All the women at Mike’s office want it to be a girl.
Our landlady wants it to be a girl.
Mike’s mother, after having two boys of her own, wants it to be a girl.
My sister wants it to be a girl.
The woman who sells us our favorite nutella crepes off the street stall wants it to be a girl.
Mike and I mostly wanted to hear that Mango McWolfe (the baby’s name of the week) looked healthy. But apart from that, I wanted it to be a girl. Mike initially wanted it to be a boy, but yesterday he told me that in recent months he’d begun to change his mind and decided that he, too, wanted a girl.
So I had two consults about two babies yesterday.
In the morning I chatted to an editor about the draft of my next book – the book I have been stalling on going back to for the last four months. I finally decided that what was needed was an impartial opinion from a trained professional as to its strengths and weaknesses and any potentially fatal flaws. This, I figured, might help me get some focus back and renew my willpower to push through to the next (and hopefully final) draft.
Her diagnosis? Thankfully it was, “healthy, sound, beautiful raw material that needs a bit more thought and work in parts before being ready to face the world.” Another couple of months (if I get my act in gear) should see the job done.
In the afternoon Mike and I flew to Thailand for the second consult of the day. I’m about 19 weeks pregnant now, and general consensus is that it’s a good idea to get an impartial opinion from a trained professional as to the baby’s strengths and weaknesses and any potentially fatal flaws right around this time.
So off to the hospital in Chiang Mai we went, stopping at a coffee shop along the way to dose the little Mango with caffeine so that it would dance around for the ultrasound and we’d have a higher likelihood of finding out whether it was a boy mango or a girl mango. (This was my sister’s idea, by the way. If any of you want to take it up with her, write to me and I’ll pass along her email address.)
The doctor’s diagnosis? Thankfully it was, “unremarkable” – which (contrary to what you want an editor to say when discussing your writing) is exactly what you want to hear when you’re lying on a hospital bed staring at your unborn child sucking its thumb in your womb. The doctor reassured us that everything seems to check out healthy, sound and… male.
Yes, it’s a boy. A boy that needs a couple more months before he’s ready to face the world.
If I had everything in life the way exactly the way I wanted it, this book would have been done two years ago and the baby would be a girl. (Also the temperature of anywhere I was living would be permanently set at 22 degrees Celsius and ice cream and fried spring rolls would live right down there alongside vegetables on the healthy end of the food pyramid.)
However pretty much every acquaintance who’s had a child, and my recent studies in positive psychology assure me that, at least with regards to the baby’s gender, any disappointment is likely to be temporary.
It seems that there are two kinds of happiness in life. One kind is the happiness of getting what you want (researchers call this natural happiness), and a second kind is the happiness that we manufacture when we don’t get exactly what we want (also known as synthetic happiness).
In situations when you have no choice in the matter (such as, just to pick a hypothetical example, you find out your baby is a little boy when you were sort of hoping for a little girl), just give it a bit of time and your psychological immune system will generally kick in and synthesize happiness. And here’s the real kicker… research shows that synthetic happiness is every bit as real and enduring as natural happiness. Synthetic happiness can literally help change our preferences so that we want what we ended up with.
Mike, who often processes with the speed of a supercomputer, is probably already there. Forty eight hours later, however, I am still staring into the distance and repeating “it’s a boy, it’s a boy,” to myself multiple times a day – trying to hang onto this realization and extract some sense of what it might mean, and failing on both accounts. Knowing me, though, I’d probably be doing exactly the same thing if we’d found out Mango McWolfe were a girl.
Luckily, Mike and I are spending this week in Southern Thailand on the islands of Koh Tao and Koh Samui, so I can hang out in an infinity pool and stare out to sea through palm fronds and frangipani flowers while I talk to myself about little boys. And sitting here this afternoon in our room, looking out at the ocean past the end of our canopied bed and feeling little baby boy Mango tumbling inside me, synthesizing happiness doesn’t seem all that challenging.
P.S. If you’d like to learn more about synthetic happiness, start by watching this TED talk by Daniel Gilbert.
P.P.S. Thank you for all the comments and stories left on my last blog: life lessons in pregnancy and breastfeeding from cows. They’ve made me laugh, and think. Keep sharing your stories!