Early lessons in (not quite) parenthood

Twenty weeks

Back in November, we scheduled one of the most exciting appointments for parents-to-be: our 20-week anatomy scan, also known as the Big Exciting Ultrasound Day in which many parents get a detailed glimpse of their growing child — and learn the sex of their baby-to-be.

It was the week before Thanksgiving. I was still fighting off the urge to gag at chicken, Brussels sprouts, candy . . . everything, basically. And the idea of actually being pregnant — like, with a baby — was still pretty novel. Spencer and I had the shell-shocked looks of two people who had no idea what they were in for, and we sat at our first trimester screening holding sweaty hands.

Though I knew something was happening, that first abdominal ultrasound afforded us our first look at our little one actually kicking, squirming and air-punching. Moving. Until that moment, “the baby” was totally abstract. But there, on the screen, was the baby. He or she looked both foreign and familiar, new and old. Impossibly small. Totally beautiful.

When we scheduled our anatomy scan for January 15, it seemed like forever — an eternity — before we’d return to that office. I couldn’t imagine how I would look in two months . . . and even more importantly, how I would feel. I remember shaking with nerves and excitement, and consoling myself with the knowledge that the holidays would help the time pass quickly.

Because we wanted to know.

Despite friends’ efforts to convince us to wait for the Big Reveal at birth, Spence and I both agreed that we wanted to know whether we were having a boy or girl as soon as we could. I commend parents who can wait the whole nine months — actually, I think it’s awesome. But I am way too anxious and impatient. After our very first positive test, actually, Spence blurted, “So we’re going to find out, right?”

Right.

Our anatomy scan last Thursday was perfect. Baby J was moving, flexing its fingers and wiggling — to get comfortable? — across the giant screen. I started crying again, looking at that strong and flickering heartbeat, and felt all the anxiety I’d felt in the days leading up to the appointment begin to fade.

We saw the brain, kidneys, fingers and toes. A profile (with little nose!), stomach, roof of the mouth, the leg bones and arms.

Everything! Everything but . . .

Well.

Everything but whether he is a he or she is a she.

As I laid there with an ultrasound technician trying valiantly to gain access to our child’s private area, panic began to make my heart race. We’d planned a gender reveal get-together with our families for the following night — complete with a cake to reveal to us, too, what our baby will be. We’d waited so long. We wanted to know.

Spence and I had already prepped our technician to warn us if she would be getting close to any “tell-tale” areas and to please write the sex on scrap paper, which we’d been planning to deliver to a friend to bake our pink-inside or blue-inside cake. He or she — which will it be? I’d been scheming this Friday get-together for a month.

We tried several angles. Twisting, turning. The baby would shift, shift, then turn away — giving us a clear view of his or her backside with the umbilical cord tucked resolutely between their legs. When the tech had no luck, she called in the doctor to try and offer an opinion. She said she had “an idea” but, sadly, told us she just didn’t feel comfortable “calling it.” Uncooperative.

I. was. devastated. Devastated in a way that only a truly irrational pregnant woman can be. It was just abject disappointment, really; just a letdown. But I kept reminding myself of the actual importance of this visit: ensuring our baby is developing normally and getting stronger. And he/she is! Our due date is right on target for early June. Our wee little one now weighs 11 ounces.

That seems impossibly small and also . . . so big. Considering we found out we were pregnant when Baby J was little more than a clump of cells, smaller than a blueberry, we’re making great progress!

After I regained my composure on Thursday (and started making calls to cancel our little party), I realized we’d just learned an important early lesson in parenthood: life is unpredictable. Stay flexible. Don’t expect kids to do what you think they will when you think they will . . . in fact, don’t be surprised if they’re, like, doing headstands. In the womb. And totally ignoring you.

Despite our disappointment at having to wait longer to learn if we have a guy or gal on the way, I went to sleep Thursday with a happy, grateful heart. And rumbling belly. All things in perspective.

And we’re halfway through. Halfway!

Orange juice toast for everyone.


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42 thoughts on “Early lessons in (not quite) parenthood

  1. wow – I have to admit after my sister saw your picture – she said ” you look even more younger and beautiful! – I had a bet with my sister “it’s a boy”

  2. That’s so exciting!!! My bestie had every intention of keeping everything secret until the baby shower a few months down the track, but the day after she found out she couldn’t not tell everyone – she’s expecting a girl! She was actually due a week ago, and we’re still patiently waiting for her, but it has actually gone by so quickly!! Such a crazy experience from the outside, but will surely be worth it all 🙂
    Hope that the next ultrasound has more luck!!

    • I don’t blame her one bit — so exciting! I know that if we had found out at the appointment, it would have taken all my willpower not to blurt out the sex to everyone I know. Hope her little lady arrives soon!

  3. Argh!! I know exactly how you feel. Our technician told us we will have only two ultrasounds – the first one, early in the game, to make sure everything is alright, and the second around Week 20, to again make sure everything is alright; and if “baby cooperates”, we’ll find the gender. So if we don’t know at our next ultrasound, we are probably never going to know. Are you going to have another ultrasound? Will you be looking at any other option? I’m so sorry – I know how devastating this can be. I have been keeping my fingers crossed since we found out we are pregnant, so I would be bummed if I didn’t know.

    • Congratulations, Athira!! I didn’t know you’re expecting as well. You totally do understand — it’s stressful, really. We’re actually going to pay out-of-pocket for an elective ultrasound to find out, hopefully this week . . . I wish I wasn’t terribly impatient, but I am! I really had my heart set on knowing, as did my husband, so we’re going to try again as soon as we can. If we don’t have any luck this time, we’ll have to play the waiting game.

      • I’m glad you are doing the elective ultrasound – that’s what we would do too. I hope you get to find out then. Fingers crossed! Keep us posted!

    • Same with my parents, too! They had names picked out for both a boy and girl . . . for the record, I would have been Scott. 🙂

  4. Oh, that’s frustrating! I was in Europe for my first child, and they gave me an ultrasound with every visit. By the time he was born, I knew every nuance of the ultrasound technology, and we had confirmed on multiple occasions that he was indeed a he. My daughter I had in the US with the one measly ultrasound. Even though I “knew” she was a girl, I still wanted that confirmation. The doctor did not want to confirm anything, but having had so much experience with ultrasounds with my son, I sort of forced his hand and gave him my educated guess based on certain views. I really wish the US was not so stingy with ultrasounds. Being able to see my son in the nine months prior to his arrival in the real world did so much to assuage my first-time-mom fears and made the whole thing more concrete.

    • Being able to actually see the baby changes everything, doesn’t it? That’s so awesome you were able to have so many ultrasounds during your first pregnancy! I think we will have had four or five by the time all is said and done, which feels like a lot . . . but also, not enough! It definitely makes everything feel real. I was staring at our son or daughter’s profile the other day just thinking, Wow. WOW.

  5. So happy to hear that little one is growing well! I can’t say I understand, as all 3 of my little ones were eager to show us if they were boys or a girl, but you are definitely right that it is all so unpredictable! Keep that in mind these last week’s of your pregnancy and through the birth as well 🙂 healthy mommy and baby are the goal! (I have lots of pregnancy and birth posts on my blog too if you’re interested!) And my guess is girl!

    • Thanks so much! I’m getting lots of “girl” guesses based on the fact that “shy” babies tend to turn out to be ladies. 🙂 We will be so happy either way. Just can’t wait to know!

  6. Awww, so sorry the reveal didn’t go as planned! I didn’t find out with my first son (a great surprise!) but we wanted to know with our second, and I too would have been devastated if the first ultrasound was inconclusive. When you want to know, you want to KNOW! But yes, that baby is teaching you an important lesson…namely, that they are going to be running the show soon…lol!! 🙂 Happy halfway point to you!

    • Thank you, Kelly! Now that I’ve relaxed (and tamped down some of those crazy-lady hormones), I’m realizing that sometimes the anticipation is half the fun.

  7. Great post about excitement yet eventually disappointment too. Perhaps you may find it a blessing in disguise. For us, not knowing the sex of the baby was the thing that truly made the delivery exciting and took the edge off the discomfort I was going through. Knowing we were going to meet our new little person and imagining the moment the midwife held the baby up and announced to the world whether it was a he or a she was a wonderful thing to keep focussing on. We wouldn’t have minded either sex and got a gorgeous son! I know other parents feel the need to know before he or she arrives but it didn’t matter to us. Finding you have a healthy baby is the thing that matters and we know they get it wrong too sometimes. A good friend planned for a son after a scan at 32 weeks (you may imagine ‘things’ could be pretty clear at that stage) – at 38 weeks a little girl arrived as a surprise!

    • I can definitely appreciate having the big surprise at birth as an incentive! In fact, I’ve thought about that a few times recently . . . especially after a dear cousin waited to find out with both of her children (which turned out to be girls!). Being told one thing at a scan and eventually having the other sex would be a serious shock! I actually have a coworker who was told “boy” from the beginning, had a boy-themed shower with everything blue, etc., and . . . well, she had a girl. Surprise! 🙂

  8. Yay for halfway! Love that sneaky little baby of yours. It’s like s/he is playing hide-and-seek with you already. 🙂 We have our 20 week ultrasound coming up soon but we’re actually waiting to find out the gender. I have the opposite concern as you – I’m actually worried the technician will accidentally reveal it (which happened to some friends of ours) so I have to be sure to warn them ahead of time that we do NOT want to know yet!

    • You’re right behind me, Stephanie! Since we did want to know but didn’t want them to tell us that day, we were clear with everyone who came into the room that we wanted the sex written down but not spoken aloud. I guess they’re used to dealing with demanding couples, haha — it wasn’t a problem. (Or wouldn’t have been, should Baby J have cooperated!) Yay for being Team Green — how exciting for y’all!

  9. I know that roller coaster ride of pregnancy doesn’t help the strong emotions. I remember when our perinatologist confirmed we were having two girls, and they were in the same sac I was overwhelmed with joy!! It took us so long to get there and I wanted at least one girl! With our son we had an amnio at 16 weeks, so no doubt on his gender. Ah the joys of having babies at 38. I hope he or she cooperates next time round….I’m so happy for your growing family!! xo

    • Thank you, Anita! Twin girls would have been crazy exciting, and they’ve grown into wonderful young women. And yes, the roller coaster of emotions definitely amps everything up! So many times I find myself saying, “You know, Normal Me would have no problem with this, but Pregnant Me is very upset.” It’s kind of funny, actually. We have to laugh at ourselves sometimes!

  10. I understand completely. When we made our 20 week ultrasound appointment, we waited anxiously for months and months. It felt like Christmas when the day finally arrived! For 20 minutes, we waited for our little fella to finally uncross his legs, and I was getting impatient just in those 20 minutes. I would have felt the exact same way as you did if we couldn’t find out. I really, really hope you get to find out this week. It’s so thrilling to finally know. I felt like he really started to develop an identity after we found out because we could call him “he,” or “Caleb” instead of “it” or “the baby.” Good luck, Mama! Crossing my fingers for you!

    • Thank you, Steph! I hope Baby J is more willing to go with the flow this go ’round, that’s for sure. I think it will really help cement the pregnancy in my mind. Though I know I’m pregnant, of course, being able to say he or she will make a huge difference for me. Can’t wait! (And thinking of you this week before Caleb’s arrival!)

  11. Good lesson. And they won’t necessarily be who you think they will be. I was so excited I had a girl who would play dolls and dress up and I could paint her nails and play with her hair. I got a lovely girl who preferred dinosaurs to dolls and drawing to make-up, but I couldn’t ask for a more fabulous kid – well, teenager now.

    • Very good point, Carol! When I find myself daydreaming about our future author or physicist, I have to remind myself that s/he will be their own person . . . and though we’ll encourage them, educate them and help them along the way, in the end? They will become who they’re meant to be. And that’s a great thing! 🙂

  12. So sorry you couldn’t find out the gender of the baby! But you’re right: at least s/he is healthy. It’ll be interesting to see whether this little peek-a-boo show turns out to be a key component of the baby’s personality. :>

    • Haha — yes, very true! Perhaps we’re in for a lifetime of willfulness and adorable stubbornness . . . I can’t wait to find out. 🙂

  13. I understand wanting to know the baby’s gender. My parents wanted to know, mostly so my mom knew what to shop for. 😉 Also, I’m a June birthday, and I’ve got to tell you that June birthdays are the best. It’s not as hot as July, but it’s in the middle of summer fun so that you can have whatever kind of birthday party you want. Also, your child will get his/her birthday off from school. It’s a win all around. 🙂

    • Yay for summer birthdays! I’m a July baby myself, so I can definitely understand not wanting to have a birthday in the dank shank of the summer. If the baby comes in early June, s/he may actually still be in school for their birthday — which would also be fun! End-of-the-year and all. My original due date was Memorial Day weekend, so we’ll see!

  14. Oh yes we had to know. I’m a planner, man! I need to decorate and buy clothes!! I’m so glad the baby is healthy but sorry you couldn’t find out the sex. The party is just delayed I guess. And you are right, it is the perfect lesson in what will be a lifetime of them doing something opposite of what you want.

    • Absolutely, Sandy! We already started looking at paint colors and are scheming themes for the little one’s nursery. Though I’m not big on gender stereotypes (pink for little princesses! blue for little truck lovers!), I definitely want to be able to buy certain things with the sex in mind. Eep, hope we have better luck this week!

  15. Aww, I would have had the exact some reaction. I have a hard time adjusting when my plans change at the last minute (just in regular life, without all the pregnancy hormones). I’ve always known that that will be a big struggle for me if we have kids. There are so many things that are out of your control. I hope you get to find out soon!

  16. That happened to me with my daughter on both ultrasounds, so we ended up not knowing she was a girl until she was born. But I kept telling myself that as long as the pregnancy is going well, that’s all the matters. Congrats! 🙂

  17. Girlfriend, my little gal is totally breech and soooo not moving – yet. I’m praying and trying everything. So yes yes yes I agree. We mama’s have to be patient and realize that each kid moves at their own pace and all we can do is be there, adjust, and make the best decisions we can.

    That being said, I feel for you. That 20 week scan is huge and I know I’m always itching to know.

    Hang tough!

    And if you really can’t take it, consider one of those super fancy independent places where you can pay for a scan. They tend to be very accurate but you have to pay out of pocket.

  18. Love ur bit about irrationally disapointed as only a pregnant wiman can be. So true. What a bummer- and way to move through it! Perfect lesson learned- one that comes AGAIN and AGAIN with parenthood. Congratulations! Clever little S/him!

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