“It’s a Girl.” Claire Annelise.

“It’s a Girl… and I’m going to be a lot sicker this pregnancy.”

Those thoughts popped into my mind out of nowhere the instant I flipped over my pregnancy test and that sweet pink line confirmed what I already knew.  After five months of trying and truly not knowing with Matthew, this time around I knew I was pregnant before any test could have told me.  I felt the faintest of cramping long before I was otherwise due that month, and I felt hungry in what I can only describe as a “certain way.”  Perhaps because I could already feel the effects of this new inhabitant, my mind pegged it for a girl.  Supposedly girl pregnancies involve more nausea… 
I spent the next 14 weeks trying to remind myself that I didn’t have any real reason to believe it was a girl.  I did not want to become attached to the idea of any one sex – especially so early in pregnancy.  Mark and I planned to be surprised again at the birth, and I’ll never forget that moment during labor with Matthew when I thought they referred to him as a “she.”  At that point I was already half in love with the baby boy Mark and I both believed we were having, and I felt a stab of sadness and loss (through my exhausted delirium) for the little boy I had only even really been imagining for a few weeks.  To have such a strong feeling that this second baby was a girl, so early… was dangerous.  Especially because, already having a boy, I really wanted a girl.  (There, I said it…).
But try as I might to control it, my mind kept thinking of the baby as a “she.”  At the 12-week ultrasound, her movements seemed so much calmer and more graceful than his had.  Comparing their profile pics she didn’t seem to have his big Ellis forehead – which is generally a male Ellis trait.  When my OB told me that she had two children, a boy and a slightly younger girl, it was all I could do to stop myself from exclaiming, “Me too!!!!”

Can you guess which one is Matthew and which is Claire just by the forehead?  Answer below:

Matthew is on top.  Not that Claire’s forehead is small.

Eventually I gave up on convincing myself that I didn’t know, and tried to full-out convince myself that I was having a boy.  Two family members were already pregnant with girls and a third also suspected she was having a girl.  “I must be having the boy!  Four girls in one year would be crazy!”  I told myself.  Still, whenever Mark would refer to the new baby as “Buddy Junior” I found myself replying, “Oh come on, you know it’s a girl!” 

I ultimately came to accept that I could not rid myself of or control these feelings.  I then began considering finding out the sex sooner.  A few advantages quickly surfaced:
  1. If we did need girl clothes, best to pick them out pre-baby since it would be so hard to go shopping with a newborn and a just-turned-two-year-old.  
  2. Bonus:  Some sense of calm and planning as we started into the unknowns of Mark’s oncology fellowship.
  3. I realized that as fun as it was to be surprised with Matthew, I couldn’t actually remember finding out he was a boy.  So maybe this time around it might be nice to more fully experience that moment, and be able to remember and savor it … instead of having it be a vague realization through a haze of trauma and exhaustion.
  4. Most importantly, I realized that if it was a girl, I wanted to enjoy the anticipation of her.  In life, the anticipation of a joy often offers as much (or more!) happiness as the joy itself.  Think about the Advent season at Christmas… wouldn’t Christmas be robbed of so much if we were unable to really think about it until Christmas Day?  The sicker I got with pregnancy, the more I realized that news of a girl would be a great boost.  Especially during such a busy time in Mark’s schedule.
And so, as much as Mark didn’t want to find out, he was caving to my begging (and reasoning).  We planned to have them note the sex in a sealed envelope as we had with Matthew, but this time we’d look at it together at a special time.  At least, that’s what I was planning… 😉
Fast-forward to my 18-week ultrasound.  Mark was miraculously able to go and so it was a family trip.  With Matthew getting into everything in the ultrasound room, Mark took him back to the waiting area (FYI, do not bring a toddler to an ultrasound without help – ever).  As I gazed at our little wonder swimming around on the screen, she did a flip… and it was then that I could have sworn I saw it:  Boy parts.
“Oh, it’s a boy…” my head was spinning.  I’d been trying to convince myself of this possibility for so long but my lack of success was obvious as soon as I knew I might actually cry.  No!!!!  How could I cry at any news of the baby I would soon love so much more as an individual than as either sex??????  I managed to hold it together.  Eventually, in came the actual doctor to double-check the tech’s work.  He was an older gray-haired guy, spry, with a gleam in his eye.  “So your husband is a resident here?”  He asked me.  I confirmed.  He then demanded that Mark (and Matthew) be brought back in.

When my boys arrived, the doctor began teasing.  “Now son, who’s going to be pushing this baby out??”  “And who’s going to be nursing this baby while you’re on call???”  I guess the tech had told him that I wanted to find out but Mark didn’t.  We all got a good chuckle out of it and still had him write it down and put it in a sealed envelope.  But once everyone else had left, I told Mark that I had to know.  

“I saw boy parts so I already know anyway.  There’s no point in waiting.  I can’t wait at this point.”  Score:  I still wasn’t crying.  Instead, I was shakily reminding myself that I’d always believed we’d have boy-boy-girl, and I’d wanted a close-in-age brother for Matthew.  Mark didn’t say yes but he didn’t say no, either.  As is the case with my dad, no “no” is a yes.  I told him I was going to open it as soon as we got in the car.  After concocting some reason not to get in the car (“Why fight to get Matthew into his car seat when we’re just going across the street to Costco?”) Mark still waited for me in the Costco parking lot with Matthew instead of going into the store.  I pointed to the envelope.  He didn’t approach but didn’t leave.  If you’re wondering whether we have communication issues, why yes, but we love each other to death and that’s all that matters, really.  I started opening the envelope.  I held my breath.  I could hardly believe I was about to find out, but at that point my slightly-wounded heart just wanted to get it over with.  I opened the card and suddenly all the other words on it glazed over and everything other than “GIRL” faded from my consciousness.  I could not believe it.  I was having a daughter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  
I bolted from the car and ran up to Mark screaming and pretty much accosting him with the news.  “We’re having a GIRL!!!!  WE’RE HAVING A GIRL!!!  A GIRL!!!!!!!!!” I cried, shaking with the sort of elation you only feel a few times ever in life.  I think Mark was a little stunned at first but after about an hour of my intermittent squeals of delight, I started catching some grins he couldn’t quite suppress.  When I asked him if my reaction made it worth finding out early, another of these grins appeared… despite his very best efforts 😉

While at first he didn’t want us to tell anybody – other than my grandma whose health is and had been failing – I eventually convinced him that I could tell my mom and my best friend, since I was seeing each of them in person.  That soon turned into telling “close friends or family I can tell in person” since Mark acknowledged that finding out in person is still cooler than finding out in a Facebook post, even if it’s “early.”  Since my best friend had already been planning on throwing me a baby “sprinkle” (like a shower but smaller gifts for a second baby) during her summer in town, it occurred to us that we couldn’t pass up doing it all in pink and having guests get baby-girl gifts.  Mark gave the go-ahead to announce the sex to the invitees via adorable invitations Hillary customized on Tiny Prints.  I will treasure these always:

Best invites ever.

Other shots from the girlie “sprinkle”:

(Most of) My Boston Besties.
Hostess Hillary, me, and Connie.
Homemade pink lemonade (and home made sweet tea – easy!), orzo salad with veggies, and “bruschetta” of apricot, fontina, chicken, and prosciutto.  SO good.
Raspberry Ice Cubes for the homemade Pink Lemonade.  Thanks Pinterest!
Girlie “Black Magic Brownies” with pink baking glitter and silver and white sprinkles.
Dessert:  A trio of home made ice creams featuring Crunchy Coffee, Sour Cream Brown Sugar, and Blueberry.
A gift for the big-brother-to-be.  Thanks Sarah!
Hillary slaved over these hand made coaster sets, the sprinkle favors.

Eventually when skyping with my in-laws I referred to the baby as a “her” or a “she.”  Yup, I’m pretty much the worst secret keeper ever.  My MIL asked point blank if we’d found out that it was a girl and there you have it:  The cat was out of the bag.  I delightedly called Mark’s sister Erin to share our news, since her new baby Lisi had been born in May and I’d been dying to let her know of the same-age-same-sex cousins we now shared.  I then posted to Facebook.  Now I’m just waiting to meet her!

Her name will be Claire Annelise.  Mark and I picked out our baby names in college 13 years ago, Claire and Matthew.  He’s been too attached to stray (“They already exist!”) and so other names I’ve also loved (boy:  Christopher, Nicholas;  girl:  Audrina, Rosalie, Savannah, Elena, Irina, Sabrina, Sienna, Isabelle, and Annelise) probably never really had a chance.

Choosing a middle name for Claire is a struggle; it’s such a short, delicate name that most other names overpower it.  In fact, that’s my theory on why it’s never that popular.  Because otherwise, in my opinion, it’s really a great name.  It works well on all ages:  cute baby Claire, sweet little girl Claire, fun teenage Claire, professional Claire, middle-aged Claire, and elderly Claire.  It passes the “lawyer” test (aka the “senator” test) but without being too stuffy.  As my friend Amy noted, “it’s simple, sweet, and feminine without being fussy.”  (Did you know that people are like-minded about names?  Amy and Scot almost named their daughter Claire Elise and the only other name Mark considered for a nanosecond was “Brooke,” which is the name they went with.  This like-mindedness about names has actually been shown in studies, and when I googled “middle name for Claire” I’d already considered most everything mentioned!).  Finally, all those flowery names I sort of dreamt of just don’t sound good with our long, bulky last name.  Even the ones that would work don’t actually sound good with it.

In the end, the final contestants were Claire Noelle, Claire Marie, Claire Elisabeth, and Claire Annelise.  Claire Marie was the obvious choice – it’s every female in my family’s middle name, my maternal grandmother’s first name, la la la.  But I just don’t like it (I can say that, right, since it’s my own middle name?).  Maybe because of “Lisa Marie” Presley.   I think Mark favored Claire Elisabeth but when my other friend Sarah insisted that it’s still pronounced with a “z” (“EliZabeth”), confirmed:  That spelling is too confusing and not satisfying.  I also sort of wanted to play up the more feminine, whimsical side of Claire, and the name “Elisabeth” is still pretty traditional and slightly heavy, even with the “s.”

I do like when middle names are family names and while no other family names were really sounding great with Claire, it occurred to me that Annelise is sort of a compilation of other names.  We have two Nancy’s in the family (my MIL and my aunt) and the name Nancy is actually a varient of Anne.  Obviously Lise and Lisa are both variants of Elizabeth.  Claire’s oldest cousin is named Elise.  And her closest-in-age cousin’s name (Lisi) is itself a variant of Annelise.  Most significantly to me, the name Annelise has an “e-l-i-s” in it.  So it sort of incorporates my maiden name, which is also Matthew’s middle name.  Matthew Ellis and Claire Annelise.

In case that’s not enough pain-staking detail, more on spelling:  The most traditional spelling is Anneliese (German) – Ann Frank’s real name.  Annelise (Danish) came on the scene next and eventually the Americanized “Annalise.”  In thinking about the spelling, my friend Susan pointed out that the “e” would tend to be a more delicate pronunciation that the “a.”  It’s such a subtle difference but she’s definitely right, and we wanted delicate – again, trying not to overpower “Claire.”  So “e” it was.  We then chose the “-ese” ending over the “-iese” ending because we want it pronounced “ees” not “eez.”  Hopefully it goes without saying that the “Anne” is pronounced as such (not “Ahn”).

And so there you have it.  Chapter 1 of my baby girl’s story.  Now we’re just waiting to meet her.  And I am so glad we found out it’s her.  While I’m sure the joys of meeting and raising her will, as they have been with Matthew, be beyond compare, I would not have wanted to miss out on this very special “advent season.”