Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In which the tirade on the subject of gender comes frothing forth

So there's this baby growing inside me. Have you heard? Would you like to tell me if you think I should have a boy or a girl? Apparently everybody would like to tell me. Why don't you join in the fun?

See, here's the thing: that this baby already is either a boy or a girl -- that's a done deal. So if you tell me I should have a boy, and she is a girl, have I now done something wrong? Done it badly? What other implication should I find in your words? You tell me you think I should have a girl. Was there a Project Runway-style catwalk on the horizon of my ovary? Were you there telling this sperm, "you're in?" and that sperm, "auf wiedersehen?"

You know the catchphrase: One day you're in, the next day you're another societally-unwelcome vagina.

If, apparently, gender selection was on the table, why were you entitled to a vote? Why wasn't I?

Even better than the shoulds are the hopes. You hope I have a boy? You hope I have a girl? Why would you hope that? Why would you hope anything other than for us to have a healthy baby, and for our own hopes to be realized?

Let's break it down.


By far, the most common comment is that I should have a boy. I guess two girls is enough. Nobody needs more than two girls, apparently.

The most common reason given is that my "husband must really want a boy," or my "husband will be so much happier if you have a boy," or my "husband deserves to have another man in the family." This insults my husband, for it presupposes that you know his desires better than he. For The Record: M has said repeatedly that he does not have a gender preference. Do you need me to insist to you that I believe him? Even more deplorably, this insults our beautiful daughters. Are they somehow inadequate? I certainly don't believe so, and neither does my lovely husband. And incidentally, let this serve as a warning to any person who would revere a boy-child above and beyond our precious girls that favoritism will not be tolerated.

"But don't you want to have at least one of each?" Am I sweater shopping? This is such a lovely cable knit. I'll take it in both the pullover and the cardigan. Thanks. Oh, look. Red apples and green apples are the same price this week. I'll put them both in my grocery cart. I'm not discounting the notion that parenting the different genders might call for some different kinds of parenting. But what I believe in far more strongly than that is that parenting different children requires different parenting techniques. Every kid is different. What cajoles E will induce a flailing tantrum in L. I don't need to try my hand at parenting a boy, I just need to try my hand at parenting a third kid.

"But the family name..." If the first comment feels the most insulting, and the second one the most ludicrous, this one feels the most exasperating. Having a son is no guarantee of maintaining the family line. He could (God forbid) not live to adulthood. He could decide to take his wife's name. He could decide to hyphenate with his partner's name. He could decide to move to an ashram and legally change his name to Fluffy Cloud Moonsilver. I'll love him as Fluffy Cloud, and it's certainly not my fault that M's family didn't produce any procreating paternal cousins. And conversely, I'd like to point out, one or more of our daughters might decide to retain her name of origin, and might even decide to bestow it on children of her own one day. Just as a son doesn't guarantee the continuation of a name, a daughter doesn't guarantee the extinguishment of a name, either.

The comments in favor of girl have been so rare. Most girl-oriented comments are not exactly enthusiastic per se so much as pragmatic, or even filled with cringing and hand-wringing. "Three girls: that would be so cute!" is no more common than "Three girls: that's going to be an ugly house when they're all teenagers!" Um, thanks? The best anyone has to say is "Three girls! Well, you sure wouldn't need to buy anything!" Well, that is true. You have heard about the illegal price-fixing, yes? It's been confirmed: the Zero Population Growth movement is behind the high cost of those blue onesies.

What we want, and all that we want, and what we really, really, really WANT, is a healthy baby.

But also, if it wouldn't be too much to ask, it would be so pleasant if all the thoughtless comments and unwarranted opinions stayed out of my earshot, and out of my womb. Pin It


Inna said...

This is exactly why when I'm pregnant I want to be surprised. That way I can always answer any silly question or remark with, I'm waiting to be surprised.

Here is to the beautiful healthy baby in your womb! *raises glass metaphorically*

Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

I'll raise another glass to a healthy baby!

I'm also reducing this post to shrink-to-fit on a notecard, laminating it, and handing it out to curious questioners if/when we have number 3. I get exhausted already with the, "So, when are you gonna give Kyle a boy?" idiocy that it makes me truly terrified to have another child. Also? It's extremely offensive to my daughters.

Oh yeah, I could go off too, mama.

Angela J Reeves said...

Great tirade!

My dad had two daughters, so he taught us how to work with power tools, change a tire, drive a tractor -- not because he didn't have boys, but because we are his children, and he wanted us to know how to do handy things. It never occurred to either of us that Dad was unhappy not having a son.

I grew up with a stepsis and stepbro very close in age to me, so we had a close-in-age 3-pack. We continuously rotated one-being-left-out combinations, so all three of us remember regular feelings of triumphant superiority and utter rejection. We're all friends now - it worked itself out.

But now, watching my two close-in-age nieces, I realize they do the same to each other: ignore, taunt, insult, then encourage, adore, support. Even though there are two, they still manage to make each other feel left out sometimes. Ha. Who'd have thunk it?

So my biggest concern as a parent of three would be: On that inevitable day when your siblings are being poopyheads and leaving you out, how can I convince you that being one of three is no worse than being one of two?

Thankfully, it's a tiny concern. And if you don't feel left out at home, one day you'll feel left out at school or church, so you'll have to go through it anyway.

Sorry to ramble, this just got me thinking about the dynamic of three, and all my own weird youngest-middle-oldest issues because of how my family morphed through my childhood. I clearly need to be blogging more... I'm writing novels in other people's comments...

Oops, back to YOU: Prayers your way for a healthy little groundhog. I know M would be blessed to have another healthy baby girl. Many of the happiest parents I know are gender-outnumbered at home.

I'm sorry this frustrated you. I'm glad you can blow off the steam of it online!

Curt and Sarah said...

As the Mama to three incredibly loved little girls and the receiver of many similar comments....thank you for posting.

cndymkr / jean said...

I liked to think that most people were trying to be nice when they made comments such as these. I think the only one that bothered me was the whole "must produce a male to carry on the family name". Of course, anything coming out of my MIL mouth was generally annoying. Hang in there.

Nonnash said...

If the new baby has your heart and soul, and the heart and soul of your E & L, there will be perfection regardless of genitalia.

Tres Hijos said...

For the record, all these insulting remarks are made to all-boy families, too. Just as people assume your husband must want a boy, so did many people assume I must have wanted a girl. And there are plenty of disparaging remarks made about all-boy households: "Three boys -- you're going to have a loud, smelly house!" was my personal fave.

You can at least take comfort in the fact that by the time you're on your third pregnancy, people tend to keep their labor and delivery advice to themselves. I loved it when I could just tell that someone was ready to lay it all on me -- everything about pregnancy, delivery, breastfeeding, sleep, etc., and I would say, "This will be my third baby." That shut them right up!

a li'l bit squishy said...

I hated this debate too so when someone asked me if I wanted a boy or a girl, I always answered "yes!". Here's to a healthy baby!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting! As a mama to three wonderful boys (and we liked to wait until the birth to discover the gender), I received and still receive similar comments all. the. time. I usually just muttered a feeble, "Oh ... we don't have a preference," or "We would like to have another, but it doesn't matter to us if it is a boy or girl."

Hippie Housewife said...

Oh my yes. This was perfect in every way.