Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Whole World in My Hands

I hadn't intended to get an ultrasound, but my fertility doctor was in an impish mood and the equipment was free.

After a few minutes of sliding the doppler around my belly he said, "There we go, see that?" and the nurse smiled and nodded. "Well Kathryn, do you want to know whether it's a boy or girl?"


Ron and I had talked about it; it didn't feel natural to us to know. We would be surprised, as were most of the women who came before me in time.

We drove home. Over the next 24 hours, though, it started to bug me: I was 30 and impatient and someone else knew more about my baby than I did. Something seemed wrong with that.

So the next day I got in my car and drove the 40 minutes back up to the doctor's office. The waiting room was empty and when the smell of pizza hit me I almost turned around to make sure I'd walked into the right pace. But even fertility doctors need to eat lunch. The staff was in the office behind the little glass doors gathered around an open pizza box, chatting happily with grease on their fingers and faces. I startled them when I knocked on the window.

I slid open the window and pushed my ultrasound photo toward Dr. Lang. "I can't stand it. I have to know." He smiled; he knew I'd break.

After he pointed out the gender evidence I managed to thank him and leave the office with some dignity before completely breaking down in the hallway. I mean, I collapsed onto a bench and sobbed. It wasn't that I didn't want a boy; a boy would be wonderful! But now that I knew, I'd suffered a loss: my child could no longer be both boy and girl.

Sweet anticipation. I've been thinking about this lately. We hear a lot about people in our society who suffer from an inability to delay gratification—they want something, and they want it now. One imagines holiday gatherings across America that last all of five minutes, with wrappings ripped open and cast aside en masse so that the contents can be revealed.

Not me. My favorite moments in life are just before the knowing. The moment when the mail could offer a contract instead of a rejection. The moment just before you taste, when it is still possible this is the best meal you've ever cooked in your life. The moment just after you answer the phone and that same sweet baby, fully male and fully grown, just might be calling to say he got the lead in the musical or straight A's instead of "my bumper fell off" or "I lost my iPhone." The instant right before you walk through the door that may or may not change your life.

If this makes me sound like a hopeless dreamer, I've given the wrong impression. I want to live in the real world. I treasure the nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty. I want to be there for my kids when they suffer setbacks, and am grateful they have a clear gender identity. I can handle the fact that every single meal will not be the best I've ever tasted.

But I am sensitive to the joy in moments that are pregnant with possibility, in which many potential outcomes co-exist. In those moments, which are among the sweetest in my life, I've got the whole world in my hands.

So now that I've laid the appropriate groundwork, I'm going to...

[Who knows? Only in retrospect will my actions be limited by fact. Until then, the sky's the limit!]

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