I got asked a question on Twitter yesterday…
“Why do pple get excited learning the sex of their baby? Would they not be as happy if results were different?”
I tried my best to answer the question on Twitter but 140 characters just wasn’t enough space (even 280 didn’t cut it) so I’m writing my answer here.
I remember being pregnant; that sense of unreality when two little lines appeared on a white plastic stick. I didn’t look any different or feel any different, it was hard to believe I would be a mother in less than a year. Well, unless I miscarried (which I did twice). The weeks crept on, I got a bit queasy and the waist of my pants grew a bit snug but that was it.
You often can’t feel the baby kick until almost halfway through the pregnancy and even then, it feels like a bit of gas or a twitchy muscle for several weeks after that. Around that time came the ultrasound; it was a window to the other side of my normal looking, albeit rounder, stomach. A chance to finally get a glimpse of the stranger everyone assured me that I’d love more than life itself.
Being pregnant was like being told I’d soon have a roommate… for the next 18+ years. Except there would be no interviews, no background checks, and no references. I had no idea what this person was going to be like (other than messy and very dependent). No one could tell me what the baby would look like other than having four limbs, all their digits, eyes, a nose, and a heart that looked fine. They couldn’t tell me if the baby would enjoy music, be quiet or outgoing, be fascinated with bugs or books, or serve a mean invisible tea from plastic cups. They could, however, tell me the sex… possibly… if the baby’s legs weren’t crossed. I took it, at least that was something tangible in a vast sea of nothing. Plus it would let me know if we needed to keep arguing over boy’s names (both sides of the family have horrible names for boys). Emma had her legs crossed. Jeremy didn’t.
And then there’s the more practical issues. I went to buy a newborn outfit three years ago. The parents thought the baby might be a girl but the ultrasound wasn’t clear so I figured I’d get something fairly neutral. There wasn’t anything. Every single piece of clothing in the baby’s department was either pink with flowers and butterflies or blue with sports and nautical themes. I ended up picking the least frilly pink clothes in the department and added a receipt. The baby was a girl (well so far at least) so luckily the outfit was fine. Babies need clothes desperately. They vomit copious amounts of milk all over themselves and everyone around them. They’ll crap so hard it ends up between their toes and through the back of their hair (and I really wish I was exaggerating). The sooner you know what’s between their legs, the sooner you can amass a supply of clothes.
And every. single. person asks, “so, do you know what you’re having?” as soon as it’s obvious you’re having a baby and not just consuming lots of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The answer “a baby” does not satisfy the nosy, although I did find “a baby with blue eyes” confused a fair number of them. Likely the ones who slept through high school science classes.
I guess whether they’re disappointed depends on what each parent was looking for. I was looking for a baby, preferably healthy. Having a boy worried me a little because I’d grown up around girls and didn’t know what to expect, but hearing “it’s a boy” from the ultrasound technician wasn’t a disappointment. Looking down while I was delivering Emma and announcing, “It’s a girl” wasn’t a disappointment either.
I’m sure there are people who are disappointed for various reasons. Maybe they wanted a second boy or girl so their oldest would have a friend. Maybe they wanted one of each. Maybe they had bad experiences with their own sibling and were worried about raising a similar child. Or, more seriously, maybe there’s sex linked health issues in the family and they’re worried about bringing a child into the world who’ll face pain and suffering. But I have a feeling most parents are like me, simply happy to finally have something to know about their baby, something tangible to share with others and plan around.
I’ll wait until tomorrow to talk about stereotypes.