Sunday, March 27, 2011

On Finding Out

I can’t find my camera cord, so this will have to be another (new/quality) pic-less post.

We didn’t find out the baby’s sex when I was pregnant with Amelia. It wasn’t that big of a deal to us to not find out, but I was shocked by the hostile reactions we got from people when we told them that we didn’t know! It only goes to show how gendered we are as a society that people put so much emphasis on the knowing—as if there are life-shattering revelations to be found in the baby’s sex. My favorite part was answering people’s stupid questions.

Did you find out the baby’s gender?
--Well, we did not find out the baby’s sex, but I suppose we won’t know the gender for many years, seeing as there’s so many options and that’s really up to the baby.

What kind of baby are you having?
--The human kind, of course!

What are you having?
--A baby.
No, did you find out if it’s a boy or girl?
--We didn’t have to find out, we know that it’s one or the other.

Don't you WANT to know?! 
--This question came out incredulously, an accusation shrouded by the question mark. As if I was already neglecting the fine details of my child for not knowing. My response? Of COURSE we wanted to know! But see, we would know. We would know the sex of that baby for the rest of his/her life. We would only not know for a few months.

That people would react negatively to the above responses shocked me the most. They acted like I’d offended them! As if they weren’t the ones asking about the contents of my uterus as if the answers somehow affected their lives. Never a thought entered their minds that maybe their desires to project a truckload of their own expectations, roles, and judgments on my unborn child might have been offensive to me, the mama.  The mere thought of people making an entire identity out of such a tiny detail of this little person made my skin crawl. The truth is, it just didn’t matter to us, the outcome of the sex mystery. There are NO losing options in this game and to us, the parents, the treatment, love, and expectations would be the same either way.

Though it was our own personal decision to not find out the sex, I realized that it set many people on the defensive. I don’t judge people who do find out at all. Just didn’t want to find out for us. However, as soon as people knew that we were waiting until birth, they often went into a steep conversation of defending the choice to find out the sex of their baby. I guess it makes people feel threatened? I don’t know. But I got a slew of excuses from people that made me think about the whole issue more than most probably do. And over time, I came to realize that most of the explanations people give for themselves are pretty bogus. These are the top ‘reasons’ people find out and my response.

You didn’t find out?! I could NEVER do that!
--Of course you could. If they couldn’t identify it for your baby, you would survive. If it wasn’t an option to find out, you would survive. Our parents didn’t know and well, I think they managed.  Not only that, but see, you don’t know at all for the first 20 weeks and you were just fine. If you don’t find out the sex at the Big Ultrasound, you leave knowing exactly as you knew before you went. That means, nothing changes and you’d go on just like before.

I am too much of a planner to not find out.
--My personal favorite! And absolutely false. I have three calendars, set my alarm for phone calls, send myself reminder emails, print 5 maps for every trip. I research lunch dates and got pregnant by charting my temperature every day for 2 months. I have a book full of lists on me at any given time and list books all over my house. See, I plan. I mean, I plan some shit.  For realsies. We planned the month that we’d start trying to get pregnant a year in advance! And as far as I can tell, there is no planning for a baby that requires knowledge of the baby’s sex. Babies need diapers and food and sleep, no matter the genitals they possess. They need clothes and love and warmth. Babies, in terms of their clothes, walls, or sheets, really don’t care about pink or blue. I know. It’s shocking . . . but they don’t. There is not one single thing that we had to wait to plan for Amelia’s birth until we saw what she was packin in her crotch. Not. One. Thing.

When it comes down to it, people find out the sex of their babies because they want to. They are curious and don’t want to wait. What’s the big deal? Why don’t they just say that? It’s totally understandable. If you could look at a wrapped package for months or look inside to see the contents, of course you’d want to know! There’s no criticism in that. The dumb excuses? Yeah, they’re just bullshit.

This is what I can tell you about our experience with Amelia. We waited all 36 weeks leading to her birth to find out. We had hours and hours of fun and exciting conversations about the ‘what ifs.’ We created two lists of names in great anticipation. We disagreed about what the baby would be and made bets to the outcome. It was really fun. This huge mystery just sitting there waiting to be exposed. Certain the baby was a boy, I began to realize that I longed for a daughter. Maybe even because I thought for sure that I was having a boy, I couldn’t even let myself think for a moment there was a girl in there. Even strangers would walk up to me and point to my bulging uterus and say “that’s a boy in there!” Boys are great and I was happy to consider myself the mom of a boy. But this wistful voice in my head just desired a girl so very badly. Then when I went into labor, we found ourselves thrown into a frightful and traumatic event.  Despite the fear of that night, the whole experienced was laced with the thrill and excitement of finding out, after all of that speculation, the sex of the baby.  Which list of names would apply? Daughter or son? No losing options, but so exciting to find out. And when I heard “girl” . . . it just . . . still makes me cry. The most memorable moment in my life. Numb from the chin down, cut open from hip to hip, shaking violently, and an emotional mess at 430 in the morning, it will always be among the most magical moments I’ve experienced. Ever. Only sheer jubilation and blessing. An experience that could have never happened in an ultrasound room. An experience that would not have been without the mystery that we’d kept from ourselves. There was really nothing positive about Amelia’s birth and it was an overall horrible time. But all of it gets overshadowed by the awe I felt in seeing her and finding out that she was my daughter.

For at least 6 months after her birth, I would still find myself shocked and amazed and grateful that she is a she. Amazing in a way that life hardly ever offers us.

         What’s in there?!                                                                                     pregnant  
Not even the roughest night could stifle my joy.
(I mean, Jesus, I look like death here--but also peaceful and happy. lol)

With all of that said, we planned initially to not find out with this baby too. Knowing the experience that was finding out at birth, we didn’t want to rob ourselves of that true, sheer joy offered in the surprise.

And then things got shitty. Like, super, crazy, are-we-ever-going-to-make-it shitty. Setting aside real, grown-up LIFE stresses just to focus on health and breathing felt life-changing. Coming to the conclusion that everything we valued about ourselves was perhaps not worth valuing at all made us reevaluate everything. Our house, the shining symbol of our come uppance in the world, the actual manifestation of our own work and successes was, in the end, just a building with walls within which we refused to sink to our own destruction. Reorganizing our own goals and priorities and saying and also believing that home has nothing to do with the walls with which you surround yourself but everything about the people who hold you. Some seriously deep shit that we’ve been going through. It’s felt good to get back to basics and strip away all the stuff that gets in the way of life’s really important things, but a lot of painful work to get there too.  In the past 6 months, we’ve really gone through many things that would have been very stressful alone, much less all at once. To be very frank, this pregnancy has been more of a burden than anything else. Not only has it added to my illnesses and exhaustion and inability to get better, but it has made everything else more stressful. Moving? While pregnant? Not awesome. Then the thought of adding another child to my situation has had me incredibly down. I’m already exhausted and struggling with health issues. How can I possibly nurse another child and still mother a 3-year-old?  On more than one occasion, tears flowed as I asked myself “WHAT THE FUCK WAS I THINKING? WHAT MADE ME THINK I CAN DO THIS?! I DEFINITELY CAN NOT DO THIS!” (I’ve been sick enough to resign myself to never getting better so a brighter, healthier future is difficult to imagine, even if it sounds irrational.) And when the baby started moving a lot inside, I’d say, “really? You too?” Something else sucking the life outta me! I can’t do it! And worse, I didn’t know if I even wanted to. At all. On Justin’s end, his approach was to ignore the pregnancy altogether. Stressed enough about everything else, he could just put it out of his head and deal with it when the baby arrives. I would literally have to remind him that a baby was on the way, even as it got into the months and well, hard to ignore. (Don’t even get me started on how huge I am!) As you can imagine, that kinda sucked for me too. A pregnancy that was killing me for a baby I didn’t know if I wanted, and a husband ignoring it all.

Then we thought about it. And we thought that maybe, hopefully, if we found out the sex of this baby, it would help us 1) gain some reality in the situation—ahem JUSTIN! and 2) get excited about it. Maybe, we thought, if we knew the sex, it might help us see this as an actual baby instead of a miscellaneous burdensome it. The actual answer—boy/girl wouldn’t affect the excitement level, but just the knowing might help turn us around to actually, I don’t know, looking forward to the little bugger coming instead of just stress about it or even (dare I say it) dread it. And maybe it would put a fire in us to actually prepare ourselves, house, and daughter for the new baby. It might even help pull us out of this dark thicket of clouds we’ve been swimming in for the past few months and make us um, (dare I say it?) happy? Is it possible, we wondered?

Should we? 

So     we     did.

And           it          DID.


Amber said...

YOU ROCK SISTER!!!! Such an amazing writer! The tears are still flowing down my face. My thought, turn this into a book... Take every little moment and publish it! Not only do you make "mothering" real, you put down in words EXACTLY what every other goes through, but isn't brave enough (Eh Hum, Me), to say. xxooo!

Monica said...

I agree with Amber's note! I think mothers would breathe a sigh of relief to know they are not the only ones who feel a certain way, and I think it would make them feel better.

As far as the baby stuff goes, it is starting to amaze me less and less how entitled people feel to have private details when it comes to the lives of others. I think "reality" TV has contributed to this!

P.S. Happy for the ray of sunshine that has broken through your clouds :)