Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What's Sex Got to Do With It?: Learning to Appreciate Your Baby No Matter What

Recently, I overheard a family at a restaurant being asked about the sex of their newborn baby while their beautiful (and I mean GORGEOUS, curly haired, obviously very spirited) preschooler proudly stood near by. The mother sighed and said "It's another little girl. We tried for two boys and we're stuck with two girls. What can I say? We're cursed." I know that little girl heard every word her mother said and although her mother may not have meant it literally, I couldn't help but wonder if this was the first or even the last time these sweet little girls would hear such a "joke" from someone that they have the right to believe will love and protect them the most. It also made me really examine myself and some feelings I've had during this pregnancy.

You see, before I ever got pregnant the first time, I had dreams of having a little girl. I knew what to call her. I knew the talks I wanted to have with her. I daydreamed about what life would be with her. But then I got pregnant and almost from the very beginning, I had the strong feeling I had a little boy. So strong in fact, that when I was told at 23 weeks that I was pregnant with a girl, I couldn't stop crying because I felt like someone had stolen the little boy I had bonded to away from me. For five weeks, I tried to make peace with the news that I was not having a boy, but was having a girl. Then, at another ultrasound, a different technician asked me if we knew what we were having. Wishing to know her unbiased opinion, I asked her what she thought we were having and she replied, "Well, I can't tell for sure because this baby has a foot in the way, but I think these might be testicles." My husband was shocked and dismayed to find out that we may not, in fact, "know" for sure what we were having, but I was thrilled. The little boy I had bonded with was back in the picture. A little over four months later, our son was born.

After having my son, I loved him to pieces, but a part of me still dreamed of having a little girl. I'll admit many of my dreams bear the gender stereotypes of wanting to go dress shopping, bond over sewing/cooking, and just engaging in "girl talk" as well as finally getting to visit the larger half of the baby section where all the really cute baby clothes are. (Which of course, depending on the daughter might never come true or might even come true with a boy just as well as a girl. . . a son could love sewing and shopping just as much as a daughter.) When I felt overwhelmed by motherhood and worried that maybe I couldn't handle another baby, I would look at my friend's daughters and think, but if I quit now, I would never have a daughter!

This time, when we finally got pregnant, I felt for sure I knew the sex again only to go into the ultrasound once more and be told the opposite. Once again, I felt it difficult to make peace with the new information. Because the ultrasound had been wrong before and we are likely having no new ones this pregnancy, I have not made the information public in case it is wrong again, but privately, I struggled to make peace with what might prove to be a dashed expectation. The baby I thought I knew so well early on, might not be who I thought this baby would be!

Yet, hearing that mother complaining aloud about the sex of her children, made me really think about how much sex really doesn't matter in the long run. My dreams of having a little girl pre-children were quickly surpassed by the wonderful reality of life with my son. The early "knowledge" I felt I had about this baby, should it prove wrong, would do nothing to surpass the blessing I have in having another little soul entrusted in my care no matter what sex s/he turns out to be. With so many would be mothers struggling out there to have any children, how can I or any other lucky parent really complain about getting a child of a sex we were not expecting or (in case of the mother in the restaurant) maybe didn't want initially? After all, child's personality is far more important, interesting, and compelling than just whether or not s/he is declared a boy or girl at birth. We become obsessed with finding out whether or not a child is a boy or a girl because we think that gives us a shortcut into knowing what they are going to be like growing up or as grown ups, but honestly, sex is no more indicative of who our children are than their birth weight or height proves to be. It is just one piece of the information. It would be my honor at this point to birth another boy, a girl, or even a hermaphrodite because what is most important is the soul inside and the bond that we will build together. I hope that everyone who ever wants a baby is "cursed" the way that lucky mother was "cursed" in that she dreamed of having a family and now she has one. I only hope that wherever she is, she soon learns that her two little girls are just as precious and as wonderful as her two dream sons would have been, maybe even more so because they are real, they are here, and they are more than just a box marked "female" on their birth certificates.

Thanks for reading,


Momma in Progress said... [Reply to comment]

Love this. I cannot even tell you how many comments I get about the kids, having two girls followed by one boy. Everything from, "oh, you got your boy, so you're done now, right?" to "I bet Dad is glad to finally have a boy." Ugh. I think most people assume parents are like the ones you describe at the beginning: having a set idea about the "right" babies to have, and if they don't get what they "want" they are disappointed. And it kills me that perfect strangers make these comments in front of my kids! Like at least a couple times a week! We wanted three kids. We have three kids. The fact that they are 2 girls and 1 boy doesn't matter. I could go on and on, but . . . ack.

Carolyn Feinberg said... [Reply to comment]

I was in the ultrasound office with bright red scary bleeding at 11 weeks when this couple walked out of one of the rooms with an entourage of grandparents and their daughter, lamenting the fact that they had another girl. I was so shocked and upset at the prospects of my own threatened miscarriage that I sat mutely there as they complained. How many others sitting in that waiting room would be thrilled with ANY baby? It was sick.

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

I think too many people just take it for granted that children should be something you can control or that it is something that should go according to whatever plans they have. I really do hope that mom reverses her opinion on having girls because I know plenty of people who would have loved to have had them!

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