It’s been a couple weeks since we packed a bag for the day and took our first trip out of state since the pandemic to be present for the 20-week ultrasound. It felt so strange and exciting to have somewhere to be, and even Pippa came along, now that she is no longer used to being left at home alone for any period of time. After arriving in the town we used to call home, we picked up lunch from my old favorite restaurant and went to meet my mom and grandma for an outdoor, socially-distanced meal. It was the first time we had seen any family for months– it was the first time we had really gotten together with anyone outside of our household for months.
A short while later we met Becca outside the office. Now at the halfway point in the pregnancy, she was just starting to show a little bit. I was the only one allowed inside with her– both of us were masked and had our temperatures taken by the door while Kyle waited outside with Ross. Initially we were told we wouldn’t be allowed to FaceTime them, but they did let me call during the confirmation that we are having a…
Hearing that he was going to have a little sister must have made the whole situation feel more real to Ross because his reaction was to laugh and say, “Wait a second… we already have a kid– me!!” Although he’d had his heart set on naming Buttercup after Batman (on the condition that she looks like Bruce Wayne, which I agreed to at the time because, er… I am not expecting her to), Ross has decided that perhaps Wonder Woman would be a better fit.
Being there in-person for the ultrasound made things suddenly feel much more real for me as well. As I sat next to Becca and watched Buttercup on the screen, I felt some of the walls I’d built up to protect myself from heartbreak come crumbling down. This ultrasound was the growth and development scan, so we saw everything: her tiny stomach, her kidneys, her heart, even her brain. Seeing how much she has grown and changed from the tiny embryo carrying all of our hopes, and the gratitude I felt in being able to finally be there in person, was an overwhelming experience; the silent tears slid down into my mask with no way for me to wipe them away.
In all honesty, we had pretty much expected this news because, unlike when we waited to find out Ross’ gender five years ago, the embryos from our 2018 cycle had been biopsied and tested before being frozen. In a phone conversation with our nurse on the morning of May 24, 2018, we found out it was a girl– something I felt instinctively as soon as she broke the news that we were down to just one embryo from the remaining four. All I know about the other three I found out this March when our nurse forwarded our files to Becca as the clinic shut down: just one other embryo had a gender listed next to it– another girl, but one we will not hold in our arms in this life.
Knowing the gender so early did make it feel different. Instead of a vague picture of a potential baby, I daydreamed about a daughter, a little sister. As we went about our lives over the next two years, I saw things I wanted to buy her (but didn’t) and imagined how she might fit into our family– while still feeling the need to keep myself from getting too attached. Although Buttercup had received the highest possible grading from the embryologist, a positive result was certainly never a guarantee. Then, as the process went far beyond what we had prepared for, the thought of what “could be” became intensely painful. The if or maybe hanging over our family started to feel like too much to bear; I just needed to know if we’d be forced to grieve the loss of her or not. In the meantime, seeing other growing families and other little girls, was one more reminder in a cycle of endless days full of countless reminders. All this time she was real to me, but it was like knowing someone no one else could see and missing someone I couldn’t reach.
We did tell Becca the gender before the transfer, and she has been confidently using girl-pronouns with us all along, but we wanted to be absolutely sure before sharing with friends and family since there is always a slim chance for error. Until we had the confirmation, it was ours to keep, which was difficult at times! During many conversations I came so close to saying something, but now the secret we’ve held for more than two years is out.
During the pregnancy with Ross, Elle had already felt his movement around the start of the second trimester, and by the time we flew out for the gender scan at 17 weeks, he was strong enough that we could feel his small kicks through her belly. I will never forget running an errand with Elle after the appointment when she suddenly stopped still and quickly waved me over. We stood there in the middle of the aisle, both hardly breathing as we waited for the next little jab. Even now we still joke about how active he was through the pregnancy, and I tell Ross about how he danced in his Aunt Elle’s belly to the beat of her morning alarm and how he once conspired with her to give his uncle a good kick. On the other hand, Buttercup, unlike her brother (and I still can’t believe that I get to use that word to describe Ross), seems to be quieter — which, if it’s any indication of the future, I definitely won’t mind after the busy activity of Ross’ toddler years! Becca first felt kicking around 17 weeks, but even when we were there for the 20 week ultrasound last month, it was still too soft to be felt from the outside. However, in the weeks since, she’s been able to send us the tiniest bits of movement on video. Now that our state’s case numbers have come down significantly, we are hoping to get our families together and experience them too.
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Some of you reading this may realize that you know who Becca is. Please remember not to use her real name either on the blog or on social media if you comment.