“I hope it’s a girl,” I said to my husband as I sat, literally, on the edge of my seat. We were on the subway en route to my second ultrasound appointment.
“I don’t care either way, as long the baby is healthy,” he replied.
I groaned. No offense to my lovable husband but that was a stupid thing to say. Obviously I wanted my baby to be healthy. But I also wanted my baby to be a girl. Why did the two have to be mutually exclusive?
It’s not that I didn’t want a boy. I just wanted a girl first. Then a boy. Like me and my little brother, a dynamic I’d enjoyed growing up. Silly, I know, but the image had been painted in my mind for ages.
We arrived to the appointment three minutes late, and the doctor couldn’t find it in his heart to forgive us. He rushed us through the visit, shouting out numbers and stats quicker than I could comprehend.
“Do you want to know the gender?” he asked, without even turning away from the screen.
“YES!” we both shouted.
“It’s a boy.” Then he continued whizzing the wand around my belly, noting various measurements but not my dejected expression.
I hated myself for feeling how I did. I would love a boy as much as a girl. Maybe I was just disappointed because the doctor had delivered the news so abruptly? Or maybe I was just being hormonal.
It took a few days for me to get my head around the news. Then I was back to my cheery, peppy (bloated, tired) self. I was thrilled we’d be having a boy. And a healthy boy at that!
Months flew by until we arrived at week 35, a week that should have been like any other, but for me was the week my baby boy arrived. Prematurely. He stayed in the NICU for 11 days, attached to a mess of tubes and wires to help him breathe and eat. Things a healthy baby should be able to do on his own.
It was a punch in the gut. I silently cursed myself for having ever wished for a girl. I should have just wished for a healthy baby.
Fortunately, baby Leo made it out of the hospital unscathed by the whole situation, except for a touch of asthma that he might have had anyway.
When my sweet son was a year old, I found out I was pregnant with Baby #2. I was scared to admit that I wanted a girl this time. Scared it would jinx this normally non-superstitious person. Scared I would only be let down when we found out the gender. Scared I would feel guilty about letting myself feel let down.
“It’s a girl!” the doctor said.
I shed a tear of happiness. I’d gotten my baby girl! I hugged my son, excited for our soon-to-be perfectly balanced family of four, still believing such things mattered.
Two weeks later, my happiness screeched to a halt. I went into preterm labor. My baby girl was at risk of being born at 25 weeks. I was numb as I heard doctors toss around phrases like “extremely risky” and “decision to reanimate” and “it’s a good thing she’s a girl, since they’re stronger.”
I could hardly be happy my baby was a girl at a time like this. I just wanted her to be healthy.
With the help of modern medicine (and positive thoughts and prayers from friends and family), they stopped the contractions. I was placed on strict bed rest, and was able to keep my baby safe and snug until nearly full-term.
When she was born, I held her to my chest and nuzzled her with my cheek. I was covered in baby goop. Goop from my healthy baby girl.
I counted my blessings. One baby boy. One baby girl. One loving husband, who’d never judged me for getting my priorities mixed up along the way.