Earlier this week I wrote about why making gender assumptions about fetuses (and in particular, the fetus that is currently residing in my uterus) bugs me, and especially about my least favorite phrase used in that way – “what you’re having.”
It was a pretty good time.
Right now, I just want to take a quick minute, and list a few of the reasons we will in fact, not be finding out what we’re having prior to the birth of our child. Ready? Let’s go!
1. As mentioned in Monday’s post, literally the only thing we can find out from an ultrasound is “can you see a penis?” Considering the fact that this *highly scientific* method of determining sex is sometimes not 100% accurate (sometimes, the penis is there, but they don’t see it, for example) and is almost never accurate in the case of intersex children (your ultrasound tech is going to tell you “boy” or “girl” and be done with it, if your child is somewhere in between no one is likely to notice until the birth, and in some cases not even then) we’d just…. rather not.
2. We don’t actually need to know. Since we’re not planning on buying our child all pink things or all blue things based on their genitalia, finding out what kind of genitals our kid has (or, rather, seems to have) won’t actually help us prepare for their arrival in any way.
3. We can’t actually count on everyone respecting our wishes with regard to gendered gifts for our child. I’ve seen this play out many times. Young, idealistic, parents inform friends and family that they’re hoping to go more gender neutral with regard to their baby’s clothes and nursery etc. Then they decide to go ahead and find out their child’s apparent sex anyways, because the technology is there and it is easy. Then they’re excited to know something, anything, about their kid, and end up sharing. Baby-shower time comes around, and maybe HALF of the gift givers respect their wishes. The other half all thought that just one pick dress wouldn’t be a problem! The unborn kiddo now owns like, fifteen pink dresses, a smattering of yellow and green items, and virtually nothing in colors considered “masculine” by the bizarre industry that sells us baby clothes.
The reality is, since the 1990s, the makers and marketers of baby stuff have been trying to convince us that the fact that there are no obvious differences between a dressed baby boy and a dressed baby girl means that they need completely separate wardrobes with zero overlap in order to more easily differentiate. And they’ve done a remarkably good job on people. Recently, while perusing some of the offerings big box store websites, I discovered that in many cases even the washcloths come in gendered sets, and a quick google search turned up how drastically differently they expect you to dress your baby, again, based on their genitals.
I hate capitalism. But I also live in the world. I don’t have a ton of money, and I have relatives who are excited about a new baby in the family and want to buy stuff for said baby. Since we will, in fact, need stuff for this baby, we have no desire to refuse their generosity. And we don’t expect every single relative to have thought about how screwed up all this gendered baby marketing is. So, this one time in our child’s life, we actually have the power to stop them from receiving either “all girl gifts” or “all boy gifts.” If we don’t know our baby’s apparent sex, neither does anyone else, and they’ll have to find a way to think outside the boxes or ignore them, just this once.
(No, I’m not sure how to manage this after the baby is born.)
4. We don’t need gender markers to bond with our child. I’m really into being pregnant, so I’ve been reading several weekly-pregnancy-update type things every week. It’s been sort of cool to follow along with the fetus’ progress as it does new and exciting things like peeing, and having fingerprints! As I get closer to the point at which the *very scientific* “hey can you see a penis?” test can be performed (I really hope y’all are picking up on my sarcasm here…) some sites are including some info about how to decide whether or not you want to know.
One of the biggest reasons listed for finding out the baby’s apparent sex is that many parents feel this helps them to bond with the baby. They can picture a little boy, or a little girl, and those associations help them feel more connected to their child before they meet them. Since we live in such a heavily gendered society, this makes sense. But my wife Chelsea and I have many friends and chosen family members who aren’t comfortable identifying as “men” or “women,” people who are trans, genderqueer, or genderfluid, and often identify as “other” or “in-between.” Because we love our friends, we’ve grown used to bonding with other humans without putting those humans into gendered boxes. And since we don’t plan to raise our child with rigid gender roles, we can imagine a lot of things about our child’s future (teaching them to read, taking them to the park, helping them learn to ride a bike, etc etc etc…) without having to picture a “boy” or a “girl” doing those things.
5. We have access to perfectly good gender neutral pronouns with which to discuss our baby. Many pregnant people hate thinking of the baby that they are growing and bonding with as “it.” That makes sense! In our culture, “it” is a pronoun typically reserved for objects and almost never used for people. After finding out the apparent sex of their baby, they’re able to refer to the child as “he” or “she” with confidence and ease. There’s nothing quite like seeing a quiet smile creep across an expecting mother’s face as she says, “awe, he’s moving around a lot today!”
But “he” and “she” are not the only pronouns in the world, or even in the English language. Many people use gender neutral pronouns such as ze, hen, and they. Personally, my wife and I tend to default to they when discussing our fetus, for the simple reason that we know more people who actively use they as a pronoun, so it feels more natural to us. Of course, every once in awhile we’ll casually refer to “they” or “them” and some eager person will go “oh my goodness did you say ‘they’? Is there more than one in there???” but usually confusion is minimal.
6. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the least interesting thing about our baby. I also got into this one in Monday’s post. But seriously, even if I do occasionally wonder about our baby’s sex and gender, it sort of pales in comparison to all the other wondering I do about this child. Will they be a picky eater (like I was, sorry mom)? What will their favorite color be? Will they be athletic (like neither of their parents, and what will we do if they are…)? What will their eyes look like? Will they be shy? How will they get along with our cats? Will they enjoy learning? Will they look like me? And how will I feel if they do? Will they be afraid of the dark? Will they want to be a parent one day?
There are all of these exciting and fascinating things, that we, as parents, get to learn about our child slowly, as we all grow together. I don’t feel terribly hung up on the one thing I can find out now.
And now, as an added bonus, here is one reason that did not play a role in our decision not to find out our baby’s apparent sex.
1. We don’t want to make it a surprise. The surprise is everything else. The surprise is life. What kind of genitals our child has may be among the first things we find out about them after they are born, but it isn’t this singular huge thing that we’re waiting in anticipation for. If anything, when I look forward to the birth, I’m hoping for one quiet moment where I can hold my child and let them just be a child, just be a person, without a ton of gendered assumptions (my own included) weighing them down.