“Can we name her Ponytail?” True asked as I tucked her into bed several months ago. “How about Chocolate Chip?” Evan chimed in.
They’ve been begging God for a baby sister for a long time, and in my doubt I keep repeating lines like, “we don’t get to choose!” and “brothers are great, too!”
Inside, my heart groans with theirs: Please God?
I should have known better than to buy girly fabric shortly after we found out we were expecting baby number four. I should have known it would add to my nervous expectation and potential disappointment. But the tulips were perfect and it was March, the time of year when I really miss my sister. As I scrolled through several options, one jumped off the screen. The bold wildflowers danced across a navy background as if they were part of a painting I had commissioned. Like something my sister would have painted herself. I ordered a yard with thoughts of making a custom receiving blanket for this assumed baby sister.
But what if the baby is a boy? My brain objected.
I entered my credit card information anyway and in days it was headed to our apartment half a world away. I just won’t open it until I know for sure it’s a girl, I told myself. If it’s not a girl, I’ll make a pillow.
For weeks after I made the purchase I scrolled through baby boy names. Max? Owen? Ace? Nothing stuck the way names did for my other three.
While talking to my mom recently I started sobbing and rambling into the phone “I just want my kids to have a sister and my next appointment is on Laura’s birthday and I feel like a monster because I shouldn’t care so much. I’m terrified of being disappointed.”
My mom wisely encouraged me to reschedule the appointment but for some reason I refused.
Several weeks ago I sat on the couch beside my husband as he rattled off potential Korean names. We have an agreement that he will give our kids a Korean name and I’ll choose one in English. So far this arrangement has worked beautifully. He sat in his work clothes, casually listing potential girl names before it was time to put on his shoes.
“What about [JA]?” he suggested. “It means True Love.”
“Yes!” That’s her name. I knew immediately. I felt it in my heart, but creeping doubt shut out full acceptance.
Today is my 16 week ultrasound. I already felt like I was going to throw up before I got into the sweltering taxi. The driver insists on driving through the city instead of taking the highway. He hits every red light. The windows are sealed shut. I try to read a novel in the silence of the backseat but my body is steaming and my stomach jostles with every jerk of the car.
This is the appointment I have been most anxious about. The scan where the doctor will finally be able to tell me if this baby is a boy or a girl. My head wants a healthy baby no matter the gender, but my heart wants a sister for my daughter and two sons. I try not to care, but I do. I’m a swirling mix of forced acceptance (it’s a boy!) and blind faith (it’s a girl!).
Last night Evan woke up next to me, rolled over and announced, “I just dreamed that baby-baby is a boy.” He flipped one more time and fell back asleep. So that settles it. This baby must be a boy. Another boy! Three in a row. It’s delightful to think of them wrestling in the living room together, playing ball at the park, laughing at each other’s ridiculous antics well into the future. It really is a joy to think about three brothers close in age. But at the same time I feel sad for True. I want her to know the joy of having a sister. These are my thoughts as I try to breathe in this taxi that is losing air. I slump in the backseat where the sun blazes through the window, lighting up the front half of my protruding belly. I keep telling myself you don’t know for sure.
Now I lie on the exam table and follow the flipping shadows of the ultrasound around the fuzzy screen. I wait nervously for the final say.
“It’s a girl.” My doctor announces nonchalantly, and I immediately begin to cry.
“Your husband will be sad, right?” She assumes. I try not to be offended by this cultural assumption. “No! No..not at all. This is our dream. An answer to prayer.”
She doesn’t believe me, but she tells me congratulations anyway.
Ever since I found out this baby was on the way, I’ve been wrestling with my emotions, soothing myself and my imagination with dreams of a third boy. I held back from bold prayers and giant faith because I felt selfish and didn’t want to be disappointed. But this girl, this girl that was placed so heavy on my heart, who grows wonderfully inside me now, was always on God’s mind.
Throughout my life I’ve known the ache of unanswered prayers and I’ve felt the joy of miracles. But deep down I’ve always been hesitant to truly believe that God gives good gifts. I’m learning that faith is not a bad word. That praying changes our hearts and reveals the heart of God.
In a world of heartbreak there is also healing.
When I get home from the doctor, I rip open the Etsy package that arrived weeks ago. I lay the fabric out across the bed. It’s perfect. I imagine baby sister swaddled tight among the flowers as my mind flashes back to the ordinary morning weeks ago when my husband casually rattled off Korean names.
After he left for work that afternoon and the kids were playing happily in the living room, I walked over to the kitchen where my phone was plugged in on the shelf above the sink. I grabbed it and looked up an English name with similar pronunciation to the Korean name I had just fallen in love with. There must be some kind of significance to this name that struck me with such force.
I clicked on the first search result and scrolled through obnoxious advertisements until I got to the tiny section on the page listing the name’s meaning and origin. I clasped my free hand over my mouth as I processed the meaning in disbelief. These are three words that will forever echo through our family:
God has answered.