This week we found out we’re having a girl. It’s a good thing because we were at an impasse on boys’ names. And by impasse I mean…Colleen suggests something reasonable and I shoot it down, then I suggest something ridiculous and she shoots it down, and so on. It was probably going to end in fisticuffs and tears. 

But none of that matters now. We already have our daughter’s name picked out. Declan, however, is not on board. He wants his sister’s name to be Declan. Declan James Berry. Just like his. I asked how he’d know who we were talking to when we said ‘Declan.’ He said we’d always be talking to him, never to the baby. Also, he believes there are two more babies coming out shortly after the first. Isn’t he so adorably delusional?

So in five months we’ll have one boy and one girl. And in six months (perhaps sooner) I’ll schedule the vasectomy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy about the second child. We planned it. But I also have no interest in playing zone defense. Two parents to two kids. That’s a fair fight. No need for us to be outnumbered.

I’ve always wanted a daughter. I think it’s because I had a good experience watching my sister grow up. She’s 15 years younger than me so I got to be the fun older brother without having to compete with her. Which is good. Because she would have demanded all the attention. And I would have likely acquiesced, retreating to another room to toss a football or baseball to myself, to get lost in a world of made-up teams and players with insane batting averages and completion percentages. Which, come to think of it, is how I spent a lot of my childhood anyway! 

I’ve heard adding a second kid doesn’t just mean twice the work; it’s, like, four times the work. But it’s gotta be four times the joy, right? Right?! (Whimpers faintly).

Some people know right away how many kids they want or whether they want kids at all. Not us. We talked off and on for four years before deciding to have our first. 

I was probably not alone in worrying that having a child would limit our freedom. To be spontaneous. To move around. To do nothing. I knew we couldn’t have a child AND still have that kind of flexibility. That’s not the reality of a life with kids, and it was a sacrifice that we both struggled to accept.

Now? I view it a bit differently. Sure, our lives have less wiggle room with a child. We are more tired. We crave vacations. But…we are better. Every time we’re tested, every minute we choose to accept the responsibility of a child and lean into the present moment, we get in return a sensation completely and intensely new. Like walking through a market in Egypt. So many new sights and smells, so much novelty and excitement, and so much…discomfort

I think our memories store our travels in a way that’s not quite accurate– with the filter of colored roses. But so much of what’s amazing and memorable comes from its juxtaposition with what’s hard and frustrating and confusing. Same with parenthood. You’re mad at them, baffled by them, ready to snap. Then seconds later, you’re floored by their miniature majesty and more convinced than ever that your love for them could power a galaxy.

We didn’t know any of that four years ago when we first found out we were pregnant. Everything seemed exciting but uncertain. So we filled our time with things meant to ease the uncertainty. Birthing classes and parenting books and shopping for the best in strollers, car seats, and the like. 

The second pregnancy has been almost the opposite. We are quite certain of the outcome (a baby) and perhaps less excited about (or, at least, less swept up in) the process. Some part of our brain is like, ‘been there, done that.’ Part of it is having fewer markers along the way. Fewer ultrasounds, fewer appointments, no birthing classes or how-to books or parties.

And yet.

To have a daughter seems like it will be something entirely new. I know what it’s like to raise a little boy. But even watching my sister grow up, I still don’t know what it’s like to be the parent of a girl. How will she surprise us? How will she test us? How will she make us fall in love with her?

It probably has less to do with the gender and more to do with the fact that it’s an entirely new life. She won’t just be different from Declan because she’s a girl, she’ll be different because her personality is uniquely hers.

I think that’s a big reason we chose to have a second kid. We wanted to take another trip to a place we’ve never been. I don’t really know what to expect.  Maybe it’ll be like walking through a market in Egypt. But, this time, upside down. Or on all fours. Or in the pouring rain. Familiar, but different. 

I can’t wait.