We were the stock photo image of an "about to give birth" couple. My mother-in-law had just arrived to take care of our 3-year-old daughter, and we were headed out the door to the hospital on a warm Sunday in June, suitcase in hand, to see if what I thought was my water breaking was really my water breaking (it was).
During our one-minute walk to the car, our neighbor, Chris, saw us and called out encouragingly "Bring home a boy!" It didn't hit me until later what Chris said. Did our neighbor really just voice his preference for what gender he wanted our baby to be?
We didn't find out the sex with either of our kids, so it was going to be a surprise for everyone. We were excited either way, but it was an interesting journey getting to that point.
Throughout our pregnancy, people just assumed we wanted a boy because we already had a girl. And, of course, every father wants a son, right? Men are supposed to want someone to carry on the family name... to play ball with... to be on their side.
In rare quiet moments with my husband, John, we asked ourselves what we really wanted. We knew a boy would be a different experience, but a girl would probably mean a close sisterly bond with our firstborn -- and from a practical standpoint, we already had all the girl gear!
John was adamant throughout the pregnancy that he would be happy either way. In fact, he finally said toward the end of the pregnancy that if someone made him choose, he would choose another girl. I wasn't sold yet.
I told myself and others that either sex would be fine, but I realized my actions weren't matching my words. I was comparing the baby's heartbeat level at each visit with that of my first pregnancy. It was lower than my daughter's had been, so surely that meant a boy, right? I found myself smiling broadly when people looked at my shape and pronounced "you're all baby -- you're having a boy."
I was doing the ring trick and the other wives tales' games to determine the sex. When the result of these experiments said boy, I felt affirmed. When it said girl, I questioned the methodology. Once I realized I might be harboring a preference for a boy, I had to ask myself "Why do I care?"
Between our two girls, we experienced a miscarriage of a baby boy. For the very few people who knew, you could feel their hearts break more when they found out the sex. "Oh, no -- and it was a boy!" they would say, as if the loss wouldn't have been as great if it had been a girl. I also wondered if losing a boy was a reason I wanted to bring one to life.
Or, was it some primordial instinct that only a baby boy is considered a success? Are we still hardwired to try for a boy because in Tudor times and elsewhere, heads would roll for not producing male heirs?
The good part about being of "advanced maternal age" (as I was labeled by the doctors) is you've already had many of your life's assumptions proved wrong. You begin to understand that life is less about seeking perfection and more about appreciating a really good grilled cheese.
Once I realized I had fallen victim to the false notion of a perfect ratio -- one boy, one girl -- I was able to see how silly it was and eagerly anticipate a new life, regardless of the sex.
I'm certain that no one who assumed we wanted a boy or wanted us to have the joy of having a boy meant anything malicious by their words. I've been guilty of saying the common refrain to couples with a boy and a girl -- "one of each, you're done." But if you stop and think about it, why are we saying these things? Why does a family have to include both a son and daughter to be complete?
Even last month when I was on a business trip to Chicago, my taxi driver asked me and my two female colleagues how many kids we have. We told him we each have two, and then he asked the sex. The other two women have a boy and girl each, and when I said "two girls," he said: "You need a boy."
I always thought I would have a boy, but I have two girls which feels absolutely right to me. And I want people to be happy for me instead of saying "So are you going to try for that boy now?"
It's human nature to want what we want -- maybe that's all boys or all girls, some of each or no kids at all. But let's stop assuming that everyone wants the same thing. Whether I see someone who has an only child or four boys, I think twice now before I make statements about the make-up of anyone's family. Unless they tell me otherwise, I'm sure that whatever they have is right for them.
Further, I'm not going to assume that a single person wants to be married or that a mommy plus daddy equals parents or that a childless couple can't have children. I'm simply going to rejoice in the fact that "family" can mean so many things.
As for my family, after nine months of having two girls, would my husband still choose a girl? So far, he has two little ones who adore him and a 3-year-old who asks to watch hockey, soccer and Yankees games with him. What could be better? Once they hit middle school, we'll see if the answer changes. Knowing my husband, he'll just shake his head and say "Oh, boy."