Saturday, October 15, 2011


I'm an old fashioned girl. In a way. I prefer Jane Austen to science fiction. I prefer Beethoven to Beyoncé. I make my kids say "Mr." and "Mrs.". I like black licorice and black jelly beans. I say, "For Pete's sake." I don't think pajamas have a sartorial place outside of your designated sleeping zone. I call viewing a streaming movie, "Watching a video."

And I'm not really into technology and gadgets. I mean, yes, I have an iPhone but it isn't the version that came out last week. I'm satisfied with my version 4 (with the iOS 5 update). Still, I'm willing to take advantage of technology from time to time. I don't churn my own butter, for example.

My niece is going to have a baby. Let me stop you before you exclaim, "But you can't be old enough to have a niece who is going to have a baby!" Because you were going to exclaim that, right? I thought so. She is my niece by marriage and she is only 10 years younger than me. When I met her she was just a kid. About 14 years old. I remember looking at her beautiful young face and thinking, "Dang. This girl is like six feet tall. What is the deal with this family?"

Funny story. My niece, henceforth to be known as Mist (as in the Valkyrie of the same moniker), came to visit her Uncle Thor and me when she was about 16. I took her into the shopping district of the little town where we lived at that time and met a friend of mine there. As we walked down the street my friend suddenly laughed.

"What?" I said looking around.

"That guy," my friend explained, "He saw us and started to check us out. His eyes went from me to you to Mist like a pinball machine. Like, 'No. No. Bingo!' You can't win against youth."

I was not happy. For one thing, I didn't know I was in this game. For another. I didn't know I was supposed to be trying to out-hot my teenaged niece. For another, I hate losing. And finally, at 26 I was horrified to realize that I was reaching a place where I couldn't just rely on the glow of youth to attract unwanted stares from strange men. I was going to have to bring more game or pretty soon there wasn't going to be anyone on the receiving end of my disgusted eye roll filled responses to being checked out.

Mist is now older than I was when I had that revelation. Also smarter, more grounded and still taller than I was but most importantly - older. And she's going to have a baby.

I don't go to the baby place anymore so I often forget the things that are important in your world during that time when your focus narrows to the tiny pinpoint that is Baby. I encourage this narrowing of focus. Be single-minded in your pursuit of excellent parenting. We don't live in a time that encourages us to narrow our focus at all let alone honing it in on something outside of advancing our own comfort. And if it gets to be too much focus, a second child usually fixes that.

But when she and her husband - I'll call him Samson because I haven't had the chance to get to know him that well outside of my observations that he is kind and patient with my children, loving and sweet with my niece and he has great hair - decided not to peek at the baby's gender, it did raise an old debate topic when I told this to a friend and that friend responded with the standard, "Oh, how nice. A surprise. There are so few surprises in life anymore."

Now listen. I've done this both ways. With my first child, Thor was rather insistent that we not learn the baby's sex before seeing it for ourselves. I reluctantly agreed even though I found the logic to be extremely flawed. For one thing, there is no shortage of surprise. Life is one hellish surprise after another. One day when I was 15, I left my house to go to a baby sitting job and when I came home I found out that my father had had a massive stroke. Surprise! Once, the phone rang and when I answered it a voice told me I had INRTAT. Surprise! One time, I was taking a walk with my niece and found out that I wasn't hot anymore. Surprise! See, what I'm saying? I'm good with the surprises. I'll take the Venti Guarantee Extra Certain.

And, I'll be frank, the least surprising thing that happened to me that day, which started with me waking up in labor (surprise!) was hearing, "It's a girl!" There was a 50/50 shot.

This is how I got the big news. I was numb from the waist down but I could still feel stuff. Bad stuff. Basically, people were doing bad stuff on me that was unpleasant but I couldn't get away because my legs didn't respond to my commands to move. I was the size of a small whale which was appropriate as I was definitely beached, I was out of my mind high from the narcotic I had been encouraged to take, my legs were splayed open in a room full of strangers and suddenly someone was pulling stuff out of my body and saying, "It's a girl!"

"Oh my gaw!" I shrieked, "How can you tell?"

"What? No! That's the placenta. She's over there being weighed."

I looked in the direction the nurse was pointing but all I could see was my doctor, framed by the enormous expanse of my thighs, hunched over my nether region.

"Are you...sewing?" I asked in exasperation.

"It's a girl!" she exclaimed.

"Stop saying that!"

I'm kidding about the placenta. That didn't happen because my body didn't deliver the placenta on it's own (surprise!). Two nurses had to punch me in the stomach for 15 minutes first. You think I'm joking but I assure you that I'm not.

Compare this to the day in the OB's office when I found out the sex of my second child. I had been anticipating this day for ever since I found out I was pregnant again and I said to Thor, "We're doing it my way this time!" Before she told us the doctor asked, "Do you have names picked out?"

"Annabel for a girl. Henry for a boy." I beamed.

"Well, then I'm glad it's a boy," she said, "My kids' 4H pig is named Annabel."

I very deliberately chose efficiency and competence over bedside manner when I made this particular decision so I had to let that slide.

It was nice to get the news when I wasn't stoned and being pummeled by nurses who I suspect were enjoying that a lot more than they ought to have been. I had the whole day to revel in just this one piece of news. And I could distribute or withhold the news as was my wont. I mean, if I had control issues I could have done that.

I actually don't think that one approach is superior to the other. While I preferred finding out, there's a lot to be said for not knowing and thus not mentally constructing your child's entire life before you've even met them. And I'm glad I experienced it both ways. I just don't like when people get so smugly superior about electing to wait. In general, I don't much care for bragging about NOT doing stuff.

I didn't write this (just) because I really want to buy stuff for Mist and Samson's baby but I can't because I have to wait until I know whether to buy pink or blue (remember, I'm old fashioned). And I didn't write this to scare the bejeebers out of Mist about the impending delivery. Not even out of some kind of primal revenge for being the catalyst in my awakening to the fact that I wasn't YOUNG young anymore. I honestly don't think I could scare her. She's tough and she doesn't scare easy. I've always admired that about her and I can't wait to see her put it to good use in her new role as a mom.

I wrote this because I needed a way to tell her that.


  1. Finding out the sex of the baby is a surprise no matter when it happens. I just prefer my surprises sooner, rather than later. :)

  2. Amen, Cecily! And like Z says, there are *plenty* of surprises once the baby gets here. It's not just the gender that is a surprise to new parents! :)