The following letter was written by Sep, a South London based mama to two boys and secondary English teacher. You can read more of her work as well as some beautiful poetry on her blog Dear Stupid Parents
Dear Little Ned,
During my pregnancy with you, I felt so different to when I was carrying your brother: sicker sooner, exhausted from the start all the way to the finish and sore, oh so sore, as though my body wasn’t really made to withstand this again so soon after the first time. Nevertheless, I was so excited to meet you! I kept imagining your toes; tiny and skinny with perfectly formed toenails! And on those days when your arrival seemed to be too far away for me to cope with, I’d think about your toes and how much I’d kiss them when you came earth side. (Which I did by the way and still do – part of me wants to do it forever but another part of me knows that teenage boys are stinky so this particular obsession will likely run its course.)
When you’re expecting a baby whose gender you don’t know – and I really hope if you grow up and dream of this, you’ll get your wish, it’s as close to magic as real life could be – everyone, from family and friends to colleagues to complete strangers, want to have a guess. They look your shape, size, ask how often baby kicks and what cravings you’ve been having and use this information to tell you whether it’s a son or a daughter brewing away in there. It’s well meaning of course but it’s annoying because we, your daddy and me, didn’t care what or who you were, just that you were ours. And even though there is zero science behind these guesses, part of me believed it each time and I’d feel sad that I knew and that the surprise was ruined.
Over the course of those long months, so many people had told me that because of how different I felt during my 9 months with you in my tummy compared to the first time with your brother, you must be a girl – and I let myself be convinced. Even though I genuinely didn’t care, even though when people asked me what I would choose if I could, (another delightful pregnancy conversation!) I always said maybe a girl but probably a boy because two brothers only 18 months apart would hopefully encourage a true, life-long friendship, I was more or less certain you were a girl and that we’d have a daughter, your brother, a sister.
So let’s fast forward to your birthday. You kept us waiting 3 days more than we expected. Well, 8 for me, actually – your brother was 5 days early so naturally, I thought you would be too! I went into labour, went through labour and then you were born. Your daddy and I had told the midwife that we wanted to see for ourselves ‘what’ you were so as soon as you came out, you were passed to me and placed on my chest. Before you landed there though, I couldn’t help but look down to see what there was to be seen and I found out – the first to know, you were my son. As I clutched you to me, your soft tummy on my soft tummy, and watched you root around for your first sip of our milk, I lay still, not quite believing you were here but mostly, not quite believing you were a boy.
I’m embarrassed to say now, but for those first 10 – maybe 15, maybe 100, who knows – minutes, I felt like I’d been robbed; that all those people who told me they’d be “very surprised if it isn’t a girl” had stolen a precious moment from me and from us. That lovely surprise that I wanted wasn’t lovely in the way I imagined. I was less surprised, more shocked, less elated, more confused. When you’re expecting a baby, you build a picture of what that baby’s going to be like and that starts with knowing or in my case, imagining, their gender. I thought you were a girl so I thought of what I’d dress you in, what a feminine version of your brother might look like, what interests of mine you might share. I thought about my relationship with my mummy, your nanny and I imagined ours would be similar; that I’d do your hair before school, that we’d go shopping together and when you’re older, we’d go to the theatre or out for dinner. I imagined a typical mother-daughter relationship but didn’t take them time to think about how all those things might look if you were a boy.
Please don’t misunderstand this, Baby Boy, I wasn’t disappointed when you got here, in fact, more than anyone else in my life – more than any friend, more than your daddy, or your brother – I have a strong, unshakable sense that you were – are – meant to be here with me, like we’ve been brought together by the universe or fate or an extraterrestrial being (!) Perhaps feeling this way is because you’re so definitely you and not the baby girl that I conjured up in my mind.
Getting to know you little by little over the last 6 months has been sheer joy, not least of all because you’re so different to how you brother was when he was a baby and I find it so exciting that you’re different – that being a boy doesn’t mean only one thing or one series of things. Like your brother, you laugh and laugh when I throw you in the air. Unlike your brother, you love to snuggle and being held is perhaps your favourite thing right now! Your brother was crawling at your age but you don’t seem interested in that just yet – you like to watch what’s going on from a safe distance, preferably in mine or your daddy’s arms! It’s exciting to know that as every day and month and year goes by, I’ll get to see more of your personality; you are and will always be like no other person who has ever lived nor ever will. That is perhaps, one of the best things about being you, my poppet, just how special and unique you are.
I’m sorry I felt so odd when I saw you were a boy and I’m sorry I thought that that would mean we wouldn’t be close or that you wouldn’t like snuggles with me – I hope you always like snuggles with me but if you don’t, that’s fine too. I love you so very much just because you’re you – especially because you’re you. As you grow up and make your way through the world, you will probably find that other will people judge you or have certain expectations based on nothing more than a glance – based on your clothes, your hair, the colour of your skin, accent, height, strengths, weaknesses, interests but please remember, always remember my darling boy, that who you are is just fine. Those initial expectations that people might have, will be easily shattered once they get to know you. You are you, that is nothing but beautiful and the people who are worth it will accept that, embrace that and like me, will shine a little brighter all for being by your side.
Your Mummy xxxx