What’s Inside

Posted On: 09.24.10

what is inside

In case you missed the memo, I’m pregnant with my third child. And I’m a glorious mixture of anticipation and apathy and anxiety. (Yes, these things can commingle. Trust me.) This pregnancy’s been interesting so far. Familiar and yet new terrain. So much of this makes sense, but so much is startlingly fresh. Now that I am finally beginning to feel better physically, I have been doing a lot more thinking about this. This reality. This fact that we are all on the precipice of compelling change. That our family, as I type this, as cells multiply within my core, is evolving.

My latest fascination is with what’s inside. I know it’s a baby, and itty-bitty at this point. I know, and am utterly in awe of the fact that, day by day, this little being is growing more complex and mature. But I do not know yet whether it is a boy or a girl. It is one of these things, but I am not aware yet which. This amazes me. That there is truth inside me, and I can’t behold it.

I will have an answer in less than two weeks. On my birthday, in fact. (October 4th for all you calendar kids!) Yes, on the day I turn thirty-two, I will lie there on that mechanical chair while a kind woman scans a wand over my belly. An image will appear on the screen. Black and white. If all goes well (and I pray that it does), we will see what awaits us. A heart beating with vigor. A little person in the throes of becoming. And then, at some point, this woman will ask a question I have heard before, “Do you want to know what you’re having?”

And Husband and I will, in unison, say yes. And she will reveal what it is.

What’s inside.

And so. Today, I sit here mere days from knowing. Many people have been asking me what I want. And what I want is obviously a healthy child. That’s what matters. All that matters. Truly. But they probe further. Boy or girl? They ask. And I say I don’t know. Because this seems the appropriate answer. There is a creature in there and I don’t want to offend him or her. But I also say this because it is true.

I don’t know.

This happened yesterday. Nanny asked. “What do you want?”

And maybe she was seeking a simple, one-word reply. But that’s not what she got. No.

“I think I want a girl. I love the idea of three little girls growing up together. There is something so magical, so dear to me, about sisters. But… I don’t know. That might be a defense mechanism. Maybe I think I want a girl because I feel that’s what I will have and I want to be okay with that. Maybe what I really want is a boy, to see what it is to have a son, but I won’t admit this because I don’t think it’s going to happen. After all, it must be amazing to know what it is to have a daughter as well as a son. The weird thing is that I really don’t know what it is I want, but I’m pretty sure that I want one or the other.”

Yes, I was rambling. But buried in there, in my meandering monologue, was something I had never really appreciated before. Never seen. That something? That our very desires can often be opaque. Even to us, their owners.

And so. I don’t know. I really don’t know. What’s inside. What I want to be inside.

Either way, it’s incredible, isn’t it? That, in this very moment, as my fingers dance across the keys, little fingers dance inside me. Waving. An early, exquisite hello.


  • Do you believe that it’s possible to want something and not know what that something is?
  • If you have pregnant before, did you have strong desires for boy or girl?
  • Do you think all of us, deep down, want one of each gender or not necessarily?
  • Do you think our psyche can work to protect us from disappointment by obscuring the details of our innermost wants?
  • What do you think is inside?
  • What do you think I want to be inside?
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41 Comments for: "What’s Inside"
  1. I had such a very shallow reason for desiring my first child to be a girl – I liked the boy’s name we had chosen, but I *loved* the girl’s name, and I desperately wanted to be able to use it!

    My husband, originally, wanted us to have one of each, and I leaned toward wanting two girls. I am one of two sister, and he is the boy of a boy-girl sibling relationship. I wonder if our experiences color which way we lean? I do admit to being terrified at the thought of a boy, having grown up in a female-dominated house! (“But Mom, how do you potty-train boys?” I asked in panic, to which she calmly replied, “No clue.”)

    In the end, we are so happy with our two girls. Whichever you have will end up being the perfect combination for your family, I think!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Are there shallow reasons? I’m not so sure. I think we all have preferences rooted in some kind of emotional or experiential soil and that’s okay. And baby names are important! I am actually a wee bit sad that I won’t be debating baby names here as I love that part. Obviously, I’m not going to protect the identities of my two girls and then blast the name of my third! And so so funny about the boy/potty-training thing because I just asked someone this the other day. Whether you potty train boys standing up. If there is a boy inside me, I have a LOT to learn.

      Ultimately, yes, whatever we have will be absolutely perfect!

      • The lovely thing is that boy babies are just that — babies. They don’t come out needing potty training. By the time they do, you’ll have a clue. So if it is a boy, just remember it will be a baby, and you’ve done babies before!

        Much luck and love.

        • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

          Point well taken, Mama. A baby is a baby and I have plenty of time to acquaint myself with the details of having a boy should that time come. And if it does, guess who I am calling? 🙂

  2. Aiden-
    You may not know (or admit) now that you know what you want, but the VERY instant the tech tells you what it is, you will want EXACTLY that. Because that will be your family. And it will be just the way it was meant to be.
    A BIG Congratulations!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      You are so very right. The moment we find out, we will fall in love with the reality of what we are having. I believe that wholeheartedly. I can’t believe we are finding out so soon. Thank you for your congratulatory words!!

  3. This is exquisitely beautiful. About the boy/girl thing, yes. But about how our desires remain opaque to us even more so.

    I believe, truly believe, that you are actually waving hello to your boy or girl with equal aplomb. This is because we mothers love our children wrapped in whatever packages they arrive. And, as life marches onward and those packages change, our love does not, it only deepens. The package does not matter. You are merely looking for the place where your love might land.

    But for other desires…non motherhood desires, I do believe that we WANT. Yet those wants often remain unseen; clouded by packaging.

    I’m taken by this and will have fun mulling this idea throughout the day/week.

    So glad you are feeling better and that the pregnancy is going well.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I too am very much intrigued by this idea that we are often shielded from the full view of what it is we truly want. I am currently working on my next novel and the protagonist does not want children (talk about a departure for me!). Anyway, I think I will incorporate this idea of desires being opaque into my story because I think it is possible, indeed likely, that my protag is ultimately not really sure what she wants, what’s beneath all of those layers of emotion and experience. Sorry for the tangent; I am just excited about this idea!

      “Clouded by packaging…” Love that.

      • I think as mothers we get clouded by the packages of wrapping ourselves in our children’s lives. We can hear their wants before our own.

        I will be excited as you bring this new novel forward, (you are currently birthing TWO babies it seems!) as these self-secrets get revealed. You have already proved you excel at stories with layers and working with a theme like this will provide ample opportunity for that.

  4. AGB

    With my first, I wanted a girl so badly that it hurt. And I love having a daughter. I have the same thoughts on sisters as you do, and would love for #2 to be a girl (1 month, 2 days til we find out!) for many of the same reasons.

    I think people who say, “Oh, I just want a healthy baby” are either saints or lying. Of COURSE — we all just want a healthy baby, but I think most people MUST have a preference one way or the other!

    I think you’ll see lines on Monday, Oct 4th. (Lines, for those not currently obsessed with gender ultrasounds, means girl). I cant decide if that’s what you want or if that’s what everyone just expects you to have!!!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I think you are 100% right. Obviously, we all just want a healthy baby, but I think that under it all, there is a preference there. This is why I am a huge advocate for finding out gender ahead of time. I know that waiting can be wonderful – and I give people who are patient enough to wait a ton of credit – but I think whether we acknowledge it or not, we all have a slight preference (whether we can identify it or not). So, in finding out, we are in many ways preparing ourselves for a reality that might be initially disappointing in some very subtle way.

      I am so curious to see whether your prediction is right! And I wish you were finding out sooner!!!

  5. During my first (and so far, only) pregnancy I didn’t have a strong preference one way or the other. But I did have a weak preference for a girl. I grew up as one of two sisters and that was my familiar terrain. I have a son and when it’s time for the next pregnancy I suspect my feelings will be the same, but opposite: no strong prefernce, but a weak preference for a boy because now that is my familiar terrain.

    Either way (for you now, and for me sometime in the future) we’ll both be happy with whatever we’re given. But it is confusing not to understand your own desires.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      It is absolutely confusing not to understand our own desires. I think you highlight a very interesting layer of this discussion, namely known v. unknown. Are we drawn to territory we have traversed before (for me that’s having sisters and mothering girls) or are we attracted to novelty (the boy world). So fascinating to think about. The good news is that, yes, either way I will be completely thrilled.

  6. I have three boys. I always thought that I wanted a little girl to end off the family, but when the ultrasound tech announced that our youngest was a boy, I was thrilled. Now? I can’t imagine it any other way. I love all of my little boy beans, even though as the only female in a house of 5 I AM outnumbered!!!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Three boys sounds both crazy and utterly amazing! I do think there is something incredible about having three kids of the same gender. I think this is why part of me thinks I want that third girl. And now that I think about it, this might have something to do with my own experience. I do have two older sisters but once they went off two college, it was me and my two little sisters. I have fond memories of this time.

  7. Raising three girls was wonderful, if challenging. There was a massive amount of estrogen surging through our house during the teen years. My friends who have both genders have assured me that, in general, boys are easier during that phase.

    Helping to raise a boy now is a fascinating experience. I love the newness of it… the surprises, the new discoveries. I just wrote about one of the major differences http://www.margeryraveson.com/2010/09/prize-winning-performance.html

    (They really must be from Mars.)

    The bottom line is that each child is so astonishingly unique that gender is almost a peripheral issue, like hair color. I have a feeling that you will be thrilled with whatever your birthday surprise turns out to be.

    Happy times ahead.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      How wonderful that you raised your girls and now have the opportunity to help raise a boy. Something you wrote really struck me, namely “The bottom line is that each child is so astonishingly unique that gender is almost a peripheral issue, like hair color.” I think you are right. Kids are individuals and I think we often get way too caught up on questions of gender. Ultimately, I just can’t wait until this spring when I get to meet another little person whether. Until then, I am counting down to my birthday surprise and will keep you all posted!

  8. I am in the same boat- although we chose not to find out. So we’ll be in the delivery room when we discover if our baby is a boy or a girl (unless a tech slips up along the way!). But right now, I have no clue. People ask what I think baby is, what I hope baby is and I reply that I don’t know. Because I really don’t. Maybe I’m afraid to want one more than the other and then I will give birth to the opposite of what I said out loud. I don’t know. See there I go again with the ‘I don’t know’… I suppose what I do know is that I’m thrilled beyond words to be having a baby (this is my first) and only time will tell what’s growing inside of me!

    By the way, love your blogs!


    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I am so amazed that you are able to wait until the big day to find out! I am literally lacking the patience chip when it comes to such things and need to know as soon as humanly possible! So fun to encounter another person who is standing in my shoes in the moment. And how comforting to know that I am indeed not the only one being plagued by a lovely case of the “I don’t knows.”

      Feel good!

      And glad you like the blog! Keep reading 🙂

  9. I’ve been absent for awhile so I just heard the news. CONGRATS! Baby news is the best kind of news.

    I never had a strong desire to have one gender over the other. However, I KNEW that baby #2 was a girl. I was surprise when the ultrasound revealed another son.

    Boy or girl doesn’t matter because that little life growing inside of you is already part of your family. Your family dynamics will naturally evolve when the newest member arrives.

    Best wishes for a safe and healthy pregnancy.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Erica! And you are right, so right, that it really doesn’t matter what I’m having. My family is growing and evolving and that is the amazing thing. I guess I am just tremendously curious if we are wading back into quasi-familiar waters (a girl) or swimming into the unknown (a boy). Guess I’ll have to wait a bit to see!!

  10. It might not surprise you that similar thoughts have been running through my brain lately. (I actually have a post on this topic in the works.)

    We didn’t find out the gender in advance with either of our boys, but I feel somehow more tempted this time around. Husband, meanwhile, remains convinced that he wants to wait for the surprise.

    To be continued, I suppose…

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Ooooh. Find out!!! I know my vote should not override your husband’s, but that’s my two cents 🙂 I can’t wait for your post. As I have said, I am really excited to be going through this Baby #3 adventure with you.


  11. Peggy

    I have a brother – and have always craved a sister! I always knew I wanted girls (even though I come from a Greek community who puts all value on “the boy”). Baby #1 was a girl – great! When I was pregnant with baby #2, I wanted another girl – a sister for my first. Done! Baby #3… everyone assumed we were going for the boy – seriously? The idea of 3 sisters just tickled me! But I won’t lie, the idea of a boy intrigued me and I found myself buying blue… until we found out it was going to be a girl! We still get the occasional “will you try for a boy?” questions. Silly people… my 3 little soul sisters are all this family needs, thank you very much.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      3 girls! Love it 🙂 It consistently amazes me that people have the gall to ask questions like “will you go for your boy?” as if we all NEED to have a boy (or both genders) to be complete. I have no real idea what’s inside, but I do know that if I find myself in your domestic boat with “3 little soul sisters” I will be quite happy.

  12. COURT

    I think three girls would be lovely! That isn’t shallow at all for wanting three little girls to grow up and guide each other. A boy would definitely be a different parenting experience for you. Either way, I’m sure you and your family will get along famously with the third edition! Congrats again! This is a happy, joyous time for you! Enjoy it!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thanks, Court. I do just adore the idea of three little girls growing up with each other. But I am also taken, in a very different way, with the idea of having a boy and raising a son. Am I confused? You bet. But it’s a marvelous breed of confusion. Because on that day when I find out I will be so excited either way.

  13. Aidan,
    What a wonderful gift it is to find out on your birthday what you are having. I know you will be thrilled no matter what you find out on that day. The beautiful addition to your family is growing inside a wonderful mother and a wonderful human being.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Ayala! There is something wonderful about the fact that I am finding out on my birthday. As I mentioned, my fingers are just crossed that everything looks good on that day. That is what matters. Finding out will be an added bonus and then maybe I will go for a decadent meal 🙂

  14. I certainly understand wanting to know, and having a slight inclination in mind as to what you want – though a healthy baby is what we want most of all.

    Still, I wanted boys. And I got them! I was thrilled. I hope for you that your birthday wish will come true.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Love to hear that you got just what you wanted. And what lucky boys they are to have you as their mother! I hope my bday wish comes true (even sure, again, I am not sure what that wish is!)

  15. Many Many congratulations, I am not a mummy just yet, but I am training to be a midwife. One of my most favourite things is that instant I pass the newborn to their parents and they are literally so overwhelmed and star stuck they can’t breathe. I love to ask if they know what they are having and most of the time they do. It is so amazing when they don’t know and find out as soon as their little one comes into the world. The gender suddenly becomes so irrelevant, in al the emotions I guess all I am saying is you will meet your new addition and it all becomes just so must more exciting 🙂

    For me when I do finally become a momma I see two girls in my future, strange huh.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Love that you see two little girls in your future. Isn’t there an immense majesty in imagining what’s to come? And I can only imagine that it is beautiful to witness so intimately that moment wherein mother and father are united for the very first time with their child. And I can see that gender, in this moment, is almost irrelevant, that the magic here transcends questions of pink or blue. Thanks for your comment and welcome!

  16. Couldn’t agree more about the weirdness of “Will you go for a boy?” Since I had a boy and then a girl, I got those comments in a different way– some people were occasionally surprised that we would WANT to have a third, being that we “already had one of each!” (???????)

    But it’s so funny– I had many mixed feelings as well. Having had a boy and a girl, this third (and final!) time around, lots of people would ask what I wanted– which sex I wanted to tip the scales and ‘win.’ In truth, I had overanalyzed things so extremely— my list of pros and cons for each option was so, so long– that it was all a wash!!! For either scenario, I could convince myself of the good and the bad! But of course, now that we have two daughters and a son, and little Ruby is real, I can’t imagine it any other way! 🙂

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      You hit on something important here, namely people’s inclination to ask questions that demonstrate a certain cultural bias. Who says we all want one boy and one girl? Who says if we have one of each, we should be motivated to stop right there? It is so strange, and sometimes frustrating, that people assume our innermost desires when we often don’t fully know what they are. And I love your sentiment about not being able to imagine it any other way. I know that a week from now I will have a piece of information, a clue, that will change things, yes, but I will never look back. Thanks for your words and welcome to ILI!

  17. According to everyone, I already have the “perfect family.” Still, for the next I know I will be wondering…boy or girl??

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Ah, the “perfect family.” Does such thing exist? I feel that it exists nowhere or everywhere. Does that make sense? Either there is no such thing as perfection is a fallacy OR we realize that each family is utterly perfect in its unique imperfections… I can’t wait to see what you have next!!

  18. Well, I found out with both and was happy to have. I always felt that the more I could imagine of who was inside me helped in the bonding ahead of time.

    I was very surprised when the tech told me I was having a boy my first time. I guess maybe because I come from a family of seven sisters or because I’m a woman, it just really didn’t occur to me this reality of having a boy, something so different than me! My husband was seriously leaping for the ceiling.

    Then I thought I’d have another boy because maybe that’s just what my husband “made” though I definitely wanted a girl. It just didn’t occur to me that things would be that different from the first time. When the tech said it was a girl we both just said, “Really?!” and it was kind of dreamy. Like, a little girl in there?

    I have no complaints except I would have liked to have had more but my nearly 40-year-old body was done.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      It’s so funny because, to this very day, I am amazed when people have one of each gender. I guess hailing from a family of five girls and currently being the mother of two girls, it wows me to know that there are actually people out there who produce BOTH boys and girls. I agree with you that there is something about finding out that makes it a bit easier to bond with the baby, or come to terms with the reality of childbirth that is forthcoming. And it is always fun to run out there and buy a few little gender-specific baby items. Writing this now, I realize how excited I am to find out the good news because (assuming the tiny one is healthy) it will be good news!

  19. Jeff

    Congratulations Aidan!

    I love that you are “pretty sure you want one or the other.” It reads like an unintentional comic closing to stream of consciousness “rambling,” (as if there were a third gender) but also reveals that what you feel most certain of is that you do “want” something, you do have a preference. Even if, as you say, you aren’t quite sure what that is.

    Looking forward to more news,

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Love this observation, Jeff! Let me assure you that I definitely do want boy or girl and am not secretly hoping for something other 🙂 Isn’t it interesting though, in life, to know and feel that we want something, and something specific, but not be able to glimpse fully what that something is?

      I look forward to sharing more news! Soon!!

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