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

Learning As You Go

And that's what I wanted to say to the smiling sonographer standing above me: You can tell me the sex, but you can't tell me if my two children will get along. You can't tell me if my VBAC attempt will succeed. You can't tell me if I have the stamina to take care of and love two children equally and whole-heartedly.

These are the things I want and need to know. The whole picture. But the sonogram machine isn't a crystal ball. To be sure, it can reveal serious conditions: Will my child have spina bifida? Is there a hole in my baby's heart? It can even allow me to count the fingers and toes. But once those questions are satisfied--and yes, questions of health are the crucial ones--it can't help solve the mysteries I am most curious about. I look at my toddler and even though I knew his sex before he was born, I had no idea that he would like giraffes more than spiders. That he would love guitars and would call noodles "doodles." These are the things we can't see on a sonogram, the idiosyncratic details that make up who a person is.

I look at the kind sonographer's smiling, hopeful face. She's seen things go wrong that I can't begin to imagine. She possibly even understands that I don't want to know only the sex. I want to know everything. And still, this woman's reassuring grin seems to say: "Don't worry. We'll take it step by step. Finding out the sex is just another step, a step you don't even have to take if you don't want to."

Nine months is so long to go without knowing as much as possible about someone who will eclipse almost everyone else in my life in importance. I decide that I'd like to know what I can, even with the understanding that learning the sex is perhaps like knowing my child's blood type or hair color: a single piece in a gigantic puzzle, one I will spend the rest of my life putting together. Each piece is important, no one more or less than the other.

It's a boy.

Originally published in the May 2011 issue of American Baby magazine.

Find a Baby Name

Browse by

or Enter a name

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment