Five years ago today, I gave birth to my daughter, and all my fears and anxieties about having a girl disappeared instantly as I took her into my arms for the first time. In that magical moment, my resistance to being the mother of a girl melted away, and I felt nothing but love and joy for the sweet, warm bundle.

For years, I’d been afraid of having a daughter because the difficult relationship I have with my mom has been so painful. When I was young, my mother was around, but she was not really there. Love sometimes felt conditional, and I was often reminded how much better my peers were than me. I felt alone, invisible and unloved.

This later turned to my own rebellion and distance, something I know pained my mom, as she was ready for connection with me. Such is the sway of our dance today — one step towards, one step back.

My fear in having a girl was that I would hurt her in ways my mother was hurtful to me and that she would grow to feel towards me as I can sometimes still feel towards my mother.

Choosing a card on Mother’s Day is an annual ritual of leaving empty handed when card after card fails to characterize my mom and our relationship. This lonely exercise is a painful reminder of what it could have been, what it is for so many others and what it was for me instead. Ultimately, I select a vague card of love and well wishes, instead of a flowery card that gushes gratitude and grace.

We found out we were going to have a girl at my 20-week ultrasound, and my first thought was “I don’t want to have this baby anymore.” I was hit by a wave of utter panic. Then of course guilt, shame and self-doubt followed. What is wrong with me? How can I feel this way about an innocent baby — I’m the adult?

I had 20 more weeks to figure this out and make peace with the impending fact that I would soon be the mother in a mother-daughter relationship. Would I be able to interrupt an inter-generational pattern of broken mother-daughter dynamics? What if I fail her despite my best efforts? What if she hates me?

If I had it my way, I would have birthed a second boy. The comfort and safety of the known certainly would have been easier. But, our discomfort is where our growth lives, and I truly believe we get what we need. In being blessed with a daughter, I have the opportunity to provide for her what wasn’t provided to me. She will know she isn’t alone in this world. I will be her staunchest advocate, her most loyal confidant and her trusted ally.

It’s not perfect, and I miss opportunities to connect and stay attached to her, especially when navigating the delicate balance between delivering a natural consequence and teaching accountability. But I am intentionally giving her what I didn’t receive — I am conscious and deliberate knowing the legacy rests in my choices today.

I recently saw a commercial showing a teen girl closing the front door and squealing with delight over a kiss she got on the front stoop. She ran inside yelling “mom…,” eager to share, and I was struck by the absence of my desire to share anything with my mom an obvious void in my experience as daughter.
I am determined to have that connection with my daughter; the kind of connection where she comes to me to share her experiences because she trusts my response will affirm who she is now and the woman she is destined to become, not who I want her to be.

I will hold that in my vision so that with each moment of teaching, guiding and listening between this one right now and that moment in the future, she will want to come to me to share her trials and her triumphs. And when that day arrives, it will be truly restorative.

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