It’s a human baby!
In this, the 32nd week of my pregnancy, the gender of our baby is anyone’s guess, really. We do not know the sex of this baby growing daily in my belly. And, of course, knowing the sex of a child, whether in utero or after their birth, does not reveal anything at all about the child’s gender.
We’re not alone in our decision to forgo knowledge of our baby’s sex, but even in this futuristic sounding year of 2020, we’re in the minority of expecting parents. The decision is personal and one that parents might make for a whole host of reasons, none of which I could possibly have the authority to weigh in on, but in considering the decision for ourselves and our children, James and I could only think of positives for declining the information altogether.
There’s the element of surprise for one thing, which often feels like the easiest and most expected answer. But for me and for James, deciding not to know the sex of our children in utero has also felt like an important reminder to ourselves no less than to anyone else, that that knowledge has little bearing on how that baby might grow to see themselves or choose to live in the world. While small and maybe trivial, to not learn the sex of our children before birth feels like one tiny way of staving off the limitations and expectations that we put on children, and all people, to conform to our culture’s expectations of gendered behavior or destiny.
The most common reason that I hear from parents wanting to know the particular details of anatomy that differentiate one baby from another, is that it helps them to visualize the baby as a real person, or, to invoke a commonly used word when it comes to gender reveals, to feel prepared. For our part, we couldn’t help but to wonder what exactly we would be preparing for. In the end, it has always felt like this preparation would simply be a cascade of preconceived notions about our children based solely on their anatomy and the broader cultural understanding of how that will impact their interests or personality traits or aptitudes. (As it turns out, there’s been plenty of time to confront all of that after the birth.)
I don’t mean to overstate the choices we’ve made to remove stifling concepts of gender from our children’s lives. For our first two children, we chose to use pronouns and even first names that aligned traditionally with their biological sex. Still, while we know that we’re still a far way off from living in a post-gender world, a decision not to emphasize the sex or gender of our growing babies has felt like a simple way to push the dial in that direction. Concepts of gender essentialism are still very much in the air that we all breathe. We’re not interested in ignoring the glaring ways that conceptions of gender impact all of our lives in very real ways, but it’s our hope that we might also infuse the air with something a bit lighter, a bit more bearable, a bit less oppressive.
What about you? How has your thinking on all this evolved?
For the curious:
+ My kids picked out this little mushroom rattle for the new baby.
+ The baby blanket pictured is an all-time favorite from Fog Linen.