My kind of gender reveal party
Here’s the story of how my anticipated daughter turned out to be my son.
We decided early on we wanted to know the sex of our child at the 20 week ultrasound. I really didn’t need another surprise on delivery day; everything about that day is already unknown. The how and the when were enough – I wanted some idea of the who. Also, I didn’t want to have to pick out two names. It’s a tough enough job to pick out one.
Before the ultrasound, people kept asking me whether I thought I was having a boy or girl. It’s just one of those inane questions people always ask pregnant women. I would obligingly smile and say I had no idea, while stifling an eye-roll. How the hell would I know?
About a month before the ultrasound I started having a gut feeling it’s a boy. I stuffed it down. I basically only trust my gut to tell me what might be enjoyable to eat next.
Our ultrasound was scheduled for the morning of the day we were leaving for Hawaii. In BC, it is forbidden for ultrasound technicians to reveal the gender of the child to the parents during the exam. If you want to know, they will mark it in your chart and it’s up to your midwife or doctor to tell you.
So John and I stared at that blurry black and white screen with unblinking eyes, searching for a tell-tale little penis. We said nothing to each other during the exam but immediately upon walking out we both said “boy? Maybe?” We were about 70% sure.
Until then, I hadn’t let my mind picture an actual child coming out of this. But now, an image of a little mini-John easily formed in my head. I rather liked him.
The next day, now in our Hawaii rental, we get an email from our midwife clinic with one line, written in pink, “It’s a girl!”*
I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. Our guess was only a guess, based on blurry images we had zero experience looking at. And still I was left with a strange sadness. In 24 short hours, my mind had grown oddly attached to this little boy it created.
I couldn’t create a little girl to fill in his shoes nearly as easily. I didn’t start using feminine pronouns until months later. It was always just “the kid.” Whenever I said out loud that we were having a girl, it felt a little forced. Our nursery and the things we bought were always going to be pretty gender neutral, but I’m not strongly against all things pink. I actually kind of like dusty pink. But I had to really talk myself into every girlish thing we bought.
Towards the end, I mostly gave into it as our drawers filled up with endless girly hand-me-downs. But I did throw a yellow onesie in my hospital bag, among the pink ones. Just in case.
I pulled him up onto my chest right when he was born. We were covered in blankets and just lay there in awe for a few minutes, while he figured out he was in the world. At that point he was still my daughter. Then the nurse, who I suspect may have glimpsed something, suggested we check.
I didn’t see anything, and I don’t actually remember her exact words, I just remember the surprise in her voice when she said it was a boy.
It felt like the other shoe finally dropping. Of course it was a boy. There was a part of me that had been waiting to hear those words all along. So I laughed. We all laughed. It was one of those amazingly genuine moments. Our nurse captured it on camera.
We mixed up our pronouns a lot that first week, but trading our set of girl hand-me-downs for boy hand-me-downs helped. I was surprised at how much clothes serve as a gender cue for babies.
Officially he didn’t have a name for about a week, though we tentatively called him Henri in the delivery room. We had thought of Henri early on, when we didn’t yet know the sex. It was a name we both easily settled on when we were just batting hypothetical names around. But still, it hadn’t gone through the months-long vetting process we would have preferred; the final decision had to be made in the blur of new parenthood. Honestly, the hardest part of our daughter turning out to be our son was giving up the name we had picked for her. I had to mourn that a little.
Luckily that’s all the mourning I had to do. I will forever be grateful for those 24 hours I spent creating my son in my head, for without them, I might have had a tough transition to cope with in the haze of new motherhood. As it worked out, it was more of a reunion.
* You might wonder if we ever questioned the exam, but we had no reason to. It was done at the province’s dedicated maternal care hospital. It is a teaching hospital, so the exam was completed twice – once by a resident and then repeated in full in the presence of a doctor. Ours was actually the first error that our midwife clinic had seen and they confirmed that it did indeed say “girl” on the ultrasound information they received.