I didn’t want a girl.

Is her head really that big? That was my first thought when I saw her.

After three sons, there came waltzing in, ok, maybe it was more like charging in; our sweet beautiful girl, The Dainty. She had crashed full speed into our lives like a ship to the shore. Her arrival made a giganticly huge impact on us, no doubt about that. The day we finally met face to face, she instantly became the anchor that her obvious final sibling position created, but it was more than that. She anchored us all.  As we initially marveled at her beauty, the men in my life staring smittenly at her in amazement, I knew she had changed us in more ways than just seats at the dinner table. She brought something to all of our lives that I didn’t know I had been missing before her, and its not what you’d think.

I won’t sugarcoat it, the day I saw that little hamburger instead of hotdog in grainy black and white, my world flipped upside down. Or maybe that was my lunch. Much like everything else about my daughter, her pregnancy was anything but like her brothers’ time served in there. She made me feel weak, lightheaded, dizzy, and generally queasy most of the 9 months. I had carried a certain imaginary gold star that I proudly shared around mommy circles for having endured three prior pregnancies without so much as a verp, but with her, all bets were off. Did I mention that I never wanted a girl? I was Not one of those moms trying desperately for the pink sparkles and pigtails. The mother-daughter bff ideal was lost on me. No, I was quite the opposite. I was petrified of pink.

The day we looked on eagerly at that fuzzy screen of wiggly baby parts, I basically lost it. Literally. I became that preggo. No, I didn’t lose my lunch, I lost my mind, or maybe, I began to find it that day. I don’t really know. All I do know is that I started crying uncontrollably as the tech said, ” well it looks like a girl!” I frantically searched my husband’s eyes, who immediately said, “I knew it!” as I tried to compose myself… but I couldn’t. Every single seed of doubt that I had ever suppressed in my eleven prior years of motherhood leading up to that moment came rushing into that tiny, sterile and all of a sudden very warm room. How was I going to do this? What did I get myself into? WHY did I insist on having another baby? This is what I get for chancing fate, I thought. And as the overwhelming emotions of fear, doubt, hurt, betrayal, and distrust swept over me, the equally pervasive feelings of joy, determination and un-ending love told them to shut up! It was like my thoughts were growing louder and louder as if in crescendo, and  I couldn’t contain myself. I just laid there, belly exposed and gooey, holding my husband’s hand, youngest son oblivious to the shift in the universe that was making the room spin, sat quietly in the chair in the corner playing on daddy’s phone; and I sobbed.

After several incredibly awkward seconds, the tech finally asked me if I was OK? My husband’s eyes, glistening with happiness, turned concerned as he realized the subtle pale look of terror that had washed over my face. I strained out a hopeful, “no, I’m fi-ine. I’m so e- excited, a g-girl?!” While inside, my head was swirling faster in a vortex of jumbled up thoughts strong enough to have plunged the Titanic deep into the dark abyss. Great, I thought. Eleven years of self-managed anxiety about motherhood, and getting it right, have been unraveled in 30 seconds. But I am so excited, I just can’t allow myself to be right now. Need to process this. Need to figure out what this will look like in my perfectly pieced together patchwork of motherhood. How will I overcome this set back?-No, gift, yes, this is a gift, SHE is a gift. She? Yes, Julie She. Utter disbelief. There is a SHE in my belly! This is a lesson. This is a challenge from God. Bring it, I thought. I love a good challenge.

How naïve of me to have assumed for twenty excruciatingly long weeks that I might get off lucky enough to be blessed a fourth time with a son. An easy, uncomplicated fourth attempt at mothering to perfection, a boy. One whose existence in my life, as my child, and I his mother, in no way, shape or form resembles the uniquely terrifying relationship of the mother-daughter. But now, here it is. Staring me in the face. Wiggling sweetly on that screen above my head, and inside my body, waiting to see what I was going to do next. And I guess the universe thought, finally, I was ready. So, ready or not, I must rise to the occasion. How easy it is to be comfortable in this life. The best lessons; in fact I’d say, the only lessons, seem to happen when we become uncomfortable enough to admit and accept, and  only then, we learn. So with that, off I went. With my dear, sweet, amazing and encouraging husband, and blissfully oblivious four year old son. Off into the horizon (also called the parking lot of the radiology clinic) to spend the next twenty weeks preparing. Not for pink socks and tutus; but for my survival, and with a lot of work; an absolution.

My daughter entered this world in the same state that I did, California. I never in a million years could have anticipated that coincidence, being that I had not lived there for over half my life by the time she arrived. And yet, there we were. Life had brought me right back to the very place I had arrived myself, thirty two years before, and now my last child and only daughter was born into what I had spent what seemed like a lifetime ago trying to escape. We will always share this on our birth certificates, and I kind of love that we have that extra fun little bond. Her brothers and I have other bonds that I share with each of them individually, those belong to us; but this belongs to just she and I.

In the 451 days since she joined our family, she has taught me more about motherhood than I ever thought I knew while actually doing the mothering thing what I thought, was quite well all those years leading up to her. I hope my sons will one day forgive me for my many missteps along the path to her arrival. It was because of her, that they finally got the mother I should have never been afraid to be for them all along. I didn’t even know I was still closely guarding a piece of my heart from them, my gorgeous, amazing sons, who deserved the best mother money could buy, or at least a bit of change life could toss at them, and once their little sister crashed onto the scene; they finally, and totally got her.

Before The Dainty, I thought I was giving the boys the kind of mother I always wanted, to have and to be; and I fought hard at it.  At times sacrificing everything I thought I was and had, in the name of stubbornly and blindly putting them first. That to me, was what I thought a mom should be. Losing yourself in your children; never being selfish and letting them fade into the background. Desiring more for them than you had. A kind of mother who teaches her sons how to be brave and strong, by being determined and steadfast in their convictions. And boy, did I have many of them. So many self-imposed rules about life and the art of being the “right” kind of mother. But after getting to know her this past year, I finally got to know myself in this new reality where she exists, and it has opened my eyes to all of the things that I was missing. What’s the point of pretending to be an amazing mother, if you fall to pieces the minute your carefully constructed paper house gets blown over by three little words: Its a Girl.

And it was then I realized a mother is so, so much more.

The dainty came into this world like thunder after a bolt of lightening. Literally. She caused a very audible crack in the stillness of that room, like a branch being broken in half, as she made her entrance into that hospital, and into our circus. In that brief second or two, as the sound of a twig snapping reverberated against the cold quiet walls and freezing floor (why is the floor always so cold in the hospital?), it was like the moment in the ultrasound all over again. A flood of emotions rushed into my mind; only this time, twenty weeks later, they moved at lightening speed. In a flash I saw my daughter in my mind, my precious perfect girl, whom I had not actually seen in the flesh yet, slip away from me. Had her neck just broken? I am going to KILL that doctor! I am a pro at this, what is HE doing?! All of that fear and doubt over becoming her mother vanished in a blink of an eye, and was instantaneously replaced with the fear of losing her, before I’d ever even had the chance to meet her and tell her I could do it. I couldn’t lose her. I was ready. In that moment I wanted to have the chance at guiding a mother daughter relationship more than anything I had ever wanted in my whole entire thirty two years on this earth. The fear of screwing her up had vanished. And with an overwhelming well of strength from deep within my soul that I never knew existed there, let alone in my body or in my voice after twenty four hours of labor, I mustered a mama bear roar, strong and bold, “Is SHE OK?” Swiftly I was reassured. She was fine. My bones, perhaps not so much. But as the seconds passed, and my mind processed what the doctor meant by that comment, I understood. I would indeed get to mother my daughter. She was here, and it was time. Absolution time. For us all. My whole sweet, messy, perfectly ridiculous circus had just experienced this enormous ship, in the form of one tiny little girl, our girl, barreling to land and docking onto our shore. She was here, and we were forever changed.

To say the love is instant is an understatement. With all of my babies, I fall in love the moment their eyes meet mine. This child was certainly no exception. I fell for her instantly. She looked so much like my husband it was easy. She was quiet. She was perfect. She was HUGE! Her head was big, like really big. Or so it seemed to me in my euphoric state. And she was chubby! She was a pound bigger than any of her brothers. I watched as her father lovingly stood by her side as the nurse cleaned her up. His voice grew soft, softer than I remember it ever getting with our son, and I thought, this is how you talk to a girl. His girl. Our girl. Oh my! And as the boys filed in to meet this anchor, their sister, it was pure love. Not from them immediately. Theirs was more shy trepidation, awkward uncertainty,  and in the youngest boy, a sort of innocent indifference you’d expect from a boy of four, (much like that day at the ultrasound. Sister? great. Can we go to Mcdonalds now.) But in me for myself, and there in front of me. My reality of looking out at the five of them was pure love. Sure I had felt it before. In fact, I’d venture to say I had felt it just about every day prior in our little circus act, in some way or another. Certainly in each of the boys’ births. This is in no way a tale of favorites. Plus, I have an incredible husband, add three loving sons, and I knew love before; but this, this was different. This was a love from the depths of my being. This was a love that sprang from the depths for myself, as much as it was a love for my daughter. I was whole. This little person brought with her into the world, and that hospital room that day, the answer to all of my fears, doubt, insecurities about motherhood. The ones I had been carrying around for eleven years unknowingly until her. Forgiveness.

You see, I had always been the mom that proudly proclaimed how lucky I was to be a mother of all boys, and I was, I truly felt blessed. But what I never knew until she came crashing onto our shore, is that I didn’t understand that I was carrying a resentment and a fear of trusting myself as a mother who would not hurt as I was hurt, that was holding me back from being everything that I could be to my boys. Having convictions are worthless if they are based in fear. I thought I had to prove what a perfect mother I was to everyone; including myself, in order to prove I was not the mother I had. What my daughter, the anchor, the Sailor brought; was the opportunity to face that fear head on, and overcome it. It turns out my love for her isn’t any less because she is a daughter and not a son, and it is not any less because her presence makes me relive past hurts. That was a fear I clung to for so long it embodied who I was being as a mother to my sons, thankful everyday that God didn’t challenge that fear by giving me a daughter….

I used to think- Well, I’m only a great mother to the boys because they aren’t girls, and so I don’t have to deal with facing my pain. What a crock! My dainty girl, my daughter, taught me that I was so much stronger than that fear.

From here, because of her, I am grounded in the courage to be truly proud of who I am as a mother, what I learned as a daughter, and where I am going with my family out into the great unknown. Imperfections and all. She’s taught me that its ok to be afraid of the unknown, as long as I recognize that fear is just a false security tying you to the shoreline. She is teaching me to keep being brave. I didn’t stop being a great mother when she was born. I still am one because, somehow by the grace of God and a strong guiding force, I always was one. Its ok for me to acknowledge that my accomplishment as a good mother had nothing to do with not having a daughter. She is living proof of that fear being as bogus as my bones snapping! (I’m fine by the way. The doc had laughed and told me I was as old and brittle as he! Rude!)

I love my children all equally. There is a special piece of my heart that each one fills as they’ve entered it. My daughter fills the piece that was missing all along and I never knew it, or thought I needed it. She is my anchor, big head and all. I welcome her in all her pinkness with open arms to our circus, chalk full of imperfect, but best intended mothering. Its the best I’ve got to offer her and the boys, and that’s ok because as it turns out, its totally enough.