Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gender Bender (and Preference?)

When I was pregnant with Eliza, we had a gender party for her after our 20-week ultrasound.  It was Labor Day weekend.  The theme was "Baby Duck:  Donald or Daisy?"  I ordered a cake from a local bakery, had my doctor's office receptionist call them with our gender results, and they put the gender-specific frosting color inside the cake.  We had our guests write down their boy or girl votes (to save for the baby book) and then the big moment came when David and I cut the cake and we all saw PINK frosting!  Everybody cheered, like we'd ALL been hoping for a girl, when the truth is that David and I didn't care either way, and the votes had been split 50/50.  It was a happy, happy moment.

I'm glad we did that for Eliza.  I'm glad we celebrated her before she was here, and that we shared our excitement with my parents and our friends.  It was cheesy and lame and I loved every minute of it.  I look at how happy I am in those pictures, and I'm so glad I treasured that moment in my pregnancy.  I know I'll never have another one like it.

Eliza's 20-week ultrasound pictures--a healthy, perfect girl!
This time, we won't be having a party.  Not because we're not happy to be pregnant, but because pre-baby parties no longer make me feel happy.  They make me feel like I am inviting a harbinger of doom into my home.  All harbingers of doom:  NOT welcome.

But if we were to have a party this time around, the theme would be "The Deuce:  We Don't Give a Shit What You Are, As Long As You're Alive."

I imagine we would serve cupcakes with chocolate frosting in the shape of poo.

LOL.  Sorry, I am gross.

Anyway, the point of the poop jokes and hypothetical non-existent party-planning is that my twenty week scan is tomorrow and we're NOT going to find out whether we're having a boy or a girl.  Because we do not give a shit.  As long as this baby is alive and stays that way.

Even though David and I are both type-A planners (we're the couple who writes their own itinerary on vacation because we are SO cool and laid-back, you know?).  Even though I've always said that I hate surprises (Because it's so much fun to look forward to things!  And if it's a surprise, you've taken away all the delicious anticipation!).  Even though we're both really, really curious.  We are going to wait until the baby is born.  We are now the anti-planners.   Expect nothing.  Hope for everything.

Last time, I wasn't just pregnant.  I was expecting a baby.  So I acted accordingly.  I planned and prepared for everything.  Classes, books, magazine subscriptions.  Furniture, clothes, toys, baby supplies.  I wanted all the details to be perfect.  I expected my baby was a sure thing and I had no reason to believe she wouldn't be healthy and perfect.  We hadn't finalized her name, but I knew what she'd wear home from the hospital, what she'd wear for her newborn photos, what I wanted her birth announcements to look like...  I could see her so clearly in my head.  She was already mine.

This time, I'm doing the exact opposite.  I want to know the Deuce is healthy and growing on schedule.  I want to know that my body is doing what it needs to be doing.  (Even though I know those things are not guarantees we'll be bringing home a baby.)  Any and all other details can be worked out AFTER this baby is here.

I guess it doesn't quite feel like this baby is mine yet.  Not that I don't love the Deuce, that I'm not irrevocably attached to this weensy little fetus whom I think fluttered a few little kicks that I FINALLY felt last night (conclusion:  The Deuce likes no-bake cookies).  I just can't quite believe the Deuce is a sure thing.

I've wondered if my wish to keep it a surprise is a way to try and protect myself from another loss.  To be perfectly honest, yes, I'm terrified of getting attached to this baby.  But guess what?  Too late.  Already there.  I may not know if it's a boy or a girl, but I do know that I would endure anything to get the Deuce here, alive and well.   Sleepless nights and nosebleeds.  Carpel tunnel and sciatica.  Twenty weeks of bed rest.  A million stabs with needles. A shark fight in which I'm armed only with goggles and a small pen knife.  Bring it on.  Whatever it takes.  I definitely don't need to know the gender to bond with this babe.

But I'm still not ready to count on him or her coming home with us yet.  So I guess this is our way of acknowledging the uncertainty, the inability to see the future and plan ahead and know for sure.  And of forcing other people to acknowledge it with us.

This will keep me from getting ahead of myself, but also keep other people from getting ahead of us with their "certain" outcomes and ideas of what our family will look like come July.  I'm pregnant.  That's a good thing.  Man, we wanted this.  Man, we love the Deuce.  But this is all we've got, so far.  We're not expecting a baby this time so much as wildly hoping for one.

It's also a way for me to try to embrace (however reluctantly) my lack of control.  I don't get to decide whether this babe is a boy or a girl, just like I didn't get to decide whether Eliza lived or died.  Life is full of uncertainty, and I'm just hoping that this time we luck into a happy ending.

Another part of this decision is that I want this pregnancy to feel different from Eliza's.  (Besides the fact that this time I'm terrified.)  I NEED it to be different in a way that isn't entirely negative and horrible.  So the gender surprise is one way to do that.  Definitely different.  Not bad-different.  Just different-different.  Kind of fun-different, even!  (And we all know that SOMETHING in this pregnancy needs to be fun instead of wretchedly anxious and nail-biting.)

And as for our preference?  Well, if we can't have Eliza, any old sibling will do.  I'm working under the assumption that the Deuce is a boy, mostly because every single person I know (save one--Hi, Teresa!) who has had a stillborn baby girl has subsequently gotten pregnant with a boy.  This list includes several of the blogs I read, the people I've met through the grief support group, and my great-aunt Sue.  (Actually, I just learned today of one more exception to this rule, but I still think that the number of boys-after-loss is much higher than girls, though.  Even if this is based on my totally unscientific sampling.)  A friend asked me if having a boy would be easier.  I don't even remember how I answered her, but I don't think there is an easier.  Is the baby ALIVE?  That would certainly make things easier.  Or at least happier.

Before I got pregnant with Eliza, I thought it was kind of shitty for people to express a gender preference (as I stated in my heartbreakingly hopeful and excited post about her 20-week ultrasound).  I gaped open-mouthed at a guy friend of ours who voiced his disappointment when he found out he was going to have a daughter.  I was equally appalled at David's aunt, who cried when she found out her first pregnancy was a little boy (David's grandpa Gene finally told her that he'd take the baby if she didn't want it, and that shut her up.  Hilarious.  Oh, Gpa Gene.  We miss you.)  I mean, I think it's FINE to have your own personal preference (unavoidable sometimes), but I just couldn't imagine voicing to the world that I was disappointed in the gender of my child.

But then I had a baby girl and I lost her and all I wanted in the whole world was THAT baby girl.  Or... maybe since that was impossible, I'd settle for her sister.  I wanted to have another baby, and I wanted that baby to be a GIRL.

Forget the fact that I once imagined a mini-David and a baseball-themed nursery and dinosaur rompers and train sets.  That boy crap was no longer part of my vision.  I'd already lost Eliza, but I wasn't ready to let go of the dreams I had of ballet lessons, and hair ribbons, and French braids, and dress up clothes, and an Anne-of-Green-Gables-inspired vacation to Prince Edward's Island and American Girls Dolls and prom dress shopping...  Of course, I imagine Eliza would have loved all those things, but we'll never know.

Around Eliza's birthday, I was thinking about all the hopes and dreams and plans we had for her, (swimming lessons, dance recitals, getting into a good four-year liberal arts school), and I realized that it wouldn't have mattered if she was just like I dreamed she would be or not.  I loved her regardless, just as she was.  Just as she would have been.  Even if she was nothing like I'd expected (read: nothing like me).  Even if she liked soccer and hated ballet, even if she preferred sci-fi over historical fiction, even if she wanted to wear a tuxedo when she took her girlfriend to prom, even if she wanted to be (gasp!) an engineer like her grandpa and uncle instead of studying art history or fashion design or British literature.  It's true, I miss the baby girl I'd dreamed about, but mostly I miss that I never got to know the real Eliza.  And no sister (or brother) can give me back what I've already lost.

But they can give me someone new to love.  And that's why it doesn't matter the least bit if the Deuce is a girl or a boy.  Or if he (or she) likes baseball or musical theatre or (hopefully!) both.  The love's the same.  The gender is just... a detail.

And details we can think about later.  AFTER this baby is born.

So we're holding out for the big reveal at birth.  Which I guess is also one more way I'm trying to give the Deuce a vote of confidence.  I'm still holding on to the hope that the day this baby is born, I'll be so happy that I really won't give a shit WHAT this baby is, as long as it's alive.

And then we can celebrate.  Poo-shaped chocolate frosting for everyone!

How about you?  Did you ever have a strong gender preference, regardless of whether you'd experienced a loss?  Did you have to deal with disappointment?  How quickly did you get over it (uh, assuming you did)?  Did you know that America is the only country in the world where girl babies are preferred over boys?  Do you happen to have a strong feeling about whether the Deuce is a boy or a girl?  (A lady we met in Mexico took one look at my barely visible, 12-week tummy and said with total confidence, "Oh, you're having a girl.")  Do you think we're crazy for not finding out?

And can I just ask for all your prayers, wishes, ju-ju, vibes, and good intentions to be directed our way tomorrow morning?  I'm so nervous about this ultrasound I can hardly stand it.


  1. OMG, I think you hit it exactly: it's acknowleding the uncertainty AND forcing those around you to get on board with that concept, too. As much as I've been afraid people in my life would choose to forget my babies, I've been every bit as afraid that once we are blessed with another pregnancy, everything will magically be ok, which, um, NO!

    As for preference, before I lost my twins, I was petrified that I had to baby girls in there. I've had a difficult relationship with my mom and didn't want the opportunity to recreate that with my own daughters. I was ok with the thought of one of each, but two girls, OMG. And then our daughter came out. Everything has changed for me. She haunts me. I'm more connected to her than I am to her brother, maybe because she was my firstborn, maybe because many of my pregnancy complications involved her and not him. Maybe because her ruptured amniotic sac is what finally heralded the end. I don't know. But now I dream of a baby girl, and am fairly convinced my Spirit Baby is a girl that I keep seeing in my mind's eye. So will I be disappointed to find out I'm having a boy in my next pregnancy? Not as much as I'd be thrilled to find everything was fine and normal and I got to have a take-home baby in the end, but yeah, probably a teensy bit disappointed, and surprised. I mean, I'm on board with girls now. That's huge for me...

  2. "We're not expecting a baby this time so much as wildly hoping for one." = a perfect summary of my current pregnancy.

    We are one of the exceptions to your rule: expecting another girl after losing our daughter Elizabeth. If my arm is twisted, I will admit I was kinda hoping for another girl, to let a tiny piece of that old dream live. Turns out my husband thought a little brother for Elizabeth would make it clearer to the world that she was not being replaced, though (he's pretty sensitive about people's comments in that direction).

    But basically, I agree with you - it's hard to get too worked up over gender when you understand the real stakes of the game.

  3. This all makes total sense. You say it so well. I've been picturing Deuce as a boy for some reason. Maybe because I have boys? I wouldn't say I *hoped* James would be a girl, but I was very, VERY curious to find out.

  4. While my wife was pregnant, we were adamantly ambivalent, but I secretly thought maybe I preferred the first be a girl. Just so she could have the upper hand when playing together, for a while. We found out we were having a boy, and any preference evaporated.

    The other day, four months into fatherhood, I had this weird moment where I thought to myself, "I 'should' have wanted a son, because duh check this out." It was like I was trying to rewrite my memory so that it made sense in the light of experience.

    It occurred to me writing this that "the deuce" is also a slang term for the peace sign. I choose to interpret this is as a sign that The Deuce's influence will be one of peace. Does that have any implications for the gender? At the very least, it's not poo-related.

  5. We thought about not finding out with Cooper because we already had 2 boys, and I imagined that I could be disappointed with a boy in the ultrasound room but not the delivery room, but you know? I wasn't disappointed at all-- Ben and I laughed and laughed, charmed instantly at the thought of 3 little boys. But every freaking time I take them all anywhere someone asks if I was trying for a girl with Cooper and if I am going to try again. Totally bizarre.

  6. I have always been the person that needed to know, but I can totally understand your reasoning for keeping this a surprise. I knew for me if we were not having another girl, I would need that extra time to process this change and that's why we found out this second go around. I was right, we are having a boy and I was right again, I did and still need to process this. A surprise may be just what YOU need to process so I think that is just the right choice for you guys.

    Will be crossing my fingers and toes and sending good vibes to you and Eliza's little brother or sister tomorrow. And PS I think the poo cupcakes would be too funny because yes, as long as the deuce is healthy and alive, who gives a shit!

  7. With Lauren, neither my husband nor I had any preference for gender. We planned on ONE baby, and it didn't matter what we got. But I wanted to know the gender, because we had a girl name picked out but no boy names, so if we *had* to have a boy name, I thought we should be prepared. We found out in the 31st week - the doctor thought we knew already and just blithely pointed out the ovaries on the ultrasound. Good thing we wanted to know! No disappointment for us; we were both a little relieved that we wouldn't have to duke it out over a boy's name. In fact, my husband was ecstatic. He was nervous about having a little girl running around, but he instantly warmed up to the idea.
    When we try again, I think we'll feel the same way: we don't care, as long as it's a LIVE baby. I really do love this post, because it's exactly how I feel. I want whatever we get, as long as the baby comes home with us.
    Sending all the good stuff I have your way for the ultrasound! I hope it's a wonderful day!

  8. Less than 3 weeks away and still in the "wildly hoping for one" realm of thought.

    My mom asked me if the nursery was "ready" a few days ago. If by ready she means exactly how we left it with the hospital bag exactly as it was on December 5, 2010, then yeah. Andrew's name on the wall and all? Yep. Sure, it's ready... for the baby I never got to bring home. And I guess it's ready for one I am hoping might come home with us too.

    Love all you've written. I'll be very excited for my poo cupcake. I'll even bake some myself-- I'm so damn hopeful for that.

  9. Good luck tomorrow! Will be thinking of you! There is no way I could not find out--I could not handle the gender anxiety and anticipation that i was having for the entire pregnancy. But whatever makes you happy is the important thing. Your points do make sense. I just could not take it!!

  10. Sending lots of good vibes your way for tomorrow! And, I don't think you're crazy for not finding out. With our adoption we could have picked the gender but decided not to and to be surprised. Obviously it is different but I will NEVER forget the moment our caseworker called and told us we were having a boy (and then the most adorable face came over the computer screen). And for some reason I picture The Deuce as a boy. Not sure why though. Maybe it is the poo reference and poo = boy in my brain. :)

  11. I had a strong preference for a boy the first time. So when we got, and lost, our boy, I was desperate for another. And while I was so happy to learn that we were having another boy, and I love Finley more than anything, having the same gender has had it's own challenges that I wasn't ready for. I worry(ied) that people will assume that I just got a "do over" and that one son was replaced with another. I also struggled initially with wondering why one of my boys got to live and the other didn't and not letting it affect how I felt about/towards Finn.

    SO. . . I think it's great that you are doing something DIFFERENT and yes, it is a fun-different. But my money is on another little girl for you. Oh, but who cares. . . maybe you'll have a herm! But hey, as long as s/he's born screamin'!

    Will be thinking of you and hoping tomorrow goes well.

  12. We go for our scan tomorrow as well. I don't know if I want to find out the gender or not. This time is so confusing. Today I had just my visit and all I wanted to know was is there a heartbeat. When the doctor asked me if I had any questions, I drew a complete blank. I was just so happy to hear the heartbeat nothing else mattered.

    I wanted a little girl for so long, and I will admit there was a slight moment of disappoinment when Braedon turned out to be a boy. Since of course he was to be our last and we already had 2 boys. But now I can't help but dream of another little boy.

    In the big picture of it all, what we all really want is a healthy screaming baby, boy or girl makes no difference.

    I will patiently wait till we are crossing the finish line to discover if you will need pink or blue. :)

  13. Oh, Brooke I will be thinking of you on that table tomorrow and it will give me pleasure to know you are there. Because there is something about those pregnancy experiences that will always make me think of my daughter, and how alive she was, and how much I miss her, and how that's the only place we got to see her alive.
    I needed the months to process the knowledge that I was having a boy, which I was sure of from the beginning. I am looking forward to what it's like on your end. The only two people I know in real life who've had their #2s have had boy-boy and girl-girl.
    Dammit this is so hard. There's not supposed to be strategy. Just babies who live, and I'm so sad that pregnancies for all of us will never be the same

  14. My sister waited on finding out for all four of hers; when people asked if she knew what she was having, her cheerful response was "a baby!" (And very thankfully in all four cases she did, though she's had to deal with the tough situation of discovering my younger nephew's epilepsy/developmental delays only a month after finding out she was pregnant with #4).

    I'll confess that I really wanted a boy. I've always found interacting with boys (as peers, as friends, as kids I babysat for) more straightforward and more fun than girls...girls are opaque mysteries, and I am one. One reason why I'm very glad that we found out at the big ultrasound was that it then gave me some 16 weeks to get used to the idea of having a daughter (and now that she's here I wouldn't want any other baby).

    I'm placing my bets that the Deuce is a boy.

  15. We were the exact opposite to you, but in a way, exactly the same. We didn't know with Hope, so we had to know the next time around. I'm a type A planner as well, but I thought pregnancy was the last great surprise of life, and I wanted that surprise. Boom, did we get a surprise all right. No heartbeat. Didn't see that coming.
    So we opted to find out with Angus, and HE made himself very obvious to us at 12 weeks. And I was mildly disappointed, for all of about six seconds. I sort of knew I'd have a boy next because as you say, it just seems to happen that way for us who lost a baby girl. I was all geared up for a boy, and a boy is what I got. And my god, I wouldn't change him for the world. You're so right when you say that when they're born, it just does. not. matter. Just you wait til you hear that cray. Being positive here, because you WILL hear that cry, dammit.
    I must admit next time around, I was so hoping for another little girl. Of course I knew another boy would be wonderful and I would have loved him just the same, but I wanted to parent a daughter. I feel so incredibly lucky to have Juliet now.
    Sending you all the love and luck in the world, Brooke.

  16. I'm with you on the whole we don't give a shit as long as our baby is alive thing. People have asked me what I want and I do get funny looks when I answer "alive."

    However, we will be finding out next week what we're having. I can't take any more pregnancy surprises. Plus the suspense would drive me crazy. Good luck with your scan tomorrow.

  17. Prayers for you and the babe today. And prayers also that you find a way to have some fun with this pregnancy. I understand the caution, but I also know how important this time is. And so I pray your worries ease a bit and you celebrate with some goofiness.

  18. I am thinking of you and Deuce today. I am the opposite.. like Sally I am a planner and I have had to know for each of my pregnancies. We just verified the genders of the twins at this week's scans.. breathe in breathe out... xo

  19. Good luck today! I got a chuckle over the picture of you fighting a shark with a pen knife.

  20. I love the idea of the gender party with the gender being in the color of the frosting of the cake. It's definitely moments like that you will carry with you forever. Precious memories of a happy time with Eliza.

    "It's true, I miss the baby girl I'd dreamed about, but mostly I miss that I never got to know the real Eliza." I recently wrote a post with a line a lot like this because it saddens me that I'll never know the type of man Liam would've been, and get the chance to know him.

    I remember being angry when I first found out Liam was a boy because I so badly wanted a girl. I still get mad when I think about how I acted when my main concern should've been that he was healthy. After I lost him of course all I wanted was my baby boy. This pregnancy I am having a girl and there was this part of me that went into the u/s hoping for another boy. I am happy she is a girl and getting excited about the chance of raising her but I really wish I could've gone through this pregnancy not knowing till birth. I think it is awesome of you guys to wait till then to find out, because I agree that the important thing isn't the sex, its that he/she is alive and healthy.

    Hoping everything went well at your appt.

  21. Im sooooo behind in my reading this week because of all the celebrations for Kai. What I wanted to say that with Kai everyone told me I was having a girl for 5 months and so I had this image of a girl...then I found out I was having a boy and I have to say I was dissapointed...only because it was different then the mental image I had formulated...BUT you see I found out I was having a boy, I did not find out I was having Kai...and that is a whole different ball game. You see you want the one you get. It is amazing how becoming a mother works like that. You are instantly in love with the one in your arms.
    I know about wanting it to be different. I didn't know any of those things with Camille because we were waiting for the surprise because I knew I would love the baby I got, I was banking on another boy. Then my baby died and I gave birth and I found out I had a girl, I had Camille. Now I have all these dreams of raising a girl and I would love to see those dreams come true. I am only buoyed by the knowledge that you want the one you get. I know you will get the one you are supposed to have and I am hoping for you. Sending love to you.

  22. I'm assuming all went well. : ) Remembering our days with the support group, our members who went on to become subsequently pg went both ways. Some didn't want to know the gender, for reasons similar to yours. Some felt that there was so little certainty in the pregnancy and they figured they were going to get attached anyway, so why not know? I say whatever works for you, & yes, I think all of believe that "alive" is probably the best kind of baby to have of all.

    I must admit, both dh & I always had a strong preference for a girl, & were thrilled when we found out we were having one. I secretly longed for another little girl as we tried again, although of course a boy would have been just as loved.

    My dh's family is Italian, & a few of his uncles in particular take the male thing a little too seriously when waiting for their grandkids. They have actually expressed disappointment when it's a granddaughter (& offered money when it's a boy if they name the kid after him). Drives me nuts. :p They don't realize how damned lucky they are to have a grandchild at all.

  23. With my Cutu, I had a very strong bias, it must be a boy. Even if I always wanted a girl since a teenager, thinking how nicely u can dress em up and coming from a family of all sisters, all I loved was baby gals. However, before getting pregnant with Cutu, I fell in love with this 7 year old toddler - Akash. For the first time, I could see myself chasing a mischievous lil fella. And wow, was I right. From day one, I knew it had to be a boy and he sure was. Now, If I fast forward my life, I can totally see myself doing and thinking what u are going through. Not finding out if its a boy or a gal, and sailing through life hoping the minimalistic things - healthy & happy baby. Taking one step at a time and guarding my baby as best as I could. I send you tons of good vibes & energy and bless you with peace and tranquility.