They have also sorted out the 'downstairs area', having by now plumped for either baby-girl bits or baby-boy bits. And this is why the stand-off has arisen – during the scan, my wife is determined to find out how downstairs has been furnished.
'Girl' or 'boy'. Just like that. No drama. No grand unveiling, ceremoniously fanfared by the screams and squelches of childbirth. Instead, my wife would rather it was blurted out by someone peering into a screen in the same way they might peer into a microwave oven and say: 'Oh, it's a flan.' I, you see, do not wish to find out the sex. Not yet, anyway.
As tiffs go, this one’s hardly Mills v McCartney. But we both know neither of us is backing down and there is zero hope of a compromise solution. Or is there? What if I were to vacate the scan room while my wife was made privy to our child’s privates? Sadly, this wouldn’t work: even if she could keep the sacred info classified for five months, as soon as we got to debating the gender-specific stuff – shortlisting boys' and girls' names, say – any slight enthusiasm differential either way on her part would be an instant giveaway. One careless slip of an unborn 'he' or 'she' into conversation, meanwhile, and it's also game over. And in any case, I wouldn't want the pair of them knowing something I didn't – it would feel like they were ganging up on me already. Especially if it's a girl.
We've been conducting a poll among our friends who are also currently pregnant (seven couples at last count, all due, like locusts, at around the same time). The men, it turns out, unanimously feel the same way I do, while all but one of the women have been keen to find out. What does this tell us? Not much, apart from that, when it comes to the birth of their child, men are big, soppy dollops of puddle who cling to sentimental notions such as 'big surprise' and 'big occasion' and big cigars tearfully handed out in hospital waiting areas. Women, on the other hand, are more practical; facing the disorienting realities of reproduction – discomfort, pain, your bellybutton going all weird – the logical approach is to cut down on as many uncertainties as you can, just so you can cope with the body-mangling enormity of it all.
I've tried logic. I've even tried invoking the Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics (and lads, if you were thinking of doing that, don't bother), but my wife isn't budging. It doesn't matter, though. I haven't told her this yet, but, with a Ben Kenobi-like dignity, I've already decided to surrender the stand-off. She's the one who has to heave this increasingly punchy bundle with her everywhere she goes. She wants to know whether to refer to it as 'son' or 'daughter' when she’s talking to it – which is only polite. And she’s the one who's going to have to let it do serious damage to her own 'downstairs area' in a few months' time. So, yes, we'll find out the sex of our child at the 21-week scan – just as long as the next one can be a surprise!