Thursday, August 28, 2008

On my walk home from the bus stop yesterday, I was imagining the two potential scenarios that might unfold during my ultrasound the next day. I closed my eyes (briefly, because I have enough difficulty walking and not tripping with my eyes open) and pictured the ultrasound technician saying either "it's a boy," or "it's a girl." And I pictured the reaction I would have to each. Both involved tears, naturally, but the emotions were slightly different. And I felt a little guilty about that.

I think Julie of A Little Pregnant summed up my feelings about gender really well in her post last March, when she found out that she, her husband Paul, and their son Charlie would be welcoming another little boy in August. Before her ultrasound reveal, people would ask her if she wanted a boy or a girl. Her response:

"Even being sure I'd asked it myself at some point, I had no idea until recently how common the question was. I was asked it an awful lot when we recently went south, by relatives I hadn't seen in years. The assumption seemed to be that we wanted a girl, since we already have a boy. That the experience of raising a girl would be qualitatively different, and something I'd not want to miss out on.

"That may be true; I wouldn't know. It's hard to imagine, because I don't think of Charlie as a boy, if that makes any sense. I don't identify his fundamental personhood as belonging to one gender or another...That he is occasionally bouncy and loud I chalk up to the fact that his body needs regular exercise and a venue where noisemaking is not only allowed but encouraged. His love for helping in the kitchen and doing housework is not a sign of any gender affiliation; rather it's the mark of a three-year-old's eagerness to do what his parents are doing. He is a boy, but I see his sex as incidental to the person he's becoming, rather than utterly essential. I seem him as simply — simply! — Charlie.

"Ultimately, I can't fathom a girl being any different. I know many people feel that girls are intrinsically different from boys, that biology implies destiny to a certain degree. I know there are forces beyond my control that influence how our children grow up and what roles they eventually assume...I don't feel that's sufficient reason to formulate a preference in that direction."

Julie has summed up here basically what I feel about who Charlotte is as a person, and the relationship of Charlotte the person to one aspect of her identity: her gender. And I know that a lot of people disagree with me (and Julie) about this, but I maintain that many of the so-called "genetic" differences between boys and girls are actually more a result of nurture, not nature. Not all of them, of course, but many. So I don't see Charlotte's love of cuddling and feeding her baby doll as any more "natural" or indicative of her true identity than her devotion to chucking projectiles, balls and otherwise, across the room.

So I felt guilty when I found myself feeling a little bit sadder when the ultrasound tech in my imagined scenario said "it's a girl!" As I explained to Jeff last night, it's not that I wouldn't be happy with a little girl. I mean, Charlotte's a girl, and look how rad she is! It's more that I'd be a little wistful, wondering "what if?" What would things be like with a boy and a girl? What would it feel like to have a son and a daughter?

And, of course, there's the fact that that scenario replicates my own sibling situation. I grew up with a younger brother. That relationship informs all my thoughts about kids and siblings. I have to admit that I always envisioned a situation where we'd have a daughter and son. Especially after we had Charlotte first...of course the next one would be a boy! Isn't that how it works?

But then I'd look at sisters I know (my cousins Angie & Monica, Amy & Laura for example) and remember how I'd feel slightly envious of their relationship when I was growing up. Maybe Charlotte would get to experience something I never did.

The truth is, no matter what we ended up having, Charlotte would be experiencing something I didn't. Even with a younger brother, there's no guarantee her relationship with him would be the same as mine with Scott. And Charlotte isn't a carbon copy of me (thank goodness); her relationship with any sibling would be a new creation, not a mirror imitation of someone else's relationship with someone else.

I knew all that, but I still went into the ultrasound with a shaky stomach and shallow breaths. I was nervous, or anxious, or...something. Jeff and Charlotte sat by, watching the baby on the "scream" (as Charlotte put it) in the darkened room. But as the tech took all the measurements, pointing out the three-vessel cord, the four-chambered heart, the head and stomach and kidneys and thigh bone all of proper length, my nervousness faded. I found myself focusing on the baby, the little person-to-be in there, and that baby's health. Everything looked good. The baby spazzed out just like Charlotte had during her big scan, kicking and punching and rolling around randomly. I could feel the movements and see them correspond on the screen.

So when the tech finished all her important work (including playing the galloping heartbeat not once, but twice, at Charlotte's request) and zoomed the little wand down to the baby's southern hemisphere, I had almost forgotten about that part of the scan. Almost, but not quite. I caught my breath again as I thought I caught sight of something on the screen.

"Charlotte," the tech said, locking in on something on the screen. "How'd you like a baby brother?"

And just like I predicted, I cried.


Anonymous said...

Jeff, Jana, & Charlotte

So excited to hear that you are having a baby boy!!! and a little brother for you Charlotte!!


The Vander Kooys

Anonymous said...

Very exciting, Jana! Congrats!! :) I'd react exactly the same way, I'm sure!

Jill A

Amy Tracy said...

Jack is very excited to have a boy join the family just six months after he did! I'm sure they will be great playmates. Of course Joclyn will be excited, too. Just another baby's diaper to change. Charlotte will be a great big sister! Congrats!

Mark Tig said...

a ballplayer

Kristen said...

I love your whole post--it made me want to cry, too! Congratulations!