Friday, 11 September 2009

I don't care - As long as it's healthy

So what's one of the first things people ask you when you tell them that you're pregnant? (Well, yes, apart from How did that happen? and Was it an accident?)

One of the most common questions is:

Are you going to find out the sex of the baby?

Well I, for one, who can't keep a secret, hates not knowing everything and is a tad impatient, absolutely had to find out.

With our first child, it wasn't quite so simple. The baby just wasn't letting us know and despite running up and down the hospital stairs, munching on a bar of chocolate and going to the loo in an attempt to get the baby to change position, it refused to move its hands away from its privates.

'It' turned out to be a 'she'. We called her Renée.

When I then became pregnant with my second, people seemed to be keener than ever, on our behalf, to find out the sex.

You must want a boy?
Don't you?

Erm, no not really. A girl would be just as good (if not better)!

But yes, again we wanted to know the sex. I wanted Renée to know if she would be having a brother or sister more than anything. I wanted her to bond with the baby before it arrived.

It just so happened that my husband was away for the 20-week scan, the anomaly scan, the scan where they can tell you the sex of the baby. He was working in New Zealand...just about as far away as was possible. But it didn't matter. He'd been there for the 12-week scan and I was planning on texting him the news just as soon as I heard. He was waiting. As were friends, grandparents on both side, brothers and sisters. Everyone wanted to know.

I'd left Renée with a friend whilst I went for the scan. The last thing I wanted was a wriggly, impatient toddler to deal with. But as I sat there in the waiting room I wanted someone to share the moment with. I was excited and I wanted her to be excited too.

The sonographer called me into the room and after a bit of chit-chat, they squirted the cold jelly on my tummy and showed me my baby's heartbeat on the screen.

I held my breath.

"I'd like to know the sex, if possible" I said.

I didn't want to jump ahead, but I couldn't contain myself.

"All in good time", the sonographer replied, smiling at me.

I looked at the screen and saw the clenched fists and jerky legs of my baby, the large head and the long spine and I knew that I could never be disappointed, whatever the sex.

I looked back at the sonographer again, smiling as I did so. She didn't look at me this time. Instead she left the room and returned with what looked like another sonographer. They pointed at the screen, looked at each other, spoke in medical terms I didn't understand, looked over at me and then at the screen again. And then she came over to me.

"We think your baby has a cleft lip, or a cleft palate - we can't be sure. Are you familiar with what that is?"

I nodded my head, but I couldn't speak. I thought about the pictures of babies and small children I'd seen in the newspaper supplements - "Donate £1 and help give these children a better life". They all had cleft lips - where both sides of their faces hadn't fused properly and the lips are left unjoined right up to the nose.

I wanted to cry. I wanted my husband, my toddler, anyone.

"Are you alright?" the sonographer asked.

I nodded again.

"Oh, and she's a girl by the way."

I was lead back out to the waiting room. How different everything looked now. In the space of five short minutes the whole room had changed. There were people who I had chatted with before, still sitting, waiting for their turn. They smiled at me.

I just stood there shaking. A baby girl. With a cleft lip. I knew it wasn't the end of the world. I knew it could be fixed easily with surgery. But still. I wanted my perfect baby to be blemish-free. Renée was beautiful. I didn't want Edie, because that was her name now, living in the shadow of her elder sister. I didn't want her to be the ugly one. I felt protective of her already. Protective and just a little bit sad.

I was lead into another room and offered tea with lots of sugar. I hate sugar in tea, but they made me drink it 'for the shock'.

Three doctors stared back at me.

"Lots can be done you know. Surgery these days is fantastic. Don't you worry. We'll put you in touch with the right people. You'll hardly see a scar."

I don't remember saying much. But I do remember leaving the hospital, standing on the street corner and crying. And then I remember wanting to hear my Mother's voice. So I called her.

"Mum, it's me."

"Darling! Is it a boy or a girl? We're all dying to hear."

I burst into tears again.

And then I texted my husband in New Zealand.

"Can I call you? I need to speak to you."

I got a text back.

"It's the middle of the night. Just tell me. Is it a girl or a boy?"

I texted back.

"It's a girl. And she has a cleft lip".

He called. And I cried. And he cried too.

Ten days later, when he returned from New Zealand, I had another scan. This time the specialist was called in. He wasn't sure whether she had a cleft lip or not.

"Possibly not" were his words.

We weren't sure.

I spent the next four months trying to be brave.

And then I went into labour. And I warned the midwifes that she might have a cleft lip. I didn't want them to be shocked and not know how to tell me.

It was my first question when she came out.

"Does she have a cleft lip?"

Turns out she didn't.


Girl or boy. I don't care. As long as they're healthy. And that's the truth.


This post will be featured on A Mother's Secrets, the new website from Peggy at Perfectly Happy Mum. Do click on the links to read other Parenting posts.


  1. Wow, what a story! I am so touched. Blessings upon you and your little family.

  2. you poor thing, that 4 months must have been horrible. am so glad it all turned out ok. and i totally agree with you that i can honestly honestly say the same, that the sex of the unborn baby makes absolutely no difference as long as they are healthy.

  3. God, my heart was in my mouth the whole way through your incredible post. I am so glad Edie didn't have to go through the trauma of surgery and that she was healthy after all. Once you have a scare it really does bring it home to you that that is all that is important.

    With my first pg I was so concerned with not putting on too much weight, whether or not I could still run half marathons, obsessing over all the designer baby equipment I needed. All these trivial, trivial things. I didn't want to find out the sex but knew for sure that I wanted a girl - was destined to be a mother of girls. And then of course my baby was born suddenly, unexpectedly, a boy. And he died. And I couldn't believe I had wasted so much time and energy concerning myself with such selfish, irrelevant nonsense.

    My subsequent pg's were different. I was different. As long as they were both healthy. That really was ALL that mattered.

    Thank you for this post. Most touching. And I wholeheartedly agree.

  4. What a story! I'm all for information, but that is silly. If they're not even sure, why are they telling you that? A good friend of mine went through a similar thing recently, and the baby was just fine as well. I'm so happy you were all ok.

    (I feel the same, by the way - happy with either, but always wanted to know.)

  5. How awful these situations can be handled. I'm sorry your pregnancy was spent worrying and praying.

    I'm so pleased the outcome was good.

  6. wow what a worry!! i'm sorry you had to spend all that time worrying xx

  7. Beautiful post xx

  8. Wow what a story .... I felt like I'd seen all that before. Because I had - my son WAS born with a cleft lip and palate and I was devastated when I was first told at the 20-week scan, so I know how you felt when you were there on your own. I still didn't want to know the sex, he's a beautiful boy, has had surgery and you wouldn't notice a thing. Felt very touched reading your post.

  9. Lovely post, brought tears to my eyes. So pleased Edie didn't have to suffer any surgery and so sorry that you were put through so much stress.

  10. Oh dear, I'm crying again. What an amazing post. I'm so glad Edie didn't have to have surgery. It's so true that it doesn't matter so long as they're healthy. I had so many scans with my youngest. I got in such a state after one scan that I didn't have to wait the usual two hours to see the consultant. They ushered me in straight away. You see, they measured him every two weeks and on this occasion they said his head hadn't grown. I imagined all sorts. Fortunately the consultant explained that doing an ultrasound scan is like trying to look at a dolphin in a swimming pool, in the next room. They're not 100% accurate. My baby was perfect too. Thank goodness! x

  11. What a tale, MT! So glad all was well in the end, although the results they get now ARE amazing (having filmed a doctor who performed this surgery on kids in India)...

    I sometimes think ultrasound scans in pregnancy are way more trouble than they're worth. When I was first preggers with M, I had a 6 wk scan, - having had 2 miscarriages they wanted to track early foetal growth etc. The very experienced sonographer in a top London clinic told me that her heartbeat was half what it should be and this usually meant the foetus was 'on the way out'. I couldn't bear the thought of a third miscarriage and went home to the Island in an absolute state. I lay in yoga postures and practised deep breathing for 3 days solid, praying to my baby to hang in there. When I went back for the follow-up scan, dreading being old all was over, the sonographer declared all was well, the heartbeat was now up to normal speed and the foetus had grown in that short time.

    Still, it didn't stop me going back for a 20 week scan to find out the sex. Control freak that I am...!

  12. My goodness - what a thing to put you through! I can't imagine having that hanging over you throughout the rest of your pregnancy, that must have been so awful.

    Very, VERY glad your story had a happy ending x

  13. What a lovely story. You don't ever think about these things when you have your scan. I can't imagine having to wait that time to find out for sure. x

  14. OHMIGOD that is SUCH a powerful post. As a 38 week pregnant woman I can so relate to that. You poor thing.. the things they bloody put you through. I had food poisoning the night before my 20 week so just wanted to get through it and make sure it was ok.

    But i have to confess here that we do know what we are having, but have not told anyone else. And the burden and stress of not telling has practically killed me! I wish I'd not found out now!

    Glad it all turned out ok..

    BM x

  15. Oh you just made me blub!

    I'm so glad the story had a happy ending :)

  16. Aww poor you! What a scary experience. Every parent wants their child to be healthy - what else matters really? Glad she didn't have the cleft lip after all that.

  17. Snowbrush - Thanks for visiting and for leaving such a lovely comment.

    Elsie - Yes - the thing is - everyone says it and of course they mean it, but you don't realise quite how much you do mean it until something like that happens. In the end we were very lucky. Hope you had good holidays x

    Nicola - Well I read your last post and was so so moved by it. It's funny - you read someone's blog and you like the way they write and you find them funny and interesting, but you still don't really know much about their life. I read your post and I had no idea that you'd been through heart went out to you. Thanks for the comment here - yes, you really don't give two hoots what the sex is after going through something like that...

    Mwa - I know - almost shocking really that they told me, but weren't sure. But, I don't hold it against them. It's never easy to tell and they do the best they can. Those 4 months of worrying meant nothing after she was born healthy. Puts everything into perspective definitely.

  18. Chic Mama - It's difficult...they try to give you as much information as they can. I was never angry with them because I know it's not easy. And as I said to Mwa above - those 4 months of worrying were nothing when we realised she was healthy. But yes, I thank God she was ok x

    Amy - Yes, it was horrible...very scary and sad...but hey, there was a happy ending. Unbelievable. And now I have my two perfect little girls. So happy!

    Mrs OMG - Thanks love. You suggested the subject to Peggy didn't you? Good call x

    Frogs - Oh darling - thank you so much for the empathy. Yes, you know exactly how I felt, although strangely they got it wrong. I'm so pleased for you that your son's surgery was successful - just to think that your precious little bundle will have to go through all of that is devastating. Glad it turned out well for you x

  19. Very Bored - Thank you. Yes, so relieved she was ok. Even though you know it's not the worst thing that can happen, you can't help but feel devastated for your unborn child. relief all round I think.

    Sandy - Oh honey - it's hideous isn't it? - when you worry that there's something wrong with your child. You feel so are so powerless. And I don't think the worry for a Mother ever stops! What have we let ourselves in for hey? Glad things turned out well for both of us x

    Island Mum - Hold on, I know you've changed the name of your blog, but does that mean you're not Mamma Po anymore?? I like Mamma Po. I want her back! And yep, I know that cleft lips can be almost undetectable after I knew it wasn't the worst thing in the world, but crikey it's scary. I'm sorry you had such a hard time too - and that little M was ok. Pregnancy aint' easy!

    Josie - It went by very slooooowly - I can tell you - especially as she was 12 days late on top of all that...But it was worth every second of waiting really - just to find out she was ok. Don't think I have the nerves to go through another pregnancy agains! Happy to stop at 2, me!

  20. Laura - You're so right - you totally don't think about it - I didn't - especially after my first was healthy and we couldn't see the sex. It made us even more focused on the sex the second time round. And then you realise it's not just the 'sex' scan, it's the anomoly scan and then you realise why...and you feel like a complete fool for taking it so lightly. But thank God it turned out ok. Don't think I could put myself through it again though!

    BM - Been thinking about you and wondering when it's coming! Hope you feeling ok (as ok can be)!! Yes, was a truly horrible time... and I wanted to complain to the hospital, but after she was born and we found out she was ok, it didn't seem to matter. We were just relieved...Good luck with your birth. Yep, it is a bit easier not knowing I think!!

    leslieanne - Oh sorry darling!! Think I may have blubbed a bit at the time as well. But hey, it all turned out ok - and now Edie is the most beautiful little sausage ever...we're very lucky.

    Lady Mama - Yep totally - most people say the sex doesn't matter as long as the baby is healthy, but you never quite realise how true that is until you go through somethign liek this. I could have 100 girls and never want for a boy as long as they were all healthy..!

  21. Your story truly moved me. The waiting must have felt dreadful, as I think its the 'not knowing' that's sometimes worse. At least if you know for sure about any problem, you can prepare yourself, as best you can. I'm so pleased your story had a happy ending. And I do understand completely how you felt, a similar thing happened to me with my 1st pregnancy. I had the scan on my own as, ex-hubby was away working. Unfortunately, the baby had hydracephalous, with very little brain activity caused by spina bifida, with 3 vertebrea missing. We made the difficult decision to terminate (I still feel the emotions now, as strongly as I did at the time). As you know, we then went on to have 4 'wonderfully healthy' children, and only people that were unaware of our 1st pregnancy asked 'boy or girl?' and I must admit I was very touchy on the subject, so was always a bit short with them...Everyone who did know, only ever asked 'is it healthy?' as I, like you, truly, honestly didnt care...And that is the truth x

  22. Heartstopping story! It's true, though ... when it comes right down to it, there is absolutely nothing more important than baby's health and well-being.

    FABULOUS post. :)

  23. What a touching and very honest post Emily. It's such a good reminder that not everything is perfect and glorious about pregnancy. A friend of mine had a scan last week (10 wks) and it seems that the baby is either very, very small, has stopped growing altogether or the dates are very wrong. It's a very sad time for them- they'll have another scan this week but had a miscarriage in January so they were so hoping this one would "stick". It's so hard. It's part of what makes me hesitate about having another baby. Everything with my 1st pregnancy was so perfect and so was Little Miss. I couldn't possibly be so lucky a second time, could I?
    Thanks so much for sharing your story. As always, beautiful and thought-provoking. :)

  24. What a moving post. It must have been awful for you getting such news when you were all on your own.

    I'm also of the opinion that it doesn't matter what gender, though I have found myself to be very pleased both times that they were girls! For all I know, I would have been equally as pleased if they'd been boys.

    But I also forgo the 'as long as it's healthy' and instead it's 'as long as this one stays put', having had a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy. It's interesting how our previous experiences effect our expectations.

    We never do the Down's tests, because the results would not make any difference to us. A friend of mine had a baby with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. She was offered a termination shortly before she was born, because they felt that she would not live more than a few months and would be so severely disabled that her quality of life would be minimal. She's I think coming up to two now and has a sharper brain than many children her age. Despite having no feeling in her legs and having dislocated hip joints, she stood up recently for the first time. While she does take a lot of extra work, she is also a huge joy to her whole family and my friend is very sad when she thinks about the offer of a (very late) termination.

    So, for the reasons, and many more, I don't worry about the gender, or about the health. I will be happy and love whoever comes out.

    (Sorry, that was practically a post in itself!)

  25. Jesus effing christ...what the hell was that woman on who told you that? A friend of mine considered abortion after bad results from a nuchal scan but fortunately she has a very cute little boy. I didn't want to know the sex of my baby, I was convinced I was having a boy. But I realised I was having a girl because I could feel her peeing - is that really odd??? xx

  26. Very well put, and so true. Thanks for sharing.

  27. That was such a great post, and I'm so glad I came. I'll certainly be back to hear more

  28. I love this post!! How are things going for you? Is Renée happy at school? Does Edie keep being so cute?

  29. Brighton Mum - Crikey honey - you poor, poor thing. Hideous for you. Every stage of having children is fraught with difficulty and fear - how on earth we manage to go through it again and again I don't know. Kiss to you x

    Rita - Thanks darling - and if I don't hear from you again, good luck with the birth. Thinking of you lots x

    Cafe Bébé - Yep, you're so right. Pregnancy is a total minefield...As I said to Brighton Mum above - how we all manage to do it over and over I'll never understand. I'm so pleased you had a great one with Little M - there's no reason why any subsequent ones wouldn't be just as good too. Some people are just made to have babies!!

    Tasha - Yeah you're right - when you say 'I don't mind as long as it's healthy' doesn't mean you wouldn't love it if it wasn't healthy - you'd love them just as much obviously...but ideally they'd be healthy too. Yes, it was a horrible time, but the fact that Edie turned out to be completely healthy made it all seem as if it hadn't happened. We just wanted to forget about it in the end. Gosh your poor friends - it's so hard to know whether what the doctors say is right...and unless you're mediacally trained you can only take their words for it. Very scary...

  30. nixd - I have NEVER heard that before!! (About the peeing bit). Very funny...I wonder if that's true - but wouldn't you have felt a boy peeing just as much?? Hmmmm.... Yep, it's a shame the sonographer worried me so much...but I know it's not an easy job so I was never angry...relieved in the end obviously!

    SPD - Thanks hun. Yep, having 10 girls would probably send me crazy...but I would still love them just as much!

    Woman Who Can - Thanks for popping by love. And I'm glad it wasn't you who broke the BMB website!! Hee hee. Good to see you here x

    Marion - Hello darling girl. Yep, things are good with us thanks. R is loving school and yes, E is a monkey, but cute with it. And... they still miss you lots (as do I). Hope you're happy at home xxx

  31. You've moved me to tears this morning. What a beautifully written post - I really feel for what you must have gone through during your pregnancy.

  32. Hi Emily, your moving post has inspired one by me about my own pregnancy:

    Thank you for writing so beautifully about what you went through. x

  33. A very honest and moving post. I always remember wishing my baby to be perfect too. And she is.

    CJ xx

  34. Yes you are very right, health is important, but even if there is something wrong with your child you will still love them the same.

  35. Thanks for sharing such a moving post.


  36. I haven't known how to reply - so glad that she turned out perfect in the end but what a horrid process to go through

    There's an award for you over at mine

  37. Selina - Oh I'm sorry I made you cry! Thanks for reading...It's three years ago now that it happened and I haven't thought about it in a while - but I think it does us good to remember moments like that sometimes - definitely helps us to appreciate what we have - even more so when it's been a bad day with the monkeys!

    Linda - Oh I'm so pleased you felt inspired to write about your own experience - have popped ove and read yours too - what a beautifully moving post. How difficult pregnancy is for everyone...and how lucky we are to have wonderful children despite those difficulties.

    CJ - Thank you darling. And yes, Amy is perfect too. x

    magnumlady - Yes, I did think when I wrote - 'As long as they're healthy', that it sounded as though it would be different if they weren't. It wouldn't be. You're right - I would love them just as much.

    Insomniac - Thank you. You're welcome x

  38. Muddling Along - Just missed you as I was writing the replies. Oh you are lovely - I shall pop straight on over. I know what you mean about not knowing what to write - sometimes I get like that too - when I've read something particularly moving - I feel that my comment is too throwaway or insincere, but don't worry. Our little story turned out ok in the end...and even if it hadn't, I know little Edie would have been just as beautiful! x

  39. yes, you are right. healthy is best of all. we didn't know; the hospital had a policy not to tell. i think dig would have left me had i had delivered bbb since he doesn't play football and hates cricket at the park.

  40. I'm so glad everything turned out ok. What an emotional time you must have had. I don't know why people assume if you have one sex you automatically want the opposite next time around! x

  41. That is such a touching story, I'm sure at that moment it was all put into perspective. It used to annoy me that people were only interested in the sex of the baby when I was petrified there would be something wrong... though I did find out both times and was delighted that we had two girls as well :)

    I've heard so many stories where people's babies might have this or that and then are fine. I never even had the triple tests because I just didn't want to know.

    Mel xxx

  42. We've got our (slightly late) 20 week scan tomorrow and fully intend to find out the sex. The husband wants a girl, the boy wants a brother. As for me, I just want a happy, healthy baby.
    I think we get lulled into a false sense of security with the 12 week scan - we're all so desperate to see that there's a baby there so we can tell everyone that we forget the 20 week scan is another hurdle to cross.

  43. Beautifully written. Amazing really, how I can be sitting in my kitchen, yet somewhere else entirely. Those of us with healthy children are the luckiest people in the world. It's easy to forget that, thank you for reminding me today. x

  44. Touching, sensitive and beautiful post,


  45. Love you for a beautifully written, honest and touching post. xx

  46. Grit - Hey boys can do flowers and dollys just as well as girls! People always ask my husband if he wants another one (so he can have a boy)...but he always says the girls can do just as many things as the boys, if not more!

    Clarey - I know. I love my two girls. Obviously i would have loved whoever came along. Give me 100 girls - I'll love them all. Might be a tad insane by then, but I'll still love them all!

    Shabby - I know - it's very scary what you have to go through - I know other people too, who had scares and their babies were fine. Such a tough time. Like you say, it's sometimes best not to know!

    Vic - You're so right - the 20-week scan, with my first, was just anotehr excuse to see the baby, find out the sex, take home another photo, etc...and because she was healthy I didn't even think about it as an anomaly scan. The second time around shook me up, definitely. Good luck with your scan tomorrow x

    Victoria - Thank you! Yes, healthy children are the biggest blessing of all I think.

    GG - Thank you x

    That Girl - Thanks darling. Kisses x

  47. Oh, that had me in tears. I cannot imagine going through that by yourself. I am so glad that Edie was fine. Lovely post.

  48. Beautiful post about a difficult time for you - thank you!

    And thank God for Edie: just perfect the way she is! (And Renee too, of course!)

  49. Kelly - Thank you! Sorry to make you cry! Yep, turned out ok in the end...just shows though, you can never take it for granted.

    Catharine - Thank you. Yep, they're both perfect...a little naughty perhaps! But perfect x

  50. I almost cried while reading your post. I felt the sadness you had after learning that Edie might have a cleft lip. I'm just so relieved that she didn't have it when she came out. ^_^ Congratulations!

  51. Headbands - Aaah - thank you. Yeah - it was a truly horrible time, and although we knew it could have been worse, we were still sad for her...I think someone was shining down on us after all... x

  52. Great post. A story beautifully told.