos who cackle and gossip. Do something better with your time, she would drill into me.
She helped keep me focused on school and exercise, and showed me how to take out my own stitches. With her support I accomplished something else that many doubted would ever happen: total independence. Though it took years of hard work and rehabilitation, the surgery worked. I was able to lengthen my limbs a total of 14 inches, the most anyone with Diastrophic dysplasia has ever achieved.
After I graduated college, I met my husband, a tall Marine with tattoos that snaked up both biceps. He could crush Prince Charming with one blow of his combat boot. When he returned from a yearlong deployment, I became pregnant with our first child. Call me sexist if you must, but I remember saying out loud, "God, please make it a boy!" I even went as far as to purchase little outfits adorned with dragons, knights and baseballs.
"It's silly to buy anything until we know the sex," he said.
Inside, I felt there was no choice. I had to have a baby boy, because I'd be a terrible mom if it were a little girl. I wouldn't want to teach her to paint her nails. I didn't want to place her in pageants and show her how to vacuum, cook or make a perfect picnic basket. I would want to teach her how to put her fists up and fight against social norms. I'd push her to get on the debate team, and I'd scoff if she made homecoming queen. And most of all, I'd teach her to get a straw and suck it up, just as my mom had done when I faced pain and felt like giving in to my disability.
I would raise an absolute unequivocal Bitch.
No, I'd be a horrible, terrible mother if I had a little girl. I wouldn't raise her the way I'm "supposed" to. And I want nothing to do with it.
Turns out, someone up above agrees the world just isn't ready for me for to have a daughter. My son Titan was born 6 pounds, 10 ounces. Five months ago, I gave birth to my second son, Tristan. My boys may not be twins beautifully wrapped up in a yellow box, but they are exactly what I always wanted. And thanks to my childhood, I know exactly what kind of girl to teach them to stay away from, what kind of boss lady to bring home. I'm unapologetic about that, too.
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