Until I got pregnant, I wasn't aware that all pregnant couples belong to one of two camps: The Waiters and the Finder-Outers. The lines are clearly drawn, and while both sides are prepared with a mini pitch, the Waiters will always win on account of passion.
"DON'T DOOOOOOO IT," they wail, as if they just found you on the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge.
"But there are so few surprises in life," they implore sadly.
"The not knowing really strengthens you in those last few pushes," mothers reason. Then they add with a loud whisper, "And you get better stuff at the shower if your guests don't know what you're having."
But my all time favorite response came courtesy of our friend Mike. No one else ever put it quite this way, although the sentiment underscores the entire Waiters' case. "You'll ruin it," he said. "You'll just ruin it."
By the sly look on his face when he said it, he obviously knew that it would get to my head. Will I ruin it if I find out? I wondered. Would the knowledge of this baby's gender remove all of the mystery of life, leaving me with a dim, mundane existence? Would my shower guests buy me enough 0-3 month dresses for a flock of baby girls, but no thermometer? Was I going to run out of steam during labor, throw up my arms and say, "Well, I know it's a boy. No sense in pushing it out now," and then die in labor with my baby boy (as expected) stuck in the birth canal? My death would be (regrettably) no surprise to the Waiters, who had predicted this scenario, and they would talk about it the way you might discuss the death of a drunk race car driver. She found out, they would murmur to one another at my wake, their voices full of pity and condemnation.
Well, probably not.
My camp of Finder Outers isn't very passionate, and we're unified only by our impatience or our nerdy urge to "plan ahead" with appropriate colors. But, on behalf of all the peeking parents out there, I would like to offer my response.
First: Which surprise-filled reality are we comparing this this one to that deems life lacking in surprises? I for one am surprised on a daily basis. Sometimes Pete walks up behind me without my knowing and touches my shoulder and I spit my water all over the keyboard while falling out of my chair. Just today a dog ran into the street and I almost got in an accident. Occasionally I get a call from Family Video and am surprised to remember that I never returned that movie that we never watched, resulting in over $15 of fines. Some mornings I wake up with an enormous pimple that I didn't even feel coming.
Okay, so those are all bad surprises, but I'm sure there are plenty of good ones, too.
Second: Finding out doesn't take away the surprise, it just shifts the surprise to a different point in time. I can see why it would be fun to find out at the moment of birth, but personally I like the idea of spreading out the fun. We're going to have the ultrasound tech put the "results" in a sealed envelope, then we're driving to a family reunion and opening the envelope over dinner. This should provide at least twenty minutes of excitement, followed by months of anticipation and calls from my mother-in-law saying, "I saw an infant train conductor outfit today and couldn't resist!" At birth you have the excitement over the gender mixed in with the exhaustion and the rush of birth, followed by months of green and yellow onsies.
But ultimately, it's up to each person or each couple, and I say more power to the Waiters. I for one can hardly wait the 15 remaining days until my ultrasound. I think I'll set the envelope on the dashboard and stare at it during the entire drive to Wisconsin, just to tantalize myself with the surprise.
(I forgot to mention a third camp of couples: The Finder-Outers-Who-Make-Everyone-Else-Wait. Though they may have pure intentions, this group always comes off a little smug. Their mantra is, "We just want to keep something for ourselves." I never really know how to respond to that. Is an apology in order? "I'm so sorry that we the people have taken away so much from your pregnancy. I'm glad you are reserving some of it just for yourself." (?) Please, if you are going to find out but not tell anyone, don't tell people that you are finding out but not telling them.Find an appropriate way to dodge the question, and dodge it, lest I buy you lots of toys and stuffed animals that aren't on your registry just to make you angry.)