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The sonographer said, “It’s a boy,” and I said, “What do you mean?” She answered my question by circling the genitalia on the screen. I did not need the illustration, of course. I had understood her words fine. I just didn’t know what to do with the information. Up until that second, I was a girl mom, and her words had just rocked my world.

I thought of the closet full of tiny dresses and matching bows at home. I recalled the soft colors of my daughter’s room, and the doll babies and My Little Ponies strewn across it. It was familiar. I knew it. I thought of the mornings I’d spent watching Minnie Mouse, the days I’d spent baking alongside my girl, and our bedtime routine, which included a nightly reading of Blueberry Girl.

And I vividly remember thinking with fright, I don’t know know how to raise a boy.

Up until that moment, I had said as long as he or she is healthy it wouldn’t matter. But, obviously, it did. It is embarrassing to admit now, but tears, rather than squeals of joy, followed.

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I wanted to be happy, and if it had been my first pregnancy, I think I would have. But it wasn’t. And the truth of the experience is I was scared.

I worried I wouldn’t share the same bond with a son that I’d come to have with my daughter. I worried he’d be wild and rambunctious, and that I‘d had my last tea party. I thought we’d only read about sports and excavators and watch TV shows with dancing hammers and screwdrivers. Deep down, I worried I could not raise the kind, kind of man the world needs.

Then, he was placed in my arms. And my heart was his.

Never again did I think of how to love him or how much, my heart just did. My boy was wild and rambunctious as I feared, and we bonded in such a different way. He loved me fiercely, with the tenacity I was so afraid of. He gives 100 percent to everything, including loving his mama.

Raising little boys IS different. It feels like a world of paradoxes.

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They push you further and hug you tighter. They’re less afraid but need you more. They push limits you didn’t even know were there, but once they have you at your breaking point, they melt into your arms in a way that makes you wonder if you could ever love them any more. Then the next day, somehow, you do. But not before you pull a snail from your washing machine with horror.

Today I still love raising my little lady and wouldn’t trade a day of it. But what I didn’t know the day I heard “It’s a boy,” is just how much I needed a son.

Little boys, they love their mama like no other. 

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Cara Arnold

I’m a mama to 3 whose learning to balance parenthood and chronic illness at the hands of autoimmune encephalitis. Some days I’m a soccer mom, carpooling like a boss; other days I’m a relentless advocate, taking on doctors and insurance companies alike. But, if you’re looking for consistency every day I’m a hot mess. My life is a puzzle that’s still not together. I used to think pieces were missing. But it's all finally fitting together. It’s not what I envisioned, and some days I mourn that; but it’s mine. And knowing how fast that can change I try to appreciate every moment of it.

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