When I was pregnant with our first baby, there was one thing I knew for certain: I wanted to know what my baby was going to be. I am a Type A person who enjoys planning something as much as I enjoy experiencing it. I mean, I spent a year planning our trip to Paris. We had an Excel-based itinerary that scheduled “spontaneous time” on Saturday from eight until noon. So, to say that I like to know what is coming would be understating the real truth, which is that I want to control everything happening around me.
As our big ultrasound grew ever nearer, Mark and I continued to disagree over this. He really wanted to wait to find out. As an obstetrician, he has seen countless births (those knowing and those not knowing the gender) and felt that he’d like to experience the excitement of the surprise. In our house, I have an opinion on everything from how to fold a towel to how our country should run. Mark allows me ample time on my soap box and rarely steps in to ask me to hear him out. So, when he takes a firm position on something, I try to stop and really listen. So I did.
And then I did the only thing I could think of doing to arm myself with knowledge; I read account after account of mothers and fathers on why choosing to find out the baby’s gender or keep it a surprise was best. The more I read, the more I felt certain I wanted to know. Those who found out suggested that they were able to get to know their baby better because they could name him or her and talk to the baby in a more intimate way. They could design a nursery color coded to suit baby’s gender. They could host a reveal shower and celebrate the baby with all of their family and friends. They could plan. They could PLAN!
When reading about the choice not to find out the gender it typically boiled down to one thing: it’s one of life’s only great surprises. But I don’t like surprises! Mark, on the other hand, loves them. The more we talked about it, the more I could tell how much it meant to him. And I got that feeling in my gut that this was one of those times in a marriage where you make the choice that isn’t yours but is your partners. So I begrudgingly agreed to wait.
Initially, I felt anxious about our choice. How would I plan for this baby if I didn’t know what it was? How would I know what to expect? And how would I design a nursery that I really loved? The uncertainy of not knowing the baby’s gender seemed to exacerbate all of the other fears and questions I had about pregnancy. What if my water broke in the Superdome or OMG at a client meeting? What if the baby comes early and I have to alter my maternity leave plans? What if the baby comes super fast and Mark can’t get there in time? I had so many “what ifs” running through my head that I felt paralyzed by them.
Surprisingly, as I came to terms with not knowing, I began to feel a lightness about my maternity journey that I had not yet felt. In fact, I felt a lightness about life in general. For the first time, I let go. I let go of my expectations and my fears. It was in accepting that I could not plan for my baby’s gender that I realized I could not plan for much related to my soon-to-be life as a new mom. I began to worry less about all of the things I could not control, and I found myself focusing more and more on the moment that I was in as opposed to the uncertainty of the future.
Now, as I am set to experience my new baby’s “big ultrasound,” I can’t say that the urge to find our the gender hasn’t creeped back into my thoughts. Surely, I would love to prepare Jane ahead of time to expect a brother or a sister, and I would love to be able to secure matching smocked Thanksgiving apparel. But, as the new baby and I move through this journey together, I close my eyes and picture that moment in the delivery room when the doctor will hold the baby up and announce “It’s a ….” That’s the moment Mark always talked about, and it’s the moment I can’t wait to experience again.
During my pregnancy and Jane’s birth, I discovered a sense of spontaneity that was missing from my life. But mostly, I discovered the spontaneity of bringing a new life into the world. One day I was forty weeks and five days pregnant with this amazing little being that I had come to know so well and the next I was holding a baby girl in my arms. She had been there the whole time. I had wondered about her for almost a year, and here she was staring up at me. Now, I don’t know if discovering your child’s gender is truly one of life’s greatest surprises, but I do know that embracing your child for the first time is truly one of life’s greatest miracles.