It’s that time of year again. The crocuses have wilted, like sad balloons after a kid’s birthday party, and I find myself overdressed by noon, stripping off layers, deeply regretting the wool socks. The red bud is out on the trees and the forsythia is stark yellow against the still brown branches—no green has come yet to soften it. This time two years ago, I was eight months pregnant with my daughter, Lila: full of anticipation, wondering who this new person would be, excited, scared, tired, impatient. Today, I’m pregnant again, and full of the same emotions, but this time around, it would not be a welcome surprise to meet my new child as the lilacs bloom. This time around, my due date is late August, not late May.
This pregnancy has not been easy. I had terrible nausea for the first trimester, and the lift in energy that often happens after about week 14 has yet to arrive for me. I am generally tired at all times during the day, and I seem to require about 10 hours of sleep per night. Perhaps this is because I am usually chasing a toddler around; perhaps it’s because we are trying to cram a year’s worth of gigs into a nine-month period; perhaps it’s because my second book is coming out in two weeks. But the bottom line is: this body can no longer keep up with the dictates of its mind, and recently I’ve lost the ability to walk across the street. I have such bad lower back pain that I am confined to the house and have to ask my husband to lift and carry anything heavier than my dinner plates.
Still, I feel as though I’ve had a meeting of sorts. Last Friday, I had my 20 week ultrasound, and when my ultra-stenographer asked if I wanted to know the baby’s gender, I said, “No, but you can write it down for me and put it in an envelope.” We did this for Lila, and though no one believes us, we really didn’t peek until after she was born. Not knowing whether she was going to be a girl or boy was part of the fun: finding out she was a girl at the moment of her delivery was one of the best moments of my whole life. I wanted that experience again.
However, from the moment my ultra-stenographer put that jelly covered probe on my belly and we turned our attention to the screen above, I was completely unwilling to take my eyes off the little figure wiggling and dancing in front of me. So when she said, “I’m moving down to the legs; you might want to avert your eyes,” I said, “Ehn, no worries. I won’t be able to recognize anything.”
But I did. I was pretty sure I saw the appendage that women don’t have. Still, I thought there had been a penis sighting at this stage of the game two years ago, and Lila is definitely penis-free (something she’s a little sad about right now, but that’s a different story.) The ultra-stenographer said, “Would you like a picture of the genitals along with the information I’m going to put in your envelope?”
“Nah,” I said. “In fact, forget it. I don’t need you to write it down. We can just wait till the baby’s born.”
She nodded. A few minutes later, she was focused on the baby’s hands, which were being waved about by their owner. “This is good,” she told me pointing to the screen. “The hands are open. Closed hands is a soft-marker for Down’s.”
“Mmmm,” I murmured, transfixed. “Can you get a profile picture of the baby’s face?”
“I’ll try,” she said, but the hands kept flying by the baby’s head, blocking our shot. “He sure loves those hands,” she noted.
He! So it was a he! My first reaction was one of deep disappointment. No baby sister for Lila who had been insisting it was a baby sister inside me and not a baby brother. No sequel to the Nerissa and Katryna Show I’d grown up with. Boys have tantrums! Boys tease! Boys play with guns, and if you don’t give them a gun they make the arm of their sisters doll a gun! Boys drive souped up cars and pass you at eighty miles an hour on two lane roads! Boys stop talking to their moms for years at a time! Boys don’t get to wear pink flowery dresses! And for some reason, this was the thing that was making me most disappointed: I wouldn’t get to reuse all those cute baby girl clothes I’d been handed down by my two nieces. Those little pink Mary Janes would leave the family! Oh no!
I pause here to mention that I have been on a huge anti-consumer kick for the past year or so. I buy almost nothing, preferring second-hand everything to putting more money into the system, which manufactures new stuff at alarming rates –much of it from sweat shops in Third World countries; much of it composed of petroleum products. I have been wanting desperately to live off of that particular grid, so it strikes me as hilarious that my focus went to the piles and piles of balled up too-small baby clothes resting in boxes in my attic. Really?
The ultra-stenographer left me to get the doctor. She was gone a long time. I lay on my side and stared at the profile we’d finally taken of the baby’s face. His face. He looks a little more like Tom than Lila did in her US profile. Even then, she looked exactly like me. This baby has longer cheek-bones, like his father’s. He is beautiful, and as I stared, I thought of all the men I love. Tom. My father. Jesus. Gandhi. The Buddha. Martin Luther King, Jr. John Lennon. Bob Dylan. Barack Obama. Not to mention my brothers-in-law and my nephews. And I thought of this one little boy in HooteNanny whom I adore. He sings all the words to all the songs and has a little guitar, which he made Katyrna and me both sign. Having another girl would have been easy: I have two sisters, four aunts and a grandmother. I worked for six years in a girls dorm. Even my pets have been mostly female. But having a boy will stretch me. It will be rich with discovery, a delicious plunge into the unknown.
Disappointment faded and changed to joy, as subtly yet insistently as the browns and grays of March change to the greens and yellows of April. I felt the baby move inside me and I put my hand on my stomach above where I felt him.
“Hello, baby boy,” I whispered. “You’ve got a lot to teach me. I can’t wait to learn.”