There’s something unsettling about a medical exam in which fetal fingers, ears and eyes are counted for the price of a paycheck, almost. To justify this extravagance, ob-gyn specialists call it a “systems scan”, in the same way that mechanics call an oil change a “preventive maintenance procedure”. I would charge far less for it, as all I’d have to do is count ─ something I learned at age four ─ the number of digits the fetus has and display an image that looks like an astrological map on a TV screen.
The more they try to impress me, the more unimpressed I become. The more screens and sonar effects they use, the more you realize that the check you will write down will be fatter. The doctor assumes his game announcer voice, points to the screen and explains the meaning of various dots: head, hands, the bud of a nose. Nose? My babe gets excited that the little son will have her upright nose, until Dr. Fantastic corrects himself and says, “It’s not the nose. It’s the pancreas.”
Am I the only one at a loss in understanding what everyone is so excited about? Maybe I’m looking at the wrong screen? I’m not smart enough to know why this low-res exam on hi-res screens is needed in the first place. It makes no difference to me if he has an odd or an even number of fingers. If he is missing his pinky, will we put him up for adoption? I don’t think so. If he is born with only one hand, will he fail in life? Look at Admiral Nelson!
Then there’s a prize to take home, a DVD, which will gather dust. The disk will win three gold medals in the Olympic Games for Needless Articles. It and the little labels that they stick on apples.
The only thing that interests me really is whether it’s a boy or a girl. In our first pregnancy I wished for us to have a girl, and voila, that’s what we got. There isn’t a smoother beginning than this. Girls are easier than boys. They wear skirts, sing and dance and enjoy every minute of their lives. The only thing that we need to do with girls is unhinge all the doors in the house when they reach puberty. It’s still much easier than with boys. On the one hand, you should see to it that no pimpled adolescent boy works out his fantasies with your little girl behind closed doors. On the other hand, you should be very afraid of calls from juvenile investigators about your boy stealing a bottle of piña colada on the morning after Halloween.
In this particular pregnancy I wanted a boy, for a change. I felt assured enough of my fatherhood to want to change a diaper to a baby with a tiny wee-wee. A male son after a female elder girl is a recipe for a calm family. Most chances are that they will get along fine and will be good friends. I believe so because I myself was born after an elder sister. We got along well and almost never had fights, except for a few arguments, and that one time when she made me put my finger in an electric power outlet.
Of course there are also disadvantages, as we need to retool, and buy afresh all his toys and clothes from scratch in blues and grays. But I feel pretty much confident economically in our consumer society. Most clothing stores are full of girls’ clothing; the boys only get a small little shelf in the back. From my own experience, even if indeed there is something called gender differences, we can still share clothes. I wore my sister’s clothes into my childhood and do not feel that it scarred my male soul. On the contrary, I can still do really nice French manicure.
In any case, in this pregnancy I really hope for a male son who will scream out of his wrapper. I have some minor fears, though. When I took my girl to ballet lessons I felt comfortably ignorant, but what do I do when the boy wants me to play soccer with him and his class? How do I tell him that my only knowledge of the beautiful game was learned from my Sony PlayStation, and that to this day I don’t know what offside means. I suppose it’s the opposite of onside, but what is onside? And a penalty? I will have to invest and do my homework. The last time I watched a soccer game in a stadium was with my father at age seven. All I remember is that I had a big bag of crisps and wondered how everybody knew that the referee’s mother was a sex worker.
All these reasons are really just a cover; they aren’t the reason that I want a son. The reason is simple: I want someone to carry on my name. When girls get married they usually lose their maiden names and take the name of the idiots they marry. When your son gets married, he will carry on the family name further, and so will his son and his grandson. After all these years of family building, overwork and endless mortgage payments, what do we leave behind if not our name?
Our purpose in life is not really known, therefore at least our name will remain in someone’s memory. When everything is over and we close our eyes for the last time, only our name remains. Our name, and our Facebook page, of course.