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?
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.
hayley balozi posted a blog post
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