I Cared What My Baby’s Sex Was

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Ain’t she cute, though?

 

As published in Romper

“All that matters is that my baby is healthy.” These were the words I said when I was pregnant for a second time because they felt like the right thing to say and because it seemed like the things everyone who was expecting a baby said. Except, for me, those words were a complete and total lie. In fact, I found out just how much of a lie my “all that matter is that my baby is healthy” comment was when I cried during my own gender reveal ultrasound with joy and disbelief after finding out I was expecting a girl. Having a healthy baby was by far my number one priority, but my baby’s sex mattered to me. Truthfully, I cared whether I had a boy or a girl. And since I’d already had my boy, now I wanted a girl.

Admitting this feels un-politically correct for a number of reasons. Chief among them is the fact that so many people try for years to get pregnant and sometimes never succeed. So the fact that I’d gotten pregnant relatively easily both times, and that I was fortunate to have normal pregnancies, made admitting that my baby’s sex mattered to me that much more difficult.

Another reason admitting I cared about my baby’s sex felt wrong is that a baby’s sex doesn’t necessarily determine his or her gender. Sex, of course, refers to the biological differences between males and females, while gender is often defined as a person’s role in society or by the way they self-identify. I could end up with a boy who identified as a girl, or vice versa. And in my internet baby and pregnancy communities, hardly anyone dared to show a preference for a boy or girl baby. I watched with morbid fascination, like observing a snake swallow a house whole, when the occasional woman dared to confess that she really hoped she was having a boy or girl.

The angry replies would pour in:

“You’re lucky to have a baby at all. It took me three years to get pregnant.”

“You get what you’re meant to get.”

“What matters is that you have a healthy baby.”

I’ve always been close to my mom. We’d gossip and share confessions. So I wanted a little girl to share that special bond with.The responses were even more volatile if someone with multiple children or who already had children of both sexes expressed a sex preference. Someone said, “You’re so blessed to have children already. You have one of each. Why would you care whether your next baby is a boy or a girl?” But even so, I wanted to have a girl. I couldn’t help myself. My truth was hard to admit even to myself, especially given the response such feelings were met with by many other mothers to be. I felt guilty having a preference, and ashamed of these feelings.

When I was pregnant with my son the first time around, I really didn’t have much of a preference for whether I was having a boy or a girl. I knew I wanted to have two children, so I figured I’d think about the baby’s sex the second time around. I was elated to learn I was expecting a boy. I happily folded all of the adorable baseball and animal onesies I received at my showers. I hand-painted jungle decor for my son’s bedroom. I was stoked.

And I love being mom to a little boy. Although I didn’t expect or raise my son to have stereotypically “boy” interests or act like a stereotypical boy, he loved superheroes and cars. He liked to talk and read and play more than he liked to cuddle. My son was, and is, super fun, funny, thoughtful, and ridiculously smart.

My son was my everything, but he wasn’t my mini me. I got pregnant with my second and last child when my son was 3. And before I found out I was pregnant, my husband and I tried to have a girl. I used ovulation detector strips to try to time our sex for just before my ovulation. Admittedly, my desire to have a girl was entirely selfish. I’ve always been close to my mom. We’d gossip and share confessions. So I wanted a little girl to share that special bond with. I wanted long hair to play with, and someone to dress in gaudy accessories. I wanted someone my experiences would resonate with. Someone I could offer comfort and encouragement to, because I’d “been there, done that.”

My son was my everything, but he wasn’t my mini me. Even as a little boy, his life experience was already very different than mine. He and my husband share a special bond, and just seem to “get” each other. I wanted the chance at that kind of connection. And even though I wanted a girl, I doubted I’d ever have one. In fact, the first few months of my pregnancy, I was absolutely convinced I was having another boy. I just felt like a boy mom. And maybe I was protecting myself from disappointment by not getting my hopes up for a girl.

Truly, the most important thing was having a healthy baby and I’d have been happy with two boys completing our family, because no matter what our baby’s sex, we decided we were stopping at two kids. It felt like forever, but finally we were at the doctor’s office for our ultrasound that would likely determine the baby’s sex. I watched with bated breath as the ultrasound technician moved the wand over my slippery belly.

“It looks like you’re having a… girl,” she said.

I was a woman who’d once been a girl, and being a girl felt like such a unique and special experience to me. I asked her to say it again to be certain I’d heard her right. She was. I couldn’t believe it. I broke out in an ugly cry. I was getting my girl.

Until the dam holding back my tears broke loose, I don’t think I fully realized just how much I’d wanted a girl. Sure, she could be an athlete who likes to roughhouse and loves the color blue. Or she could love pink. She could be the president of the United States one day. Being a girl doesn’t define who she is. But still, her sex mattered to me. It mattered because I was a woman who’d once been a girl, and being a girl felt like such a unique and special experience to me. From having girl friends, to eagerly awaiting my first period, to getting dressed up with makeup for nights out in high school, I loved being a girl and I wanted a girl to relive that journey with. A girl to bond with and swap confessions.
As a 1 year old, my daughter loves to snuggle and gravitates to dolls instead of dinosaurs. But she loves to wrestle with her brother and can hold her own. She has blond hair like my husband did when he was a baby, and she’s not my mini me. But she’s my little girl, and we do have a special bond. In the future, who knows how she’ll chose to identify — or even if she’ll like being referred to by feminine pronouns. But right now, she’s my little girl. And that really, really matters to me. Being honest with myself that I cared what my baby’s sex was was difficult, but important because it’s a truth of parenting for me.

If I’d had two boys, I would’ve considered myself happy and fortunate. But I also would have felt disappointment and would have mourned the loss of the daughter I’d never have. And that’s OK. I have my daughter, and though she’s young, the experience is already every bit as fulfilling as I’d hoped. She’s my girl, and that makes me so happy.

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Kid Not Your Mini Me? That’s A Good Thing

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If you’re anything like me, you probably fantasized for much of your life about having a little mini me one day.

Yes, there’d be a partner in the equation, but their genes wouldn’t matter much. Or something like that.

Of course, the reality of parenthood is that our kids will inevitably be everything we don’t expect them to be, and often, nothing like us. Sometimes, nothing like us or our partner.

My mini me fantasy didn’t evolve much from the time I was a little girl to my first pregnancy five years ago.

I’d pop out a ruddy-faced baby with thick, dark hair like I had. She’d be kind of a funny-looking thing, like yours truly, but then evolve into a precocious, cute toddler with brown pigtails.

She’d talk a lot but stutter, and be physically awkward. She’d have a crazy imagination. I’d tell her it would all be OK, because, after all, I turned out alright.

Needless to say, none of that happened. I had a boy, and he was one of those rare babies who pops out gorgeous. Yes, I’m biased, but he was really a looker. Wispy, dark blond hair. A flawless complexion.

He grew into an agile, coordinated toddler. Worst of all, he was fearless. As soon as he was able, he was climbing on rocks and walking along narrow ledges.

I was a big mommy’s girl and homebody, but he wasn’t. He never really liked to be held. He’d rather sit by himself and talk to you. He’s super smart. Has a memory like an elephant. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning.

He loved daycare and then preschool. When I come to school to pick him up, he runs away begging for a few more minutes.

He’s a lot like my husband in looks and personality, but not exactly like my husband.

I recently had my second child. When I found out in the ultrasound she was a girl, I did the ugly cry. I couldn’t believe it. I was convinced after the birth of my son I’d have another boy, and I certainly wasn’t going for three.

Here it comes, I thought, my mini me.

Not so much.

She, like my son, came out gorgeous. Porcelain skinned. Big, long-lashed eyes. Auburn hair. She looks a lot like my sister who I look nothing like. Go figure.

In some ways, she is similar to me. She’s a momma’s girl. She likes to cuddle. The rest remains to be seen. I’m sure no matter what she’s like, she’ll be very much her own person.

That’s the beauty of parenthood, isn’t it?

We’re not here to replicate ourselves. We’re here to facilitate new, unique life with all its perfections and imperfections. We’re here to help mold that life to be the best it can be. The kind of life that changes things, lived by a person who comes up with new ideas no one’s thought of before.

All on our kids’ terms, not ours.

The Ugly Truth In Gender Stereotypes

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I was determined to be one of those parents who buys my boy dolls and my girl tools. Who lets my son wear pink if he wants. Who is not bound by gender stereotypes.

Then I had kids.

And my boy wanted Ninja Turtles, not baby dolls. He wanted nothing to do with pink. My baby girl, too young for toys, likes to cuddle and coo sweetly while my son was most content as a baby sitting in his baby seat and screeching his presence to the world.

It’s been interesting to find out, that at least in my case, many of the gender stereotypes ring true.

Sure, our babies’ gender is colored almost from the beginning, and literally at times, in pink or blue. At baby showers we are given “boy” or “girl” clothes and likewise for toys.

But my 4-year-old boy has always liked to help clean, and I bought him a toy broom as a toddler. Pink and purple, of course, because apparently only girls sweep. Ha! True if you ask my husband.

My boy swept, but mostly used the broom as a makeshift sword to whack us.

Most interesting to watch is the boy and girl dynamics at daycare and preschool. My son has been surrounded by boys since he was just months old at daycare, and loved to watch the boys roughhouse around him until he could toddle around and join the fun.

Bumps and bruises have always been commonplace for him.

After my daughter was born and I started bringing her to pick up my son at preschool, the little girls at preschool had baby fever to the max. They swooped in, trying to inject their germs into her not-yet-vaccinated little immune system through their nose-picking fingers. They’d walk up to me, feeding their dolls bottles and full of questions about my real life baby.

The boys generally didn’t give two hoots about my baby. They were too busy pretending to be superheros and pushing eachother down and crying.

Other times when I pick my son up from preschool, most of the girls are sitting quietly doing art or having snacks. The boys are off playing on the play equipment or running in the yard.

It’s like despite our best efforts to make boys and girls the same, the genders are often just plain different. Maybe that’s OK. Each gender (whichever that is, regardless of your physical sex) brings its own strengths. What’s important is ensuring all children have equal opportunities and are accepted as they are, not that we roll them together into one big ball of gender nuetral playdough.

Of course there’s a good deal of socialization involved in shaping gender, but is it more than that? Are boys acting on some primal hunter-gatherer instinct and girls are being the nurturers we have evolved to be out of necessity to ensure our children that we alone are naturally equipped to feed are cared for?

Lord knows, at least in my house, the baby just might get left in her seat out in the family room while her dad sleep walks to bed. Someone has to hold down the fort. And someone else will probably whack that fort with a pink and purple broom.