There are a lot of things I would do differently if I could go back in time. But there’s one thing I am rock solid that I made the right choice about: not finding out the gender of my babies when I was pregnant.
Everyone is different, as my Dad says. For some, finding out the gender is a natural part of the pregnancy, others agonise over whether or not they should ask as they lie on their back in the dark at ultrasounds or when blood tests come in. Then there are people like me who choose not to know.
I never thought not finding out the gender of my children would have such a long term impact, but I can’t count how many times I have taken myself back to that delivery room.
I have replayed in my head those intense, intimate hours of labour and birth where I can see my husband next to me, sometimes holding my hand, sometimes rubbing my back, trying to be useful, looking more helpless than I’ve ever seen him, thinking I’m the most amazing woman on earth. And I see that we don’t really understand what is about to happen. We had seen grainy ultrasound images. We had a boy’s name and a girl’s name picked. We had the cot set up and little, tiny singlets in piles and we had a stroller in the hallway; but we hadn’t yet grasped that there was a real live little human about to join us.
You can catch our other parenting discussion over on our parenting podcast, This Glorious Mess. Post continues after audio.
I’ve been trying to work out why I keep coming back to that moment in the delivery suite. A time that was not perfect, that was full of pain, that was messy and definitely didn’t resemble in any way a birthing scene from a movie.
Then I read a story about how technology is impacting on human relationships in The Guardian by Jonathon Safran Foer and someone else said it for me:
My wife and I debated learning the sex of our first child before birth. I raised the issue with my uncle, a gynaecologist who had delivered more than 5,000 babies. He was prone neither to giving advice nor anything whiffing of spirituality, but he urged me, strongly, not to find out. He said, “If a doctor looks at a screen and tells you, you will have information. If you find out in the moment of birth, you will have a miracle.”
I am not spiritual either (yet the older I get the more I seek something to fill that void), and that ‘miracle’ is what I felt also. So did my husband. And I think that ‘miracle’ was helped along by having so much to discover in one moment. I mean how could this be an actual real live person we created?
“What is it?” I asked. (Yes, I called the baby an it.)
“It’s a girl,” he said.
Our world would never be the same.
Giving birth is such a personal experience. Find out the sex or don’t. Snapchat it like The Young Mummy Sophie Cachia or decide you’ll opt for intimacy. Invite friends and family or just keep it between you and your partner. Of course, one option is not superior to the other — we are all different and we all need different things.