Mike takes the day off of work, and his parents babysit so we can attend the "big ultrasound" (as people tend to call it) together. On the car ride to the hospital, we giddily talk about the ideas that make us nervous, anxious or excited as we contemplate having our first girl, or having our second boy.
Having a girl would be cool. It would be fun to have one child of each sex, perhaps experience stereotypical girlie things (tea parties, dance classes, spa days, dresses), have long talks and relive that giddiness of teenage girls, have mother/daughter bonding and outings, have father/daughter bonding and outings, see a daughter through a wedding, her pregnancy, her children, see what features a little girl would take on from me or from Mike, be able to shape a strong awesome woman...There are a lot of things we could look forward to, we agree.
But we also recognize that while "they" say girls are easier as babies and children, they often cause more stress as teenagers. Girls fight with their moms (and dads). At least, I did. And a lot of other girls do. They want their independence, which is natural, but it's also natural for parents to be, let's face it, more overprotective of their daughters. And with good reason. Of course it's not fair, but the sad truth is that the world outside of us is not fair either, and girls and women are going to face that unfairness--and yes, also face that added danger that parents are going to worry about. And girls are going to think it's stupid and paranoid, and revolt against it (at least I did). Boys fight too, of course. But there is just something about the way a girl chooses her words...I know many-a-mom who has said she is relieved when she finds out she's having a boy because she's terrified of dealing with a daughter. Even the powerful and cool Avery on 30 Rock who has been excited and collected at the idea of having a boy ("Every woman my boy dates will get compared to me. And they WILL be found wanting."), is terrified when she learns the sonogram was read wrong, and she'll indeed be having a "damn girl!"
And let's not forget the mean girls, designer label pressure (we do live in Westchester County after all), and drama. Some studies have even indicated a correlation between having one girl (versus having one boy) and a higher divorce rate, adding that with each additional girl, the rate goes up by 9%. Of course, this older "gender-preference" based studies (i.e. men are more invested in having boys, so they help out more yielding a happier marriage, hence divorce rate is lower for having boys) has also been questioned/debunked by other studies. And while a more recent study confirms this higher rate amongst families with daughters, they aren't postulating that stress from girls causes divorce. Rather, they hypothesize that the bond is so special between a mother and daughter, that the daughter gives her mom the emotional strength to leave an unhappy or abusive marriage (75% of divorces are filed by the mother), and set a better example for her daughter of how one should be loved. Furthermore, there has been a study indicating that in families where there is at least one girl, the other siblings have a lower chance of depression (the theory being that girls simply talk to their siblings more, and by talking--about anything at all--it helps).
Okay, so things to be excited about, things to be nervous about, things to appreciate in having a daughter. Bottom line, even the things to be anxious about are surmountable, and in the end, a girl offers amazing emotional support.
And having another boy would also be cool. Mike could start forming his all-male soccer team, he'd have his little squadron of boys to look up to him, and brothers would have a special bond themselves. As a mom, I'll have my boys to look out for me. Every mom of boys I know says, "Boys love their moms!" Since I was a teenager, I've always thought moms of all-boys just seem, I don't know, sort of cool. I would be the only girl in the household, so there could be perks to that. And of course there are the practical positives of having two boys: we don't need to buy new clothes, they may like similar toys, sibling discounts if they both take similar classes, they could share a bedroom for any number of years. And while I wouldn't be shaping an awesome girl, I would have the chance to shape two awesome boys into respectful, interesting, strong men.
But yes, we would miss out on all those girl-related experiences, from childhood to adulthood, and I'd be lying if I said the thought of that didn't make me just a little bit wistful. While being the only female presence in a household might make one feel special, it might also make a mom feel left out of certain activities or interests. I like the idea of the emotional support of a daughter, that chattiness and honesty of emotion.
Then again...we already have one boy and think he is the most amazing little man or woman we know. And even at 2 1/2, he already does break gender stereotypes by being surprisingly emotionally aware and extraordinarily verbal and expressive. If talking helps prevent depression, our boy has that covered. There is never a moment of silence in our house or car. And he is attentive to me already, following up on previous conversations to see if I have solved my problems, checking in to make sure my stomach feels better if it's been upset (even Mike forgets to do this), telling me to watch out for cars, to be careful not to squish the baby, saying I look pretty, that he likes my dresses, my "purty necklace", and showering me with dozens of "I love you!"s a day, from quiet whispers, to screaming it from across the room at his children's gym. He is amazing, and his existence is enough to get Mike and me excited at the idea of two boys.
So. That is the battle of the sex of the baby...My readers apparently are as divided as we are, as the polls are closing at 50% girl, 50% boy. Bottom line--as a friend points out to me--our baby is the baby we are meant to have. God has given us this baby and this baby is nothing other than a blessing, and we know our lives will be enriched because of this baby. Boy or girl. This is the baby that we are meant to have. And once we have our girl with our boy, or we have our two boys, that will be our family and we won't be able to imagine life any other way.
So. We're now at the hospital. I'm lying on the bed, goo on my belly as the sonographer records measurements, clicking and pointing on the computer.
"You said you want to find out the sex, right?" The sonographer asks.
We are nervous. Here it is. The baby is healthy; all measures up perfectly. That's a relief. Now onto satiating our curiosity...
She tells us.
I have tears in my eyes. Tears of joy. I picture us as a family. I am so happy. So happy to know something more about our precious little baby. When this flood of joy rushes over me, I know I would have been thrilled, boy or girl. But now I can visualize a bit of our family us in 5 months, in 5 years, in 15 years.
It's going to be me and my boys! We are having a boy! We are having the healthy, strong, very loved little baby that we were meant to have.
The day finally arrives when we attend our "big anatomy screening." Of course, Stamford Hospital likes to make its patients wait for appointments so 90 minutes after arriving, we finally are set up with the sonographer. She is fast; they are clearly behind in their schedule, but Mike and I are still able to bask in the beauty of our little baby on the screen. Everything is healthy. Our baby is healthy, average in a good way, and we even get to see some 3-D images when the doctor (who takes more time with us than the sonographer does) visits us. I can see why some parents pay to go to companies who simply show ultrasounds of their babies. It is amazing to see such detail--the eyes, the nose, the fingers.
After we finish with my ultrasound, we race to my OB appointment (my doctor kindly suggests I schedule his appointment right after the hospital visit to save us an extra trip in to CT). The appointment seems uneventful and smooth until I mention I've been having a lot of braxton hicks contractions. My OB is surprised. "Are you sure you're not having round ligament pain?" "Yes, I'm sure. I mean, I have that too, and I know the difference. This feels like nothing else. I can feel my uterus tightening too. I also sometimes feel a lot of pressure very low down, which I didn't feel in my first pregnancy until toward the end." I had recently looked up online and read that while most women feel braxton hicks contractions starting around 28 weeks, it's possible to feel them as early as the second month of pregnancy. I haven't been worried that sometimes I feel them every few minutes for perhaps an hour while I'm working on the computer. Of course, I knew I should mention this information (my friend recently told me of a girl she knew who was experiencing that and was put on bed rest). But I hadn't been worried.
But now my OB says it's best to check everything out, to make sure my cervix is still doing what its supposed to (or, not doing what it's not supposed to). He tells me he's 90% sure everything is fine, and I ask what would happen if everything is not fine. "You might need a stitch to the cervix and be put on bed rest for a few months." I scowl at this notion. "But let's check it out right now, and then we can all sleep well this weekend. It's probably fine."
I don't know what my OB is really thinking--he conveys the emotions of a man who is 90% sure everything is just fine. And honestly, I feel everything is fine as well.
And so, as he does the exam and ultrasound, we receive the anti-climactic and very welcome news that, yes, everything is, indeed, fine. He assumes I am just very in touch with my body and am feeling things very early this pregnancy. I agree. I have been feeling the baby moving since 11 weeks or so (yes, strange, and I don't tell my OB I was feeling the baby that early, because it sounds so crazy, but I swear I have been feeling our baby for that long. Once you know what it feels like when a baby moves inside of you, it really is, to me at least, like nothing else you ever experience.).
I ask him a few more questions, and he smiles saying, "Come on, ask me some hard ones." But alas. Let's continue with another uneventful pregnancy.
After the appointment, Mike and I go out to a nice restaurant, walking through tiny snowflakes, and enjoy another afternoon date, enjoying the food, the company, the idea that we now know the sex of our baby, and perusing through the string of 3-D images from the ultrasound.
There has never been any doubt that Mike and I would find out the sex of our baby. We did for our first, loved knowing, and can't imagine choosing to keep that information a surprise from ourselves the second time around. Does anyone find out for the first and then not for the second? I know plenty of people who did not find out their baby's sex in advance for their first child, and did for their subsequent children, but I have never heard of it happening the other way around. If you chose to keep the second a secret, but not the first, I'm curious, what led to that decision?
For us, the experience finding out the baby's sex at 20 weeks was exhilarating. It was that one awesome present you get to open Christmas Eve, getting you even more excited for the rest of the fun to come on Christmas Day. It helped me to feel more connected to our baby, got us started on our imaginative thinking for our family, and of course, helped in numerous practical ways.
This time around, we are just as excited. It's almost as though we can receive a glimpse of who our baby is, but safe and cozy in the womb (so we don't even have to get up 10 times in the middle of the night to get a glimpse of our baby!).
So who is this baby? Or "what" is this baby, as the question typically goes? The masses tend to say girl. I have had more morning sickness this time around, although the worst was over by 8 weeks, so compared to most, I'd still say I had it pretty easy. I feel different this time around, that is true. I have had heartburn, my belly is showing sooner. I've felt braxton hicks contractions for weeks already now. I didn't have any of these experiences the first time around (but then, it took posting in this blog to make me realize, based on comments, that I was actually having braxton hicks contractions during pregnancy #1!). But I honestly attribute most of these differences to simply a second pregnancy. I still feel pretty similar in most ways.
When I asked my toddler a month or two ago if he thought the baby would be a boy or a girl, he said, "Hm...No, it's just a baby. Yeah. Just a baby." That's my sense too, D. Just a baby.
But, because guessing is so much fun, and (gulp), I only have a few days before we find out the sex (Jan 13 is less than 3 days away!), let's wade through the symptoms, facts and numbers, and cast our votes! And silly as they are, guessing strategies are often pretty interesting. I mean, even the gas station attendant on Halstead Ave today told me that if you conceive during the day, it's a boy, and if you conceive at night, it's a girl. Hm...not really helpful in our case, but interesting. So, some Old Wives' Tales that I used in my first pregnancy will be helping us out...I apologize for not having any proper belly shots to show you, but this is the most recent picture of me (from this weekend, Russian Christmas), so it will have to suffice, in case you need a little face-time to get your guessing-game on. Here we go!
1) How you are showing:
-All over (or a full face)--Girl
Outcome: Most of the baby is still limited to my belly, but my belly is not as firm as before, nor as low as before. It's as though the entire basketball outline of my belly has already been drawn, just needing to be filled in. So I'm less sure what to write for this one. We'll say boy.
2) Fetal Heartbeat:
This is a good one, so I wish I knew exactly, but I honestly don't remember the heartbeat rate. I think it was right around 140 at some point. So again, not really an easy one to say. I would be entirely guessing on this one, so I will have to leave blank the result for this old wives' tale.
3) Sweet or Sour/Salty Cravings:
-Crave sweet things--Girl
-Crave sour/salty things--Boy
Outcome: Pretty mixed here, but since we've just passed Christmas, and we do have a lot of yummy cookies around, I will opt for sweet.
4) Picking up a key:
-Pick it up at the round end--Boy
-Pick it up at the thin end--Girl
Outcome: I picked it at the round end. Can't even imagine picking it up at the thin end, but I think this is the most common way to pick up a key--pregnant with a baby boy or not.
5) Mother's intuition:
-If the pregnant mother thinks she's having a boy--Boy
-If the pregnant mother thinks she's having a girl--Girl
Outcome: I really am not thinking strongly either way, but if I had to choose, I'd say girl. Note that I said the same thing with my first pregnancy and I was not right.
(btw--this is the most accurate, as mothers guess correctly 71% of the time!)
6) Pendulum swing:
-If a pendulum over the woman's head swings in a back and forth motion-Boy
-If it swings in a circular motion--Girl
Outcome: It swung side to side with my first pregnancy, and I was actually expecting the same result this time. I sort of assumed that it is just always more apt to swing side to side. This time, it remained pretty still for a moment, then Mike laughed, it swung side to side briefly, but quickly "corrected" itself and swung in a circular motion. So...
7) Chinese Zodiac Sex Predictor:
Compare the number of the month you conceived with the age you were when you conceived.
-If both numbers are even or both are odd--Boy
-If one is odd and the other even--Girl
Outcome: Conceived in month 9, was 34 years old, so one odd, one even.
This has tended to be the most reliable of these 50/50 tests. In doing this test with my family a few years ago, it was accurate for about 10 people for 100% of the time. Of course, since then, I've known plenty of people it has not been accurate for, but whenever I am told to guess the sex of a friend's baby, I always go with this system, and it does tend to be more true than anything else.
8) Online "Boy or Girl" quiz:
I took a quiz which asked a variety of questions having to do with conception, how the baby is showing etc. that resulted in telling me 1) It could be a boy and 2) Unsure. Hm. Well, that was enlightening.
I took another test which had more "old wives' tale" type questions, such as the direction my pillow faces (although I guessed on that. And what angle of your pillow is it talking about?), and whether or not I eat the heel of a loaf of bread. It told me: "Your score is 50%. Congratulations! According to the Old Wives it's a boy!"
Okay, I appreciate the congratulations, and that I got 50% of the questions...um...right? I'm not sure what the 50% is referring to...If it is just saying 50% boy, 50% girl, then it shouldn't tell me I'm having a boy. Regardless, since it appeared to say "boy" in this test, and the first test was unknown or a boy, I guess I will put these quizzes together and lean toward the shaky outcome of-
So to tally it all up, we have 1 unknown, 3 for boy, and 4 for girl. Those are the "facts." Now you can make an informed decision when you vote. :)