As my obstetrician held the baby up for me to put on my chest, she said: “Look at what you’ve had!”
“It’s a boy!” I replied exhaustedly, but utterly happy my baby was finally here.
“No, it’s not!” she exclaimed, turning the baby back around to double check.
“It’s a girl?” I questioned.
“It’s a girl?” I turned and asked my husband and continued to ask about seven more times until I burst into deep sobs – all but smothering the bundle of newborn goodness that was now in my arms.
My entire pregnancy I was convinced I was having another boy – a little brother for my three-year-old, Max. I’ve written before about the fact that I thought I was maybe put on this earth to be a mum of boys, and I honestly would have been smitten with another son, but am pretty over the moon to now have my own tiny girl gang (yes, we’re getting t-shirts). I was so shocked at her arrival that the message I sent to my loved ones after she was born reads: ‘It’s a girl!!! An actual, real life girl!” It even took us a good 24 hours to decide on a name because we had our boys’ names ready and hadn’t put much thought into girls’ ones. We decided on Lily, by the way.
On our second night in hospital, I was up in the middle of the night feeding and just burst into tears. An incredible weight came over me as I started to think about raising a daughter. With Max, I feel such a responsibility to make sure he’s one of the good ones. To shape a boy who will turn into a man that’s on our team. A man that’s kind; a man that calls out unacceptable behaviour; a man that knows women are his equal; and a man that’s willing to give up a little of his privilege to bring women up beside him. I don’t take that responsibility lightly.
But with Lily, if I’m being honest, I feel scared. I feel like I can do everything I can to help mould a strong, kind, confident woman but then, as soon as she goes out into the world, she’ll be vulnerable. And I feel a little shit and not like the feminist I am writing that, because I don’t feel like that about myself and I don’t for a second think women are weak or victims. I just can’t stop thinking about the things stacked up against women – even for a girl like Lily born into immense privilege.
I started out writing this piece about all the things I want for my daughter, but I think I need a few extra pages for that. Above all else though, I’d like parents of daughters not to have to feel scared about the world their girls are growing up in. And I’d like those girls when they become women not to have to feel scared either – scared walking home at night; scared they’ll be paid less; scared they’ll end up in a violent relationship; scared they’ll be harassed at work; scared they’ll be overlooked for the job; scared they can’t make decisions about their own bodies.
Perhaps it’s just the hormones or sleep deprivation that’s making me feel like this but, as I celebrate my first International Women’s Day as a mum to a girl, I feel a little less scared and a lot more fired up. Because if having a daughter doesn’t want you to make the world an equal one, then I don’t know what does.