We Are Both Right

Finding Out the Baby’s Sex — It’s a … SURPRISE!

What surprises you? Me? I’m a fan of mysteries. Surprise parties. Movies with twisty endings. I love it when I don’t know what’s coming. Not so great when the groom doesn’t show up at the altar, but fun when you are on a roller coaster.

And my absolute most favorite type of surprise? Life’s truest, purest, most natural one — not finding out the baby’s sex until it is born.

My husband T. and I have three children and during each pregnancy, (much to the consternation of some of our family and friends), we have eschewed the opportunity at our 20-week sonogram for the big reveal, instead choosing to wait until he or she decides to grace us with his or her presence.

I never thought what we were doing was out of the ordinary — when I was pregnant with my first son C. a decade ago, it seemed hardly anyone found out the baby’s sex at their ultrasound. But even two years later, when we were expecting our second child and once again chose to stay ignorant for another trimester-and-a-half, we got lots of sighs and eye rolls. And with our last child, forget it. You think we had announced that we didn’t use electricity or running water.



“You’re crazy,” is the most common reaction that I would get when I would answer “no” to the ever-popular question. And then the person would try to convince me why we were wrong. You can’t buy clothes, can’t figure out what room the baby is going to sleep in, can’t paint, etc., ad nauseam, blah, blah, blah. And sure, I suppose those are good arguments, and yes I guess our lives would be easier if we knew, but for T. and me, the surprise overrode any convenience we might have experienced.

“But it is a surprise,” my friends will argue when I ask why they just can’t wait until the end. “I’m surprised when the ultrasound technician tells me!”

Sorry, but I’m not buying it. You peeked at your present early. Read the last page of the book first. It’s like telling someone you are throwing a surprise party — a week before the big event. But hey, it was a surprise when you told him, right?

I love not knowing what I’m carrying in my belly. I love the guessing — the thinking I know what it is and then feeling the exact opposite way the very next day. The excitement that builds at the due date gets closer — to meet the new little one of course, but also, to find out who it is!

And I love choosing two baby names. It just adds to the fun of it all. Now, years later after their grand entrances into this world, my kids think it’s hysterical that my son C. would have been called Hailey Rose had he been a girl (Autumn Rose if “her” birthday was one day later than it currently is), that sweet girl A. would have been an adorable Matthew James and youngest boy S. would have been Eleanor Violet (or quite possibly Eleanor Joy had I had my way). Why this strikes them so much, I’m not sure — I guess their imaginations are just running wild at the thought of a parallel universe where C. played with American Girl dolls and A. was obsessed with Star Wars and Major League Baseball.

Not knowing was especially fun when I was pregnant for the third time. Our son C. was 8 and our daughter A. 6. We called the baby in my belly “Boris,” a (very) loose acronym for “Brother or Sister?” While the pair of them would regularly beg us to find out who would be in the sibling majority, they also had a lot of fun guessing and hoping.

“Good for you,” my OB said when I told him of our decision during my last pregnancy. “But do yourself a big favor,” he warned. “When you go to your ultrasound, make it very clear to the technician — tell her six times if you have to — that you do NOT want to know the sex of the baby.” When I looked puzzled and a bit taken aback at his emphatic tone, he smiled. “The ultrasound technicians can be a bit enthusiastic,” he admitted. “They like to be the ones to share the news.”

I wonder if the OBs feel a bit put out at this trend? I mean, they used to be the messengers. The one everyone looked to at the moment of truth. Not anymore.

The irony of it all is that for my last two pregnancies, my doctor wasn’t the one to make the big “It’s a …” announcement. My husband T. was.

My labor and delivery with my younger son, S. was a difficult one even by laboring standards to say the least. I really don’t remember too much of what happened and honestly, I suspect that through most of the process I was pretty out of it. But I do remember the most important part. At the very end, chaos — lots of sounds and shouting (and not just from me) accompanied by blinding, unbearable pain and then suddenly, everything was gone. Nothing.

And then, T. stroking my hair and whispering into my ear, “He’s here! S. is here!”

It was a sweet moment that still makes me tear up when I think about it, although part of me wonders if T. was taking the initiative after the experience we had when I gave birth to our daughter, A.

Our OB thought we already knew what we were having — like most of his patients. So when she was born, and the moment I had been waiting for arrived, he said…nothing. Or if he did say something, it was inconsequential like, “Here we are!” or some such.

I remember frantically looking at T. My eyes wide, feeling like I was trapped in some sort of strange baby Twilight Zone. “T.,” I finally croaked, after about 10 agonizing seconds passed. “What is it?” And then, in a moment I’ll never forget, my husband smiled at me, the sweetest, most loving, tender smile I’ve ever seen him give. “It’s a girl,” he said.

A funny story, absolutely, but by not telling us, that doctor actually gave me one of my most precious memories. One I would have never gotten by the light of the sonogram.

Finding out baby’s gender… No. Um, I mean YES!

Consider me a find-out-the-sex-of-baby-via-sonogram convert.

I started off not wanting to know the gender of my first child in advance. Finding out baby’s gender was unnecessary, a spoiler in fact. We were ready with names for a boy or a girl. The baby registry was chock full of neutral clothes and gear.

That is until our 20 week sonogram when the tech said, “Do you want to know now or forever hold your peace?”

What can I say? It was a emotionally-charged (read: weak) moment. I caved and my husband happily obliged.

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Minutes later we were asked to take a guess at what we thought we saw on the screen. Figuring the tech wouldn’t have lobbed the question if she didn’t think we had a good shot of actually seeing something, I stared definitively at what turned out to be his kidneys, and said boy. “No doubt about it,” she replied, as my husband started blubbering about toy trains and football season tickets.

A moment I’ll never forget — just like his birth 19 weeks later. And what I came to learn was that there are so many “surprises” related to delivering a baby, this one wasn’t missed. I was just so happy to see him wriggling and crying that nothing else mattered.

Fast forward four-and-a-half years, and we find out that we’re expecting again. From the start, neither of us even had to ask — we would be finding out baby’s gender as soon as possible. There were boxes of boy clothes in the attic and a room to paint. Our family life was firmly rooted around all things boy — would we need to start thinking about dance classes and hair bows? In all honesty, we also both admitted that we were scared of raising a girl (and the drama that appeared to come with it) and needed some time to mentally prepare if that were the case.

So wouldn’t you know, with the three of us peering at the monitor up above, the tech caught a good glimpse and excitedly announced: “You’re having a girl!”


Little L. was so pleased with himself because he had guessed right. We asked the tech if she was sure. Boy, was I glad we had this sonogram — because a few days later, when our heads stopped spinning, we knew we were much better off getting used to the idea of having a daughter before she was born. By the time she arrived, it wasn’t such a foreign world. Good thing, because now three years old, she’s as sassy as she is sweet and we always need to be a step ahead.

The option of finding out baby’s gender is certainly tempting, as I found out. And sometimes it takes another bit of news to bring you to that point, like finding out you are expecting multiples. Several friends changed their minds about finding out the sexes of their babies at that point, figuring they were going to need every opportunity to prepare in advance. (Except my sister-in-law who made it clear when she passed the 20-week mark that she would NOT be finding out the gender of her twins. Three combinations of names, lots of yellow and green clothes to hunt down, and neutral bedding all around, they’re ready to welcome their sons/daughters/son and daughter into the world when the babies are good and ready to appear in the flesh. I’m OK with it, but we are worried about my shopaholic mother-in-law who is beside herself because there are so few neutral options in the stores.)

Come to think of it though, my husband and I have been the only ones among our siblings and friends to rely on a sonogram for an early peek at baby’s gender. And I’d probably do it again.