My husband and I are expecting our first and our 20-week ultrasound is coming up. He wants to find out the baby’s sex, but I don’t! What can we do? There doesn’t seem to be any compromise here…
Dear Surprise Me,
My husband always rolls his eyes at me when I say this, and it’s true that it’s not the kind of thing I would normally buy into, but I knew all along that both of our kids were boys. It defies explanation, but I could tell. And, just for the record, I was right.
However, that didn’t change the fact that I wanted to know for sure. How could I not? There was this weird little thing taking up residency inside my body, this thing that would be changing my life in the most dramatic way, this thing that I would dedicate the next 20 years of my life to, and, really, what the hell was it? There was so much mystery surrounding this little creature, I felt like the biological sex was pretty much the only thing I could know. I NEEDED TO KNOW.
But my husband, like you, wanted to be surprised. “We will be surprised!” I said. “We’ll just be surprised a little early!” That argument didn’t work. I wanted to know. He didn’t. There’s no right or wrong here; we just felt differently about it. Very differently.
I disagree with you that there’s no compromise, though. There sort of is, and I know this because we found it. When we went to our anatomy scans, my husband stayed with me through all the important stuff (head, check; legs, check; beating heart, check; developing brain, check) and then left when it was time for the big reveal. The ultrasound tech told only me and voila! I knew. And he didn’t.
Often when I tell people this they’re pretty incredulous. “How did you keep that a secret?” they ask. And listen, Surprise Me, I’m not an expert on much, but when it comes to concealing the biological sex of your fetus from your partner for months and months, well, that I’ve done. Twice. So in case it appeals, here are some tips that you can share with your husband.
First, if you haven’t already, come up with a gender-neutral nickname for the baby in advance of the ultrasound. You have to do this first and not on the ride home or you’ll be analyzing everything your husband suggests (“Papaya? Why did he say ‘Papaya’? Is it because it has ‘Papa’ in it? It’s a boy, I know it!”). Stick to this nickname whenever you’re discussing the baby. This will become even more crucial once you’ve picked names.
Second, this one’s for you, Surprise Me, keep reminding yourself that you don’t want to know the sex of the baby, and act like you don’t want to know. When I was keeping our babies’ sexes from my husband, people kept asking me if it was hard to sneak around and hide ultrasound photos or clothes that I’d bought. It wasn’t hard because my husband didn’t make it hard. He wasn’t stalking around the house looking for clues. When I bought a onesie with our son’s name on it, I just put it in a bag and wrote “Do Not Open” on the bag and put in on top of my dresser. He didn’t open it. The important thing was that we were both on the same team: Team Let-My-Husband-Be-Surprised. If at any point he wanted to know the baby’s sex, he could just ask me. No detective work required. But he didn’t and he was surprised in the delivery room both times, just like he wanted.
Third, and this one’s just for your husband, Mr. Surprise Me. Tell no one. Really, no one. As frustrating as it would be for your wife if you slipped up, imagine how much more obnoxious it would be if she accidentally found out from your second cousin on Facebook because your aunt told him because your mom told your aunt because you, foolishly, thought your mom could keep a secret. No one can keep a secret. Don’t tell anyone!
This has the secondary benefit of keeping you in the habit of using gender-neutral pronouns like “it” instead of “he” or “she.” You don’t have to juggle the language around in your head because you’re using “she” when you talk to your mother and sister, but “it” when you talk to your co-workers and wife. Keep it consistent. It really helps. In fact, it worked so well for me that I actually had trouble switching to “he” after our son was born. I got a few worried looks from the nurses when I would say things like “Do you think it’s hungry?” This will pass. No worries.
Maybe this will work for you all. Maybe it won’t. In either case, I do want to address that last part of your question because it seems important and I don’t want to dodge it. You were saying that you feel like there’s no compromise here and it seems like it was preventing you from moving forward with a decision. What I want to say is this: Co-parenting is the land of decisions with no achievable compromises.
When your husband wants to take the baby to the pediatrician to have his ears looked at and you don’t because, honestly, he screams like that all the time and you think his ears are fine? No compromise there. When you’re deciding whether or not you should let your daughter quit the soccer team she hates or if your son is ready to have his own violin he can take home on the weekends and not store in the band room? No compromises there either.
You guys are really just at the beginning, barely the beginning even. There’s a long, winding road spooled out ahead of you, a garden of forking paths in which you’re bound to take one road, or another. Sometimes his choice, sometimes yours.
Best of luck for a smooth pregnancy and nothing but pleasant surprises.
Aubrey Hirsch is the author of “Why We Never Talk About Sugar.” Her work has appeared widely in print and online. You can learn more about her at www.aubreyhirsch.com or follow her on Twitter: @aubreyhirsch