When my wife became pregnant with our first child, it seemed like a given that it would be a boy. The odds seemed so heavy on the XY combination that my wife talked as if it was a certainty. Discussions of names, clothes, nursery decor were always finished with her saying "It's going to be a boy anyways, so it doesn't matter."
"We don't know that for sure. It could be a girl," I would follow up, doing my best to be the modern, sensitive, PC expectant father I imagined myself to be.
"Well, with your family's track record, we're having a boy," was how it was always wrapped up.
As is ought to happen when expecting, just about everyone we came in contact with seemed to have an opinion one way or the other. Some were based on "facts," such as "she's carrying it low, so it's going to be a boy." Others were just straight statements like "It's going to be a girl." What always surprised me was the confidence with which these declarations were made, especially given the lack of any (real) information one way or another. How anyone could have such strong opinions on the results of nature's ultimate coin flip was beyond me.
As we neared the 20-week mark, I tried my best to remain neutral. Whenever the topic came up, I was always sure to toss in the requisite "Either is fine with me, just as long as it's healthy." I didn't want to be that stereotypical dad, wanting a boy so I could shape him into the next Tiger Woods or Tom Brady. I was fighting hard against the tide of expectations, reminding myself that even if it is a boy, whose to say he will be an unabashed sports finatic like me? He could be a show-choir loving musician, or an avant-garde artist. Or he could be a Goth counter-culturalist or a major online gamer. Or he could be gay (by which I mean, he could be gay AND one or more of the others). Or he could not want to be boy entirely, which, I can with full honesty say, is entirely fine with me. I consistently reminded myself of these things for the specific purpose of breaking down any expectations and focusing on loving this new baby no matter whom he/she would become.
When the ultrasound technician announced that the baby was a girl, I was caught off guard more than I would like to admit. I felt like I didn't know how to react. I, of course, said the right things and still enjoyed the moment with my wife. But I was ashamed of what had been my initial reaction: disappointment. So much for the progressive, modern man.
This shame lingered with me for the next few days. I began to question myself. Why was I not as excited that it was going to be a girl? Was I more of a chauvinist than I really knew or at least willing to admit? I pondered these questions over the next few days searching for something to help me feel as excited as I had before the ultrasound.
I was sitting at a two-top across from the order station at the Starbucks near my house, continuing my mental flogging, when a family entered and stepped up to the counter. Mom, Dad, and two middle-school aged daughters seemed to be making a quick stop before a long trip. As I watched them place their orders, a few extra items caught the girls' eyes. They made the usual teenage "Can we get this?" request and Dad approved with a loving "Sure." As the father wrapped up the transaction, the youngest girl gathered her purchases and, before stepping away from the counter, turned and said, with sweet sincerity, "Thanks Daddy."
There it was. In that moment all the excitement, and then some, came flooding back. All the special parts of the father-daughter relationship became clear. I get to be the provider. I get to be the protector. Daddy-daughter date nights. I get to be the one to let her know how beautiful she is. I get to be the model for any future significant others. I get to be the one to walk her down the aisle. While I was quick to remember that these, again, are expectations and by no means a guarantee of what was to come, just the possibility was enough.
When, at the next ultra sound, the tech confirmed that it was a girl, a new feeling washed over me - relief. Any other news would have been a disappointment - I was all in. Because I get to be Daddy.