girl talk

[I wrote this on June 4th, after my last OB appointment. At that time, my doctor told me he was “90% sure” our baby was a girl. I had my 20-week ultrasound this morning, where it was confirmed. She’s apparently healthy, which is really the most important thing and which I don’t want anyone reading this to think I am not grateful for and appreciative of; but while I’ve had 10 days to wrap my head around the idea of parenting a daughter, I’m still struggling with it. So I’m just going to go ahead and hit publish.]

I’ve said all along that all I wanted was a healthy baby. Through rounds and rounds of tests, the countless vials of blood taken, the seemingly endless ultrasounds, that was our goal. And finally, after weeks of waiting, of anxious days and fitful nights of sleep, we have the numbers, and they are good. I called Mike from the doctor’s office to tell him as soon as I left my last office visit, and tearfully gave him the news. Like me, he was thrilled and relieved.

But I’m ashamed to admit that when I gave him the second bit of news about this baby, my tears were less joyful.

We’re having a girl.

And that terrifies me.

I’ve never believed I needed to have “one of each” to feel like our family was complete. Heck, having a kid at all was an amazing surprise; being able to have a second feels like an even bigger gift. And apparently, some people in this country are willing to go to incredible lengths to have a daughter. But I am completely freaked out by the prospect, and pink bows and princess stories are the least of it.

The thought of bringing a little girl into the world, a world in which a mother has to explain to her 8-year old daughter what rape is because the little girl was threatened, in which incredibly hard-working and talented women have to write posts like this to explain/justify their success? A world in which women still can’t expect equal pay for equal work, or to make decisions about their own bodies? It’s depressing, and that’s just some of the crap that women in this country have to deal with.

Then there’s the day-to-day stuff, which is worse, perhaps, than those “Big Bads,” because it’s so pervasive. Little girls can be unspeakably cruel, and grown women even crueler. I’ve witnessed it and dealt with it at every age and stage, from the playground to the classroom to the conference room.

We are so quick to tear each other down, so quick to pass judgment, so quick to hinder rather than help. So often, there’s an edge of jealousy and insincerity in our words of praise or congratulations. What should be healthy competition is often shadowed with malice. We attack other women for everything from their hair to their parenting choices. We seem to be incapable of being truly happy for and supportive of other females. Hell, there are entire blogs dedicated to talking shit about other (female) bloggers.

Why? How is that okay? And how on earth am I supposed to prepare a little girl for all of that?

There is so much about BEING a girl that I feel poorly equipped to deal with. Raising one? Feels damn near impossible.

About Jennifer Hess

10 thoughts on “girl talk

  1. Pingback: lean times | Last Night’s Dinner

  2. It’s so funny, because I had my daughter first and I felt nearly as petrified about raising a boy when we found out what our second was. I *knew* girls, but boys were a mystery completely.

    Looking back, I think I was just comfortable with what I started with.

    I hear exactly what you’re saying, all of those things that you mentioned above. It’s all true. I guess I just figure that hopefully (fingers crossed, prayers said, salt thrown over the shoulder, and any other good luck charm I can think of), I’ll do a good job with her, make her strong-minded and brave and cautious and beautiful and kind, all at the same time. But it’s hard, and I think it’s getting harder now that she’s 9.

    I’m just so happy for you and your growing family. Congratulations again! xo

  3. I’m back home after a weekend spent picking up my 14 year old “niece” from summer camp at The Naval Academy, then galumphing around D.C. with her and Sophia. Two teen girls. Nerds. Listening to them machine gun chattering about math, Adventure Time, Nintendo, clothes, periods, make up, farts, boys, French, German, grammar.

    Last night, Dee told us how her best friend turned frenemy lobbed a bomb at the lunch table “your ex boyfriend cheated on you with me when you were together” and “why are you making such a thing about it? I apologized, you have to get over it”. We all discussed how what matters is that Dee knows how she deserves to be treated and that this may just be a phase that Ella is going through. Bottom line, Sophia and Dee “get it” and have learned to navigate and keep themselves whole and healthy due to parents giving them tools.

    You’ll do the same. The fear is the fear. There’s always something to fear but you suck it up and you don’t project, you show strength and laugh. She’ll be strong and she will laugh.

    You’re going to LOVE having a daughter and you’re going to take heart at the ongoing signs that Michael and other fathers of girls are joining the push for their daughters to be able to have less, different things to fight.


  4. I understand your fear, and it’s valid, but the thing is, when it really comes down to it, you just DO. Most of the time, you’re just so busy trying to raise both kids, that you no longer have time for the fear.

    My daughter is one of the strongest, most well rounded, toughest kids I know. I have no idea how it happened. When she graduated from 8th grade last week, I talked to one of her teachers, this incredible, amazing woman, and she said, “Your daughter is a force of nature.”

    I think the key Jen, is do what you know is right, continue to be the great role model that you are, and your daughter (as well as your son) will flourish!

  5. Ladies, thank you all so much for reading and commenting. Your thoughts and words about your experiences with your girls are an enormous help.

    One thing I mentioned to Mike is that, this has made me realize that I need to do some real work on myself if I’m going to be a good role model for our daughter. From little things like learning to accept praise or compliments; not making offhand, negative comments about myself, my appearance; to bigger things like letting go of relationships with people who make me feel bad about myself… it’s all hard stuff for me, but it’s all stuff I really have to work on over the coming months and years.

    One example of the former: one of the first things people have been saying to me when they hear our news is, “oh, I hope she has your hair!” And my immediate reaction is always to cringe, to blurt out “god I hope not” or worse. And I have to stop behavior like that. That’s the little girl who grew up feeling like she was weird or bad because she looked different from all the other little girls around me, who was teased about her looks talking. And yes, I grew up and learned to deal with it, but I never really got over it, and I have to try, because I want both of my children to feel as beautiful as I think they are (or will be). If she does have my hair, I can’t criticize myself, because then I’m criticizing her too, and what kind of monster does that?

    The first step to raising a strong little girl is to teach her to love herself, to respect herself. I have to figure out a way to get there myself.

  6. I was really freaked out when I first discovered that my first child was a girl. I worried (and still do but in a different way) about social issues, about accidentally fostering the wrong things, about even passing on some of my own past baggage to her unintentionally. A lot of those fears melted away when she arrived, though they’ve recently reappeared a bit as she begins to transition into a true school setting, where she and her peers are increasingly aware of who they are as little people, their differences, etc. I do think, however, my biggest lesson learned so far is not to project my own fears and anxieties about her development on her. She is her own person, even at 3.5, and while there is a lot of guiding that will need to happen to help her navigate the world, she also interprets many things differently than myself and my husband. I like the commenter who said, “You just DO.” Intertwined in the above lesson has been that I can’t let myself get too wrapped up in the concerns of raising a daughter because I am in the middle of raising a daughter.

    And now, with an infant son, I look at him and realize that most of my concerns about raising a girl also rest on raising a boy, as well. For with every effort to raise a strong woman, I also want to raise a strong man. They both need to learn the same things, I think, in order to become strong, sensitive, and respectful humans in today’s world.

  7. One thing I mentioned to Jen that I want to reiterate here.

    The flip side to the misogyny that our girl will face is this: we have to raise Julian to not be that kind of man. And honestly, I have attitudes and behaviors that need to change so that he doesn’t pick up on them.

    • yes, BUT. I think Julian already is off to a good start in some ways due to our atypical situation (you being at home with him, me being the breadwinner parent). You’ve got an inherent level of respect for women which I think has a lot to do with the way your mom raised you after your dad died, the example she set for you. And yes, there are things you’ll want to work on, but I think they’re relatively minor.

      • hell, we ALL have things we need to work on. I think the best example setting I did was finally going to Al-Anon about 2 years ago to help with some issues that counseling alone never helped. Sometimes our greatest strengths are admitting that we aren’t perfect, but are willing to work on ourselves.

  8. Pingback: the last first year |

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