Some couples prefer to keep this kind of news a secret so please don’t breathe a word of what I’m about to tell you: we found out last week that WE’RE HAVING TWO BOYS! Woo-hoo! I’m very excited! At my age I honestly never thought I’d have the experience of having sons. Having a daughter is the greatest thing in the world but I’m looking forward to the brand new experience of raising boys. A lot of parents I’ve talked to who have both say boys are easier—especially once they hit puberty.
It’s funny how talking about gender at this stage very quickly moves into the realm of gross generalization and stereotypes. When they determined a few weeks ago that Baby A was a boy he was so active during the ultrasound that he prevented the technician from getting a good look at the gender of Baby B. “I think it might be another boy,” she said, “but don’t start filling the nursery with blue clothes just yet!” Hold it—nursery? We have to have a bedroom for these kids? We haven’t lifted a finger in that regard and we probably won’t until long after they’re born. All of our house projects were frozen in mid-construction last year when the economy tanked and I don’t see any hand-painted alphabet murals going up any time soon. We can’t deal with any of that right now—didn’t that technician ever hear of a dresser drawer? At the moment we don’t even have working electricity in our extra room. What? You’re saying candles and babies don’t mix?
As for clothes, the only drag about having two boys is that so many people have offered us their girl clothes they no longer need. My brother- and sister-in-law have two daughters who are the best-dressed kids in the San Fernando Valley and they were poised to give us an entire wardrobe of fantastic duds. Damn. In these hard times, is it worth making at least one of our sons a cross dresser? At least having boys makes me feel less guilty for getting rid of Leah’s fabulous designer French baby clothes from her classy relatives in Paris. (Note to relatives: baby clothes that are so classy that they have to be dry cleaned are not very…um…practical?) Now that I think of it, don’t boys spend their entire childhoods in the same t-shirt and jeans? I know I did—and still do!
Within minutes of finding out we were having at least one boy, I managed to offend several of our lesbian friends by asking them if they would teach the boys how to throw a ball since I never could. They responded that yes, they would, but they would also teach the other baby if it were a girl because some girls also like to play ball and they don’t have to be lesbians! Oops. Think of all of the stereotypes I packed into that one little request—impressive, no? Of course I was only kidding. True, I sucked at most sports when I was a kid and can’t remember a single time when my non-sports-minded father hurled a ball in my direction (don’t feel guilty if you’re reading this, Dad!) but I look forward to encouraging whatever athletic prowess my sons may have.
We’ve got some strong name possibilities but I (uncharacteristically) feel like keeping those a little close to the vest at the moment. (I’m already tempting that damned Evil Eye with all this baby talk!) But just to give you a hint: one of my requirements of a first name is that there is a major Broadway showtune associated with it. Can you guess which names are on our short list?
In our most recent ultrasound, the twins’ heads were right next to other and they seemed to be communicating. According to the doctors, they are now fully aware of each other’s presence. That is amazing to me. I used to always fantasize about having a twin brother when I was a kid. Imagine being born with a built-in friend (slash competitor and enemy slash confidante and defender). We can’t wait to meet them. But hope they stay put for quite some time. Pre-term labor is the biggest concern in twin pregnancies.
We had a scare last week that I want to mention just as a warning to other prospective parents. We saw a doctor who was not our main obstetrician a few weeks ago and, after taking Kendall’s blood, she asked us if we wanted them to run something called a Triple Marker screening. I later learned the more clinical name is something like Maternal Alpha Fetal Protein. I also learned later that it measures different substances in the mother’s blood and combines those readings with various other factors (maternal age, due date, etc.) to come up with probabilities for chromosomal abnormalities in the babies such as Spina Bifida or Downs Syndrome. Sure, we said, why not? And that’s all we heard about the test—no explanation of what it was or what the potential results mean.
A week later, we got a very grave-sounding message from this doctor that Kendall had tested positive for Downs Syndrome. What? When I finally got the doctor on the phone, I felt like I was pulling teeth to get more info. No, it didn’t mean that the babies had Downs, she said gravely, it was just about probabilities. She told us we needed to set up an appointment with the genetic counselors at Cedars-Sinai and get an amnio. We went through five days of major anxiety despite a lot of research we did about the appalling number of false positives this test produces. (I feel awkward writing about this knowing that parents of kids with Downs Syndrome might be reading—this is in no way intended as a slight of your wonderful children!)
We weren’t planning to terminate whatever the results were, but we couldn’t go through the rest of the pregnancy not knowing. When we finally arrived in the specialist’s office, the doctor took one look at the results we were given and pronounced them “garbage.” Our doctor had read them incorrectly. Kendall was completely negative for Downs or any other abnormalities. An extensive ultrasound confirmed those results (and revealed the second boy!). Again, I’m telling this story because I want to urge anyone getting the AFP test to talk with your doctor about what that test is before you decide to do it. Even if our person hadn’t misread the results, the false positive rate is over 90 percent! You need to remember it’s a screening test, not a diagnostic test, and out of 500 women who test “positive” for Downs Syndrome, only a few babies are affected. The genetic specialists told us that they are always lobbying the medical community to change the language and the criteria for “positives” because they are constantly meeting with couples who are terrified for no reason. Oy.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go throw a few softballs…and work on my showtunes repertoire!