I have always hated hospitals.
As a child, a pending visit to the hospital conjured up images of an overly eager nurse wielding a syringe prepared for my buttocks – why do they push the plunger so you see the drug squirt? Scarier than the prick of the needle breaking my skin was the thought of paralysis my mother assured me would happen if I stiffened my buttocks too hard and the needle broke.
These days the thought of all the questions the doctor would ask was enough to make me put off my hospital visits until they became absolutely necessary.
Today’s visit was absolutely necessary.
After her card was pulled up, Cynthia had her vitals taken before joining me on one of the cold metal benches to wait to see a doctor. When her name was called, it took me a second to realise it was her because her maiden name was used – she was registered at this hospital on her company’s HMO and she hadn’t formally changed her name.
We went in to see the doctor who asked her a few routine questions before assuring us that she was progressing well, and then sent us to see the radiologist. He was a young bespectacled man with a pleasant manner. I took an immediate liking to him. He talked as he worked, explaining what he was doing.
“That’s your baby’s head,” he pointed to a part of the mostly grey image on the monitor.
He moved the device he held on Cynthia’s abdomen and the image seemed to dissolve and reform. This time I could see the baby in profile.
“Big head,” I chuckled.
Cynthia looked from the image to me and back to the image again. “I wonder where he got it from,” She said.
“She,” I corrected her.
“Would you like to know your baby’s sex?” The radiologist asked.
We looked at each other, Cynthia and I, and then I said “yes, please.”
He moved his hand and the image changed again, “You’re having a boy,” he announced beaming at me. You have beaten her.”
Cynthia gave a whoop.
“No,” I said, “She has beaten me. But is there a chance that you can be wrong and it’s a girl?” I asked.
”These are his hands,” he pointed them out, “and see here, his feet are crossed. See here?” He pointed zoomed in on what looked like more white grains on the monitor, “that’s his scrotum. I try not to discuss gender with parents until the foetus is older, but I can assure you 85% that you have a son. Your next scan will be more conclusive.”
“I’ll wait till then,” I said.
“He’s happy o,” he told Cynthia. “Men are all the same, they will say they want a daughter even though they really want a son. It is to help cushion whatever disappointment they may feel if it eventually turns out to be a girl.”
“Not this man,” Cynthia said. She took my hand and said, ‘babe, don’t worry I’ll give you a girl next time.”
“Babe,” Cynthia said on the drive home, “When last did you speak with Maxine?”
“It’s been a few weeks at least, why?
“I want her to hook me up with someone she knows who works at a newspaper, I want to do my change of name.”
I was quiet for a bit. One of the things we didn’t talk about before getting married – or in the eleven months since – was whether she would take my surname or not.
“Oh, you’ve decided to change your name?”
“Yea,” she replied. “I’ve wanted to do it for some time, but you know me and procrastination.”
“Yea, I know,” I said. “Anyway, let me know how that goes.”
“You don’t seem so gingered,” she observed, “everything okay?”
“You know, my great-grandfather had five sons,” I said, “this was just around the time the missionaries came. He sent them to the mission school where they took on Christian names as their first names and their traditional names became their surnames, and their father did not die. Okay, he died but from old age, not because his kids didn’t take his name.” I chuckled. “I believe your name, and maybe your surname is your identity but it’s not the entirety of who you are; of what you are. If the kids grow up and decide to be identified by a different name, will they stop being our kids? That said, take my phone and call Max before you change your mind.” I winked at her.
Just then a text message came in. I read and said “Oh well.”
Cynthia took the phone from me, read the message and sighed.
It was from Rosemary.
Hello Sir, I got the job sir. Thank you very much sir.