I know some people have the willpower not to find out their baby’s sex before it’s born. I could never handle the suspense. It’s the Capricorn in me: mommy needs to PLAN. Once I got pregnant, I did toy with the idea for a minute, collecting images of soothing, gender-neutral designer nurseries, full of soft whites and creams (seriously? for a BABY’S ROOM?) and earth-toned, unfinished furniture.
I guess I never understood the reasoning behind keeping it a mystery. I’ve heard “it’s the last of life’s really big surprises,” which doesn’t make sense to me. I mean it’s still a surprise, whether it’s inside your body or out. And it’s kind of depressing to think that might be the last surprise you get in life.
My dad has an interesting theory: he says finding out ahead of time gives you time to have FEELINGS about it. To spend the next few months disappointed if it’s not what you had in mind. To be freaked out because for the last five months you’ve felt in your heart and soul that it was one and it turns out it’s the other. He points out that when you have a baby, THAT baby is the ONE. Drowning in hormones and love and exhaustion, that exact baby is the baby you never knew you always wanted, and you can’t imagine it any other way.
Throughout five months of pregnancy, I didn’t really have a preference. All things being equal, I guess I was leaning a little toward a girl, but it felt minor, like it would just be easier because I am a girl and I would get it. My husband, however, wants a girl like WHOA. He was convinced it was a girl from early on (based on exactly nothing), and I spend a lot of time reminding him that there WAS a chance it might be a boy. I wanted to prep him, to make sure he was at least considering the possibility. You know. The 50 PERCENT possibility.
The day of our 20-week ultrasound (which is, I guess, when fetus nethers are big enough to be visible) is like Christmas morning. We are SO excited, and everyone is waiting on the news. As the tech moves the wand around, she seems perplexed. Our tiny person is not giving up the goods. The modest little thing has its legs crossed, no naughty bits in sight.
In between attempts, she tells me to cough, drink cold water, walk around the office, and jump up and down, all in an effort to get it to move. After about a half hour of this — stand up, do some acrobatics, feel like a dipshit, and try again, the view opens up a little. She says, “I’m 90% sure it’s a girl. But just so we’re positive, go downstairs, get some breakfast, and we’ll try again.”
A word of advice. If you are an ultrasound technician, DO NOT SAY SHIT LIKE THIS.
A GIRL! We are thrilled. I will never forget the image of my husband actually skipping down the hospital hallway. We get coffee. We come back up, I lay back down, she whips out the wand again, and there they are:
One look at those tiny, blurry testicles and my heart sinks. I plaster on as natural a smile as I can muster, holding back tears. I’m so surprised at my response that I don’t even know how to process it. As soon as we get to the car, I burst into tears. I cry all the way to my office. I try to sound upbeat when I call my parents, my best friends, my brother. I am unsuccessful. Thinking back, I guess I was hoping that the citrus fruit cravings/morning sickness/sleep position preference/height of baby bump meant a girl, as some people said. I fudged my date of conception on the Chinese gender-determination chart so that it would indicate a girl. I did, as it turns out, really really really want a girl. I just never admitted it.
I spend about a week grieving this news and feeling like an asshole because of it. There are people, I know, who would happily take ANY baby they could get. Who would happily take this very baby boy, and be overjoyed. What kind of ungrateful person am I? I have a healthy baby growing inside me, and I am sad about the clothes I won’t get to buy, the pink I won’t get to shellac my house with, the late-night mother-daughter talks I won’t have.
It isn’t until I pick my husband up from a rehearsal at a middle school one night that I start to feel better. There has been a dance, and the kids are pouring out the doors waiting to be picked up.
As I’ve told many pregnant friends since then, there is NOTHING like a 13-year-old girl in a sequined tube dress and four-inch heels to make you happy to be having a son.