I get it. Girls can be expensive. Girls can be dramatic. But don’t assume that just because someone is expecting a baby girl, that it’s a let down. And please, oh please, do not respond to the news by saying “Oh, your poor husband” or “Oh. Are you OK?” Let me tell you about my recent experiences with tactless people.
We have a healthy, 2 year old little girl. She has red hair, and believe you me, every rumor you’ve ever heard about redheads is true. We’ll say she’s strong-willed, shall we? I was a pediatric nurse for 7 years prior to having children, and sometimes that knowledge comes in handy. But most of the time, I am convinced that she has a rare disease that has only been diagnosed 10 times in the history of the universe. My entire first pregnancy, I prayed and pleaded for a healthy baby. As our 20 week ultrasound approached, I was a ball of anxiety because I understood that this was the Big One where you not only found out the gender, but you also got a report on chambers of the heart, lobes of the brain, and whether there would be enough fingers and toes!
We made our way to Dr. Mackey’s office (who I love and who is a wonderful doctor, by the way). During that appointment, I spent just as much time watching the ultrasound tech’s face as I did the screen with my baby on it.
My internal dialogue went like this: “Ok, it seems like the heart is normal. And she didn’t react when she looked at the brain. Wait. Did she seem troubled when she looked at the kidneys? Yes. Definitely, yes. This is going to be bad…Oh, wait she just said they look good. Nevermind. But does she have to say that? I think I remember learning in nursing school that only the doctor can give the bad news. Oh, no. Could something be wrong? This is awful. What?…Did she just say we’re having a girl?”
The gender was the very last thing she told us, for which I was grateful. By the time she told us Maddie was a girl, I honestly did not care one way or the other.
Fast forward 18 months, and we were once again at the doctor’s office for my 12 week ultrasound with baby number 2. After the ultrasound, my husband took Maddie across the street to the bookstore while I waited to see the doctor. “15 minutes” I told him. The doctor came in, said hello, and then said “OK. So your amnion and chorion are the layers that make up the sac that the baby is in. Yours aren’t fused, which could be an indication of Down Syndrome or some other type of genetic defect. We did blood work that will be back in a week. When that comes back, we’ll have answers. Any questions?”
Did I have questions? Yes. Could she answer any of them? No.
My brain screamed “You were supposed to come in here and tell me that everything was normal and progressing fine and could I please set up my next appointment for 4 weeks from then, and you didn’t say any of that so I don’t understand what just happened here!!” But instead, I said “Thank You,” texted David to come get me, and got in the car in silence. I couldn’t even say the words out loud to him in the privacy of the car because I hate crying, and I knew that I would cry as soon as I opened my mouth. Eventually, I did tell him on the way home. It wasn’t easy for him to hear either, and he tried to talk it through with me.
Instead, I retreated to our bedroom and closed the door in my poor husband’s face and cried for 2 hours. The nursing knowledge I mentioned earlier? It all came shooting to the surface. All the genetic disorders I had seen, some of which didn’t even have a name because of how rare they are. I was already in mourning because of the possibility of bad news that wasn’t even a day old.
Then what followed was the longest week of my life.
The. Longest. Week. Of. My. Life.
It was filled with e-mails, phone calls, prayer requests, and lost sleep.
I was at a conference for work when the phone call came through. I sprinted into the hallway to answer it and really thought I might throw-up.
“Mrs. Swan? Your blood work looked great. All normal.”
Normal! I think I may have cried a little bit. I don’t remember. But if I did, I don’t care who saw. I called/texted/e-mailed everyone immediately to let them know. I had never felt so relieved.
Again, we prepared for a 20 week ultrasound to discover if we would be adding a baby brother or a baby sister to the family. I told the tech about my earlier scare and asked her to just confirm that everything looked good on her end. Once again, the tech did all of her Big Important Stuff and then looked at my husband and said, “Oh, sorry dad. Looks like another girl.”
Sorry? Did you just express your condolences? Over a healthy baby girl? Even after what I just told you?! After thinking that something may have been horribly wrong, to be concerned about the gender seemed too trivial, and I couldn’t believe someone wasn’t seeing that!
And that was the attitude that we were met with over and over. Not by everyone, of course, but by lots of people who were fully aware of the potentially scary news we had received on the front end of my pregnancy. I was shocked. Responses included, but were not limited to: “Another girl. Too bad it wasn’t a boy.”; “Are you disappointed? You can tell me.”; “Your poor husband.”; and my personal favorite, “Oh, well.” These were all said by people in our inner circle who knew the history. My heart broke at the thought of my second little girl growing up thinking that I was possibly let down by the mere thought of her, simply because she wasn’t born a boy. I understand that now that I’m a mom, I was probably more sensitive to the reactions, but it just seemed so unkind and oblivious of people. I learned that sometimes these reactions seem to be a pre-programmed response when a woman is expecting a girl, especially if it isn’t her first girl.
Remember that you really and truly don’t know what someone may have been through on their journey to become pregnant. You don’t know if they struggled with infertility or miscarriages or bad news on an ultrasound. Several months ago, I was working with someone who lost their baby at 36 weeks pregnant. 36 weeks! If she chooses to become pregnant again, do you think she wants to hear “Oh, a healthy baby? Too bad it wasn’t the other gender.” If someone confides in you that they are having a boy or a girl, just respond with a smile and say, “Congratulations!”. Let them be the one to tell you how they feel about it; don’t assume you know.
Can’t wait to meet you Littlest Love!