Boy babies and girl babies, CJ Kaplan writes, are both worth the wait.
This piece is part of a special series on the End of Gender. This series includes bloggers from Role/Reboot, Good Men Project, The Huffington Post, HyperVocal, Ms. Magazine, YourTango, Psycholog
We never wanted to know. Either of us. So when the ultrasound technician looked up from the milky images of Lisa’s womb and told us that we could learn the sex of our unborn child, we responded in unison.
“Yeah, we want to be surprised,” I said in a tone suggesting there would be no further discussion on the matter.
Shrugging, the technician went back to snapping pictures of the tiny person whose weirdo parents preferred the antiquated practice of actually waiting until a child was born to find out if it was a boy or a girl.
Look, I love technology. Mostly. It allows me to see my brother, his wife, and my baby niece whenever I desire—even though they live 700 miles away. It also helps me bank, shop, catch up with old friends, and spend many productive hours trying to improve my fantasy football team. I am way cool with technology. We’re tight.
On the flip side, everybody knows everything now. There is no mystery in our lives anymore. Movie endings are routinely spoiled. Sports scores are projected across the globe instantaneously. Whole albums are released before the band has even finished the last celebratory bong hit in the studio. Nobody is willing to wait for anything. Not for an hour. Not for a day. And certainly not for nine months.
Nowhere is this collective impatience more prevalent than in the field of over-the-counter gender prediction. New stick tests promise to tell you the sex of your fetus as soon as seven weeks after conception. Seven weeks! Jeez, can I at least finish smoking the cigarette first?
When someone in my family was pregnant, my great grandmother had her own method of determining whether she’d be knitting pink or blue booties. She would have the pregnant woman lie on her back on the floor. Then, she would thread a needle on long piece of string and dangle the needle over the woman’s belly. If the needle swung north to south (head to toe), a boy was surely on the way. If the needle swung east to west, it was time to break out the ribbons and bows. To hear my great-grandmother tell it, she was right 100% of the time. And if she wasn’t, nobody had the guts to refute her. One thing was sure; fancy machines and pee sticks couldn’t tell her anything that the needle didn’t already know.
After we told people that we weren’t going to find out one way or the other, our friends and family took it upon themselves to determine what only a frustrated ultrasound technician new for sure. They studied Lisa up and down. The looked at her hands, her face, her skin. They discussed how she was carrying—high, low, all in front, side-to-side. They assessed her profile and then how she looked from behind. Some consulted Chinese calendars and astrological charts. Others did some sort of complicated mathematical equation that may or may not have included imaginary numbers.
“A boy!” they declared universally.
Lisa herself was sure that she was having a boy. I offered no opinion. In truth, I was so freaked out about becoming a dad that I was just hoping for a human of any sort. To prepare for our new arrival, we painted the nursery a bright cheery and gender-neutral yellow. We bought bedding that featured bunnies and teddy bears. The ultra-cute border treatment was inhabited by puppies and duckies. No doubt about it. This was a baby’s room. And that was all that we knew.
After 11 hours of labor, Lisa was ready to push. I held one of her legs. A nurse held the other. A doctor waited patiently in between.
Twenty minutes later, a head emerged.
Then shoulders and a torso.
And then everything that follows.
“It’s a girl!” declared the doctor.
“It’s a girl!” yelled Lisa, triumphantly. And then softly, “It’s a girl?”
When Samantha was bundled up and sleeping on Lisa’s chest, I called my parents. My father answered.
“You have a granddaughter.”
I heard the phone drop to the floor as my father burst into tears of joy. He had listened to everyone say it was going to be a boy. And he had nodded and smiled. But, deep inside, he really wanted a girl. My normally stoic dad was reacting to the most wonderful surprise of his life.
My mother picked up the phone.
“Is it really a girl?”
“Oh, CJ,” she said, breaking into her own sobs of happiness. “That is so wonderful!”
See, that’s the thing about surprises. They’re fucking surprising.
We didn’t find out the sex of our next two children either. After our first son was born, my wife confessed to me that when her friend Judy had delivered a boy two weeks earlier she became certain that we were going to have a boy as well. Apparently, she and Judy had the same food cravings over the last five months of their pregnancies. It’s no needle and thread, but I guess it’s close enough.
To Lisa, telling me about her and Judy would have ruined the moment in the delivery room when I held Alex in my arms as tears streamed down my cheeks and said aloud to everybody and nobody:
“I have a son.”
Eric was the tiebreaker. And what fun is knowing the results of the game before the final whistle blows? The only difference between him and his brother and sister is that his room was painted a happy shade of green instead of yellow. Otherwise, he was just as much of a question mark as them.
There are boy babies, and there are girl babies. Take it from me. Both are worth the wait.