Why did I prefer such moments to anything science could dish up? Maybe I wanted "a rite of passage into motherhood," as an anthropologist once told me. "Technology doesn't give you that." Good point. When a lab technician looks at a computer screen and states, "You're having a girl" or "You're having a boy," that's it. But when friends, family, or neighbors take time to predict your baby's sex, they're saying a lot more -- that having a baby is a big deal and so is becoming a parent. They want to be involved and invested in your life. In your baby's life too.
I found that unspoken pledge very comforting, since I knew almost nothing about babies and was going to need all the help I could get. Plus, I enjoyed the feeling -- also not available in the lab -- that I was part of something ancient. Probably since caveman days, people have tried to guess the sex of unborn babies ("You crave mammoth leg again, Unga-it must be girl!"). I was joining a long and colorful continuum.
As I'd predicted, our shower guests stayed away from boring pink and blue in favor of teal, gold, red, purple, and plaid. On the other hand, Bill and I did spend an awful lot of time debating names.
"We could just go with Chris or Pat," he said. "Then we'll be set either way." "We could just wait until after the baby's born and see if we're inspired." We kept debating right up until labor. At least it gave us something to talk about besides the shooting pains in my back. Then one bright spring morning, we had new things to discuss -- like how amazing it was to be actual parents. And how beautiful our baby was.
And how the ring trick had been right.
Melissa Balmain's son, David, is 4 years old.