As you may know, I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks in December 2017. In March, we got pregnant again, and now, in August of 2018, we have made it to the halfway point of a new pregnancy, and the ultrasound technician told us we are having a boy. I asked her how confident she was because I didn’t have any strong feelings, but girls run in our families. We both have 4 sisters and no brothers, and our first kid is a daughter. So I just assumed- it’s most likely a girl.
When I was pregnant with Zadie, here’s how we announced it:
I have been thinking so much about my implicit bias around boys and girls because of being pregnant. I’m a cisgender female who was assigned the sex of female at birth. So, I have some privilege because I’m in the dominant group when it comes to gender. But I have been noticing just how early assumptions and labels are put onto human lives- even before they leave the womb.
At our ultrasound, I went in believing I wanted to learn the sex of the baby, as in what biological features and genitalia the baby is growing. The technician asked if we wanted to learn the gender. It just gets me thinking because I’m learning more and more that gender is a spectrum, even though I grew up thinking that was not true. I still feel out of my element even engaging in this conversation, but it keeps popping up in my mind when I’m tempted to say something like “I won’t even know what to do with a boy” or “I have been especially tired this pregnancy.” Maybe both are true statements. But maybe they both also contain biases about the wildness and aggressiveness about boys that I subconsciously believe.
The ultrasound technician asked our now 3.5 year old, Zadie, if she liked mud and cars and trucks. Zadie didn’t really say anything, but the technician told her she will have to start liking them because she is getting a brother. I didn’t mention anything right there, but it got me wondering about how many parameters are put on my child’s life before they even get a chance to explore it themselves.
I asked Zadie if I could record a video of her sharing the news of her brother so I could send it to family. She did not disappoint, and she reminded me that she is always listening, wants to know the truth, and facts don’t have to be awkward:
Zadie has dinosaur pajamas, likes all colors, plays doctor, loves to help her dad with house projects and go to the “orange” store (Home Depot). She also adores pink, asks why I don’t like princesses as much as she does, and pretends her skorts are tutus because I haven’t bought her one. She thinks gymnastics is for girls, even though there were several boys in her class. She thinks all boys poop their pants, but she does have some evidence there because at her school, I think all of the boys do in fact wear pull ups or diapers. I am fine with her having shorter hair or not styling her hair or mismatching her clothes. I love that she loves to help, but I also worry that she is being socialized into this role.
Then, I think about having a son. If he wants to wear dinosaur pajamas, like all colors, play doctor, and help his dad with house projects, that’s fine with me. But what if he adores pink? What if he likes princesses? What if he wants to play dress up and wear a tutu or do gymnastics? I guess I am trying to figure out why some of those things still make me uncomfortable and ask questions like “Who decided that these certain activities and interests are for boys and this other list is for girls?” And even if I am fine with my son liking all those things, why do I feel like others will judge him?
Ben is such an amazing dad, and I am actually thrilled that he will get to father a son. Ben is much more naturally compassionate, sensitive, and kind than I am- all qualities that society probably deems more typically feminine. I like to think of myself as bold, ambitious, persuasive, and a leader. But Ben is also a leader, in a much gentler way, and there’s a lot of beauty in that. I think both our kids will have strong examples of healthy women and men in their lives, which makes me proud.
This baby will be born in 2018, and we have come so far in women’s rights and gender equality, but we’re still not there yet. And we still assign colors and personality traits and forecasts of what futures will be before our babies are even in our arms.
I don’t want to be the kind of person who snaps at others for comments that rub me the wrong way, but I do want to change the comments I say. I’m working already on asking kids what they like to read instead of commenting on their outfits. I’m working on using the same adjectives for girls and boys (cute, smart, beautiful, kind, loving, helpful, working hard). I’m telling little kids (and adults) it’s okay to cry and to ask them about what’s hurting instead of being scared of tears and vulnerability. I hope one day all adults can care for kids in a more universal way, so there are not pre-determined ideas of who kids will become.
In all honesty, I am pretty excited to have a son. I love the idea of getting to influence a little baby boy- nurture him, love him, teach him, and watch him grow to be someone who loves and respects others, acknowledges the good things he’s got going for him, and loves deeply and freely because he’s been given space to feel.
Will there be bumps and enormous learning curves along the way? Absolutely. But I’m looking forward to all that this baby boy is going to teach me and grow my heart too.
I feel really blessed to be growing to a family of four with a best friend for a spouse, a joyful goofball for a daughter, and a squishy son to love no matter who he reveals himself to be.
For those of you still desiring a baby to hold and call your own, I haven’t forgotten you, and I’m sorry if my thinking and celebrating triggers your heartache. Thanks for loving on kids and for being caring adults in their lives.
And for those of you with kids, please know that I am not writing to scold or question your parenting choices. I’m just doing what I know how to do- share my opinions and reflect through writing.