After weeks and weeks of speculation by prenatal prognosticators, we finally took a brief gender identification break and had our ultrasound last Wednesday. Before I reveal the results, let me backtrack a little. From the very beginning, my gut instinct told me I was having a boy. For no particular reason, I kept referring to the baby as "he" instead of "it." My husband pointed out to me that it would be a bad habit to break if the baby turned out to be a girl. But I simply shrugged and persisted on saying "he."
Prior to the big day, I looked up my age and the month of
conception in the Chinese Lunar Calendar and according to this
ancient wisdom, I was having a boy. As my belly began to pop out,
people took one look at me and predicted I was having a boy. Most
never offered any logical explanation other than some vague
feeling they had, while others said it was how I was carrying.
According to the old wives tales, if you don't look pregnant from
behind and carry low and all in front, it's a boy. Conversely, if
you're carrying wide and in your hips, it's a girl. Apparently,
I'm carrying all in the front and it's only really obvious I'm
pregnant from the side view.
Intrigued by these old wives tales, I began to look up some more and was surprised to find that in this modern day and age, they still persist. My question is, who the hell are these old wives and why do they tell so many tales? As usual, I have a theory about this. I believe that next to satisfying hunger, thirst and sex, there is no greater basic human drive than the compulsion to identify a person's gender. After all, the very first identity a person has is whether they are male or female. And there's nothing more disturbing or distracting than meeting a person of indeterminate gender. That's why that old "Saturday Night Live" skit where Julia Sweeney plays Pat - a creepy, androgynous person, is so funny to me. Everybody who meets Pat tries desperately to divine his/her gender by asking a series of questions but they're always frustrated by his/her ambiguous answers.
I had my very own Pat experience when I was in college and sat behind a person of indeterminate gender in my astronomy class. I didn't do too well in that class because my friend and I were too busy arguing and speculating over this person's gender. Like an itch we couldn't scratch, it drove us absolutely crazy. It became a kind of obsession and we simply couldn't rest until we figured it out. Well, we never figured it out and to this day, the memory of this ambiguity haunts me still. For sanity's sake, we should have arbitrarily assigned he/she a gender and gone on with our pathetic little lives. Maybe it would have been better than not knowing. By the same token, these old wives tales function as a way of answering the unanswerable. It's intolerable not to know what pronoun to assign another human being and settling for "it."
So as an unscientific experiment, I decided to see how the old wives tales applied to me before I had my ultrasound. Some of these beliefs are truly wacky and bizarre. Here's just a few of my favorite old wives tales that have no basis in reality.
Tabulating the results of this sampling, I have a 50/50 chance of having either a boy or a girl. Not too terribly conclusive. So I arrived at my ultrasound appointment full of excitement and anticipation. I've never been one who peeked at Christmas presents early, but this was one present I couldn't resist. As the doctor squeezed that slimy gel on my belly, she proudly pointed out that they kept their lubrication in a bottle warmer so it wouldn't be cold. Well, it certainly wasn't cold - it was scalding hot! I had to bite my lip to keep from crying out. I had no idea that bottle warmers had a molten lava setting.
She turned on the monitor and there was a heart shaped blob floating around. It turned out to be the baby's butt. Normally, the baby is doing cartwheels inside me, but it chose this moment to fall asleep mooning us with the umbilical cord between its legs, hiding the goods from us. For five minutes, we waited for the obstinate baby to change position but it just kept mooning us. I began to despair as I was flooded with memories of my Pat experience in college. I wondered how I'd ever survive the next four months not knowing. And just as we were about to give up, I tightened my abdominal muscles rhythmically in the hopes of waking the baby up. And it worked! A little too well. The baby became a blur of frenetic movement and the doctor frantically tried to follow it around.
Suddenly she crowed, "Aha, there!" and freeze framed the image. She showed us two legs and a third little leg - the penis. A little boy! I was filled with relief and elation. I had no preference at all, but I was gratified that my gut instinct was right. Maybe there is something to be said for mother's intuition after all. I certainly have nothing positive to say about the old wives tales.
Of course the next question is, "What are you going to name him?"
At this juncture, I think Teddy and I have decided on "The Fetus
Formerly Known as It" aka "The Fetus" for brevity's sake.