When people know you are pregnant one of the first things everyone asks is ‘do you know if you are having a boy or a girl?’ There is nothing wrong with this question it shows a natural interest in the pregnant person’s future offspring and helps those interested to try and get a better sense of who the little person to come might be.
If people know, the next question is usually ‘do you have a name yet?’ and again this is helping to flesh out the idea of the mini human brewing away in there. Although it is fairly common now for parents-to-be to confess they are keeping the name to themselves and most people understand and accept this. Not wanting to witness any potential negative reactions to the name you love seems a fairly legitimate reason for keeping schtum on this.
This is assuming that negative reactions are just personal preference and not because you are actually intending to call your child something like Adolf/Adolfi the Great, in which case you deserve all the scorn and judgement possible that might induce you to think twice and spare your sproglet a lifetime of misery (at least until they are old enough to change the name themselves).
When it comes to sex, not all parents are able to found this out, particularly in the UK where the technicians will not be able to tell you before the 20 week scan and if your pomme-de-terre refuses to cooperate at that appointment then you are in for a surprise if you want one or not.
This is not an issue in Switzerland if you choose the Doctor route where you have a scan every month or so, so plenty of opportunities to see. Some parents prefer not to know and to wait until birth to find this one out. Some parents may prefer not to know but will be told by unthinking medical staff anyway (as happened to a friend of mine).
Then there is the option that the beard and I took, which was to find out but not to tell anyone else. This is apparently not the usual course of action. Not that it is so unusual to want to keep the baby’s sex to yourselves but normally people find it easier to just say they don’t know when asked rather than admitting they know but just don’t want to tell anyone, which results in questioning glances and the necessity of offering some sort of explanation.
The issue for us is not so much sex but gender. This is complicated to summarise but I’ll give it a go. Sex is the reproductive parts that make us female or male, gender is the patterns of behaviour that makes us feel like a man or a woman. With gender comes a lot of stereotypes and assumptions that we’d rather our kid doesn’t have to deal with.
If a boy’s favourite colour is pink and he prefers butterflies to sharks or a girl wants to have short hair, and has more interest in playing with dinosaurs than Barbies these things shouldn’t be a problem.
Not so long ago I read ‘The Gender Police: A Diary’, which started as a twitter feed by @GenderDiary created by two parents who wanted an outlet for their frustrations at the way people interacted with their two children differently based on their genders. This made me conscious of this child-rearing gender minefield even before our own potato started incubating.
When I was younger I was very much a ‘Tomboy’, probably I was influenced by having two older brothers but I think my parents also tried pretty hard to ensure I didn’t feel limited to only being able to do certain things just because I happened to be a girl. In some areas gender stereotypes are breaking down, but in other areas these are a lot worse than they used to be when we were growing up.
In the world we live in we know we won’t be able to protect our spud from gender stereotyping, they’ll be inundated by it when they walk into toy stores and see the little girls pink cleaning trolley toy set and the boys science kits, clothes stores with glittery girls t-shirts saying ‘daddy’s princess’ and boys t-shirts with dinosaurs, when schools hold a knights and princesses dress-up day and the girls are given plastic tiaras and the boys plastic swords, they’ll pick it up from the adults they interact with (strangers and those familiar to them) and they’ll pick it up from their friends.
And if we have a boy that loves blue and sharks and a girl that loves pink and butterflies then that’s fine too or if we have a boy or a girl that loves blue and pink and sharks and butterflies then great. What seems truly sad is the idea of a child being made to feel ashamed or abnormal for liking a colour or animal that someone somewhere along the way decided was only applicable to one sex.
I know that those friends and family members we are most concerned about not getting that a girl is more than the colour pink and a boy more than the colour blue, are going to present issues once the potato arrives and its sex is apparent so keeping it secret for now is perhaps a little pointless.
However, if we can have some of these arguments now, when we have a little more energy, we can convince ourselves that perhaps these are sinking in as we explain for the umpteenth time that any baby can wear pink or blue or even a different colour entirely. At one point I had to explain to a concerned gift-giver that Paddington Bear gifts are equally fine for a boy or a girl, even if he wears a blue coat (this is what I mean about gender stereotyping getting worse)!
The idea behind not sharing the baby’s sex was to try to derail some of the thinking before spud arrives of those that might want to limit them to constrictive idea of what it means to be a boy/girl. We were definitely more concerned about some people’s response to the baby’s sex over others but it seemed fairer to just agree not to tell anyone rather than to tell some people and then deliberately not tell others.
The gender stereotyping was definitely the primary reason for not wanting to share the sex but an unintended benefit has its been that its been quite nice for us to have this bit of information for ourselves. When we announced the pregnancy it went from being this private thing that the two of us had been feeling all sorts of intense emotions over to a public event that lots of people had an interest in and we were expected to feel uniform delight in. Whilst sharing pregnancy news has been amazing keeping the baby’s sex as something that still just belonged to the two of us has given the two of us something special to hold onto.
It’s also been a lot of fun letting people guess and if you want to join the game feel free to leave a comment and you can also add in expected delivery date and weight if you want (we are due 5 August). I will try to think of suitable prizes but don’t hold it against me if I am too exhausted at end of this pregnancy process to actually remember!