I’ve been meaning to write this post for the last nine months, and now here I am several days past my due date finally getting round to it. I’ve already nested the fuck out of my apartment, got the baby capsule fitted, had a nappy bag shipped all the way from Montreal, and had a total meltdown in the Baby Kingdom carpark (don’t EVER go there–those places are just designed to make you feel like an inadequate parent so that you buy your way out of the shop). Next on my list of things I absolutely HAVE to do before this baby is born is write a blog post about one of my big pregnancy pet hates.
It’s driven me mad the amount of times I’ve been asked “do you know what you’re having?” in the last nine months. Usually I say something like, “hopefully a baby”, and cross my fingers that they’ll leave me alone after that. But it’s amazed me how often that question has been followed by, “but what are you hoping for?” This is really a trick question, because if I say “girl” and get a “boy”, then what? Am I supposed to cry and rage and throw my newborn back at the midwife in disappointment? Even weirder to me is the response, “oh it’ll be a surprise then; how lovely!” Should I start practicing my “WOW!” face in preparation for seeing my child’s genitals for the first time? The anticipation is killing me.
Living in the queer community as I do, surrounded by trans and gender-variant friends, I am well aware that what someone has between their legs has no bearing on how they will identify. I usually feel compelled to answer the question “do you know what you’re having?” with an explanation of how sex and gender are two different things, and how I won’t know what I’ve “got” until my child is old enough to talk and tell me themselves. In case you’re confused, sex is determined by the baby’s genitals, whereas gender is how the baby identifies. They’re not the same thing. Furthermore, finding out the sex of my baby tells me very little about my child. It says about as much as whether it is left or right handed. What it DOES tell me is how my child will be treated by the outside world. How it will be effected by sexism, whether or not it will earn less/be more statistically likely to experience sexual assault/be allowed to cry or not based on its sex, and so on. So really the question “do you know what you’re having” should be rephrased as “do you know how the world is going to treat your child?”
I am much more interested in who my child will vote for, or whether or not they’re going to like Mersey Valley pickled onion cheese as much as I do. But I’ve noticed that pregnant people around me seem to need to know the sex of their baby before they can really connect with their unborn child. I hear things like “it didn’t feel real til I found out it was going to be a girl”, or “now that we know what we’re having we can start buying the right clothes”. I find this really sad.
I also feel really sad that in a few more days (hopefully) my child will be out in the world, being forced into rigid gender boxes. At a mother’s group recently, where there were five children with penises and one child with a vagina, there were endless comments about the child with the vagina being the rose amongst the thorns, and about how the children with penises were set to make the child with the vagina’s life hell as they all got bigger, because of course their penises would automatically make them rowdy, rambunctious little terrors, and because of course every child with a vagina wants to sit quietly and make fairy gardens and plait hair. As soon as someone knows what a child has between their legs, the poor kid doesn’t have a chance. It’s straight into the gender pigeonhole they go.
I could go on and on about this topic, but instead I’m going to sign out now, just in case I go into labor tonight (you never know), and I’ll leave you with a link to a friend’s blog where she nails the topic much better than I: https://mostlysnarling.wordpress.com/2016/01/17/gendered-from-birth-our-obsession-with-baby-junk/#comment-614