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I clutched the giant black balloon between my palms, the open safety pin pinched between two fingers.


My husband had his phone up, recording.

Please be blue.

I glanced over at my two year-old son, practically perfect in every way, an absolute delight, my favorite thing, a wonder and a miracle and a genius, despite his autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. I want another one, just like him. I want him to have a brother, to give him that special relationship I had with my own sisters.

“Are you ready?” my husband asked.

“Yes!” I said nervously, trying with sheer will to make the confetti and balloons that would soon spill into the ether be the color of blueberries, of the sky, of little boy clothes.

I took a moment to rest my hand on my womb where the new little one is growing, my mind running over the names we had tossed around so far. Asher. Toby. Wolff. (OK, that last one was rejected outright by my husband, but I was still holding onto hope that he’d come around.)

“OK! Three . . . two . . . one!” my husband counted.

I tossed the balloon in the air and readied the pin underneath it. It descended, brushed the point, and exploded.

Pink everywhere.

My mind simultaneously refused to process the color, while it raced ahead toward all the implications of pink balloons:

Oh, no. I hope she doesn’t inherit my eating disorder.

Oh, no. What if she has my self-esteem problems?

Oh, no. We’re going to have to have the menstruation talk.

Oh, no. I don’t know how to play with a girl.

I looked at my husband with wide eyes. He smiled, still recording, and a part of my forebrain realized this digital record would be the beginning of my daughter’s legacy, and I had better respond appropriately.

“I KNEW it was going to be a girl,” I managed. Because I had. Despite the ferocity of my desire for blue, or perhaps because of it, I had suspected all along. As had my family. As had my friends. Why? Who knows? But they were right, just as I had known they would be.

I attempted to mask my disappointment, unable to say anything other than, ironically, “Oh, boy,” as the reality set in. A girl. A little girl.

My son, intrigued by the mess that had just been made on the floor, came over to investigate. He picked up one of the pink balloons and threw it in the air, eliciting a cheer from my husband and me.

“Buddy, you’re going to have a SISTER!” we cried.

Utterly unaffected and his attention span maxed out, he continued to play with the detritus of the big announcement as the sentence we’d just uttered echoed around my head.

A sister.

A little sister. My son would have a little sister, and I would have a girl. I was growing a daughter. It felt so foreign that I could hardly grasp the concept.

“Wow,” I said to my husband, who had stopped recording by this point. “A girl. Wow.”

“Are you happy?” he asked.

I was trying to process my emotions at the moment, as I honestly didn’t know what I was feeling. My mind went back to a few moments prior: “You’re going to have a sister!”

And suddenly . . . it felt right.

I had a moment of clarity, you see, where I saw my family in the future. Really saw it. And what I saw made sense. It was my husband and me, our big boy, our little girl, together. She might have the same struggles with mental health as I do, and I might bungle the menstruation talk, but she would be mine. And, all of a sudden, I wanted her. Exactly as she is, as she will be. In that sudden Eureka moment that was motherhood fiercely claiming its young, I wanted her more than a little brother, because she is what we are getting, and we are lucky.

So, my advice on masking disappointment at your gender reveal? Don’t. Feel it. Process it. Have a moment to recognize that you had wanted one thing, and it didn’t come to pass . . . and that’s OK. Because, no matter how long it takes, it will eventually become very clear: you are having the baby you were meant to have, and your family is going to look exactly the way it’s supposed to look. No matter what happens, there is going to be love, and growth, and life.

Even now, it still feels a bit surreal. We are slowly acquiring pink onesies and little tulle skirts and tiny shirts that say “Feminist” and, at times, it seems strange. And then I picture my little girl in my arms, my son’s little sister, my husband’s only daughter, and all seems right with the world again.

We are having a little girl because we are fortunate, and blessed, and I’m starting to get excited about who she’ll be, what she’ll teach me, the relationship we’ll have. I might have been disappointed at the big reveal, but now . . . I know, if I could go back, I would still want that balloon to pop in a flurry of pink.

Because, now, I can’t imagine life without our daughter.

Shannon Frost Greenstein

Shannon Frost Greenstein resides in Philadelphia with her husband and son, who keep things from descending into cat-lady territory. She comes up when you Google her.

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