The Big Question: Boy or Girl?

Cover of "My Baby (Little Nugget)"James and I have discovered the sex of our baby.

Ya’ll ready for this?

As I prepared myself for this ultimate reveal—this all-defining moment—I realized the enormous importance my society places on gender.

I have a pregnant cousin who’s choosing to not to peek at her baby’s sex. She told me that the question, “Do you know what you’re having?” irks her. She wants to answer, “We’re having a squirrel!” just to show her interviewers how ridiculous their question was. Isn’t news of a precious baby enough without having to know the sex?

Huh. Point taken.

In the days before the sex-defining ultrasound, I asked my husband what activities he looked forward to doing with our child.

For myself, I’d not been able to get past, “I want to read these special books, snuggle a lot, sing to Baby…and…and…” here I’d stutter, wanting the crutch of gender to tell me what appropriate things I should plan.

With his lips over my rounded stomach, my husband cooed, “Hi Baby! I can’t wait to take you for hikes and backpacking and teach you how to shoot guns!”

I giggled and said, “Wait, which sex do you think Baby is?”

He chortled, “A girl!”

I realized once I’d given it further thought that he’d made a good point. I’d told myself I wanted a son for Boy Scout adventures with my husband into the mountains, but I’d never stopped to ask myself why our daughter couldn’t have outdoor escapades or learn gun safety.

I’ve yearned for a daughter with whom I could share my heart of hearts, revel in talks about boys, and have for a close special friend. Yet my very best friend (my husband) is a boy, and there’s no reason a son of mine needn’t share his romantic yearnings with me or be a cherished friend, too.

The realization: I’ve perpetuated so much of this gender-stereotyping, and all without even trying.

chickThere are extreme stances on this issue, some of which harbor very noble intentions.  A mother who decided to not announce her baby’s sex is one such example. I also found myself nodding at several points in this article about Sweden’s decision to not market gender specific toys. I don’t consider myself a particular extremist on the issue, but it’s now demanding my attention.

I remember phrases, often expressed as mere generalities, like “Girls often aren’t as good at math and science,” and they affected me, though I don’t know to what extent.

If my brother, who chose Electrical Engineering, had chosen to study Dance, I’d like to think my parents would also have encouraged him, as they encouraged me with my pursuit of Creative Writing. If we’re expressing our dreams, it’s important to not squash those, and especially to not corral young minds to adhere to certain gender-permissible guidelines, just because it meets society’s expectations. This, too, feels like part of the argument.

I still haven’t told you my baby’s sex, have I? Funny, that was my intent.

James and I are having a baby boy.

He will be encouraged to flourish in his talents, abilities, and dreams. He will have many well-meaning people tell him that certain activities are for boys, and others are forbidden to him. I’ll deal with those conversations as they come.

Before we knew the sex of our baby, I said to my husband, “Our baby will be expressive, boy or girl, because Baby’s mommy is very expressive in how she thinks and feels.” He agreed with me.

Baby will learn to fear the strength of emotions, to voice Baby’s thoughts, to communicate. This is a genderless gift, and a great starting place.

We’ll figure out the rest as we go.

About Elise

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015), a finalist for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year. She lives in Seattle with her family. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Author Elise Stephens on Facebook.

Comments

The Big Question: Boy or Girl? — 16 Comments

  1. great post! You’re right about the stereotypes of gender – they’re everywhere. We’ve never been very girly. As kids we played with toy cars, we never owned a Barbie and we loved playing in the mud. Yet in our school, we weren’t allowed to play with Meccano, because it was ‘for boys’. Now we’re 30, we fix our own cars, we know how to paint, decorate, do DIY, make rabbit hutches, unblock drains and other things considered ‘for boys’. Our mum taught us and she learned from her grandmother. Our niece is 4 and although she does loves pink & princesses, our sister never forced them on her, she let her choose what she likes.
    But from the sound of it, you’ve already got it figured out. You’re going to be great parents. And congratulations on having a boy 🙂

    • Thank you! I want to encourage my child in his interests, and there is so much that’s excluded if I tell him “cars are for boys and flowers are for girls” or some silly generality like that. What if he wants to be a gardener? An interest in flowers might be the beginning…just for an example. I love that you can fix your own cars and make rabbit hutches!

    • I sure hope so, Jan! I want to encourage him wildly, like my mother did for me. There’s so much growth a little soul can have in the presence of love, kind words, and support.

  2. Love your thoughts <3 We are discovering that so much of our Urchin's emotional personality comes from her daddy and the two of them are bonding over that. She waits until he gets home from work and then they go upstairs to lay on our bed and she can tell him about her little trials and moments of the day. It's truly gender stereotype-busting. 🙂

    Enjoy planning for a little boy. I'm looking forward to my "gender reveal" in just a few weeks. 😉

    • Amy, congratulations on your second little one! That’s so wonderful that your daughter is bonding with a closeness in personality to her daddy–love it!

  3. Ha, I couldn’t resist and cheated, skipping to the end to find out it was a boy! Once I found out, I read straight through. Congratulations, Elise! Great to hear of the great news. Nice to see a baby boy being born! I sensed your excitement right through the post and it spilled over through the internet onto my desk. I have a flood of joy all over my desk I don’t know what to do with! Good times! 🙂

    • Jack, I don’t blame you for skipping down at all! Thank you! We’re very excited, and knowing that our little one is a boy is another piece of “getting to know baby” before the baby is born–it feels like the unraveling of a wonderful mystery!

    • Heh. Well, there’s always that risk, but we saw the signs from several angles and the doubts are minimal at this point. 🙂

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