The birth of my daughter was celebrated, but it wasn’t originally wanted.
No one prayed for her. I didn’t pray for her. My tongue prayed for a boy but my heart, prayed for a girl, Dua was made with some shame. Shame because I dare not declare it to my family that I wanted a girl. And now we live in a world where she couldn’t have not existed. She is the light of our world. The coolness of our eyes. The peace in this mother’s heart.
I remember at the gender reveal ultrasound, how disappointed I was, not because I was sad, but because I was worried about my husband because I knew he wanted a boy. He smiled, he said he was happy but why did I get the feeling that had it been a boy he would have jumped off of his seat and danced? Then ultrasound tech left the room and I started crying because deep down I was so happy but also conflicted because I didn’t want to face the disappointment from family. My husband assured me he was thrilled but I had a feeling at that moment he too felt disappointed. I know if you ask him now he would tell you he wouldn’t have had it any other way and that his daughter gives him the most joy in life, more than his wife and parents – more than anything.
It’s a sad memory that though after birth my girl was very much celebrated, that before birth her existence was a thought that was quickly brushed away, that was too taboo to speak of. God forbid, you jinx the idea of a boy. No one prayed for her. Shamefully I didn’t either. I prayed for a healthy child and that my first child would be a boy. I hate that I didn’t pray for my girl specifically. I hate that every time I prayed I feared the opposite because my heart truly asked for a girl and I know Allah knows your heart more than anything and I was afraid He would grant my deep down wish for a girl. And that conflicting idea is what frustrates me so much. It’s what makes me feel guilty and what prompted me to write about this topic.
As a woman, a proud mother of a daughter, I wanted to shed light on the tradition of praying for a boy. Before science confirmed that it’s the man that provides the necessary chromosome for gender, the burden and pressure was felt on the mother. I remember my mother in law telling me soon after I got married that, “Every woman in her family has had a boy first, so make sure you keep up with tradition.”
I couldn’t stay quiet. I politely reminded her that it’s the man who is in control of the gender and that reminder should be given to her son. She seemed stunned but I couldn’t bear it. It hurt so much that a woman could hate the thought of girls being born. It reminded me of the old Bedouin practice of burying infant girls alive, how that didn’t make sense, how people thought eliminating the source of gestation would allow for the birth of glorious boys.
I felt jealous of my friends outside my South East Asian culture. Jealous they could profess how much they wanted a girl first. Jealous of how I held back when discussing what gender I wanted, even with them. How I wouldn’t dare tell an “aunty” that my first pick would be a girl. I felt angry that it was so taboo to even think of girl names because that would jinx the chance of a boy.
It also really bothers me that once you do reveal that it’s a girl, some fellow Muslims, particularly South Asians, give you half hearted congratulations with the citation of “first girl is baraqah“ Hadith. Rarely did I encounter a genuine happiness at the fact that I was expecting a baby girl. I also cringed at the “chalo (it’s alright), next time” look or even pep talk, having made the assumption that I was disappointed, too.
I am one of three girls, and the biggest peeve I’ve had growing up was the conversations spoken about the “end of line” for my father’s legacy. Can a woman not carry on the legacy of her father? Where is the rule book that we must trace back through the man? Who made that rule up? I’m sure it wasn’t a woman. I’ve grown tired of people expressing condolences to my father for having three girls. What ungratefulness! We gloss over the authentic Hadiths and use them as words of comfort instead of words of jubilation. “You have 3 girls?! But don’t worry, you’re guaranteed paradise.”
Can a woman not carry on the legacy of her father?
Some will try and try and try for a boy and end up with six girls, and people hush around and gossip about how sorry they feel for that couple. What if the parents just tried to have another kid? Why is the assumption that if a family is made up of more than 2 girls, that it must mean the parents kept trying for a boy?
I don’t know how we collectively get amnesia at how biology works and how a WOMAN is needed for procreation. Survival is granted by God through us! How can we then put our heads in shame for having a daughter? For praying for a daughter? Why do I have to convince another woman that praying for a girl isn’t a terrible thing?
Misogyny isn’t a selective ideology for men, women can be misogynistic as well. You can blame the patriarchal society, but once realized, onus falls on women to fight the idea that praying for a girl or having a girl is a bad thing. It is why I confessed to you all, that I too, prayed for a boy first. This isn’t to say that praying for a boy is wrong! If you truly want a boy for whatever reason, pray and pray and pray some more.
I shared my story to expose a reality of the South East Asian culture that I love so much but love enough to bring to light these issues. Issues that I am sure are very much present in other cultures, too. Issues that we should fix, so that the next pregnant woman who faces similar frustrations as I have, can fight the cultural norm and proudly express her desire for a girl. So she can discuss baby girl names along with baby boy names without having to worry about “jinxing” her chances for a boy. So she doesn’t have to secretly pray for a girl.