I was hanging on my couch, my laptop open next to me, my husband busy in another room. It was safe to indulge in my guilty—and totally secret—pastime. It involved Google, ancient Chinese charts , and the latest medical research. Undercover CIA agent? Modern-day Nancy Drew? Neither: I was six months pregnant and on a mission to figure out the sex of my baby.
There are far easier ways of doing this—namely, asking the ultrasound tech. There's even a blood test that can detect the sex from as early as seven weeks. But my husband, David, and I had made a pact as soon as we knew I was pregnant: We weren't going to find out the sex of our baby. We decided that hearing it in the delivery room was one of life's best surprises. We were in the minority; almost all of our friends had found out if they were team pink or team blue right away. When people asked what we were having, we'd say, "A baby!" We lived in a sea of yellow and pale green baby gifts. We fondly referred to the baby as "it."
Secretly, I was out of my head with curiosity. I took online quizzes with questions such as "Do you crave sweet or salty?" and made a chart of old wives' tales. I craved orange juice: girl! When tied to a piece of string, my wedding ring spun circles over my belly: boy! (I stopped short of trying the crazy test that called for mixing pee with Drano—if it stayed clear, girl! Brown-ish? Boy!) I asked friends with ultrasounds that had been positively ID'd as boy or girl to e-mail them to me, then I'd compare my own. I was absolutely positive it was a boy—until the next day, when I'd see another ultrasound.
"Why don't you just find out already?" a friend asked in mock exasperation, after I'd listed the newest clues I'd uncovered. I couldn't quite explain. Yes, I wanted to know. Bad. But I also loved the excitement of not knowing and trying to figure it out, though I did feel a little guilty. I'm sure David suspected I was nosing around for evidence. Once, he caught me studying my growing bump in the mirror. "Am I carrying high or low?" I asked. (High meant girl, low meant boy.) "You're carrying middle," he said with a laugh. He was curious, too—just in a different, less-obsessive sort of way.
Five weeks before my due date, I ended up at the hospital. I'd felt sick all day and the baby had been moving less than usual, so the doctor wanted me to come in for rehydration. As IV fluids trickled into my veins, monitors started beeping loudly—the baby's heart rate had plummeted. I was rushed into surgery for a C-section. David and I were terrified. Suddenly, it didn't matter at all if we were having a boy or a girl—we just wanted the baby to be healthy.
It only took a few minutes, but it felt like forever before we heard a robust cry. The doctor called out, "Hey, Dad, look at this!" and held up a gooey miniature person. "Ah!" said my husband, a big, relieved smile on his face. "It's a girl! Um, I think." The nurses laughed. "It is a girl. There can be some swelling in that area at first," one of them said. Our baby, Rowan, was healthy—just early, and would require a little time in the NICU. When David told our waiting families the news of our daughter, he wept.
Like many parents, we've told our daughter, now 4 (and definitely a girl!) all about her birth. She loves hearing the story, especially the part where Daddy cries because how silly for Daddy to cry. Even just that one simple, sweet fact makes me glad we didn't find out ... and glad that I won't be getting an award for my gender-sleuthing skills anytime soon.