When we told her, she cried. For about 15 minutes. That was followed by the most enthusiastic pouting I’d witnessed in my daughter’s 2½ years. Then the uncharacteristically terse statement: “I’m sad Mommy. I’m going to go to sleep.”
The cause of her desperation? The ultrasound doctor had just informed us that I was pregnant with a boy. My daughter Abbey - the female half of my boy-girl set of twins – was crushed. She’d concocted all sorts of fantasies in her head about having a baby sister. And now that the harsh reality that she’s going to be outnumbered by a pack of two sweaty little boys settles into her little tiny brain, she’s slowly, very slowly letting go of the dream of a sister and relishing in her role as the best and only daughter.
We didn’t learn the genders of our twins until I squeezed them out of my body almost three years ago. This time, my husband Scott and I decided we needed to know the baby’s gender. One of the kids was going to wind up bunking with a demanding poop and crying machine. We wanted to take our time, break the news to the aggrieved party gently, rearrange the room over a period of weeks and enthusiastically get the kid involved. You know, using all that parental illogic to con a child into thinking that he’s really getting some cool bargain when he’s really getting the shaft. It’s like when we try to convince a child that peas and broccoli are the most amazing things we’ve ever eaten, when we’d truly rather have some creamy mashed potatoes sopping with butter or maybe a double-chocolate brownie.
And it’s a good thing we asked the doctor to search for a little pee-pee on our unborn child. Had we allowed Abbey to continue to develop her fantasy of playing tea party and dolls with her sister, it’s scary to think of how she would have reacted when informed that she was the proud big sister to a baby boy. I’d fear that in a moment when I was distracted, she’d try to dispose of him in hopes of getting a different version, something new and improved, which, would of course, come in the form of a female.
We didn’t always think that learning the gender of a baby while it was still in utero was a good idea, or at least Scott didn’t. In fact I’m still not convinced that he thinks it was right that we found out for this pregnancy. We had major battles when I was pregnant with Abbey and Jonah. I wanted to find out what their genders were. Given that these doctors all knew, I couldn’t see why we shouldn’t have known as well.
Yeah, I’ve heard all the arguments in favor of keeping it a surprise. Please. Surprises are highly overrated. After being in the pushing stage for three hours waiting for the first of my twins to be born, I didn’t care about genders. I just wanted to get that baby out of there so I could deliver baby number two. Later, my main concern was about their health, not about what was between their legs. After you’ve been in labor for 12 hours, surprises aren’t your top priority.
It’s not that I wanted to paint the nursery pink or blue or go out and buy exclusively blue or pink clothes. I wanted to know what the babies’ genders were so we could make decisions about how to arrange the rooms and how many names to pick out. Selecting two girls’ names, complete with middle names with familial ties, was a bit less daunting than selecting four names.
But Scott adamantly didn’t want to know. “You can find out,” he said after one of our debates. “Just don’t tell me.” Well that’s the same as telling me that I couldn’t find out because there was no way that I could’ve found out and not told anyone. I couldn’t keep news like that to myself. And throw on top of that the fact that I’m an atrocious liar; I would’ve blown it anyway. I can just imagine myself in the midst of our name discussions and letting Scott get away with horrific name suggestions because I’d know we’d never use it. Like Otis. He was stuck on the name Otis for a while, despite the fact that I said I wasn’t going to give my kid a dog’s name. If I suddenly acquiesced (“Sure, if we have two boys, the second one can be Otis.”) he’d be very suspicious. He seemed to buy into the whole surprise argument, wanting the thrill of the “surprise” at the birth. Yeah, that’s because it ain’t him pushing watermelons out of his nostrils. So we didn’t find out.
This time, my lobbying effort – including the argument that letting the kids know if they were having a brother or sister ahead of time was a good idea – paid off, with one caveat. For a few weeks, Scott insisted that we had to come up with both a boy’s and a girl’s name before the ultrasound, at 20 weeks. “I don’t want to put all this pressure on picking just one name,” he said. And I thought I was slightly addled by this pregnancy and the mélange of hormones coursing through my veins. “But you’re putting more pressure on us by insisting that we pick two names instead of just one, and in much less time,” I complained. Needless to say, we didn’t come up with two names by the time ultrasound day arrived. We did settle on a girl’s name though. And, what do ya know, we’re havin’ a boy.
Or at least we think the baby’s a boy. I asked the doctor to double-check to make sure it was a boy. She said, with utter certainty, that she could tell that it was. Imagine my horror at spending months trying to prepare my son Jonah for a roommate only to have to renege.
In the end, I guess there are no guarantees. You’ve all heard about prospective parents who rush out and buy gallons of Martha Stewart “dove’s belly pink” paint after being told they were having a girl, stocking up on scratchy frilly wear, doilies and dollies, only to find out that their son’s pee-pee was playing a game of peek-a-boo with the ultrasound doc. So I can only hope that we aren’t treated to our own little version of “The Crying Game.”