The wifey is laying on a hospital bed, almost completely flat on her back. She doesn’t quite know where to focus her eyes, so she settles to just look directly up at the ceiling. She’s quite. Well quieter than usual. That means she’s nervous, we both are. Jess is about to go through her second scheduled ultrasound. The nervousness stems from just not knowing what to expect. The first ultrasound went on without a hitch, well for the most part. Our unborn child was coming along nicely. No signs of abnormalities. And the heartbeat sounded nice, strong and hurried. The only hangup was that the baby had it’s legs crossed; so we were unable to find out what was the baby’s gender. We were very much hoping that this would be answered the second time around. Yet we were both feeling a little anxious.
I can’t say for sure if Jess had the same types of thoughts creeping through her head, but I know that I couldn’t help but wonder what if the ultrasound comes across something bad that was missed the first time. Not that I was really expecting any surprises. Just my mind likes to gravitate to the worse case scenario all the time. I don’t know if it’s a bad habit or just a defense mechanism. Either way it does a good job putting me on edge. As I sat quietly on the chair in the corner watching the technician apply the ultrasound gel on my wife’s exposed navel, an endless conga-line of really crappy what if’s paraded inside my head.
The ultrasound technician, a cheery, 20 something year old, with a dot like birthmark that was smack dab on the tip of her nose, asked us if we were interested in learning the baby’s sex once she came across it. Jessie smiled and said yes with enough enthusiasm to hide her nervousness. I could feel my heart changing gears as the anticipation grew. A few weeks earlier the wifey’s OB/GYN had asked us if we preferred having either a boy or a girl. Jessie gave the customary “doesn’t really matter, as long as the baby is healthy with ten fingers and ten toes.” The doc looked over at me clearly expecting me to say something along the same lines or that I wanted a boy. Instead I told her “I think I want a girl”. The doc was clearly surprised by my answer because she turned her head slightly, almost like a curious puppy would. The crease of her mouth gave the hint of a smile as she asked me why I felt this way. I suspect that after years of serving a predominantly Latino community, the doc had just grown accustomed to the idea of her patients male partners being more inclined of wanting a boy as their first child, guarantying the continuation of their family name. Personally I never really put much weight in those old world notions. I told her that in my opinion “it was probably easier to raise a girl to be a lady than it was to raise a boy to be a man.” I went a little further and explained how the men in my family have, for the most part had been knuckleheads and screw-ups, and that I just felt that if I had a bit more parenting experience under my belt that I might have a better chance at succeeding at raising my boy properly. The doc, an older Indian lady, with a last name that I have a hard time pronouncing, nodded her head slightly in agreement. She went on to tell us about her first born. A boy that turned out to be a handful. His father a proud doctor from India had told her that since they had a boy it was his duty as a father to be the one to guide him. That it was a mans job after all.She regretted not asserting herself more, because as the years went on their boy gave them a lot of headaches growing up, and that it wasn’t until her son hit his thirties that he finally came into his own. She didn’t come out and say it, but she basically hinted at the fact that her husband just didn’t know what the hell he was doing. I could relate. She went on to say that if she had a choice, she would have had the girl first. She strongly felt that it would have somehow made a difference. The doc’s experience only served to strengthen my desire to have a girl.
About 10 minutes into our second ultrasound session the technician smiles and says, with the slightest hint of what I thought was an eastern European accent, “Well it looks like you are having a boy!” I can’t quite recall what exactly Jess said. I think it was something along the lines of “Really?” with a big Kool-Aid smile flashing across her face. I felt my heart race. I smiled too and I think I said something like “WOW”. We were both very much surprised.
For weeks now I had been predicting we were going to have a girl, almost from the moment I learned about the conception. I was thoroughly convinced of it.I thought that maybe some of my great grandmother’s Santeria inspired soothsaying abilities had rubbed off on me. Add to that all the comments I heard Jessie’s friends and family members make, claiming that we were going to have a girl because the shape of her belly correlated with some long held wives tale that was deemed as good as true. I even dreamt with a little girl a couple of times. She had dark, black, curly, hair like her mother. Black eyes like her father. And her mother’s smile. I was not one to dream about kids, so I just took this as another sign. I believe Jess when she said she didn’t care about the baby’s sex, but I think that she had started to root for a xx chromosome carrier because she had started to realize that it meant something to me. She just never had a clear handle why that was, and neither did I.
Sitting on that chair, watching the images of my unborn son morph across the ultrasound screen I came to understand why I had been wanting a girl so badly over the course of those last few months. I had been scared. I had been scared of continuing the cycle, or the family legacy if I may call it that. The declarations of war by our fathers to the heartbreak and lament of their sons. I guess I had fooled myself into thinking that if I had a girl first I would have a bit more leeway to make parenting mistakes. I was stupid enough to believe that girls basically raised themselves and all I had to do was just be there to show some guidance. I know I was full of shit for thinking that way. I see that now. There will be nothing easy about being a parent. I wont be able to coast my way through this like I have on so many other things. I am going to have to teach my son what it is to be a good man, while I try to figure out how to be one myself.
I am beyond happy that I am going to have a little boy. I hope I can inspire a sense of wonder in him. Furthermore I will try to teach him that nobody truly has all the answers in life, which is why its important that he seeks those out on his own and not just take everything that people say for face value. If my unborn son ever comes across this blog, I want him to understand that the grumpy old man that he calls dad, was once a young confused guy that traveled a long way just to try to find out who he was. I pray that 20 years from now, when my son is 19 years old and I’m 55, we can talk to each other like I never could with my father, or my father with his. And if the day ever comes, when my son tells me “Dad, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do?” I can look the kid in the eye, give him a big hug, and tell him that there was a time when I didn’t either, but if you just try to do what is right, life will throw hints your way and give you a chance to figure it out.