Today is the 4-year anniversary of my first and only prenatal ultrasound. (It’s also a friend’s birthday, which is why I remember the date so distinctly.)
Anyway, I had planned a home birth for as long as I’d known I was pregnant, and at my prenatal visit four years ago today, the midwife couldn’t determine if she heard one or two heartbeats. My normal 30-60 minute prenatal visit stretched to about an hour and a half, as she tried various things to determine for sure that there was just one baby in there. This included some serious palpations (a.k.a. Leopold’s maneuvers, a.k.a. rubbing and squeezing my belly, trying to ascertain by touch fetal parts and account for the precise number expected from one baby and no more), a long time with the Doppler, and finally calling in her assistant who happened to be in the office that day, to have her listen with one machine while she listened with the other, to see if the heartbeat(s) they were hearing were exactly on time (indicating just one baby) or if they were off at all.
Despite all of that, she couldn’t determine to her satisfaction that there was just one baby. Since she didn’t knowingly attend twins home births, and couldn’t feel safe that I was definitely only have one baby, I had to have an ultrasound for her not to transfer me to her back-up OB.
My husband went with me, and we were able to see our baby before he was born. Since that was our first ultrasound, we had not found out the sex of the baby, and we weren’t sure if we wanted to. Part of me did (of course, being curious), but part of me wanted to wait until the birth to have that surprise there. But the curious part won out. The doctor was kinda funny, because my husband and I were going back and forth about it, and he already knew (we were at 37 weeks, so there wasn’t any doubt), and he said, “You have to be sure, because once I tell you, I can’t take it back!” And we finally did agree that, yes, we would find out.
We both were reasonably certain that we were having a boy — there was just the faintest doubt in the back of my mind, that it was possibly a girl, but I had an overwhelming feeling from the time I first thought I was pregnant that it was a boy; and I only ever thought it was a possibly a girl because both my sisters were absolutely certain that their first babies were boys, and they were both girls, and then when I bought girl clothes I imagined having a girl to wear the pretty dresses, and when I bought boy clothes and boy clothes and more boy clothes I thought if he wasn’t a boy, she wouldn’t have anything to wear! (I spent the summer before he was born shopping yard sales, so I probably spent about $100 on clothes to last us the first year or so. I’m frugal that way! So, it wasn’t that big of a deal to buy both boy and girl clothes at 50 cents or $1 per item.)
When I was in the early stages of pregnancy, my husband really wanted a girl (but he says he always thought it was a boy). I’m not sure why he wanted a girl — if he didn’t think he’d be a good daddy to a boy, or just because two of his brothers both had only girls at that point, or what. So, knowing that, I was a little tenuous in finding out the baby’s sex — we had waited so long, why find out now? And, if it was a girl, would I feel disappointment in being wrong (I didn’t have strong feelings one way or the other about which sex I wanted — either was fine with me, although I’m more comfortable with boys, having babysat them much more than girls), or if it was a boy, would Chuck be disappointed that it wasn’t a girl? I knew that if we found out at birth, we would be so overwhelmed with meeting our new little baby that it wouldn’t matter whether it was a girl or a boy, and it would just seem so “right” that it was whichever way it ended up being after the birth. I wasn’t sure those same feelings would be so pervasive with an ultrasound. I’ve read plenty of stories of women who were disappointed in pregnancy by carrying a baby of the “wrong” sex or the less-desired sex, but I’ve not read many stories (or perhaps none at all) of women who didn’t know beforehand yet were disappointed at birth — shocked, perhaps, like my sisters, but not disappointed.
So, there I was, belly exposed, gel on it, with the wand moving back and forth, and our baby visible on the screen, and the doctor said, “To a 99.99999% certainty, it’s a…. boy.” I looked at my husband, half-expecting him to be surprised or a tad disappointed, and I will never forget that look, because I have never seen it quite before or since — just such pure joy and happiness diffused all over his face. Absolutely priceless!
We had a bit of an adjustment for the next nearly two weeks, between the time of the ultrasound and the birth, as we gradually stopped referring to the baby as “it” or “him or her” and saying just “him.” (Actually, with such strong feelings, I had a tendency to usually say “him” anyway, but I had made myself use generic terms, lest people think we had found out the sex but weren’t telling, and I was letting it slip by saying “him.”)
And I will admit that it was a tiny bit of a let-down after the birth to have known the sex beforehand — kind of like, “Oh, yeah — boy — we knew that — big deal.” Like knowing what you’re getting for Christmas. It doesn’t mean you like the present any less — just that it wasn’t quite the surprise you anticipated.