Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Profile shot, a little hand waving "hi," and on the bottom, some perfect feet.
A couple of weeks ago, I was laying in bed thinking about the baby's upcoming (although hardly impending) birth. I've been thinking about this a lot lately and I'm usually overwhelmed with excitement and joy. Both my previous births were wonderful and on different ends of the spectrum - one induced with Cervadil and days spent in the hospital surrounded by a huge staff and constant machines. The other a quiet homebirth where Robbie and I were completely alone until the last half an hour. Both ended with the natural birth I wanted and a healthy baby, but I feel like this birth is my chance to hit the perfect middle ground. We will still do homebirth, but with a few more women around to help and offer emotional support early on so that Robbie and I can be completely present. Thinking and preparing for this is one of my favorite pastimes, but this particular night was different.
I started thinking about the moment when he/she came out and Robbie called out the gender. I thought about the midwife placing a wet, squirmy bundle in my arms and allowing my eyes to focus on hair that may or may not have pigment. I thought about the boys padding into the room to meet their new sibling and the sudden realization that I'm the mother of three. The more I thought, the faster my heart raced. Suddenly I couldn't breathe. If this was how I felt coping with all these realizations, all these "surprises," four months before the birth, how was I going to handle it when it actually happened under the influence of postpartum hormones?
I rolled over and whispered to Robbie, "What if I just found out the gender and kept it a secret from you and everyone else?"
He laughed and made a joke about how quickly I was caving on our "keep the gender a secret" pact. Then he pointed out that I have the worst poker face on earth. I couldn't argue with the that.
But the next morning, he brought it up again, and assured me that if I wanted to know, he would fully support me. I didn't want to know, frankly, I wanted to just enjoy this pregnancy without knowing. It's like the moment you get a letter with a job decision or college entrance decision. The outcome is so important that the idea of opening it leaves you, at least momentarily, paralyzed and terrified.
I wished gender wasn't so important to me, because keeping it a surprise for everyone would be a lot more fun. In the end, though, I did care a lot. And I needed to know.
Our discussions quickly dissolved from only me finding out, to both of us finding out. When the ultrasound came on Friday, we had resolved to make the tech write it down and then open the result whenever we felt ready.
The scan itself went really well. Even though this is our third baby and our tenth ultrasound over the course of four pregnancies, it was still just as exhilarating and baffling to see the tiny body wiggling on the screen. I had been a little panicked about the baby's health because I haven't felt much kicking or movement, and I've heard a lot of horror stories about birth defects lately. To my enormous relief, however, everything was fine. The boys were surprisingly quiet and calm up until the last five minutes, when Emerson regaled us with some elegant fake burbs and announced to the tech several times that he was "going to fart on daddy." I noticed she was the only tech I've had who didn't ask what gender we were hoping for. I think she knew.
After Robbie escorted the boys outside, she told me that I was a "beautiful scan" and asked if her first-year resident could come do another scan while she went over my results with the head doctor. I blushed and fluttered my eyelashes, "Anything for science." When you grow out of another pair of maternity pants every week, you take any strange compliment you can get.
When we got home, I called my mom to tell her the results while I still technically didn't know the gender. I'm fine with lying to everyone else, but I draw the line at my mother. I once snuck out of the house at 3am without making a single sound and two minutes later she woke up and walked outside to scream my name. You don't mess with that kind of maternal intuition.
After I hung up the phone, Robbie and I sat on the porch and stared at our white envelope. "You look first," I told him. "I can't do it."
I closed my eyes while he looked. "Ok," he said, his voice not betraying any emotion. "Now look." And so I did.
Ok, the booties weren't actually there, that was my first celebration present to myself. I mean, the kid.
There aren't words to describe that kind of surprise and excitement. We screamed, we jumped up and down, we hugged, we repeatedly looked at the paper to make sure it still said "girl." Since we were on the porch I couldn't make too big of a scene, but when I went inside to grab something, I did a jumping dance of joy around the house that was impressive considering my size. It was real (assuming the tech hasn't made a big mistake). We were getting our girl - a daughter - and our family would be complete.
I always imagined I would have a daughter - there wasn't any other possibility. As a little girl, princesses and ballet tutus and frills defined me. My relationship with my mother was and has always been my closest relationship. I was close to my sister, my only sibling, and learned a more tomboyish sense of femininity from her.
As a teenager, I discovered women's history and the fight for equal rights. In college, I delved into gender studies and modern feminism. Long before I had children, I thought about what I would tell my daughter as she struggled through puberty. I vowed to teach her about the generations of women in our family and in history who had paved the way for her. I thought about her father walking her down the aisle and being there when she had her own children (assuming she hadn't grown to hate my guts by then).
Ok, I admit, I also dreamed about braiding her hair and taking her to dance classes and buying excessively cute dresses. At least for the first couple of years, at which point she would rebel against me by wearing nothing but pants and the color blue. Later, she would rebel by screaming and slamming doors, but I was prepared for that. If anyone knows drama, it's me.
What I wasn't prepared for was a boy. When I heard the news with Emerson, it didn't seem possible. When I heard the news with Fionn, I was devastated. I never doubted for a single moment that I would love them as much as I would love a daughter. I didn't regret their existence or fail to bond with them - I just mourned the loss of my expectations. In exchange, though, I got a world of wonderful experiences and insights that I couldn't have imagined.
Since both boys are polar opposites, I'm constantly learning about the nuances of masculinity from them and from their father. I never thought I would be excited to go to an event called "Touch a Truck" or that I would tear up at the sight of my boys' first ride on Thomas the Train. I never thought I would giggle when someone farted or that I would melt so completely watching my boys take care of their baby doll.
Now I feel like the luckiest person on earth because I get to experience another world through another baby's eyes. It probably won't match the expectations I've built up over the years, but I know it will be more amazing than I can possibly imagine.
I'm finding myself using a lot of sappy synonyms for "great," so I'll cut this short. But as a final act of celebration, I have to share these pictures. Among the massive dress collection that this little girl will inevitably amass, I'm most excited about these:
This is a dress my mother wore as a baby that I can now give my daughter.
This is one of three dresses that my mother saved from my childhood. I'm not usually a fan of crocheted clothes, but this one is so sweet. It's full of pink ribbons and comes with matching bloomers. FREAKIN BLOOMERS!
Ok, now I'll stop.
p.s. those old wives-tales about pregnancies with girls being harder, that daughters "steal their mother's beauty," or that girl pregnancies give you an ass the size of the Grand Canyon. So far in my case, all true.