When Tammy was pregnant with Ethan we had gone to the specialist because Dr. Connelly was concerned about Tammy’s amniotic fluid levels and had recommended an amniocentesis. But with the procedure now over, our worries were turning to wonders.
“You don’t want to know the sex of the baby, correct?” asked the doctor whose name I had forgotten the moment I saw the size of the instrument he would be sticking inside my wife’s belly.
Tammy and I looked at each other, both of us waiting for the other to respond. Both of us wanting the knowledge today and the surprise tomorrow, understanding we couldn’t have both.
She finally spoke up. “Yes, that’s what we said.”
“We can find out, if that’s what you want,” I said.
Dr. Long Needle looked up with a smirk. “You have a little girl at home?”
“And are you hoping for a boy this time?”
The answer was yes, but you don’t say it. Again Tammy and I looked at each other. This time we did not answer at all.
“Tell you what,” he said, pulling out a pen from his front pocket and writing something down on a prescription pad. “I will write down the sex of the baby on this piece of paper and put it in an envelope. You can take it home with you and if you change your mind and want to know…”
“Sealed envelope,” I said.
Of course we opened the envelope.
There are few things in life as tempting and full of promise as a sealed envelope. I begged Tammy to open it as soon as we got inside our van in the hospital parking lot.
“I think you should open it,” she said. “Have that moment where you’re the only person who knows.”
I believed that she was being sincere. I also believed that she didn’t want to be the one to give in. I took the envelope from her and held it gently, staring down as if it were our very child in my hands and not merely the written promise of one. Moments passed because I let them. I indulged my visions of tossing a baseball back and forth with my son, of long walks along a river as my father had with me. Of bike rides and model cars and Boy Scout outings.
And though I also imagined little sisters playing with dolls, dressing up like princesses, and becoming lifelong best friends, the truth was that I really was hoping for a boy this time. I just wasn’t going to say it. A wish was all I dared and only because it couldn’t be helped.
“It still counts as giving in if you read it through the envelope, you know,” said Tammy.
I tipped the envelope vertical and tapped it until the note inside slid to the bottom. I bent and ripped the topside off and then held it to my mouth and blew. I poured the folded note out into my right hand and took one last breath. Savored the moment before unfolding the future.
There was one word written on the page. I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer of thanks for whatever I was about to read. Tammy sat silent as I cherished those sixty seconds of my life when I felt most like God, creator of life and knower of things to come.
“It’s a boy.”