Want a girl? Have more ice cream, suggests study
The words floating through the fog of the delivery room seemed impossible to process. So I begged the jolly Irish midwife who'd attended to me during labour to double check.
With a dramatic flourish, she hoisted the baby into the air, before declaring: "Yep, definitely a girl."
Spool forward 11 years and I can still remember my husband Martin's dazed expression as he took our daughter, Sophie, in his arms for the first time. Both of us were poleaxed with shock. After having three lovely sons – Sam, now 23, Max, 20, and Aaron, 17 – we'd done a lot more than hope that our fourth child would be a daughter; we'd tried every old wives' tale in the book. Yet we were still wildly unprepared for this precious pink milky bundle – manifest proof they may actually have worked.
It goes without saying that all any expectant parent wants is a healthy baby. But a truth less universally acknowledged is that when you "only" have children of one sex, you crave one of the opposite sex. As Coleen Rooney said, shortly before giving birth to her third son, Kit, on Sunday: "I think a girl would complete the family."
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I'd never planned to have four children, myself. Martin and I are both one of three, and after Aaron was born, I felt we'd made our contribution to humanity.
Certainly, there were moments when I'd daydream about having a daughter who could possibly offset the relentless masculinity of our household. But as I rebuilt my career and raised my little lads, such thoughts slowly subsided.
Then, when Aaron was around five, I suddenly found myself feeling terribly broody. My sons seemed to be busy and independent. I realised that I wanted to have a baby I could really enjoy. Just for me.
Admittedly, the idea of having a little girl was especially appealing. And when friends who knew I was broody began to whisper that they had used "natural" methods to swing the gender balance, I found their words impossible to ignore.
The key issue seemed to be timing, since sperm bearing an X chromosome have a longer lifespan than those with a Y, and swim more slowly, so to speak.
A Netherlands study of 32 couples who wanted a girl, found that 81 per cent who followed a "gender selection" plan were successful. Sinister though it sounds, it involved nothing more than having sex a few days before ovulation – meaning that by the time the egg was released, the male sperm were likely to be spent, while the stronger female sperm would still be loitering in the fallopian wings.
It also meant eating a diet low in potassium and sodium but high in calcium and magnesium, to make the uterus more "female-friendly". So, although I loathe anything milky, such as ice cream or creamy sauces, I found myself taking a medicated approach to my daily hot chocolate.
And on top of keeping track of my cycle, I invested $540 in a chart based on my blood group, which indicated when I would have the greatest chance of having a girl. When the blood group and ovulation dates coincided, my husband was a hunted man.
Of course, I can't categorically say that all my endeavours made any difference. Only the Almighty can answer that one. But I admit that while I remain deeply grateful to have been blessed with all my children, I'm especially thrilled by our new addition who now rules our world.
- The Telegraph, London