On Being a Specialist

Today’s guest post comes from Lisa Rumsey Harris, who has been working on two big projects this Fall: baby girl number #3, due January 28, and the release of her first novel, The Unlikely Gift of Treasure Blume (available now on amazon). In between, she teaches writing classes at BYU, does laundry, french braids hair, stops fights, loses her sanity, and rarely cooks. Check out her world at www.treasureblume.com and www.facebook.com/treasure blume.

As I walk out of the school with my two daughters, a friend who works there stops us. “It’s the big day today, right?” she asks.  Without waiting for an answer, she pats my belly and says, “We all have our fingers crossed for Griffin!”   I pause, looking down at my daughters, and say, “We will be happy either way.” And I mean it.

I’ve checked the girls out of school so they can be with us at the ultra sound.  They have been bewildered by all the attention their mom’s belly has attracted.  I’ve been asked every day for the past month if we know what we’re having.  I joke as I get in the car that we should publish the results in the ward newsletter.  Griffin doesn’t answer. Instead, he checks the mirrors, and backs out. The girls buckle their seat belts, and Griffin pulls out of the parking lot.

As I lay on the table, I can’t see the screen, but I can see my girls. My only reference for what’s going on is the doctor’s narration and their faces. Sela, my almost-twelve-year old is absorbed. She loves medical dramas, and learning about how things work. The shadowy images of her new sibling are clearly fascinating. Sasha, my eight-year- old, looks bored. She’s already told me she doesn’t like babies anyway, and since she hasn’t been the superstar of this episode, she’s barely interested.   Griffin’s face is too far away. I can’t tell what he is thinking.

The baby is squirming, seeming to fight against the pressure of the ultra sound probe.  The doctor tells me he is examining the cord. Then he measures the heart and the brain, pausing to point out other points of interest as he goes:  “That’s an arm right there. You can even count all five fingers on the hand.”  It’s like my family is going on a sight-seeing trip without me.

Finally he gets to the big reveal.  “Do you want to know?” he asks.  I hold my breath as Sela shouts “yes!”  He pushes deeper on my belly. “It looks like you guys are specialists,” he says. “It’s a girl.”

I feel differently than I thought I would.  I don’t know what to say. So instead, I start to cry. It’s my go-to reaction these days. My girls are happy: more pink and bows and barbies.  I still can’t see Griffin’s face, so I don’t know what he’s thinking.  He says something to the doctor, but I don’t know what.

With the doctor’s help, I sit up, wipe the gel off my stomach, and wiggle off the table. I go to the front desk and make a return appointment. It’s almost like I’m on autopilot.

In the car, I look out the window, needing time to sort out how I feel.  I have always thought this baby was a girl. From the beginning.  From before her conception. Suddenly I remember a conversation with Griffin when we were dating. “I come from a family of all girls,” I said. “And so does my mom. I’m the third daughter of the third daughter.” “That’s interesting,” he said. “No,” I said. “You don’t get it. If we get married, we’ll probably have all girls.” He responded with a line from Napoleon Dynamite. “Like anyone can even know that,” he said.  But I knew it then.

If I always knew, why do I feel so deflated?  My first thought is that it’s a good thing that Griffin isn’t Henry the 8th. I would have been beheaded.  I catch my husband’s eye, and he smiles at me. I look away.  I feel like I’ve failed him. My second thought is that we probably don’t need to announce this in the ward newsletter after all.

I think about my friend, Erica of the five boys. She named number five Henry (Kenneth Branagh fans unite! Henry the 5th was a much better guy than Henry the 8th ).   She told me, “I almost clawed the compassionate service leader’s eyes out this week when she said with a sigh, ‘Well, I’m just sorry you didn’t get a girl.’ I told her that sometimes mothers are just lucky enough to specialize in boys.” The memory makes me laugh. Erica and I have the same doctor. He must have revealed the news to her the same way that he revealed it to us.

With the girls there, we don’t really discuss it.  We stop by the grocery store, eat dinner, then work on homework. It’s only after the girls are in bed that I approach the subject.

“So how do you feel about this?”  I ask him.

He grimaces, “I wish everybody hadn’t made such a big deal out of this. It’s starting to annoy me.”

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“Well, it isn’t about me, for one thing,” he says. “And I always knew it was a girl.”

“Really?” I ask.  “Or are you just saying that?”

He pauses and comes over to take my hand. “No. I knew. I knew when we found out we were pregnant. I knew it was a girl, and I knew what her name would be.”

At this point, I’m crying again.  He says the name, the name that we both know is her name.  He hugs me.  Then he looks me in the eye. “After all we’ve been through to have her, how could I possibly be disappointed?”

And as he says it, I remember. It’s silly to think I could have forgotten.  All the years of trying and disbelief. All the books I bought, and friends I talked to. All the discussions about whether we should try in-vitro or maybe adopt.  The visit to the doctor where he told us that there was no medical reason for our infertility. The horrible day in November when we thought I was pregnant, but I wasn’t.   The realization that we should be really grateful for the two beautiful children we had, because we had no idea that we would be facing infertility later.   And then the miracle day last May when I told him, after peeing on 20 sticks, that I thought I was pregnant. How neither of us really believed it until we heard the baby’s heartbeat.  How we both knew: this baby was a miracle.  That day, I told him that I felt like Hannah, who also prayed for a child, and received a miracle. How could I have forgotten all that in this moment?

“What about your brothers? “ I ask. “You’ll be the only one of your brothers not to have a son.”   He takes my hand. “Honestly, I think I’m the only one of my brothers who could do this. I’ve been thinking that it takes something different to be a father to daughters.” And I think of him holding newborn Sela, wrapped in a pink blanket, carefully sticking bows in her hair with petroleum jelly.  I think of the day that Sasha wore new sparkly socks, and she was so eager to show him. Without any prompting from me, he noticed and said, ‘Wow, what beautiful socks, Sasha!”  I think of him patiently looking at American girl dolls, and brushing the girls’ hair for church. I think of him at dance recitals, jostling other dads in the front row, digital camera in hand.  I think of him standing in line for hours at Disneyland, just to meet the princesses.  I think of all the times when I was young women’s president that he gave priesthood blessings to the girls in our ward who didn’t have fathers that could. I feel the baby kick. And I know that he is right.

“But what about the ward?” I ask.

He smiles. “We’ll tell them what the doctor told us. We’re specialists,” he says.

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22 thoughts on “On Being a Specialist

  1. Love this. Thank you. I will read it again in a few weeks after my ultrasound when I discover what I’m having…

  2. I have three daughters also and this made me cry. It does take a special guy to take care of girls and a special mom too. Congrats!

  3. I, too, am a daughter with all girls. My mom had all girls, and her mom had all girls, and her mom had all girls. Specialists!!

  4. Thank you for this. I just delivered our fifth daughter on Tuesday night. For the first time, we did not find out at the ultrasound but waited until the delivery for the gender reveal. Everyone assumed we wanted a boy so our only son could have a brother. I would tell people how we would be thrilled either way, and if given the choice, I am not sure which gender I would prefer. Yes, it would have been nice for our son to not be the only boy, but I adore my children and find no disappointment in having another girl. As for our kindergarten son, he wasn’t disappointed either. He has done nothing but dote on our new addition. I am thrilled for your family to have another child. Congratulations.

  5. Found out in May we were pregnant too! I am 41 and though we had been trying for over a year I didn’t think it was possible! When we stopped thinking about it, it came as a big surprise. We have 2 boys and 2 girls and I thought it would be fun to have another girl, Hannah May, however God has blessed us with another boy Samuel Elliott, apparently we needed more practice with boys and we couldn’t be happier! Congratulations on a house full of princesses!

  6. I just found my first baby will be a girl. I have been kind of annoyed when people ask what I wanted. I didn’t care. I knew it was a girl before the ultrasound though. This piece made me cry. I loved your husband’s response. It’s too soon to know if we will be specialists yet, but I hope whatever combination and number of sons and daughters we are given, we make our children feel special, no matter what.

  7. This was great. Our 10th child is our 7th boy. I was SURE he was a girl, right from the get-go and had a name all picked out, until the ultrasound. I was SO bitterly disappointed. I came home and posted on facebook something about how we wouldn’t be needing lace and ribbons for this one. My disappointment lasted just long enough for another friend, one who is my same age but has NO children to post about how happy she was for me and congratulations. That’s when it hit me how silly/selfish I was being. I was having a CHILD. A beautiful, healthy child. Then I pulled it together and switched gears. And now I have a beautiful little boy and can’t imagine him NOT in my life.

  8. I have three boys and am expecting baby #4. Though I do really think it’s a girl, it will probably be a boy, since we are “specialists” and all :) I wouldn’t be at all disappointed if it is a boy, I have felt for awhile that I may just be a mother of boys and I’m at peace with that. We won’t be finding out gender at the ultrasound mostly because it’s fun to wait, but also because if it is a boy, I want to put off the dumb comments from others as long as possible. I don’t know why people think they need to pity me because I don’t have a daughter.

  9. Loved this – we have five daughters. Sometimes somebody tells my husband they’re sorry we don’t have any boys and he gets so offended. “What’s wrong with girls?”

    Nothing. Someday we’ll have grandsons, I’m sure, but for now we love “specializing.”

  10. Thanks for all your kind words. I really believe that the Lord knows which spirits we need to have in our families, and that our children don’t come to us by mistake. I know that doesn’t explain all the trials and hardships that can happen during our mortal lives.

    But I am grateful for the chance to have this child (although it’s hard to feel grateful when you’re pregnant and you have the stomach flu). And yes, my husband is a great guy . . .99% of the time :)

  11. We are specialists too. Isn’t it strange how obsessed others can be about making sure you are trying for one of the other sex? I admit, sometimes it can be a little daunting being the only female in the house (though my boys like to remind me that our cat is a girl too!), but I wouldn’t trade my family for any other.

  12. As the mom of 3 girls and nana of 3 granddaughters (4 in the spring), this touched my heart more than I can say.
    My husband and I- and now my daughter and her husband have heard every variation of rude/thoughtless comments about having “only” girls. I never experienced 1 iota of disappointment and neither did my husband when our girls were born (pre-routine ultrasound days!)
    It takes a very special man indeed to be a Dad to 3 girls and grandfather to 4 more! I know that my husband would not trade these experiences for anything.
    Thanks and best wishes with your new little miracle!

  13. PS: it’s really, really time to rid our society of the ridiculous notion that having sons makes a man more of a man…..BLEH

  14. This could not have been more perfectly timed for me. I just found out that the 4th baby I’m expecting will be another girl. We will have 4 girls! When I called my grandmother to tell her she said, “Well, you’ll be a specialist in girls!” I didn’t cry at the ultrasound–I laughed and said, “I know what she looks like!” because my husband and I have produced three beautiful, similar-looking girls. And we love it.

  15. Congratulations, Michelle!

    I cried just because I cry at everything right now. I wish I could ditch this charming pregnancy side-effect. I cry at happy things, sad things, even every day things.

    But congrats on baby girl #4. We are so excited for number three in about a month.

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