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?”


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 . . .


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.