The signs for the boutique ultrasound facilities, Baby Sighting and Baby Glimpses and the like, pepper the town with the increased availability of the technology that allows parents to see their unborn child in advanced 3d and 4d ultrasounds. When a doctor will make expectant parents wait for a diagnostic exam, these facilities offer them the opportunity to find out RIGHT NOW if their child is a boy or a girl, if it has mom's nose, or dad's hands.
As my due date approaches I can see the appeal to knowing whether one is expecting a baby boy or a baby girl. The clothes and the bedding and even the strollers and the carseats are gender specific these days and while I am satisfied with our grey carseat, I suppose if Rocco is a girl having something a little more feminine might be nice. I've washed more green and yellow clothes than I've ever seen, and sometimes I would like to know if I should also wash the baby boy onsies I have collected over the years.
The glimpses I've had of my baby have been far more precious than what I would learn from one of those ultrasound boutiques. The first time I saw my baby's round, bright white skull I knew what I most needed to know - That I was not facing a recurrence of anencephaly with this pregnancy. When a specialist confirmed the absence of anencephaly by ultrasound I again asked to see that perfectly rounded head, knowing I would never again take for granted its presence in an ultrasound image. There was no part of my baby that I wanted to see more.
When I feel my baby's movements, when I see its tiny body parts protruding from within my belly, I catch a glimpse of his or her strength, his or her "aliveness," and it is all that I need to see. I know that this child is strong, strong like his or her big brother, but not limited by the absence of that piece of skull that I might not ever have appreciated until it was missing from Gabriel's head. In the series of ultrasounds I had for Gabriel I was able to see his long legs, his big feet, his broad ribcage - But I couldn't will the presence of the piece that would have changed the course of events of our lives, not with all the ultrasounds in all of the facilities available. And in the light of what I could never find for Gabriel, I know that boy or girl, brown eyes or green, favoring mom or dad, this baby has what I've come to want most for my child - A chance for an 11th day.
I find myself dreaming of a daughter, a little girl to dress prettily in fluffy clothes with fluffy bows, and share tea parties with, and have girls' days out with, and share girly secrets with. I dream of another son who will chase the dogs with endless energy and share my love for baseball.
I dream of my child's loud, audible cries. I dream of those first cries at birth. I long to be woken from my sleep by the cries of a hungry baby, rather than being snapped awake by the fear that my child has passed while my eyes were closed.
I am asked frequently how I will plan for my baby if I don't know its gender. How can I possibly be prepared? When Gabriel was born, I was unprepared to bring him home from the hospital. Our neighbor lent us her carseat, which Gabriel never rode in because I held him all the way home. We picked up diapers and formula as we needed them. He slept in my arms or on the couch beside me. Friends brought us medical supplies and even donated breast milk. Our home was stocked with love for this little boy who I did not expect to live for ten days and I found that somehow we still had everything we needed. I had everything he needed, because I had him, and he drove me to do whatever was needed to care for him. As long as we had each other, we had everything.
Slowly but surely the "necessities" are being checked off the list for Rocco's arrival. I'm privileged to be able to provide more material things for my child than many families get to do. I'm thankful to have Marcos, also prepared to care for our baby. Family and friends have been ready and willing to laud this baby with gifts, excited for this new life particularly because Gabriel's was so very brief. And it's lovely. The bedding and linens and decor and clothes and pretty little baby things are beautiful and I love to touch them and admire them and arrange them for Rocco and create the nursery that I've wanted for so long. Still, they are just things.
Even the gender reveal ultrasounds can't tell me what I need to know. I look forward to that moment in the delivery room where the doctor will say, "It's a boy!" Or, "It's a girl!" But the sound I long to hear most is this baby's first cries of life. I long to kiss the top of his or her head, and touch it gently and confirm once again its presence. I long for what I have so far only glimpsed: A life beyond ten days.