Monday, October 09, 2006

Knowing the Sex of Baby is Frightening

My second baby is set to arrive in about 18 weeks. We are unsure yet whether it is a he or a she. My husband and I opted not to find out with our first baby because we wanted to keep the element of surprise around as long as possible. When the doctor said we had a boy, I was ecstatic and glad I had not had time to fret over the potential pitfalls of raising a boy.

Because we have a 20-month-old little man now, we decided that finding out the sex of our baby was more important. It is very difficult to say that you are getting a brother or a sister. That just is not something that little guys understand; they need things in more concrete terms. When we went for our last sonogram in September, the baby was not cooperating. The sonographer could not see all of the limbs or all of the heart chambers because of the way the baby was lying in the womb. I was secretly glad because my baby got to be as stubborn as I wanted to be. The sonographer was not friendly at all, and she had my in a terrible position to get a good view anyway.

So, the baby did not cooperate, and we got to see only what the sonographer thought, and not very convincingly, was a girl. She kept saying that it could be a girl. When we asked my doctor, he was not so sure, and since I really would like another boy anyway, I am just believing that we do not know yet.

Of course, no one wants to hear that we are unsure of the sex, and it does not help the situation with my son. We have resorted to telling him that he is having a sister. We point to my protruding tummy and say, "baby," but he just giggles. I am not sure how to explain to him that he will have to share us with someone else. I am afraid that revelation will be shocking.

Other people want to know the sex of your child almost more than you do. Perhaps it is because expectant parents have other concerns about whether mom is healthy, how the nursery decorating is going, and what will happen to the family lifestyle once a new baby arrives. My mother and mother-in-law, however, along with perfect strangers are intent on finding out whether we are having a boy or girl. Part of that insistence was what kept us from finding out the first time around. Yes, we are that stubborn. I wanted to enjoy the experience of being pregnant and giving birth instead of focusing on whether to paint the nursery pink or blue. We painted ours mint green, bought Care Bears decorations, and were done with it.

I have decided that we put entirely too much focus on whether the baby is a boy or girl. It only allows us longer to place gendered expectations on a child who is not yet born. When my mother starts talking about frilly crib bedding, I cringe. I think that by focusing so much time and energy on the sex of the baby forces us to forget about the bigger issues. For example, no one has mentioned contributing to our college funds. (In fairness, I do not think it is the responsibility of anyone except my husband and me, but the offer would be nice instead of one more offer to purchase a mobile or buy some infant outfits.)

Knowing that I may have a girl also has me concerned. I see little girls out when I take my son places, and their parents hold them close. The parents often do not permit the girls to be active or creative but instead encourage them to be quiet and polite. That we may do that with our daughter scares me. Since hearing the sonographer say that we could be having a girl, I have panicked over the thought of how we will raise her. It has made me decide that if we have any children in the future, we will not find out the sex. We will define our baby in different ways.

By Julia Mercer

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