To know or not to know?


By Diana Dionisio-Pieczynski

Photo: Frank Pinc/Chicago Parent

Diana Dionisio-Piecynski spent her pregnancy wanting to know: After having two sons, would her third child be a boy or a girl?

The envelope sits in my purse. It’s glowing slightly—at least in my imagination. It’s weird to think that the doctor knows and we do not. The five-month ultrasound brought tough decisions for us… to find out or not to find out? I move it to a safer location, my baby diary. I guess you could call it that. This being the third child, the only time I write in it is while waiting at the OB’s office for my monthly visits. But it will be safe there.

Rich doesn’t want to know. He doesn’t want either of us to know. Well, I understand that. We’ve never found out before. I have very strong feelings about “not finding out.” Don’t want to put expectations on the little one before he or she makes his or her grand appearance. And frankly, I feel as if I’m opening up a Christmas present early—it’s no fair cheating. Maybe I’ll wait to open it up until the very end.

But then I think back to the births of my two boys. Both C-sections. My husband told me the news both times, and both times I’d been surprised. Really surprised. Why? I don’t know. All I know is that I expected “Girl!” to come out of his mouth and it didn’t. And while it was exciting both times, it was always a little bit of a skip right when he’d say it… like my brain trying to catch up with the information.

I’m from a family of girls—three to be exact. I was the baby and a surprise. So this last baby of ours, well… I’ve been eyeing the tulle Halloween costumes, skipping to future princess costumes, dance recitals and hair decorating sessions. I can’t help it. It’s how I grew up. Then I jump into the far-flung future: Will my boys call me, as they get older, as I call my own mom? Will they shop with me? Go out to lunch with me? Want me there when their progeny come into the world? It’s an unknown. It’s perplexing. It’s saddening. And if No. 3 is a boy, well, there goes that delicate grasp of certainty that I will be linked forever with one from me of my own kind.

Sound melodramatic? I don’t mean it to be. It’s not like I’m looking for a best friend… more someone to relate to. I imagine dads with three girls feeling the same way. They love their girls to death, but gee, hey Susie, want to throw the football around?

Then, they surprise you. My oldest, Luke, is artistic and extroverted, like his mom. He’s precocious, sometimes naughty and aggressive, but that spark is unique to him. Sometimes he says and does things that mystify me. “He’s a boy,” my husband will say. “OK,” I agree. I’m not used to boy behavior; the frenzied energy.

Lately my almost-3-year-old Ben is now daddy’s boy. “Where’s Daddy?” “Daddy read to me.” “I sit by Daddy.” “Uppy Daddy!” Mommy is suddenly SO second-class citizen. My burgeoning belly keeps me from the rough play we used to enjoy. The baby-on-hip closeness we used to share. “This is good, honey,” my husband soothes. “With the baby coming, this is how it should be.” OK, I think, but already I miss my baby Bennie, who is now, I am quickly discovering, also becoming his own little man. He’s so different from his big brother in so many ways, and so adorable and unique in his own right.

It’s been a few days. I check the envelope. It’s still there, unopened. My husband knows that I have to find out. I have to get used to the concept of our finished family picture, no matter how it turns out. He doesn’t want to know, and I won’t tell him. “I’ll know,” he says. “I’ll find you crying in the bathroom.” “I won’t cry. I’m OK with it either way,” I say, not sure how I’ll really react. I take his hand and look into his eyes, “Honey, I promise I won’t tell you when I open it or even if I open it. And no one else will know if I do.”

There is a guilt associated with yearning for a girl. We sort of half tried for a girl, if such a thing can be done. Different timing, positions, chatting up girlfriends with girls. I even felt bad about the attempt. Shouldn’t this be God’s will? I’m blessed just to have two happy and healthy boys. So many I know have had the hardest time just conceiving their one baby. Or other girlfriends have reached the point in their lives where the whole marriage-baby-family thing just didn’t happen. Who am I to dare attempt such manipulation of the sexes? I, who had so many problems with my first, am lucky to have just gotten pregnant!

I always say, “God is trying to force me to deal with my issues with men.” That is how I feel. I have, in my two boys, the opportunity to mold the men of the future—caring, sensitive, strong, willing to share the load. And I’m lucky enough to have a partner who is a great role model, which certainly helps.

I’m almost ready to open it. Yet every time I’m alone and consider it, I can’t bring myself to do it.

I consult a friend at work who has a trio of boys; the youngest is 8. She is immensely reassuring. She, too, did the envelope thing. Went into the bathroom and opened it. She cried. She mourned. She moved on. And now she can’t imagine her family any different.

“But do they still snuggle with you? Do you have to go on camping vacations?” I query.

“Listen,” she reassures, “they come to Mom for the lovin’ and to Dad for different things. They are so much fun. And when I see the preteen girls at my son’s school with their backbiting and pettiness, I think ‘Thank God I don’t have to deal with THAT.’” Hmmm… I hadn’t thought of that.

The envelope beckons. I am comfortable with this decision to find out. If it is a girl, it will be a whole new experience. If it is a boy, he will be close to his brothers growing up, just as I was with my sisters. He will be named the boy name that I’ve always wanted… Alex. Either way, my last will be the baby of the family… just as I was. I will be able to relate. I will love and cherish No. 3. I am ready.

Riiip goes the envelope…. I catch my breath!

P.S.: Alex Leo Pieczynski was born on Feb. 17 at 8:29 a.m., weighing in at a whopping 9 pounds, 7 ounces and 22 inches long. He was such a “big” surprise that it took three attempts to pull him out (and believe me, when you’re having a C-section, you’d rather not be feeling that pushing-tugging more than once). It was during the second attempt at extraction that I turned to my husband with the long-awaited news.

I had practiced over and over the different creative ways in which to tell him, but when the real moment came, I was so overwhelmed, I was able to choke out, between tears of joy, “Rich, meet Alex… your son.” A chorus of cries joined with Alex’s lusty cry of birth.

Was my husband surprised? You bet. He thought for sure we were having a girl. Also, he was never sure whether I had opened the envelope. So at the actual moment the shock was plain on his face. “Oh, it’s not your girl,” he said. “No, it’s my Alex, and we’ve been spending a long time getting to know one another.” I wouldn’t have done it any other way.


Diana Dionisio-Pieczynski, on leave from her job at WGN-TV, is the mother of three boys and lives in LaGrange.


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