One of my favorite childhood books is Anne of Green Gables. The story begins with a middle-aged pair of siblings, Matthew and Marilla, who decide to adopt a boy to help with farm work. The orphanage erroneously sends a girl (Anne), but she wins their hearts and they let her stay. Matthew later calls it a lucky mistake; Marilla responds, “It wasn’t luck, it was Providence. He knew we needed her.”
That’s exactly the way I feel about my boys.
Many people—mainly women, to be honest—assume that we’re having a third child because we didn’t get a girl last time and that we must be disappointed. “Wow, three BOYS,” they say with a mix of pity and terror. “You’ll certainly have your hands full!” As if three children of the all-girl or mixed-gender combinations would be easier. Then they say with a wink, “I guess you’ll just have to try again for a girl!” because apparently I should not feel complete as a mother of only boys. Apparently having sons is less desirable overall, especially because boy clothing isn’t as cute.
As a woman, I am expected to want the dresses and pigtails and special bond that come with having a daughter. I understand where that feeling comes from: at the beginning of my second pregnancy, I expressed my (guilty) hope for a girl. But my baby’s gender no longer mattered after I lost that pregnancy—even less so after a second loss, and later, a third. I still think it’s totally okay for others to wish for a child of a certain gender for themselves; I just get upset when they assume everyone else shares those same wishes, or when they project their own hypothetical disappointment onto others. My journey as a mother has been different, and I don’t need the color pink to remind me that I’m lucky I get to do this at all.
Having “three of a kind” is not quite as common as people think. In a study of over 6,000 families in the U.S., 73% of the three-children families had children of both genders, 14.9% had three boys, and 12.1% had three girls. So having three boys is actually pretty special. Maybe it’s not everyone’s idea of the “perfect family,” but that’s okay. It’s our perfect family, dirt and noise and tutu-less-ness and all. We share the same joys and frustrations of any parents, the same bittersweet pride of watching our children grow up. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything. What’s truly exceptional is our mother-and-Oliver bond, our mother-and-Andrew bond. My life is full of love. And I’m sure my being sent three boys is no mistake.
He knew we needed them.