The spring before I found out I was pregnant with my first child I was at a craft fair with my best friends. I came across a booth that was selling baby girls clothing. There was this lace dress. It was frilly and girly and perfect. I bought it. I wasn’t pregnant yet. We weren’t even trying. But I knew I had to have that dress for my little girl someday.
I felt somewhat ridiculous. I brought the dress home in its brown paper bag and shoved it in our guest room closet, but I didn’t forget about it. I pulled it out when I found out I was pregnant with our first child late that August, before we knew that the baby in my belly we affectionately called Sienna was actually William.
When I found out I was pregnant with our second child, I bought two onesies to tell my husband the news. One read “Little Brother” and the other “Little Sister.” When my husband opened the box, he asked if I was having twins. A few weeks later the “Little Sister” onesie joined the lace dress in the brown paper bag in the closet.
A few years later when I found out I was pregnant a third time, I started buying little girls clothing the moment I found out. I also started a private Pinterest board for our little girl’s nursery. It was frilly and lacy and girly. I imagined our little one, sitting in her perfect nursery, wearing the dress I had bought for her all those years before. However, a few months into my pregnancy, I found out that the nursery would be lions, not lace, and I gave the clothes I had bought to a friend who was due around the same time with a daughter. Our third precious little boy joined our family later that summer.
I couldn’t part with the lace dress though; I kept it tucked away.
Our fourth pregnancy was a complete surprise as we were actively trying not to get pregnant. My husband and I were both a little shocked but bounced back quickly. We had always said we wanted four kids (I had always been open to a few more, coming from a family of six myself, but four felt manageable). Surely, this was our girl. When people would ask, I would roll my eyes and say, “Oh, it’s probably a boy,” but inwardly I thought about that dress…all of the hope. Certainly God had orchestrated some kind of beautiful scheme.
When the midwife called and told us it was a healthy baby boy, I said, “Okay, I need to go think of a name,” and hung up the phone. I left the house and started walking. I screamed at God. I felt every mix of emotions—anger, sadness, disappointment, loss, grief, unworthiness, guilt. It felt like the hope of a girl had died…along with the hope of getting to reparent myself.
I am still unpacking all of the lost hope in that brown paper bag. I am still learning to hold the ambivalence of the joy my sons bring me and the sadness of not getting to experience the joy of a daughter. I am still not willing to part with the lace dress. Maybe someday…maybe not.
Lyndsey Amen Ribble lives in San Antonio with her husband and three sons (aged 5,4, and 1). She loves reading, writing, traveling, food (cooking it, eating it, taking pictures of it…), wine, hole in the wall anything, and forming community in unexpected places. She has a heart for bringing restoration to broken people and loving the unloved. She writes about all of these things and attempting to find balance at inlamensterms.com.
hold onto that lacy dress, Lyndsey – a symbol of hope – Romans 5:5
( & God only knows – 4 sons + 4 potential daughters in law = at least 1 granddaughter?)
You hold such a mix of gratitude and longing in this family building journey! I deeply value your honesty and ability to articulate these conflicting yet coexisting sentiments. I, too, vote that you hold onto the lace dress. I love the idea of seeing it as a symbol of hope for life to come. ❤️