Ronda Kaysen: When I was pregnant with my son, my husband and I were told we were having a girl. It wasn't until I was 33 weeks pregnant that we found out the technician had misread the earlier ultrasound.
We had settled on a girl's name and had a collection of frilly butt-bloomers and pink onesies waiting for our little boy. After the shock wore off ("Our fetus grew a penis!"), my husband and I agreed we'd rather be surprised the next time around.
Well, the next time has rolled around, and until last week, I assumed we were still on the same page. To my surprise, we're not.
My husband wants to know the sex, so he can be prepared. He's the kind of person who does his research. He reads the whole article in the newspaper before he states his opinion. He does all his prep work before he preheats the oven. He makes shopping lists for the grocery store -- and sticks to them.
For me, it's less about being prepared and more about enjoying the fantasy of what will never be. I see this pregnancy -- which might be my last -- as the last few months where I can fantasize about what it would be like to have a daughter, or how I'd raise two sons. Once I know the answer, one of those doors will close forever. I'd like to fall in love with both a girl's name and a boy's name. I like indulging myself with imaginary conversations with the child who'll never be, and think about getting to finally use those frilly butt-bloomers -- as well as getting to see another baby in my son's cutest pair of overalls.
With the first pregnancy, I felt differently. Everything was new and unknown. Knowing the sex helped give me some parameters for relating to -- and bonding with -- this little being growing inside me. This time, I pretty much know what's in store. (I haven't forgotten the sleepless nights or the feel of tiny fingers wrapped around my pinkie.)
My husband suggested that he find out the sex and I don't. He's got a good poker face, and I trust that he wouldn't spill the beans. But I'd go nuts trying to guess what he knows. What if he enthusiastically agrees to the name Eloise? Does it mean he loves Eloise, or does it mean we're having a boy anyway, so it's not worth arguing about?
I don't want to deny my husband the security of knowing what's ahead, but I don't want to lose the pleasure of not knowing, either. So what's a girl to do?
I turned to marriage and family therapist Donna Tonrey for her two cents. "Typically, what seems to work best is to not find out the sex until both agree," she told me via e-mail. Yay! I win. (Sort of.)
Tonrey warned that when one partner knows and the other doesn't, it can create stress for the couple -- and a divide. The better way to handle the situation, she said, is to "discuss the reasoning behind each perspective, work toward understanding each person's perspective and decide on [a way] to move forward that will take care of both partners."
There's no deadline for knowing. Tonrey suggested that if my husband and I can't reach an agreement, we wait until closer to the due date for him to find out the sex. "However, it will create the secret once the information is known," she said.
And a secret is a lot different from a surprise.