When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I was ninety-eight percent convinced I was carrying a boy.
I couldn’t tell you why—but I was quite sure. And you know better than to argue with a pregnant lady.
So when the ultrasound tech confidently declared, “Girl!” I blinked, perplexed, and looked at my husband, Dan. Girl? We were certain they would find boy parts, not girl parts, on that fuzzy black and white screen.
As one of five sisters, I was over the moon at this news. A little girl! I knew how to do girl stuff. This could be good. The names we’d been tossing around probably weren’t going to work, though.
As it happened, by the time we got to our car in the parking lot of the doctor’s office, my imagination had taken off again. I could just picture our little girl: a tiny brunette with dark brown eyes, like mine. (Fast-forward a bit, and the girl is blonde as can be, curls aplenty, with the most beautiful green-gray eyes.)
By that point—18 weeks of not being able to keep food down, glow nowhere to be found—you’d think I would have caught on that none of this was under my control.
But the tricky thing about expectations is that they tend to hide away quietly in the closet of my mind, lights off, waiting. Often I don’t even realize they’re there—until they jump out and yell, “Surprise!” and scare me half to death. For the record, surprise parties are not really my thing, and pregnancy marked the beginning of the upending of just about every expectation I would hold about my future children and my role as their mom.
In the months leading up to my due date, I regularly clicked through friends’ photos of their babies on MySpace in that pre-smartphone, pre-Instagram, only-college-kids-were-on-Facebook season. I couldn’t wait to have my own baby girl in my arms. Motherhood was the secret dream I’d always held onto. Even with a growing career as a copy editor, I just knew motherhood would be the job that came naturally. I wouldn’t even have to try. It would just click. It was going to be magical.
My baby was different than I’d imagined. She cried so much the first few months. I remember handing her to Dan, mystified and heartbroken: “Does she not like me?” Before she even entered the world and without realizing it, I’d placed unfair and unrealistic expectations on both of us.
One day, yes, I did discover the magic. But it took a bit of time to find it, what with all the crying and sleep deprivation.
By the time daughter number two came along nearly six years later, I knew better. After all, I’d managed to mother a kid all the way to kindergarten and proved the fussy newborn days don’t, in fact, last forever. Not to mention this new baby’s existence was a surprise in itself. (The biggest and best surprise ever, I should note. Read our family’s story of secondary infertility here.)
All I will allow myself to expect this time, I told myself, is that I will be surprised.
Letting go of expectations made all the difference.
That’s motherhood though, isn’t it? The ebb and flow of holding on and letting go.
I used to assume that because we share DNA, my daughters would be just like me when I was little. Mini-mes: good at spelling, a little nerdy, quiet, responsible, extremely obedient, not at all athletic. I mean—they couldn’t be athletic, right?
It’s incredibly tempting to expect our children to be the same kids we were—for better or worse. Before these little people even take their first breaths, we’ve dreamed up who and what they’re going to be.
How would I know how to parent daughters who weren’t just like me?
As it turns out, I am equipped by a God who knows them well, who knit them together before I could even imagine them, and who knew every expectation they’d teach me to let go of and the ways mothering them would lead me to deeper faith. He created them, unique beings, and placed them in my care—surprises and all—with great intentionality. God chose me to mother these particular children, and he did it on purpose!
Motherhood, still, is rarely what I expected it to be. (Sometimes it’s a million times sweeter than I could have dreamed; sometimes it’s… ouch.) I am a different mom than the version I imagined all those years ago, the one for whom everything would just click. That made-up version thought she knew exactly what to expect and thought she had everything under control. I’ve come a long way since then, but I’m still learning. I always will be.
I remind my girls regularly that I love them not because of what they do, but because of who they are. They are my children, and nothing can change that—not their likes and dislikes, not their failures and successes, not the ways we are alike or different.
They surprise me every day. And it’s magical.
Featured image by Lindsey Cornett.
**Rebekah is a co-creator of The Drafting Desk, a wonderful monthly newsletter full of encouragement for women seeking freedom from perfectionism. Subscribe to The Drafting Desk to hear more from her!
Rebekah Crosby is a former copy editor who traded in her red pen to chase her kids around all day and share stories over at Write the Rough Draft. Wife of a woodworker and mom of two daughters, her hobbies include photography, reading too many books at a time, and jotting down ideas she hopes to write about when she has a free minute. Rebekah is co-founder of The Drafting Desk, an email newsletter for those longing for freedom over perfection, and she shares slices of life on Instagram at @writetheroughdraft.