When I think back to the moment I found out I was having a daughter, I remember an immediate “oh my – that cannot be right” feeling in my gut. I envisioned (and had dreamed) about two boys rolling around in our old front yard. You see, there was this little slope in the yard with a big oak tree at our home in Carmel, IN, and it just seemed like the kind of hill that two boys would roll down. They were blonde in my dream and completely dirty, and their laughter hung in the air right as I woke up. I was about 15 weeks pregnant with my 2nd when I had this dream, so on the morning of the anatomy scan, I was sure – so sure – that I was having a boy; it made no sense at all to me when the tech explained what the three little lines were on the ultrasound. A girl. We were having a baby girl.
I was not pleased. I have never wanted a girl the way other women want daughters. I didn’t know exactly why. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just knew I didn’t want one. I am a girl, after all – a pretty girly one at that. But there was this dream – this image. I didn’t want to share my news. I had told everyone I was close to that I hoped for a boy, so I wasn’t thrilled to share that now I had to find a girl name I liked, buy some ridiculous oversized bow for her head, choose a different color scheme for her room, and worry about what in the world I would do with a daughter.
I would wake up in the middle of the night worrying about what kind of woman I would raise. I never had thought about this before because I just assumed I would have two rough and tumble boys who would be strong, smart, and sensitive just like their dad – simply, nothing like me. It took me a little while, but eventually, I figured out why I didn’t want to have a girl. It wasn’t because I didn’t like women or didn’t want to be a mom to a girl. It was simply fear. I simply have not always liked who I was and didn’t want to share any personality traits with a girl. My story is not unique, but thinking about my past and how much I disliked myself growing up, finding confidence was so hard. I was a “fake until I made it” type of woman and eventually I found a groove in my 20’s, but the mistakes I made in friendships with other women, relationships with men, and how I treated others once that confidence came through, haunts me to this day.
I faked how I felt about having a daughter on social media. I posted lots of pics of me smiling with my belly on my hand, but all the while, I was a mess inside. I didn’t want her to turn out like me.
When I think about the person I am now and who I was when I got pregnant with Jude, they look so different to me. I was in, what I have always referred to, as the “in between”. Between becoming the woman I am now and the woman I was in my 20’s. I was working a lot when I got pregnant with her. It’s hard to describe how I spent so many hours a day at my desk, but it was an unhealthy amount of time and so many others tried to point it out. My husband made passive aggressive comments, my dad mentioned it casually on the patio while I twiddled on my phone, my friends quit inviting me places, and those who did get to know me only saw one obsessive side of me while we were out in public. I was a workaholic and I never – ever – thought about anyone but myself, especially when my cell was ringing, dinging or vibrating.
It is such a hard thing to look back on. That “in between” time when I could not control the urge to look away from those who wanted my attention most, who deserved it the most. I wasn’t really connected with my husband. My son who was not even two yet spent more time at daycare or with babysitters than I care to admit. I almost never slept. I was suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety even while pregnant but didn’t really bother to ever do anything about it. I will admit now, my heart was not ready to expand our family. I was hard to like back then. I remember not liking myself, and it turned to utter despair when I found out I was having a girl.
Then she was late. I mean, of course, she was. I remember not liking her in the weeks leading up to her birth and actually telling others I didn’t like her before she was born. I didn’t want to be induced, because even though I wasn’t happy with her, I didn’t believe in induction unless medically necessary. So I waited impatiently for what seemed like weeks. I was 4 cm dilated and 75% effaced for three weeks leading up to her due date and everyone told me she would come “any minute.” But she didn’t. Her due date was July 24th (my dad’s birthday) and my birthday is July 27th and she ruined it. I remember being hot and irritated and annoyed and mean on my birthday that year. I remember being angry with my daughter, who wasn’t born yet. I remember being mad at friends who took me to lunch and my husband for working late. I remember just ….not wanting to have this girl.
She didn’t come until July 29th. I had imagined she would come in like a thunderstorm and wake me in the middle of the night, but she didn’t. My water broke but not enough to cause full on labor (of course). She made me pause. I remember those “in between” moments when I was reading a book to my son when it happened. At just around 5 o’clock I felt a little dampness splash onto my thigh. Of course, I thought I had peed. Those in between moments became something quite special. My neighbor came to get Max and I had time to take a shower, call my parents and put on some make-up. I rarely slowed down but in the few moments I did, she began to make her way into my world. When my husband got home, everything was calm and we didn’t rush to the hospital. Nothing happened at my (normally extremely fast, go go go) pace and for the first time in a long time for me, that was OK. She came in slow and sleepy about 17 hours after that pee feeling occurred.
And, she was perfect. She was tiny and smelled so sweet. I wasn’t going to breastfeed her, because I didn’t think I would have time for all of that. I planned to go back to work almost immediately and hated breastfeeding my son. But, I changed my mind. I mean, the second, they placed her in my arms, everything changed. I remember thinking, “I want to have another baby right now just like her,” and I cried a lot (I was not a crier). I was exhausted but not from labor. I was just so tired of worrying about having this girl. Of not being sure I would have enough room to love her in my heart. I also apologized a lot for feeling so much animosity before she was born. I had allowed fear to steep itself inside my soul instead of embracing this baby. I honestly did not know if I was going to like her, but when she arrived, it was like my whole world stopped and I knew that everything was going to be different. God knew exactly what He was doing trusting me with Jude Elizabeth. And the “in between” changed for me in those exact moments between laboring and her actual entrance into the delivery room. Everything in between became more clear even through the insane amount of tears streaming down my face.
We call her Judy Lou. We call her Jude Bug. She is strong, bold, and brave and walks her own walk. Pink clothes and pretty bows are not her forte. She has an eclectic, hilarious style that I don’t fight with her about. She is so comfortable in her own skin. She knows exactly what she wants and often, exactly how to get it. She is honest but hates to apologize. She throws things when she is mad but hugs me so tight when she is happy. She is dirty as all get out and so blonde that when she tumbles around with her brother, my early dream on the grassy hill comes true. She has a warrior spirit and isn’t afraid of anything. She has so many of my best qualities!
She turned 5 this past July and she is the reason I am able to focus on the important things. Jude changed my “in between”. While I am still an on the go, sometimes a little crazy, ambitious woman, Jude slowed me down. She made me open my eyes and how I view my hours at work, my marriage, and the future. Jude woke me up in the middle of the night for a year and I (almost) never got upset or any real sleep but those in between moments when she was breastfeeding or holding my hand tight – those are the moments I remember like they were yesterday. She showed me how to love harder and be better friend to others. She taught me to give away my gifts. My first born made me a mother but Jude awoke the nurturer inside me. I spend the “in between” doing what I want with whom I want now. I have learned to say “no” to everyone who asks me for too much and saying “yes” to the quieter moments that I never even knew existed. I have more quality friendships and I spend a lot more time reading, writing and I have a career that fits into the nooks and crannies of this life by design. I was brave enough to quit the job that made me a workaholic and I began spending my “in between” with my husband dating him again, getting to know my friends again (those who were left!) and of course, with my kiddos. It’s not always easy but it is simple to focus on my kiddos, taking them to the beach, running errands and chatting in between places we go, all the while, they both are teaching me how to really rock this mom thing.
The other evening, while lying in bed the day after she turned 5, the “in between” caught my breath and snagged a moment causing a panic, making my neck and shoulders tense. This feeling really hasn’t gone away since then. The moments are fleeting. My chest tightened. I looked down at a sleeping baby girl, who is not a baby anymore, wearing her new favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle hoodie and literally – my heart plumped, a knot in my stomach, a choke in my throat, a tear in my eye. One day she won’t be here to remind me because she will be out of the house living her life and all of this in between will be a blur. I slowed down, took a deep breath, squeezed her leg and took an “in between” photo to steal from time this feeling I have that won’t let up. It’s not always about what you want right this second but what you need all the time. She was exactly what I needed when she was born and I pray I can teach her and my son all the in between moments are what’s important. And if they turn out like me, that’s absolutely fine. This is my new dream.