Before you came to bring us such joy,
how we hoped and prayed that you’d be a boy
but little girl, you’re my heart’s delight;
you make life sunny and bright, Little B.
You’re all my heart sings for.
— “Little B’s Poem,” Jean Carn
I didn’t realize I was trembling until the ultrasound tech ventured, “You’re nervous, huh?” I heard myself breathe an unconsidered confession: YES. She laughed. “I can tell.”
Lying back on the crinkly white paper of an examining chair has become second nature in the past few months, but this darkened room, sufficiently dimmed for viewing the movement of a half-gestated fetus, was new.
Before your great-aunt and I came here, I sat in my apartment, savoring my last few hours of ignorance. This sounds strange and I will rarely, if ever, encourage you to “savor” ignorance, but in this case, all the things I didn’t know carried with them a certain calm. I cannot tell you how often in life it’s been soothing for me to hold fast to my little delusions. Yesterday morning was one of those times.
It’s just so true: before you know exactly who and how someone is, she can be anything.
Yesterday morning, and for many days before, you were a boy—a brown and hardy enigma I was eager to spend the next twenty years of my life figuring out. You were the long-absent maleness my three generations of women so craved. You were a towering teenage star, with fists clenched in defense of home, of hearth, of mother, if ever they were threatened.
Admittedly, I don’t get boys. Having one would’ve been something of a social experiment. Perhaps I could’ve finally cracked the codes that’ve been so elusive to me all these years. Maybe we would’ve had strangely, unexpectedly illuminating conversations and our lives would’ve been near-constant filament bursts of inter-gender understanding.
It was a silly sort of dream, one that placed too much onus on you to teach me, one born of unfair expectations that would’ve led to inevitable disappointment.
I may’ve watched you walk across commencement stages, gazing through a twilight of awe and thinking, “I still don’t get boys.” And one of my biggest fears as a parent is never growing to understand my child. With a male you, there would’ve been impediments, anatomical and theoretical; it would’ve been hard.
And worse, there was the acute possibility that I would’ve spent more time obsessing over all the things I could lose you to—premature, inaccurate learning disability diagnosis; police profiling or brutality; stray bullets; random or targeted violence; unjust (or just) incarceration; drug use or distribution—than I would’ve spent cherishing you. I know these ills aren’t unique to the black male, but that wouldn’t stop me from fretting over their heightened probability for you.
And then, had you escaped it all, I still would’ve worried that the pressure to become some great bastion of Black societal uplift would’ve cracked you in irreparable ways.
In the end, it’s equally possible I might have ruined your disposition with all the clucking and coddling attendant to all those concerns.
There are no end of worries for Black men.
So I wasn’t too deflated in the doctor’s office, lying back and looking at the organ the sonographer was circling as she typed, “IT’S A GIRL!” across the monitor. This was the very first part of you she showed me (which is symbolic of so many private things I’ll whisper to you after you’re here). Then, she spent ten minutes identifying thigh and calf and ankle, bicep and elbow and forearm, all the bones so white and prominent, the shape of each limb all curved and defined. I could see your heart, this heart whose sound I’ve already come to memorize, then your kidneys, your cranium, the delicate silhouette of your brain. I saw your spine and its notches of vertebrae, curled against the hammock of my ever-expanding uterus.
“Are you gonna stretch out for us, baby?” the sonographer asked you. She can’t, I thought to myself, she’s a giant.
Already, you are formidable. I don’t mean that in a way that suggests rivalry or a lifelong battle of wills. I mean you’re a force. A bundle not only of joy, but of power. You have track-runner legs; your hands and your feet are overlong, like your father’s.
You will easily envelope things: moths and lightning bugs and fireflies, secrets.
You won’t tread lightly. I won’t expect you to.
Girl, there are stories. There are myths and legends and mysteries about your foremothers, enough to have us speaking in reverent and relishing hushes for the length of both of our lives.
I will tell you about the distant cousin who wandered into the woods during a storm and blew away. I will tell you of your great-great aunt who, at 19, was already Wife and Mother, who, at 19, ventured into a nightclub in Natchez and died in the fire that consumed 200+ patrons within. I will tell you about your grandmother, the evangelist; your great-grandmother, the jazz connoisseur; your great-great-grandmother who lived to be 95 and who floated about in her final years, like an ancestress with the mysteries of eternity within a fingertip’s grasp. I’ll tell you about my three cousins, all preternaturally wise, with whom I spent all my adolescent summers whispering secrets about boys and reciting lyrics to the r&b that was forbidden to me back home.
I will tell you of the first time I met your father’s mother. She wafted into her living room, in a summery sleeveless top, her skin dewy from the hours she’d spent gardening in the sun. I noticed the moles on her neck and arms, raised and round like chocolates. She told us about the hedge in front of their home and how she’d spent hours trimming it—first daintily with clippers and then, for the more stubborn stalks, she said, “I just started using my hands.” I looked closer at the hands she’d stretched out before us, and noticed a trail of fresh, tiny scratches paved from wrist to shoulder on each side.
Your grandma’s hands are a marvel. She can break trees with them.
I suppose my entire life has built toward parenting you. If there’s one thing I’m prepared for, it’s teaching a woman how to live in the relative absence of men.
You are a fourth generation Brown woman. At this point, some things are inherent. We know the longing for male validation. We know the resentment that accompanies the lack of it. We know the resignation to its dearth that you can reach quite early on.
We know how conquerable the want is.
With each successive Brown generation, there is an evolution of awesome. This means the likelihood of you being a purple-haired poetry-spouting mathematician and electric guitarist is disproportionately high.
In time, you’ll understand why I wanted a boy. In time, I’ll understand why our matrilineage just keeps spawning more women.
Don’t worry. I am not disappointed.
We can do this. We can do this well.
15 responses to “… But Little Girl, You’re My Heart’s Delight.”
If only all mother’s blogs could be so well written and insightful.
I am so happy for you and am already assured of a cemented bond between you and your daughter.
How amazingly beautiful. This piece is as breathtaking as the whole experience must be! I am so happy for you — and for her. Gosh, I remember when we had talked about the possibilities of children and how we felt about it on our cupcake excursion. And, now, here you are. I am so happy for you!
i think about that conversation a lot, actually. that was back when i wanted to name my hypothetical, someday kid Stellan. lol
i miss you a lot. and i know i say this often, but i’m definitely definitely gonna visit after the kid’s here, so you and Brian can meet her.
This is awesome.
*wipes tears away*
This is incredible.
I’d pictured her — the receiver of your stories — as a girl from the first moment you posted about being with baby! She’ll be such a rapt listener, who’ll grow to ever-appreciate those tales.
I love your name first. I love your blogs second. I have been reading quietly for a couple months now, after I stumbled into your blog from some other site… I think I came here because it said you were from Michigan, and I miss Michigan. Presently I reside in Atlanta, Georgia.
You communicate your thoughts in such a delicate and complete manner and it’s soothing. I often find that I have to turn off my radio and sit in silence when I read your sentences. They are well constructed and deserving of a quiet mind.
Anyhow, just wanted you to know I think you are an awesome writer, and when you finish these blogs to your daughter, you should bind them and give them to her. I wish I knew what my mother thought of me while I was being constructed.
Even more: I wish I knew what she thought of herself.
thank you for reading! and thanks even more for honoring the sentences. so few readers (myself included) do this each time a piece of writing calls for it. i’m honored that you’ve done it when reading my thoughts.
i’m definitely planning on presenting these stories to my daughter; i just wonder when the time will be right. i’m eager to meet so i can begin to gauge that.
p.s. what part of michigan do you miss?
I’m from Metro Detroit. I miss the resilience of the people. I miss the clinging to familiarity. I miss standing proud regardless of whats going on. I realize now the people i Detroit aren’t just angry as I previously thought… They have misplaced passion & the nation is ready to flick them away as if Detroit & its history mean nothing. I understand it, I left to “escape” but I appreciate it so much now.
I miss Ann Arbor as well 🙂
i’m like that about Baltimore (another “forsaken city”). i was raised there, lived there from ages 4 to 25 (with a brief reprieve for college in DC). i couldn’t appreciate it until I was gone and now every time I’m home, I’m nostalgic: about the resilience of the people, about their brazenness and honesty, and their unabashed humor (meant to be overheard by strangers passing by). it’s an awesome place.
i’ve only been to detroit a few times, outside of flying through the airport (which i’ve done often), but i fully understand your protectiveness over it. it’s a city in need of champions.
This is the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a long, long time… And, the picture is worth more than one thousand words. *smiles* God, this is definitely awesome!
thanks, tremaine. 🙂
As usual your words to your new discovery of learning your bundle would be a Brown woman are simply poetry!