The tears immediately started flowing when she said, "So you know what a boy looks like, right? Well this is what a girl looks like."
I didn't expect to cry. Even more, I didn't expect my first thoughts to be
Thank you, God. I'm finally good enough. Thank you for my Katie.
I know that's not how God works. I know Katie isn't in our lives because I'm finally a good enough mom to have earned a little girl. But somewhere deep in my heart, so deep I didn't know it was there, that's how I was feeling.
As I tried to process over the next few days I found that I would cry every time I would think of her. The mere thought of the pronoun her would bring me to tears. And as I reflected, two memories kept reappearing.
I remember asking my dad one day what it would be like when I started my period. He immediately sent me to my grandmother who responded with, "Oh you'll know. You'll just know." I spent the rest of my waiting time scared to death that I was going to pee blood on myself in front of everyone. As it turned out, she was wrong. One day I went to the nurse with a stomachache and sure enough, I had a fever. My dad came to pick me up and of course, knowing it could be anytime, asked the nurse if I could have started my period. "No," she said, "you don't get a fever on your period." Turns out she was wrong, too. When I got home I went to the bathroom and saw it. Enter Awkward Moment with Dad as I told him and he congratulated me, which seemed even weirder, but what were we supposed to say to each other? Next thing I know I'm standing in Publix. My dad asked a friendly looking employee to help me. He told her I had just started my period and needed some help figuring out what to buy. I stood in front of the aisle, my eyes frozen on the mountain of pink and green packages with words and phrases explaining and promising things I did not understand.
"Well, do you want tampons or pads?"
"...Huh? Uhmm... I don't know. I just started."
"Well what is your flow like? Heavy or light?"
Again, my eloquency knew no bounds.
"Huh? Uhmm I don't know." Thinking to myself, How would I know that? There's a flow? It's heavy or light? What is happening?"
She became exasperated with my lack of knowledge on my bodily fluids and sighed at me. I ended up picking out some kind of package and went to the register with my dad, where he let me pick out an Archie comic book. Thank God. I understood Archie and Jughead and Veronica. I did not understand the other purchase, nor did I care to.
Around that same time it was time to buy a bra. I went to the store with my best friend and her mom where again, I was looking at mountains of things I did not understand, as I tried to answer questions I did not know the answers to.
What size are you? Do you want a print or solid? Do you want to close it in the front or the back? Padding or no padding?
Padding was the only thing that made sense to me. Yes. Yes I wanted that. I needed that. I ended up going with a front buckle, nude colored, padded bra, 32 AA. Whew. I was happy with my purchase. Until I went home to show my dad.
"It has padding? Oh my God, Jenny, why did you get one with padding?"
I was very confused. It seemed so obvious to me.
"So when I bump into things they are protected. You know. So I don't get hurt."
It never, ever, ever occurred to me that women would buy padding to make them bigger. And of course, the front buckle was simply because it seemed easier than trying to buckle something I couldn't see on my back. I mean, really, why would women do that to themselves?
I was clueless.
But that's what happens when you're a young girl being raised by a single Dad who is doing the best he can to fulfill both roles in your life. I prayed every night for 12 years that God would make my mom better, until one day I stopped praying altogether.
When I was younger my favorite books to read were coming-of-age books. Books about young girls that grow up. The experiences they have. The memories they make. The problems they survive through. In all of these books these girls had a mom. I could swim through the pages and glimpse at what it would be like. Dream for a bit.
It suddenly occurred to me that with this girl, with Katie, I get what I always dreamed of as a little girl. Only I don't get it quite the way I wanted. I wanted to be a girl with a Mom. Now I get to be a Mom to a little girl. I get to be the one to make sure she doesn't feel mystified in front of the green and pink packages. I can explain things to her about bras and boys. (Though the two should never be intermixed. No, no, her brothers, Daddy and I will make sure of that.) I get to be there for her. She will get what I never had as a little girl. And that will always bring tears to my eyes.