"Why I Wanted to Know the Sex of My Baby"

Expecting the Unexpected

The word boy had a cold, ugly, foreign feel to it. As I processed the news, I was shocked and even sad. I had never imagined having a boy. I'm one of four girls. My mother is one of two girls. Her mother was one of two girls. The men in my family--the husbands, the fathers--were surely aberrations. I thought that I, too, was destined to produce only girls. I pictured my daughter and myself swaying together at baby ballet classes and picking out cute sundresses. In my mind, I had already been to her dance recitals, dressed her for the winter formal, and watched her walk down the aisle as a bride.

Now the daughter of my dreams was suddenly replaced with...my son. What's the opposite of ballet lessons? Something violent, I was sure. I had visions of living with a spider-obsessed child who refused to bathe. I pictured his bedroom closet crammed full of camouflage clothing. I imagined dinner forks being turned into guns and swords.

I'm always amazed at the women who look at me smugly and say, "We're not finding out the sex--it's one of the last great surprises left!" Really? Managing to fit a baby through your tiny opening won't be a surprise? Discovering that you and your baby made it through delivery alive isn't astonishing? As if finding out the sex any time isn't surprising. Spread it out, I say.

I lasted four weeks without telling my husband the news. In the middle of the night, after having yet another dream in which I was delivering my baby, and crying when I saw for sure it was a boy, I woke him up. I could no longer hold this secret. At first, he thought it had been nothing more than a dream. "You don't know what it is," he reminded me. "We didn't find out." Once he understood that, yes, I had betrayed him and learned the sex, he cried and hugged me.

My husband didn't cry because he had wanted a boy. He cried because he was happy to know something, anything, about our baby during this mysterious process. The sonogram machine metes out little secrets such as measurements, position, and sex like a miser who will give you only crumbs from her plate. But I didn't want crumbs. I wanted a full piece of pie.

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