It feels pretty incredible to say that I am finally in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy! At this point, I have been pregnant for 70 weeks of my life. Since we began this journey, I have been trying to conceive for 2 months, pregnant for 21 weeks, post-partum for 6 months, trying to conceive for 2 months, pregnant for 21 weeks, post-partum for 6 months, going through egg retrieval and embryo transfer cycles for 2 months, and now pregnant for 28 weeks.
And after all of that, I have finally reached the 3rd trimester!
I got to celebrate that by going in for my gestational diabetes screening, which feels like such a normal pregnancy experience. When I was having my blood drawn after downing the sugary drink, the phlebotomist asked whether we are having a boy or a girl. The first couple of questions that people have about pregnancy are always the same:
When are you due? Is this your first? Do you know WHAT you are having?
The “is this your first” question is a complicated one for us. I have developed the answer I am most comfortable with over time. It can depend on the setting, the person, and the phrasing of the question, but most often I say, “This is my 3rd pregnancy. I lost the first two at 20 weeks.” It feels right to be honest about my experience. It is more authentic than excluding our other babies, and it helps to decrease the silence around pregnancy loss. The more honest we are about our experiences of grief, the more people will understand that it is okay to talk about them.
The question of the sex of the bay is always a difficult one for me. People don’t mean any harm. They are simply asking one of the few things that they can ask about this mysterious being growing inside my body. They want to show their excitement and form a picture of who this baby might be.
During our first pregnancy, I didn’t want to know the sex of the baby. I liked the idea of being surprised at birth. I also dislike how we place assumptions about who a baby will be as soon as we hear whether they are biologically male or female. I know that our children will get many messages about what it means to be a woman, a man, a boy, and a girl both inside and outside of our home their entire lives. This will happen. We hope to also give them some messages that challenge the stereotypes. We hope to let them know that while the world may set gendered expectations of them, it is okay for them to be whoever they are, whether that is in line with these expectations or not.
I know that they will be influenced by the gendered expectations of the world. How could they not be? We all are, and not every aspect of that is negative. But I prefer for it to not start before they are even born.
For all of these reasons, I had hoped not to know Lentil’s sex until he was born. We also were not planning on finding out Danny’s sex. The anatomy scan at 20 weeks is when many couples find out sex of the baby, but after finding out we lost Lentil at this scan, there were so many more important things to be worried about rather than whether the baby had a penis or a vagina. We only found out that Lentil and Danny were boys after we lost them.
After our losses, the sex of our babies seems so incredibly significant in some ways and so incredibly insignificant in other ways.
Sometimes I want to respond to questions about “what” we are having with “hopefully a healthy baby with a heartbeat.” I understand that there is not much for others to ask about and that people mean well. But what others don’t always understand is how much is wrapped up in the sex of the baby for us.
If we had never lost our babies, I would not care what the makeup of our family would be in terms of the sexes of our future children. Because we have lost two boys, though, I expect I will feel something is missing if we never have a boy. At the same time, the idea of wanting a baby of one sex or another really bothers me.
Simultaneously, the sex of our babies does affect their risk levels. Of any baby we conceive, boys have a 50% chance of being affected by IPEX and likely dying in utero. Girls would not have IPEX but have a 50% chance of being a healthy carrier like me, passing on their genes and risking losing babies just like me.
The long story short is that it is all a bit complicated for us. The heartache is complicated. The grief is complicated. The risk is complicated.
Because of our losses and the path we have been on, we lost the surprise component of the baby’s sex. The surprise does feel less important than many other things, but it is still one of the many losses in this process.
Eric and I do know the sex of this baby, but we have been so open about so many aspects of this process. This is one thing that we have chosen to keep to ourselves. At times we tell people that we don’t know the sex because it just makes things easier. It preserves some of the normalcy (which we don’t feel a whole lot of this pregnancy) without having to go into it all, explaining why we know and that we would rather not know.
The reality is that the sex of this baby doesn’t matter as long as the baby arrives healthy and safely.
Whatever the sex, they will help heal some of our wounds, although we will always grieve our babies that died. Boy or girl, we look forward to being able to share this baby with the world when they are in our arms, alive.