Pink or Blue? | Gender Reveal No 2

Friday 9 March 2018

Unbelievably, I’ve already passed the halfway mark of this pregnancy, and Monday saw our 20 week anomaly scan back at the hospital. When I was expecting Theo, my 20 week scan was such a happy and emotional occasion. It took me a while to really get my head around becoming a mother when he was on the way - even though he was very much planned and wanted, it all happened so quickly that I spent a lot of the first trimester in a state of shock at how much life was about to change.

It may sound strange, but on our first scan last time around, I was just so shocked to see a baby on the screen and to realise that, yes, this was actually happening. The second scan was much more joyful - I’d connected with it all by then, and was delighted to be able to see my baby on the screen in so much beautiful detail.

This time around, I’ve been nothing but happy from the start -  but I was nervous, firstly to see that the baby was okay, but also to find out the gender. Whereas with Theo, I was adamant that I wanted to know, this time I was in two minds about whether to keep it a surprise or not.

When expectant mothers are asked ‘Would you like a girl or a boy?’ (and they always are), the only acceptable response seems to be to say ‘I don’t mind, as long as it’s healthy’. In one sense, this is absolutely correct. I can only guess at the heartbreak, despair and worry that accompanies finding out your baby has health issues.

Likewise, I can only guess at the utter misery and frustration experienced by those who have fertility issues and desperately wish for a child of any gender. But expressing a preference for one gender or the other is something that I do believe you absolutely have a right to. It’s funny, because if a mother has more than one child of the same gender, the assumption seems to be, rightly or wrongly, that they wanted one of the other.

So society has weird double standards - like a lot of things to do with motherhood and being a woman in general.

The first time I was pregnant, I believed I was having a girl. I could see Seb and I with a daughter. I began to imagine a certain future, based a lot on the bond I had with my niece. I keenly tried every old wives’ tale going to try and find out before my 20 week appointment. And when I discovered it was a boy, it knocked me for six. It took me a little while to come to terms with the future I had imagined and lost, and to build new dreams.

It wouldn’t be truthful not to admit that I struggled at first - I felt worried -“I don’t like bugs and mess and dinosaurs! I want a girl to take to ballet!”, embarrassed -“those gender stereotypes are ridiculous! A boy could be into ballet as well!”, - concerned  “I understand the worries and fears of a girl - will I be able to support a boy in the same way emotionally?”- and deeply guilty “you should be grateful you’re having a healthy baby at all!”

The only way to deal with it in the end was to allow myself to have the feelings, to acknowledge them and then move on. And of course, having my little boy has been the most wonderful, joyful, incredible experience that immediately melted everything away apart from how utterly amazing he is. That has been the biggest discovery of all. I’m wildly in love with him and his curious, clever, funny, caring little personality. I hope that shines through whenever I write about him here. He could never have been a disappointment to me. And I went into this second pregnancy knowing the same would be true of this baby - but that still didn’t stop me hoping I might have a girl this time.

So approaching my scan this time, I’m happy to admit I was nervous. What if it was another boy? I knew in my heart I would love him fiercely, and I knew how amazing it would be for Theo to have a little brother. But if I never had a girl, would I feel that I had missed out on something? Would I try for another, and what if that was also a boy? Where would I stop?

Would I be able to make my peace with it, or would I regret that I’d never been able to experience life with a daughter?

To that end, I did try out ‘natural gender selection’ this time - a bunch of theories that supposedly help you to conceive a girl. They include eating or not eating certain things, and trying to time the conception for a certain part of your cycle. Do these things work? Opinion is divided, and there isn’t much in the way of studies to support it. Part of me thinks it's a cynical way to try and cash in on parent’s hopes and dreams. Part of me thinks there may be some truth in some parts of it, if not in all.

Either way, my thinking was that even if it slightly tipped the balance to over 50% one way or the other, I was prepared to try it. So I followed the advice to try and conceive a girl. Some of the more bizarre instructions were to skip eating breakfast, and to avoid coffee and bananas. It’s to do with altering your body chemistry to make it more or less acid or alkaline. 

On the timing, the theory runs that male sperm are faster swimmers, but find it harder to survive in the woman’s body, where female sperm are slower, but hardier. So if you want to have a girl, you should only try and conceive on the two days closest to ovulation, to give the female sperm more of a chance to get at the egg. I was already using an app called Clue to track my cycles, so it was easy to work out the dates.

Obviously, it's quite a restrictive way to go about things. Seb was worried that it would narrow the chances of conceiving at all far too much - I believe the odds of getting pregnant at all in a given month are only 20%, and you’re reducing that further. Luckily, even with the restrictions it all happened immediately, just as it did with Theo.

There were a lot of thoughts and feelings that I went through, and I was extremely nervous, not knowing how I would feel on discovering the gender. It felt like a lot - so much that I wasn’t sure I wanted to find out at all. But Sebastian was of the opinion that we should find out, and in the end, I know I’m too curious of a person to resist the temptation. I’d tried to get my thoughts in order, and a few people had told me they could see me ‘with all boys’. So my emotions were all over the place during the health checks.

And then we found out...we’re expecting a girl this time.

I feel so happy, grateful, excited - I probably would have felt this way with a second boy, but at least now, there’s no shadow of doubt. If I do have more children, it will be entirely for their own sake and not because I want to have something I imagine is missing. And we are so joyful that Theo will get to welcome a little sister, and that she will have him to love and protect her and fight her corner in life.

I’m an only child, a fact that bothers me more as an adult than it ever did as a child. If I ever did think about a sibling though, I thought I would have liked an older brother. So it's lovely that my little girl will have that experience. A certain pressure has lifted, and now there’s just uncomplicated, pure happiness.

We are full of love and light and dearly looking forward to welcoming our new addition as a family.

Have you or anybody you know ever experienced similar feelings? Or do you find this subject impossible to understand? As always, I'd love to hear from you.