Several months ago I was confronted in a crowded elevator by a woman who pointed an accusing finger at my stomach, threw back her head, and announced dramatically: "A girl! I should know -- I've had three!"
Since I was then obviously very pregnant, I was aware that she hadn't taken total leave of her senses, and I know what she was talking about -- she was merely applying an old wives' tale to predict the sex of my unborn child.
Interested relatives and friends of pregnant women have, from time immemorial, tried to predict the sex of the unborn baby by relying on a variety of these unscientific indicators. Some people cling to these notions as dearly as modern-day doctors trust the results of amniocentesis.
As my pregnancy progressed, I managed to hear quite a few of these predictions from well-meaning friends as well as strangers, and I compiled a list of the ones I heard most frequently.
Position of the Baby: This is the theory my elevator acquaintance proposed. According to her, if a woman carries her baby high in the uterus (as was my case) and her stomach has a round appearance, the chances are excellent she is expecting a girl. Likewise, a boy is carried low and relatively more sideways.
Activity of the Baby: Proponents of this theory hold that if a baby is very active and kicks and moves around a lot, it is more likely to be a girl than a boy. According to one delivery-room nurse, the rationale behind this is that "Boys are lazier, even before they are born."
Stripe Theory: According to this unique old wives' tale, a woman sporting a stripe down her middle will have a boy, and the absence of one indicates a girl.
Heartbeat: This theory sounds as though it may have some basis in scientific fact. Although my obstetrician would not go so far as to say it is medically sound, a friend who is a nurse practitioner swears by it, saying it predicted accurately her two boys and one girl. According to this prediction, if a baby's heart registers 130 beats per minute or faster it is a girl, whereas under 130 indicates a boy.
The Drano Test: This is one of the more bizarre theories that I heard. It involves testing the prospective mother's first urine specimen in the morning by dropping in it a tablespoon of Drano. Spupposedly, if the urine turns brown it indicates a girl; a green color forecasts a boy.
Sweet Versus Sour: This tale is based on the belief that woman who can't get enough sweet foods will deliver a boy; if her cravings include sour foods she will have a girl.
Hairy Legs: As a friend was about to be wheeled into the delivery room, her obstetrician asked her if she had had to shave her legs more frequently during her pregnancy. When she responded "No," he said, "You'll probably have a boy."
Before going to the hospital, I decided to go over my checklist of old wives' tales. Maybe it would help me decide on what color clothes I could include in the layette besides white and yellow.
The results were not totally conclusive, but I did find myself buying a lot of pink nightgowns. In my case, the position of the baby was high (a girl), the baby was very active (girl), I had no stripe (girl), the heartbeat was 140 beats per minute (girl), the drano Test results were green (boy), I did crave pickles and salty foods more than sweets (girl), and I didn't have hairier legs during pregnancy than before (boy).
Result: Mary Elizabeth Wood, now 7 months old.