My husband and the boys had me brainwashed into thinking it was going to be a boy. All the conversations we had about the new baby used the pronoun “he.” My husband kept insisting that he “only makes boys” (he was kidding, kind of) and with two boys in the family already the concept of another boy seemed natural.
On my husband’s 40th birthday we had an ultrasound and it looks like I managed to get him something he didn’t already have. When the ultrasound technician said “it’s a girl” I think I laughed at my poor husband for about 5 minutes straight. After I got a hold of myself, it hit me- “holy f*ck, it’s a girl.” The thought of a boy was easier for many reasons. Anxiety came flooded in soon after the giggles subsided.
I know how hard it was for me. The battles I fought. The insecurity, fear and pain I felt. The scars that my independence cost me are still livid against my sensitive skin. It is every parents’ dearest hope that our knowledge, experience and hindsight will spare our children the grief visited upon us. The thought of raising a girl in this atmosphere of complex sexual tensions scares the hell out of me.
We often think it is boys we must teach how to fight. It is far more important for the female of the species to be trained in this manner, as she will be threatened by foes who’s natural strength will outweigh her own. I don’t want to make her aware that threats will come to her in the guise of kindness. That she must be aware of entering into unspoken contracts where her virtues will be expected collateral.
I don’t want her to have mistrust be her default. I wish I could hand her a world that was safe but that will do her no favors. By the time the parent is ready to talk of such things- it is often too late. I know what steps I have to take and the path that must be followed, it is just I had hoped for the easier of the two roads. We prepare the boys for the dangers of the fringe but for girls the fringe is so much closer, the path that much narrower. I never realized how scared I was until those three words were spoken aloud.
We will call her Persephone Jade. (per-SEH-fə-nee) PJ for short.
That way she has the choice for her gender to be ambiguous, if it suits her. I woke many years ago with this name in my head and promptly told my husband (then just my man friend) that if we have a daughter I would name her Persephone.
It is the name of the ancient Greek goddess of spring and queen of the underworld. Her myth is steeped in patriarchy and sexism. None the less; I have always thought it an apt allegory and sad that it still is, thousands of years after it was written. There are many versions and so I will paraphrase the most common aspects.
The maiden Persephone was one of the most beautiful beings to ever walk the earth, she caught the eye of the god Hades and he approaches his brother Zeus (Persephone’s father) asking for her hand in marriage so that she my be his queen. Zeus promptly agrees to the union with no care of how this will effect Demeter or Persephone. Hades comes to the surface of the earth and takes Persephone while she is gathering flowers.
Even though they are married right away, she refuses his advances (though in some versions she is promptly raped) and any comfort or sustenance while in the underworld. Most versions say that Hades tried to please her anyway he could as he did truly want her to be his willing queen.
During that time, her mother Demeter goddess of plants and the harvest searches for her. In her sorrow, Demeter refuses to foster anything to grow- creating the first winter the world had ever known. Demeter comes to Zeus but he pretends to have no knowledge of these happenings till the famine Demeter has brought on threatens the survival of all humanity. Only then does he tell Demeter where her daughter has been taken and offer help in her retrieval.
She was warned by her mother that if she partook of any of the food from below that she would be destined to stay there forever- a rule ordained by the fates. After Zeus relents and sends Hermes to retrieve Persephone; Hades offers her a pomegranate as a parting gift and thinking her ordeal is over- she eats six seeds. (Some versions say it was only four.)
It is this consumption that holds her to the underworld and Hades. Even though their relationship is bourn of trickery and strife Persephone grows to love her husband. The gods on Olympus acknowledge that the meal was very small and so only make her spend six (or four) months of the year with Hades. This is why we have seasons. The fall and wintery times occur when Persephone is below. Spring marks the time of her return to the surface and the bounty of summer is the embodiment of the joy her mother feels at their reunion.
After the initial myth of the seasons, Persephone is depicted almost equally as the queen of the underworld and the goddess of spring.
I like the dicodemoy of these two aspects. For me it feels like a needed recognition that she will only be my carefree flower picking nymph for a short time. She must learn to exist in two worlds. She cannot live in the safety of her family unit forever. As my own mother points out “sometimes your kids grow up and move to Maine… or Guam!” (Where my sister is currently living.)
She will not be “my little princess,” a sentiment I believe produces spoiled and entitled humans. She will be in training to become a queen. The world today often seems hellish to me and so what could be more apt than to prepare her to become the queen of the underworld. I believe there is great power in names. I think that I have done our daughter justice in this respect.
Back in the ultrasound room…
PJ didn’t cooperate for any of the other pictures and the tech was always pushing on my stomach to get her to move. The profile picture was no exception. When she zoomed in on her face the tech exclaimed “what is her hand doing there?! It hasn’t been anywhere near her face the whole time!” After some more pushes PJ moved her hand away from her face and the tech quickly snapped some shots.
The first three pictures still have her hand in the frame, it looks like a little chicken head. It would appear that our sweet little girl was flipping us off. Those who have known me a long time; know I don’t much like having my picture taken and there are dozens of pictures of me flipping off the camera person. Who would have thought profane gestures were hereditary?!
We can only hope her name will help through this life- as it is, and not as I wish it was. I am doing all I can to make sure she will be healthy and strong but I know a lot of it is out of my hands. Up to the fates as it were.
Be well and thank you for reading!