Battle of the Sex


in Archive


I’m three months pregnant and my husband and I disagree about whether or not we should learn the sex of the baby. He wants to be surprised when I give birth, but I want to find out at our next ultrasound. What should we do?
— New Mom


Why am I getting all these maternity questions?! Is the word out that I’m pregnant, too? My family jokes that this column should be called “Ask a Pregnant Poet.”  Well, here’s what my gut instinct says: If you want to know the sex of your baby, you have every right. For your husband’s benefit, keep it a secret from him, hide any revealing ultrasound shots and don’t buy any gendered baby clothes, blankets or equipment. Problem solved.

But if that doesn’t sound fun — and I don’t think it does — have a serious talk with your husband. I think that pregnant women should pretty much get whatever they want, but if you have some more convincing to do, here’s a short list of some things that can help:

1.  Having a baby is a pivotal event in your life together. There will be many surprises, the next of which will be the moment your doctor tells you whether you’re having a girl or a boy. After you give birth, you—the both of you really—but especially YOU, will have so many new things to adjust to that you may want to isolate this news and savor it.

2.  You are not cheating by discovering the sex now. For years before ultrasound machines, people have been able to determine the sex of an unborn baby based on the heartbeat. And deep down, maybe even in some ineffable way, you already know what the sex of your child is. You just want confirmation that you’re not delusional.

3.  If the baby is a boy, the penis to body ratio is relatively high at twenty weeks, meaning that after your next ultrasound you’ll leave with a picture that will give your husband some pretty serious bragging rights.

4.  Or if the baby is a girl, her well-formed breast buds will likewise provide a hearty pat on the back.

5.  For further talking points, consult the master poet on relationships and reproduction, Sharon Olds:

New Mother

A week after our child was born,
you cornered me in the spare room
and we sank down on the bed.
You kissed me and kissed me, my milk undid its
burning slip-knot through my nipples,
soaking my shirt. All week I had smelled of milk,
fresh milk, sour. I began to throb:
my sex had been torn easily as cloth by the
crown of her head, I’d been cut with a knife and
sewn, the stitches pulling at my skin–
and the first time you’re broken, you don’t know
you’ll be healed again, better than before.
I lay in fear and blood and milk
while you kissed and kissed me, your lips hot and swollen
as a teen-age boy’s, your sex dry and big,
all of you so tender, you hung over me,
over the nest of the stitches, over the
splitting and tearing, with the patience of someone who
finds a wounded animal in the woods
and stays with it, not leaving its side
until it is whole, until it can run again.

29 March 2010