Partial Article - A Peek Inside the Book: “Are You Going to Try for a Girl?”

“Are y’all going to try for a girl?” a well-meaning friend asked only a few weeks after our third son was born. I cringed. I’d just gotten through labor and delivery less than a month earlier. Back off, woman. Yet, this is the inevitable question that parents of only boys come to expect. We take it good-naturedly, but after a while, I gotta tell you—I feel like wrapping my fingers around the neck of the next person who asks it and squeezing like a boa constrictor on steroids.

We’ve all seen those families that obviously tried for a girl. They are the families we see rambling through the mall or occupying both sides of the Golden Corral buffet line at once; they’re comprised of the parents, three or four sons, and the prized daughter wearing patent leather shoes and a frilly dress—the youngest of the children. You can bet your 401K that they tried for a girl, and at last, they got her. God bless that mom for not giving up and going back to the well time after time, boy after boy. Admittedly, that mother is more of a woman than me. But she’s a lunatic, too. Even with her daughter providing a little extra estrogen, their house is still going to be drenched in testosterone, what with all the sons it took to get one daughter.

Of course, let’s remember that each of those boys she had was a welcome and joyous addition to the family, regardless of their gender; I’d hate for little boys to ever get the idea that they are second best. No way. Sometimes moms would just like a bit of balance in the household levels of testosterone and estrogen, and so some choose to take a deep breath and forge ahead in trying for a daughter.

To be honest, Kevin and I did try for a girl the second time around but were given David instead. (Perhaps I shouldn’t mention this to him or he might get some kind of complex…it’s okay, honey, we still love you.) I’d heard about those methods of timing sex to increase your chances of having a boy or a girl, and we decided to try it. We already had one boy, so we thought it would be neat to have one of each, to even things up in the house—okay, maybe it was just me who thought this. It wasn’t that we didn’t want a boy, but we decided if there was a way to increase the probability of a sperm with an X chromosome meeting up with the egg instead of one with a Y, we’d give it a shot.

Those methods of sex determination of the baby depend on the frequency and time of the month a couple has sex. The gender selection manual said if you want a girl, try to conceive a day or so after ovulation instead of immediately after (as if I know the exact moment—I can’t even keep track of what year to write on my checks) because the X sperm live longer than the Y’s, thereby increasing the chance of having a girl. For a boy, the rule was to have sex as soon as you know you’re ovulating because male Y sperm travel faster than X ones, and there will be more of them reaching the egg first.

The frequency thing was something about having sex less often if you want a girl or, wait a minute…maybe it was more. Hell, I don’t remember, although I do recall some guy in our prenatal class when I was pregnant with Billy who said trying to conceive a particular gender was like “feast or famine” when it came to sex. It’s funny how a bunch of strangers come together in these classes and are soon talking about their personal sex lives as though they’re on The Jerry Springer Show. Pregnancy has a certain kind of liberating power.

There was something about the optimal position to do it in, but, thank God, that information seems to have been erased from my brain. All of this exact method stuff became laughable for us; we rarely had time to ourselves as it was, much less time to schedule our sex life days around sporadic ovulation cycles. Basically, a realistic goal for me was simply to find two hours in a week to catch a movie before it hit the video stores. But we attempted to have a girl anyway because some of my friends had followed these gender selection rules, and their babies all turned out to be the desired sex.

Not so with us. Of course, I never was really good at following directions, especially when this stuff was kind of like advanced math, probability and all, and by far my weakest subject.

So with Jason we didn’t worry about “the method.” It seemed no matter when or how our babies were conceived, it was a sure bet, they were going to be boys. I don’t think Kevin is capable of producing anything except Y chromosome sperm. A couple of times while I was pregnant with Jason, I had this strange dream where the inside of Kevin’s body was actually a stage for one of those weird MTV videos. There were thousands of actors dressed as the letter Y running everywhere, dancing to “Macho Man” by the Village People. Y’s everywhere. Y’s disco dancing on stage, their pointer fingers jutting toward the sky in rhythm to the beat, each step choreographed to perfection. And not a single blankety-blank letter X to be found. I didn’t need a psychologist to interpret that dream for me. If we had ten babies, there would still be no girls. That’s just the way it is with some couples.

Before we knew whether Jason would be a boy or a girl, I imagined our third child as a quiet, well-behaved little girl who would sit silently and play with dolls or color between the lines in a Little Pony activity book. Her daddy would adore her and cater to her every whim, at last gaining a true appreciation of the female sex and, thereby, making my own life a bit easier. That is indeed one reason I wanted to have a girl: I thought it would “soften” Kevin a bit and help put him in touch with his sensitive side and see life through the eyes of a—dare I say it?—female. I was kind of tired of sitting down at the breakfast table where the guys would promptly raise their orange juice glasses in the air and toast aloud: “To men!” Sad to say, folks, but I’m not joking here. They also used to call me “Shemale,” a mispronunciation of female, which my husband used in conversation with the boys, like, “Go tell the Shemale it’s time to leave.”

As Jason grew into toddlerhood, there was no doubt he was another rough-and-tumble boy, the same as my other two. I was hoping he would be my calm, thoughtful child, allowing me to write at the computer or read without watching him every second to keep him from killing himself. But he turned out to be more active than Billy and David were at that age, climbing all over furniture, wrestling on the floor with his brothers as if he were just as big as them. He had to learn to take up for himself, and he eventually developed a better left hook than anybody in the family.

Since I had wanted a third child desperately, while Kevin had to be coaxed into it, it was me who had to pay the proverbial price. I was the one who stayed at home with hyper Jason all day, as Kevin escaped to the office. Sometimes I suspected God was up there smiling, maybe winking at my husband, slapping him a holy high-five. “I don’t think she’ll want a fourth,” the Big Guy would say to Kevin, both of them chuckling.

There’s no chance of us having a fourth child, though. When Jason wasn’t even a month old, Kevin decided to get the “V-word,” as men call it. They can’t bring themselves to say it, don’t have the strength to muster the word. It’s VASECTOMY, guys. V-A-S-E-C-T-O-M-Y. If women can handle labor and episiotomies, you guys can handle vasectomy, okay?

Prior to the procedure, Kevin’s doctor gave him Valium for the “pain” and even said it was okay to have a drink or two before coming to the office. “No way,” I said to Kevin, after he told me those were the doctor’s instructions. He showed them to me scribbled in the doctor’s handwriting. I did a double take, not believing my eyes, and looked again.Yep, he was telling the truth—Valium and alcohol. I never got Valium after any of my three deliveries. Hell, I thought, I want a vasectomy! Men act as though undergoing a vasectomy is the most terrible thing imaginable and visibly flinch when the word is mentioned, yet they get to take Valium and alcohol to ease them through it. Meanwhile, the wife has to wait on him and take care of the kids while he lies in bed or on the couch, watching ESPN and CNN, icing his manhood. Hmmm, the only V-word that comes to my mind is vacation.

Kevin was so relaxed when he went in for his “procedure” that the loose-fitting sweat pants he was advised to wear kept sliding down his butt, and he didn’t even care. I, on the other hand, was totally embarrassed as I trailed along behind him trying to provide some cover. I was half hoping…