Misadventures of an introverted veterinarian: Gender reveal party

Misadventures of an introverted veterinarian: Gender reveal party

My friend put me in charge of an important part of a big party with 150 people—an extrovert’s dream, an introvert’s nightmare. Find out how my busy practice-owning self got out of it (sort of).
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May 31, 2017

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I’m not sure this is true of all introverts, but I don’t do well with spontaneous phone conversations. I am so much better at written communication. I’m finally comfortable having phone conversations with clients, because for the most part, I know why they’re calling and can anticipate what they’re going to ask. I have a basic plan of the conversation in my head and answers at the tip of my tongue.

This isn’t true with personal calls. I usually have no idea why the other person is calling and have to come up with answers on the spot. Sometimes I don’t know what to say and just end up agreeing to whatever they ask of me. That’s why, unless it’s family or a very close friend, I prefer to text.

A few months ago, I had a simple question for a friend. She wasn’t a very close friend so I sent her a text. However, instead of texting me back, she called me. I knew why she was calling so I picked up. She answered my question and then the conversation veered in another direction. She had exciting news to tell me. Her daughter was pregnant! And her daughter was going to have a gender reveal party with 150 of her closest friends and relatives! And I was invited! Oh, and they needed someone who could keep the gender a secret to buy the gender reveal balloon to bring to the party. She thought I would be perfect for that and would I please do it?

"The entire conversation took me by surprise. I was caught off guard and didn’t know what to say. I think I mumbled, 'I suppose I could maybe do it if you can’t find anyone else.'"

The entire conversation took me by surprise. I was caught off guard and didn’t know what to say. I think I mumbled, “I suppose I could maybe do it if you can’t find anyone else.”

Two weeks later, I came home after a particularly exhausting day that ended in an after-hours emergency surgery to find an envelope marked “TOP SECRET” at to my house. Inside was an ultrasound picture revealing the gender of the baby. I received instructions to order a specific balloon from an Etsy store. The balloon was a large black balloon that when popped, would spill pink or blue confetti to reveal the baby’s gender.

The day I received the instructions was eight days from the party. The Etsy seller was halfway across the country, so the timeline was tight. I contacted the seller, who assured me the balloon would arrive in time, and then paid way more than anyone should pay for a balloon. The day before the party, I still hadn’t received it.

"They had no idea why the balloon was in Montana or whether it would arrive in time for the party. I had to come up with a Plan B."

I tracked the shipment and found out the balloon was stuck somewhere in Montana. Knowing the entire party depended on this balloon, I took my tracking information to the post office. Unfortunately, they weren’t much help. They had no idea why the balloon was in Montana or whether it would arrive in time for the party.

I had to come up with a Plan B.

I called my friend, told her the situation and suggested that I just buy an “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy” balloon and stuff it into a box to be opened for the big reveal. She thought that was OK, but since the whole party hinged on it, they wanted a balloon bouquet. That sounded like a lot of work so I held out hope the balloon would arrive on time.

Mail on Saturday usually arrived by 11am and the party was at 2pm. There was still time! I waited impatiently for the mail to arrive and, for the first time ever, the mail didn’t show up at 11. My husband even drove up and down the streets looking for the mail carrier. Finally, at 1pm, I gave up, drove to the local party store with a large box and asked the teenager behind the desk to make me a balloon bouquet that would fit in the box. He made me a beautiful bouquet and I even found a cute little stuffed animal to act as a weight for the balloons. The only problem—the box wasn’t big enough. And even though the local party store doubled as the U-Haul rental place, there wasn’t a box large enough for the balloon bouquet in the entire place.

In a panic, I drove across town to the veterinary clinic and searched for a bigger box. Buried in the basement was a large equipment box with no top. I grabbed it and rushed back to the store. The party was now in 20 minutes. What a relief—the balloon bouquet fit in the box! My next stop was Walmart where I found some poster board to use as a lid and wrapping paper for the box.

As I quickly tried to wrap the box and make it look nice, I received a text from one of my technicians. Her dog had a small laceration on her leg. Could she come to the clinic to clean it and possibly staple it? I was annoyed and thought, “I don’t have time for this!” I told her she could go to the clinic but I wasn’t available to help, so she’d have to find someone else. She assured me that it wouldn’t require surgery and that her mom could help hold the dog while she treated the wound.

"As I walked in the door, I realized that this is an introvert’s worst nightmare."

Finally, I arrived at the party with the gender reveal balloon box in hand. I was 30 minutes late and everyone was anxiously awaiting my arrival. As I walked in the door, I realized that I'd entered an introvert’s worst nightmare.

Other than the mom-to-be and her mother, I didn’t know a soul. But they all knew who I was—I was the one person in the entire place who knew the gender of the baby. They all stared at me and prompted me to reveal my secret. “Are you wearing anything that may be a hint?” “Is it killing you to not be able to tell anyone?” I ducked over to the food table and pretended to be very interested in the spread, even though I wasn’t hungry at all.

Finally, it was the moment of the big reveal. Everyone stood up and crowded around the young couple to watch them open their box. As they lifted my make-shift lid, a pink balloon floated out, followed by a Mylar “It’s a girl!” balloon and another pink balloon. There were cheers, hugs and tears. Bets were settled. The room was filled with joy.

"All I could think about was how I didn’t want to be there. If I was an extrovert, I probably would have loved the party. What a story to tell!"

All I could think about was how I didn’t want to be there. If I was an extrovert, I probably would have loved the party. What a story to tell! I was the only one who knew the secret. I could have told everyone all I went through to keep the secret, how the original balloon was lost somewhere between Montana and Minnesota, and about the crazy day I'd had trying to make the perfect gender reveal box. I realized that the father of the baby was my neighbor. His parents live down the street from me and have for the past eight years. I see the family when I run past their home in the morning or when my children and I walk to the park. We always wave hello but never more. I don’t even know their names. I could have used this opportunity to introduce myself. Instead, I stared at my watch wondering how long I had to stay. When I realized it was at least two hours before the party would be over, I tried to think of an out.

Then I remembered: the text that had annoyed me just 45 minutes earlier was now my escape plan. The technician’s dog was a Great Dane. Surely she needed my help! She couldn’t trust her mom to hold the dog while she cleaned a wound and stapled it. What if it was worse than she thought? What if it needed surgery (and me)? I’d need to see the dog to prescribe the correct antibiotic.

I dug out my phone and sent a text, “I’m coming to help you with Daisy’s injury.” My perfectly capable technician assured me she was fine and didn’t need my help. She wrote back that she knew I was at a party and that her mom would help.

I replied, “No, you really need my help. A veterinarian really should assess the injury!” I told her I would meet her there in 20 minutes and I was out the door. I could have told my friend I was leaving, but that would involve interrupting her conversation with people I don’t know. A simple text would do: “Sorry, have to run. There’s an emergency with one of my technician’s dogs.”

"My help really wasn’t needed—my technician could have done it on her own. But no one needs to know that."

Not only did I have a way out of the party, but I got to look like a hero! The wound was minor and the dog was very well behaved. We clipped and cleaned the wound, and closed it with two staples. My help really wasn’t needed—my technician could have done it on her own. But no one needs to know that. To my friend, I’m a dedicated veterinary professional willing to drop everything and help a dog in need. However, in my mind, the dog was the hero. Thanks to her minor injury, I was relaxing at home while the party continued on for at least another hour. This time the dog saved me!

Jennifer Shepherd, DVM, owns Cloquet Animal Hospital in Cloquet, Minnesota. She knew she wanted to be a veterinarian when she was 5 years old after reading a book from the library called A Day in the Life of an Animal Doctor.