Monday, October 15, 2012

Gender Differences

So...36 hours from right now, we'll know the gender of this baby hanging out in my belly.  Aaaaand....I'm nervous.  It's a big deal.  It's such a life-altering thing.  The ultrasound as a whole is a big deal.  Lost in the gender issue is the fact that this ultrasound checks for so many other things besides what's between the baby's legs.  And those things can be equally life-altering as the gender, and God forbid they find anything amiss.  That would obviously make the gender announcement pale in comparison. 

But to this point everything has been fine.  The fertility treatment worked on the first try.  The initial ultrasound (what little we could see) looked perfect, the heart rate has been healthy, and my size has been fine.  Of course, I had the previously mentioned minor health annoyances, which should have absolutely no impact, but I guess you just never know. 

So, assuming the rest is fine, the gender is the big deal.  Like I said the other day, gender impacts so much of our future.  It's a different job being the mom of two boys, compared to one of each or two girls.  It impacts what covers our living room floor, how we spend our time for years to come, and what specific milestone experiences we'll have.  Will I be the only female in this house for the rest of our years together as a family unit?  Or will a our new addition bring perfect balance to our home?  Will I finally get to shop in the girls' section (and have a ridiculous pick of clearance racks) after all these years of merely looking longingly across the store? Or will I get to reuse and reminisce as I pull out bin after bin of Jacob's hand-me-downs?  Will I have the joy of having a little girl who will pick a bouquet of flowers in my yard, or will I be dodging two boys' misdirected soccer kicks and foul balls?  Will we send two children off to the prom in tuxedos, or will I go through the aforementioned crazy stress my mom and I had, as I try to find a pretty, respectable dress for my own daughter?  Will I have to give up two sons to women of their choosing, or will I have a daughter who could be a lifelong friend and shopping partner? 

I know there's a lot of gray areas in here.  I could have a total tomboy of a daughter who hates my guts by the time she's 15.  God forbid.  But I know it could happen...along with any other of the in between scenarios for the experiences above.  Nothing is perfect, nothing is set in stone...but finding out this baby's gender will lay the groundwork for the expectations of our lives for years to come. 

Last time around I was completely unconcerned about finding out.  I was slightly curious, but ultimately it didn't matter to me.  I said all along that it was this pregnancy that mattered more, and that's definitely the case.  This time it's an overwhelmingly important thought.  I need to know this time.  I think it will help with bonding and it will help us give Jacob an accurate picture of what his life will be like in the months to come.  We have a couple bedrooms to decorate (or, perhaps, one to mostly leave alone), and I'm worried about the name selection process this time so I'm eager to cut the arguments to a single gender. 

I'll admit that a lot of times I default to the easier route in parenting.  I try to avoid it in things like discipline, as I know that the hard way can ultimately have a better payoff, but mostly I prefer things to be easier.  And in this case, having a boy would be easier.  We've done it before, we have a bunch of clothes, and Jacob will have a built-in playmate and best friend forever.  The brotherly bond is a very special one.  Having only a brother myself, I never really got to appreciate the same-gender sibling relationship dynamic.  My brother and I are very different people.  We didn't get along as kids (though the four-year age gap may be part of that--it's a weird one, which I will expound on another day), and as adults we have no issues but don't talk very much either.  We're both married with kids, and we have the same parents and extended family, but that's about where the similarities end.  On the other hand, Craig has a brother and it's obvious that it's a very special bond.  Part of me would love to give Jacob that opportunity, too.  Boys are more exhausting early on, but as they get older there's generally less drama.  There's no temptation for them to dress provocatively (have you walked by the tween clothing section lately?!), and as the saying goes, when you have a boy you have to worry about one guy's...ummm...equipmment, and when you have a girl, you have to worry about hundreds of guys' stuff.  In the long run, boys are easier.

But then I think about the absence I'd feel without a daughter.  My relationship with my mom means the world to me, and I'd love to have a girl to share that with.  As I alluded to earlier, boys have a tendency to "leave" their mom.  They'll always be a special bond, of course, but the expectation is that someday they'll be too cool to be kissed in public, and it would be weird to snuggle past a certain point.  They will fall in love with some girl (hopefully a good one), move out, and start a family of their own.  It'll never really be the same.  But with a girl, there's always a special bond, an opportunity to share stories, the chance to help her learn to be a mother herself.  From my perspective, a relationship with a son will inevitably drift a bit over time, but a relationship with a daughter has the potential to deepen as the years go on.  I know it doesn't necessarily have to end up that way, but I think that's the general tendency.  And as much as I'd love Jacob to have a life-long partner in a brother, I can't help but wonder what I'd be missing out on without a daughter.  Selfish?  Maybe.  But I think having a sister could teach him some lovely skills he might not get otherwise.  It could teach him gentleness, and broaden his horizons.  It could also teach him to be more respectful of everyone else's sisters out there in the dating world someday.  I'd just love to see the softer side of Jacob, where he teaches a sister to have a tea party with her animals, or gently shows her how to kick a soccer ball.  Teaching his brother would be awesome, too, but I think dealing with a girl would force a different side of him that we're not used to seeing.

I don't want to compare one boy to another.  Having a girl would give us a clean(-ish) slate and ensure that we're well-aware this is going to be a whole different ballgame than we've played so far.  I want to see what our genes would produce on the female end, and see how much a daughter would be like a mini-me.  I want someone who will help me dance through life and make me smile simply by randomly floating through the room in a frilly tutu.  There are a million things about girls that scare me, but the biggest fear I have is the absence I'd feel if I didn't get to have one at all.

That said, if we find out on Wednesday that this baby is a boy, it'll probably take me a little while to adjust my expectations and start ramping up to watch my little boy teach his baby brother everything he knows.  I might cry, and I'll be sad.  There will always be a little twinge when I walk by the girls' section of the store, and I'll always wonder how things might have been different.  I'll start praying for awesome daughters-in-law and female grandchildren.  But I will not love my second son any less than my first.  The second he arrives he will no doubt be the joy of my life and I won't be able to truly picture my life any other way.  I will be grateful for a healthy baby boy, and look forward to seeing how he'll look and what he will gravitate to.  I'll savor my solo time when the boys do their thing, and be their biggest cheerleader at each of their sporting events.  I won't have to worry about doing hair or teaching about makeup.  I can stick with the ease of pants and shirts, rather than navigate tights and leggings (and training bras...gah!).  I won't have to make the judgment call to pierce her ears (I don't think I would) or use those funny little headbands on a hairless cueball of a head.  I won't worry about the catty you-know-whats in her middle school classes, or the guys who will inevitably break her heart and make her question her beauty or her entire self-worth.  I'll stick with what I know and that's not such a bad thing.  But a little part of me would really like to know what it's like to parent both genders and explore the full realm of parenting experiences. 

At this point there's nothing we can do about it except wait.  And once we know, we'll start down the paths of the rest of our lives.  It's a big deal and I can only hope I handle it with grace.  I may have more thoughts on this tomorrow as I'm sure in my tiredness I'm forgetting a bunch of points I've been stocking up for a post like this since the day Jacob popped out a boy.  But for now, the curiosity remains and the next couple days will be quite the ride...

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