Don’t you hate it when people taunt you with a secret? Yeah. Me too.
October 10, 2012

At my last prenatal appointment, one of the midwives who works at my birth center asked how I felt about a student midwife participating.

Um, I gave birth to my daughter at a teaching hospital with no fewer than seventeen strangers watching me over their clipboards.  And all three of my children’s love-aunts are planned birth attendants for my upcoming delivery, something which has lead my father to start joking about how there simply isn’t room on the bleachers for, say, my sister.


So here’s the thing: the seamonkey I am currently harboring is in a position that the student midwife had not previously felt.  As a result, the midwife spent a significant amount of time showing her how to locate different body parts by touch, how to locate the heartbeat to determine the angle of positioning, and how to shift the baby’s position ever so slightly.

The student midwife was inordinately enthused by all of this learning.  She poked and prodded my belly in a casual hunt for the child’s head and then suddenly she looked up at me ecstatic.

“Did you feel that?” she asked.  Then she pushed about a little more.  “HA!  It’s moving!  What’s he doing in there?  Or she?  It?  Do you know if you’re having a boy or a girl?”

I laughed.  “No,” I said.  “We want it to be a surprise.”

That momentary chuckle cost me everything because at the very same time that I was saying we want the child’s sex to be a surprise, my midwife chimed in.  “It’s a—-“ she said.

And just like that, it was out there.  Pink or blue.  Boy or girl.  All of the wondering and curiosity vanished.  Everything changed.

The room went completely silent.  The student midwife looked at the midwife horrified, her hands still kneading my belly.  The midwife looked at me a little horrified too, as though she’d realized a moment too late what she’d just done.

I took a deep breath and let it slide.  People make mistakes.  I directed my attention back at the student midwife.  “So can you tell where the baby’s heart would be?” I asked.  And we went on with chitter-chatter, pretending like it had never happened.

But the truth is that there are some things you cannot un-hear.  When Donald came home that night, I told him what happened and asked if he wanted to know what the midwife had said.

“No,” he said.  “I still want to be surprised.”

This baby better come quick because I’m having a helluva time keeping my lips sealed.

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  1. By on October 10, 2012

    I feel your pain, Sarah.  Let me ease it for you just a bit…you can tell me.  Come on, send me an email, let it all out, you’ll feel so much better, etc, etc, etc.  Can ya tell I want to know :)

  2. By missjoules on October 10, 2012

    Oh we had one of those “baby in weird position” appointments as well. Our student midwife had The. Coldest. Hands. Ever. In the world.

    There was also a student sonographer when we had our scan and the entire time they were talking they kept saying “he” this and “he” that, so in the end it was probably for the best that we wanted to know ahead of time.

    FOR ADDED BONUS CERVIX FUN, today I went to the doctor because still, *still*, 20 months after birth, I cannot have pain-free sex, and there was a student doctor in. It is amazing how excited they can get over things like inflamed cervixes. “Oh, COME SEE THIS! Doesn’t that look uncomfortable?“

    Good luck holding your secret in! We can’t wait to find out ;)

  3. By on October 10, 2012

    Oh, you kill me.  I despise surprises.  AHHHH!!!!  Enjoy the last few bits of the surprise : )

  4. By on October 10, 2012

    The gender of our first child was a surprise but with the second one I saw at a 37 week ultrasound that he was a boy. (years of microscopy experience lets you get lots of info from shades of gray) It was actually kind of cool that I figured it out myself, no one gave me test results.  I told my husband who was there with me. We went home that night and had a private little celebration. We knew that after his birth, we were going to be insanely busy so it was nice to have that little moment for the two of us.

    What I am wondering is how the midwife knew your little was a boy? Rate of heartbeat? Ultrasound?  I sure hope they haven’t been palpitating your belly hard enough to tell by feel.

  5. By Desiree on October 10, 2012

    Wow! I can’t believe that the midwife did that! You handled it better than I would have. I am sorry that someone took away your surprise. When we were expecting, we tried, without success, to know the sex. After that we decided we would wait and find out the day the baby came. It was the best wait and surprise of our lives. The midwife probably doesn’t know what she took from you. Good luck keeping your secret Sarah! :)

  6. By Jenny on October 10, 2012

    Sorry, you had to find out your baby’s gender earlier than you wanted. That’s a bummer you won’t get the surprise, but I’m sure it’ll still be fun to see Donald learn the gender at the birth. And who knows, the u/s could have been wrong.

  7. By momiss on October 10, 2012

    Oh, Sarah…..I am so sorry I don’t even know what to say.  I really feel for you.  I think being the only one to know (besides the midwife, of course, ahem) would be an additional burden.  Sorry your dreams had to take such an abrupt departure from “my baby, healthy is all that matters”. 
    It was inevitable I know, but still…....

  8. By Amber on October 10, 2012

    I think life is all about unpredictability—the game just changed, but Donald doesn’t know, and that’s kinda FUN. It’s all about the journey! What a story you’ll always be able to tell! I think everyone here commenting that they are so devastated for you needs a perspective shift ... I am famous for always seeing silver linings, and annoying people with them, but hey, you can’t control everything, so why not enjoy the chaos? :)  The path may have changed, but that doesn’t mean your joy has to.

  9. By on October 10, 2012

    What a bummer!! Of course now I want to know too!!  I could not wait with either of my children.  I had to know for planning etc.  Hope you can hold out for Donald’s sake. One question though, I am sure you have had thoughts one way or other, was it what you thought?

  10. By on October 10, 2012

    Hi there

    I’m always curious when someone uses the phrase ‘I want it to be a surprise’ I sort of get what you mean but isn’t it always a surprise when you find out be it at 16 weeks or at the birth?
    for me, I wanted to know cos it enhanced my pregnancy for me, knowing my son was a boy made imagining himA d planning for him so much more exciting. But I do of course know that everyone is different!

    Great things going so well! Not long now :)

    M x

  11. By Sarah Christensen on October 10, 2012

    Amber - I see what you’re saying, but it is a little disappointing right off the bat to have something that mattered to you and something you feel is an inherent right of choice taken away without your permission.

    At the same time, Donald and I already knew we would be happy with either sex - and since it didn’t change anything (we don’t really “prepare” unless you count a small pile of gender-neutral white onesies “preparing”) it really wasn’t a big deal after the initial shock of it happening at all.

    Moira - I would argue that the surprise is definitely different when you find out at the time of birth.  During my labor with Charlotte, I wondered and wondered and wondered.  I swear that the reason I brithed her so quickly was because I HAD TO KNOW, had to know had to know had to know, and I was actually asking Donald what he thought the baby was WHILE pushing.  The anticipation that had been building for months hit a fever-pitch at the point of birth.

    Then she was born and I honestly was just so amazed that I had birthed a girl.  A girl!  Look at that!  Can you believe she’s really here?  A girl!

    Based on my current experience, I would say that the curiosity and anticipation at finding out are much less before the birth than at the time of birth - at least for me.  It could be that because I was blindsided, I didn’t really have a chance to get properly worked up lol, but part of me thinks that it’s because as long as you don’t know what the baby is, you just accept that it’s one or the other.  When you know, you lose a huge chunk of the imagination factor that exists in pregnancy.

    As well, I personally have found that it’s much more difficult knowing - and not just because I’m keeping a secret (which I’m admittedly AWFUL at to begin with).  It’s difficult because when I didn’t know, I was bonding with and appreciating the baby for whoever they are.  Now that I know, I find it difficult not to project my sex-associations onto my daydreams.  I’m essentially bonding with the child because of who I think they will be based on my own personal (cultural?) biases related to sex and gender.  I don’t really think that’s fair to the baby and it’s been very difficult to resist doing just that.

  12. By Sarah Christensen on October 10, 2012

    (Not that one way or the other is superior, just that I have found I preferred discovering the sex at birth over knowing in advance.)

  13. By on October 10, 2012

    Bright side: It makes for a great story!! :)

  14. By Emily on October 10, 2012

    I’m due to give birth any day now, and I have a similar story. Except I’m about 80% positive one of the ultrasound techs slipped up and said “she” at one point during the appointment, though it was so quick I haven’t actually convinced myself that I’m having a girl.

    In the car on the way home I mentioned to my mom that I thought the tech slipped up, but that I wasn’t going to tell her what sex was mentioned because there’s no way she could keep a secret from her sisters. (Without my mom even saying anything they’d figured out I was pregnant, so I wasn’t taking chances). One of my reasons for not finding out the gender is because if my aunts found out it would just be all pink or all blue from some of them and their associated friends.

    However, I did tell my sister because a) she lives in another province and b) is slightly more trustworthy. A day or so after I had told my sister about the ultrasound, she called me and told me that my mother had told her about me saying I thought I knew the sex but wasn’t going to tell her, but then apparently she thought I had also slipped up and alluded that it was a boy. My sister cleverly said that I had had a similar conversation with her but let slip that I thought it was a girl, so I must have been tricking both of them so that neither would actually know the answer.

    The next time I saw my mom she joked about how I’d pulled this ruse on them, and I was just like, “yeah, haha, I totally tricked you both, haha, now you’ll never know!“

    Anyway, the point of this story is that at least you’re 100% sure of what the midwife said, as only being 80% sure is a bit frustrating, ie. when you start getting gender-specific hand-me-downs for both sexes and can’t definitely get rid of any (I’m still undecided about how much pink I will put a little boy in if I end up having one. Probably a bit, but where to draw the line?)

  15. By on October 10, 2012

    Sorry that the midwife stole your surprise :(

    I found out with my first because I like to plan, and although we wanted to know for the second, he wriggled too much on the U/S for us to know for sure.

    I found it easier to bond with my daughter before she was born because I was able to imagine her better as a real person instead of some nameless faceless being, however this backfired in a way - it actually took me a few days after she was born to transfer the love I felt for the baby in my tummy to this new baby in my arms. With my boy however, I didn’t feel as connected when ‘the baby’ was in my belly, but from the second he was born I was in love with this perfect little thing :)

  16. By Alicia S. on October 11, 2012

    I’m totally a silver-lining type of person too, and I usually feel like saying ‘I’m sorry’ just adds insult to injury somehow, but when I read that, my heart just sank. :-/  Sorry that happened, Sarah. You’re a champ for being so understanding in the moment.

  17. By Courtney @ Bundle of Wonder on October 11, 2012

    Oh my gosh, Sarah!  I’m sorry this happened :(  I don’t know if you remember, but when we went to the San Diego Zoo with you and Charlotte we were talking about finding out the sex of our next child.  I said that I kind of wanted it to be a surprise, but I know that Wade couldn’t wait.  I said that maybe I could wait and he could find out and you said that you didn’t think it would work that way!  And now you’re in that same situation!  I know how much you wanted to wait until the birth.  I’m sure your midwife feels just awful :(  On the bright side, at least you found out at the end of your pregnancy rather than in the middle!

  18. By on October 11, 2012

    Oh that is really sad! I am so sorry that happened. I know that I would definitely want to be surprised too. I hope you are able to keep it up for Donald’s sake. I am really awful with secrets too.

  19. By Ashley on October 11, 2012

    Oh no! I’m so sorry that happened, Sarah. There is no way I’d be able to hold it in. Much stronger and more patient than me you are.

  20. By on October 11, 2012

    Oh no! I can imagine the disappointment! With my first we didn’t find out until we went in for the last ultrasound at 35.5 weeks. She was measuring big and they just wanted to make sure everything looked good. My mom went with me and they asked if we knew the sex. I said we weren’t finding out. My mom begged the tech and the tech whispered it to her. I was soo mad! Then later in the day my mom came over with loads of pink clothes. I was so upset. We ended up having her just 3 days later as well when my water broke 4 weeks early. I still hold a grudge about it to this day and it’s been 14 years.

  21. By Sara on October 13, 2012

    I’m sorry for the disappointment, if you’re anything like me pregnancy brain may kick in and you’ll forget.

    As for someone who didn’t know the gender with their first, and then did with their second, I actually found it a toss up. With our second, I enjoyed that my husband and I had the appointment in the morning, together. . So, we had a few hours together and we ,just us two,knew the delicious secret. We told our “people” that night, the next day, etc. Finding out in the delivery room was like finding out with a mass of people pounding on the door….

    But, again, that was just our experience. Regardless, it’s amazing that you’re almost there. I’m so excited to hear about your life with two littles.

  22. By Roberta on October 13, 2012

    Hi there, I read your blog quite often but never left a comment, but when I read this post could not help myself! We did not want to find out the sex of our child and I would have been SO upset with the student mudwife. You handled better than I could have done! It is a bummer no matter what! But hope you can keep from D! Good luck to you!

  23. By on October 14, 2012

    I just realised that you’re probably 37 weeks by now and could be having the baby at any moment! So exciting!

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