baby proof: gender reveal.

January 14, 2020
mushroom baby rattle | reading my tea leaves

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.

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154 Comments

  • Reply Cathy January 14, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    We decided not to find out the sexes of our two children, and because we had twins people thought we were nuts! I can’t tell you how many times I was asked why I didn’t want to be “prepared” especially since there were two of them! Also, we had no notion whether they were fraternal or identical, which people also said was another reason to find out sexes (if they were boy/girl we’d no for sure that they were fraternal…)

    But we didn’t want to know. We figured it would be our only pregnancy and we wanted to be surprised. And I just didn’t see how knowing sexes would help me prepare. No matter what, I was going to need twice as much of the things anyone needs to care for an infant. And all any infant really needs is some clothes, blankets, diapers, and a place to sleep. The colors of any of those things jus doesn’t matter.

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    • Reply Christina January 14, 2020 at 4:24 pm

      We also opted to not find out for our 2 children. It doesn’t matter either way, and it was an incredibly high moment when “it’s a girl!” was announced upon both of their arrivals. So much of finding out the sex seems to be steered towards shopping… this intense need for a gender specific room and wardrobe. We weren’t going to be decorating a nursery for each child (small space! We knew multiple children would be sharing one big bedroom) so that seemed silly. We opted for a light filled white room, with lots of beautiful framed artwork. Not finding out was one of the biggest thrills of our lives! Happy to facilitate bringing a kid into the world without making them think they need to like certain colors or act a certain way from the moment they arrive. Our kids are pretty “girly” if you will, and I’m glad they came to be that way all on their own!

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    • Reply Dee January 14, 2020 at 5:08 pm

      I would say that there is one single truth dwelling in your good discussion, Erin: that we give Love, kindness, and affirmation to the child, however their realities of sex and gender…and colour… develop. And yet this love must always be about the child; it must not be about ourselves, our own hopes, hurts, regrets, or visions of a so needed better world. And so we love the boy who wears pink, we love the boy who wears only blue, the girl in blue, the girl in pink, the girl and boy in beige and every tone of grey, and both in the purple we find horrible. But to deny the boy the blue or the girl the pink, and to use all of our terrible adult strength to force them both only into taupe is a cruelty and abuse of power as great as that of those who force little boys into blue. The colours cannot be our choice, our goal, our hope, but theirs alone: pink, blue, and all the shades of your mum’s rainbow. The colours are not ours to choose, only the Love.

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      • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 14, 2020 at 5:17 pm

        My children love color and are both veritable walking rainbows on any given day of the week.

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        • Reply FreedomOfChoice January 16, 2020 at 9:14 pm

          …choice is yours alone. I did the same as you because so few mysteries still remain. I don’t regret it.

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      • Reply Lexie January 20, 2020 at 11:21 pm

        Gender revel is such a joyous occassion for all family and especially Grandparents . Its a shame your families will misd out on the joy.

        • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 21, 2020 at 6:34 am

          I’m sure for some families it is. The grandparents of this particular child, as I wrote to you earlier on Instagram, don’t happen to feel that way, didn’t find out the sexes of their own children in utero and are every bit as filled with about the impending arrival.

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        • Reply Julia Westerberg January 27, 2020 at 7:47 pm

          I’m sure it’s joyful for some, but as someone who´s not from a country where Gender reveals are celebrated I just don´t see the point. For example, my own mother can´t even fathom having a baby shower (again, not in our culture even though it´s more common here in Europe these days thanit was ten years ago) , and I know a lot of women her age with the exact same thoughts. They´re realists and do not want to celebrate until the baby is born.
          It´s kind of insensitive to imply that someone is depriving their loved ones of joy from not wanting to have a party with the sole purpose of declaring the sex of their unborn child. You do you, but I can guarantee you that there´s no lack of love in skipping a very (from my perspective) strange tradition.

    • Reply Renee Weitzne January 16, 2020 at 8:35 pm

      Years ago when I was pregnant with my first child, I too opted not to find out the sex of the child, simply because I wanted to be surprised. My husband felt the same way. Now, our elder daughter is pregnant, due in May, and she opted to find out the sex (boy), because she and her husband simply wanted to know….I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here; it simply is what you want: to know or not to know…. People kept giving us reasons they wanted to know; colors, etc. But we didn’t change our minds. and never regretted our choice…

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  • Reply Jessica January 14, 2020 at 3:31 pm

    With our first pregnancy, we weren’t going to find out and have it as a surprise. And then, surprise!, we were having twins, and that was surprise enough….we opted to know the genders. For our second, we did find out, but it wouldn’t have mattered, because I knew she was a girl long before any doctor confirmed it.

    Interestingly, once we knew their sexes, their was a big push to know their names, and that we opted not to share at all.

  • Reply samantha spigos January 14, 2020 at 3:38 pm

    Hi Erin — I always love your Baby Proof posts. I have two kids, a daughter (23 months) and a son (6 months), and my husband and I didn’t find out the sex of either. That, coupled with two home births, and people really thought we were odd. I’m not sure how to avoid gendering our children the second they are born, and wonder if it has to do with our biological desire to protect them. That was my experience, anyway; I remember thinking, “girl!” and “boy!” when I met them. At any rate, I can relate to the excitement that comes with anticipating greeting your mystery child, and I hope it is just as it should be for you and your family. Sending peace + light.

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  • Reply Kim m January 14, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    Erin, I’m surprised by the tone of this post. As a parent who chose twice to find out the sex, I feel a little judged. Perhaps it’s my 4 days postpartum hormonal defensiveness; but I don’t think so (entirely). I understand YOUR reasons; but I don’t think you should pretend to understand everyone’s reasons to find out. I’m not sure exactly how to articulate why I wanted to know. But I suspect in part because it allowed me to know something, just something about my baby. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that one of the challenges of pregnancy is the not knowingness of the thing. Will she be healthy? What will she be like? what will labour be like? Are those in uterus hiccups and why does she get them and is that OK?

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 14, 2020 at 4:04 pm

      Sorry to hear that you feel judged. I’ve found it’s nearly impossible to write about pregnancy and personal choices without making someone feel condemned for their personal choice. I tried hard to frame this as my personal perspective and hoped that would be conveyed when I wrote “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.”

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      • Reply Laura January 14, 2020 at 4:19 pm

        Love your blog, and for the most part, your positions. I have to say though, the “gender reveal” teaser on IG seems purposefully meant to trigger a feeling of anticipation and excitement about learning the sex of your baby. And then the “gotcha” — that in fact you’ve decided not to learn — operated to make me feel stupid. I imagine I’m not alone. In a time when we are more polarized than ever, I think we have to be even more careful not to trigger these reactions (surprise! you’re not woke enough!) wherever possible. You’re usually very careful in your framing and wording, but in this case the IG —> blog “trick” undermined that.

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        • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 14, 2020 at 4:54 pm

          I don’t know. I’m certainly sorry to have made you feel stupid, but in a moment when gender essentialism remains the norm and not the exception, being playful with that reality doesn’t feel harmful. I think we can actually benefit from some levity and shaking up of expectations and social constructs.

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          • Laura January 14, 2020 at 5:57 pm

            Appreciate the response. I guess I was just trying to convey that I suspect those who aren’t already in agreement with you about the connection between gender essentialism and finding out the sex of your unborn child didn’t experience it as playful. I don’t envy you – trying to influence those beyond the echo chamber is delicate work. My comment was 100% in the spirit of trying to convey a dynamic you may not have intended to invoke. I wasn’t personally hurt.

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          • Madeleine January 14, 2020 at 6:09 pm

            I found out the sex of my baby but I loved this post. I chuckled right out loud with the “gotcha”. I may have chosen differently but I’m not threatened by Erin’s choice.

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        • Reply Kathryn January 16, 2020 at 11:50 pm

          Oh my those comments are EXHAUSTING. Thank you, Erin, for sharing this slice of your life and how you are trying to care for your family. I’m so sorry so many people felt like you were attempting to live your life AT them, and that you had to spend to much time quoting yourself to correct deliberate misunderstandings.

          Thank you for fighting the good fight of being a woman on the internet with opinions. Keep on keeping on.

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      • Reply Amanda January 16, 2020 at 8:59 pm

        i so love your writing, and i do not find you to be judgmental, superior, prideful, etc. but in your response to a 4 days postpartum woman, you used a pull quote that included the sentence ” [we] could only think of positives for declining…”
        as in, there are only positives.
        it’s negating all that hedging you did in the beginning, it’s as if you’re saying, “this is OUR decision for OUR family, but it is the correct decision at large.”
        it would be much more heartening to say, “i tried hard to frame this as my personal perspective and hoped that would be conveyed.” full stop.

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        • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 16, 2020 at 9:19 pm

          The last two days has been an absolute endless barrage of readers telling me all of the various and often directly contradictory ways that I might have phrased something differently or chosen a different word or not written the piece at all. It’s an impossible task to please everyone, but the phrase you have pulled above is actually part of a larger sentence that reads: “in considering the decision for ourselves and our children, James and I could only think of positives for declining the information altogether.” This is absolutely not the same thing as saying “this is OUR decision for OUR family, but it is the correct decision at large.”

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          • Amanda Krieger January 28, 2020 at 10:07 pm

            I accept the correction!
            having your words minced is a bummer, sorry i was part of it (not only saying that bc i erroneously truncated your phrase).
            xoxo

    • Reply Tamara January 14, 2020 at 4:18 pm

      I’m the parent of a trans child and I found out the sex of both my children before they were born. I get what you’re saying, there was some comfort in knowing something even if in the long run, it turned out my kid didn’t end up living aligned with their biological sex. Knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t bother finding out if I had it to do all over again because it really has no bearing on anything other than what kind of doctors appointments you’re going to need to plan for down the road, but also, there is nothing wrong with finding out. And also, congratulations on your new little one!

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    • Reply Kirsten January 14, 2020 at 5:58 pm

      Kim, just wanted to let you know you’re not the only one to have felt that way! My first pregnancy felt so surreal to me and I had a hard time connecting AT ALL with the idea that there was a human growing in me. In that case for me, knowing the sex felt like one of the only knowable things that could make it more real, even though I support free and flexible gender expression. I needed to know as many facts as I could to ground myself, even if that fact was just “this baby appears to have a vagina.” With my second we weren’t going to find out but there was an anomaly on the ultrasound that happens almost exclusively in male-sex fetuses, so, there you go.

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      • Reply Allison January 15, 2020 at 4:19 pm

        Yes! This! Our pregnancy was completely unplanned, and I felt so scared and disconnected and frustrated by it– until I learned that I would be having a boy. It made all the difference. Aside from just being interested to know some detail about the person growing inside, I knew that finding out would make a tremendous difference– and it did. Everything clicked into place after that, and felt much more comfortable. Calling the baby “it” or “the baby” made me feel detached in some way. Once I knew I had Jackson growing in there, it eased my fear and my shame for not really wanting to be pregnant when I was. I could finally start to be excited to meet the little guy and start our life together…and then let him become whatever “gender” he felt in his heart. I think it’s always up to the parents to decide whether to know beforehand or not. Knowing just happened to be the right choice for me.

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    • Reply E.wright January 14, 2020 at 8:16 pm

      I definitely think Erin took this post too far. It has a very judgmental and snide tone and really turned me off. And the *surprise* teaser was just so immature. It seems that she is quite proud of herself for simply not finding out the gender of a child….something people do everyday for less intentional reasons.

      Erin, I’m curious if you did any genetic testing or bloodwork or sonograms? Did you deny finding out anything at all being remotely different about your baby? One could easily argue that wanting to know the biological health of your child could also be discriminatory. If you found out while pregnant that your child is missing a limb, or has Down’s syndrome, wouldn’t that information influence your relationship to their existence? I’m quite shocked that someone who so wholeheartedly fights for a women’s right to choose and be in control of her body, would shun the women’s right to information about her child. It’s science no matter how you choose to look at it. A penis is science, a vagina is science, a heart condition is science, Down’s syndrome is science. These are things no one chooses. How we choose to respond to the facts/science is up to us. How we choose to accept every living being no matter what their condition or makeup or chosen gender is up to us.

      A happily and excited pregnant mother wanting to know if her child has a penis or vagina does not make them an un-evolved person. It’s just a scientific fact about a child’s body that helps us understand it and prepare for our relationship to it. Whether a mother or father chooses to receive this information before birth or not, they can love and accept the child just the same.

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      • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 14, 2020 at 9:34 pm

        Although I generally find it tiresome, I’ve grown very used to being called snide or judgmental or proud whenever I post anything approaching a firm feeling on a topic that folks disagree with. However dismaying, this comes with the territory of being a woman voicing opinions on the internet. Needless to say, I do not shun anyone’s right to information about their body or their pregnancy in this post or in actuality, nor am I making any kind of case that people choosing to learn the sex of their unborn child are, in your words, unevolved. I personally do not feel like knowledge about my unborn child’s sex helps me to understand it or prepares me for my relationship to it.

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        • Reply Ashley January 15, 2020 at 1:26 am

          This misses the point a little. The point being that the “scientific” biological presence of sex organs plays in to our cultural expectations of gender expression and gender roles. I appreciate this post. It’s hard to make the choice to speak openly about these issues with the general public and especially with anyone who has ever been pregnant. I found the wording to be simultaneously gentle, provocative, introspective. Bold but balanced. I, for one, did not have any genetic testing or ultrasounds that weren’t mandated by my insurance company and didn’t even want those.

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        • Reply Evan January 15, 2020 at 12:32 pm

          Just a small note to say that it may be that the use of the word “evolved” at the end of the post is part of what people are responding to. I appreciated the post very much and even though I found out with both my children (accidentally in the first case and knowingly in the second, partly because a close family member had recently chosen *not* to find out and it caused her some distress on the day of the baby’s birth), a big part of me had wanted not to, for all the reasons you discuss–having just a tiny bit of space for this person before they have gender mapped onto them. But I can see why someone might feel like the question “Has your thinking on this evolved?” positions your own perspective as superior to that of someone who sees it differently. Maybe it’s worth defending as actually, objectively, a better way to think about gender and childbirth? In any case, I think you just meant “evolved” as in “changed”, but I can see why someone might understand evolved, here, to mean arriving at superior conclusions, even though that it *not* what I think you are saying.

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          • ERIN BOYLE January 15, 2020 at 6:32 pm

            Evolved as in changed—and more specifically, changed from something simple to more complex, is precisely what I mean here.

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      • Reply Katie January 14, 2020 at 11:10 pm

        The only reason I “found out” was because the act of *not* finding out, if your getting an ultrasound anyway, felt kind of artificial. Why purposefully not learn something that the ultrasound tech could easily discover accidentally or on purpose? I gave my daughters “her/she” names and pronouns but intentionally dressed them neutrally (at the age of 2.5 baby #1 started claiming all the pink and glittery hand-me-downs before I could sneak them out the door). When folks asked us their sex before birth, I answered truthfully but always with a joke about how the ultrasound tech is wrong something like 2-5% of the time; my way of not offending anyone but still making it clear that knowing the sex meant basically nothing. When people comment on my beautiful baby boys, as they do constantly, I never correct them.

        All just to say that the reasons I found out the sex (because purposefully not knowing gave this sort of meaningless trait more power, in my eyes) seem to be all the same reasons Erin decided *not* to find out. What a world!

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        • Reply Colleen January 15, 2020 at 3:49 pm

          Also supporting this point. Biological gender is a scientific fact about our babies. First of, Choosing to receive this fact early in pregnancy (or later on the day they are born) doesn’t change who they end up being and how you end up accepting them for who they are.

          From a scientific standpoint it’s highly beneficial for some people to know the sex of their child beforehand due to genetic disorders. For example my sister and her husband were carriers of a Duchenne Muscular dystrophy, which really only affects boys (and their first son). To find out they were having a “biological girl” the second time around was a huge relief in terms of this child’s health. For those privileged enough to not have to worry about a genetic defect, kudos to you for being able to live blissfully unaware of your child’s biological gender.

          I fully support a post-gender society and disapprove of our societal emphasis on constructed gender roles.
          But please let’s not let privilege overshadow scientific advancements for those that need it.

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          • ERIN BOYLE January 15, 2020 at 6:23 pm

            I don’t think, as I can’t imagine you sincerely do, that any kind of kudos is needed for folks who do not need to consider how biological sex might impact their child’s health in utero. Without a doubt, your sister’s story and concern (along with every single one of the personal choices written about in these comments) is just exactly what I was referencing above when I wrote “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…”

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  • Reply Rebekah January 14, 2020 at 4:06 pm

    Oh this is all just so wonderful. We chose to find out the sex of our babies because I just like to know things, but of course I have to evaluate that feeling of mine. What is it that I would know and what would it change? So honored to be a part of a generation that is reevaluating all of this and making changes to make the world better for everyone.

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  • Reply Marina January 14, 2020 at 4:09 pm

    Currently 39 weeks and also waiting till birth to find out details about baby’s anatomy! I have found the “prepared” comment particularly interesting. A lot of people seem to assume that if we can go without knowing about baby’s genitals we must not be planners (for example, “oh I could never do that, I’m such a planner”). I am a total planner but have just chosen to plan other things that feel more meaningful. I have found that people seem more understanding of this choice when we frame it as an exciting surprise, but that kinda misses part of the point (for us) which is that the anatomical sex is not terribly important. Even at 39 weeks I’m finding that I’m not terribly curious about the sex because there are so many other more interesting things to be curious about!

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 14, 2020 at 4:13 pm

      Yes, totally. This has definitely been my experience!

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    • Reply Sadie January 14, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      I found out the sex of my baby just so I could finally call them by a name! Naming is really meaningful for me and my partner is extremely picky so it helped us feel like we could start to know the little person soon to enter our lives. It was also confusing to refer to my baby as “them/they” because people kept thinking I was having twins. I think the debate over whether to find out the “gender” is pretty silly and whether you find out before or after birth we still live in a world full of constructs. I wouldn’t waste my time feeling one way or the other about someone else’s decision to find out or not. I think it is much more meaningful to spend that energy surrounding your family with diverse depictions of gender, race, sexuality, ability etc. if you are interested in making the world a more inclusive place. I think this post is an interesting read, that being said, I do agree that calling this post a “gender reveal” on Instagram rather than a discussion on gender or something else more neutral is a little divisive.

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  • Reply Kelsey January 14, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    I don’t think finding out ahead of time or waiting to be surprised changes the way you think. It’s just a matter of when you learn the sex of your baby. We had 3 years of infertility and I simple couldn’t not wait any longer to find out anything! Just sheer curiosity! Congrats on your pregnancy!

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  • Reply Courtney January 14, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    I find your tone here talking about this topic really helpful. We opted to know the sexes of our 2 babies. A lot of that was because pregnancy brought out a very controlling neurosis and anxiety in me that wanted to learn and control as much of my environment as possible. Knowing the sex of my babies didn’t really make me feel more “prepared,” but it was comforting to me to know as much as possible as I could about my babies. In hind-sight, I have no regrets in learning their sexes, but I do wish I’d had the capacity to allow room for this mystery to remain throughout my pregnancy.

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  • Reply Lisa January 14, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    As someone with a gender creative kid, I thank you for this! Best wishes to you and your family.

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  • Reply Colleen January 14, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    Gender reveals seem to have really taken off with social media. My mom never had ultrasounds with us, let alone found out the gender. I wish I could have been that natural but here I am on the other side of things. We are about to do our first round of IVF in the next month and chose genetic testing which will also reveal the sex of each of our embryos. In the end, we will choose our strongest embryo and our baby will choose their gender. Hope you’re feeling well. xo

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  • Reply Jillian Schweitzer January 14, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    We found out with our little guy because I was ecstatic to know that the real baby inside was ok, especially after a miscarriage. We didn’t tell anyone till two months before he was born because we wanted to avoid the utterly obnoxious gendered clothing . If we are able (money, space and upcoming election results permitting) to have another, I would love it to be a surprise.

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  • Reply Tamara January 14, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    As the parent of a trans kid, I appreciate you putting this out there for consideration. I found out the sex of both my children, back when I was pretty oblivious to the rainbow of gender expressions out there. My first child let me know when he was 13 that was actually a boy so so much for ‘being prepared’ whatever that means! lol! But as for the more immediate preparations for baby, I ended up wishing I hadn’t found out, or at least hadn’t announced it because my baby shower was awash in pink frilly things which I very much dislike. Currently though my kids are 12 and 15 and pregnancy sonograms feel like a lifetime ago. In the arc of time we find these things we made such a big deal about really matter hardly at all. Happy healthy kids and parents are what’s important.

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  • Reply Catherine January 14, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks, Erin — This was a really lovely read. In part because it made me realize how people can make very different decisions for very similar reasons (which pretty much encompasses most parenting decisions) and I think that’s beautiful. I have my 20-week-ultrasound next week and though we have gone back and forth about finding out/not finding out, I think we’ve settled on finding out. First and foremost I just want to make sure the baby thriving. I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl, I’m not doing any kind of gender reveal, so in my mind there’s no reason not to know now. It doesn’t change any of the planning. For me personally, actively delaying finding out until the day of builds the baby’s sex into something larger than it needs to be. I’ll have that detail out of the way so when he or she is born, I can just meet this little human and find out who they are. That’ll be the best surprise. Thanks for reminding me that there’s more that unites us as parents than divides

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  • Reply Mary Essig January 14, 2020 at 4:30 pm

    Thank you <3

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  • Reply Zoe January 14, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    I have two boys and a girl, and they do not necessarily fit the gender stereotypes for their sex nor do we push them to. But we found out their sex beforehand because we were excited. That’s all. Just excited. There was no hidden ‘agenda’ (excuse the pun). We went with the flow on the day of the scan and it was joyful to know just because. Because they were our baby and we were excited. Wishing you all the best for your pregnancy. Three kids is a lot of fun!

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    • Reply Kelli January 14, 2020 at 5:33 pm

      This post and many of the comments just hurt. How judgmental it all feels.

      Sometimes, being “prepared” has nothing to do with gender expectations or retail purchases. Sometimes people just need something, anything to grasp onto to know that there is hope for a future with an actual child. After my loss, I held tight to all of the little proclamations from the ultrasound technician – a distinctive nose, long fingers, so wiggly, and yes, a penis.

      We bought very little for our son. He wears largely gender-neutral clothes, and plays with all variety of toys. And we found out his sex, because my pregnancy with him was full of real, painful anxiety. I don’t regret it. And it did not diminish the excitement or joy of his birth one bit.

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      • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 14, 2020 at 5:36 pm

        No doubt it didn’t diminish the excitement or joy of your child’s birth! I tried hard to convey here that this is of course a personal decision that people come to from a whole range of experiences and perspectives. I’m writing here about my own feelings and my own decisions and how I came to them.

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        • Reply Kelli January 14, 2020 at 6:04 pm

          Your sentence that starts “The common reason…” seemed to suggest that you have a pretty solid, and negative, view on why others choose differently. I did appreciate your earlier post that addressed why people make different choices around pregnancy, but I’m realizing that it’s just really impossible for others to understand how profoundly loss impacts this experience. And that’s okay. Best wishes for a happy and healthy delivery.

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          • ERIN BOYLE January 14, 2020 at 6:45 pm

            I’m not sure how it suggests that, though of course I understand that folks come to personal essays with their own totally valid experiences and sensitivities, myself very much included. I was saying very simply that that is the most common reason I hear for folks deciding to find out the sex of the baby. I appreciate very much how loss, among other enormously challenging pregnancy complications, impact our feelings and perceptions around other people’s experiences and storytelling around pregnancy specifically and, well, all things generally.

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          • Cheryl January 19, 2020 at 10:35 am

            I chose not to know the gender of my 3 children. Truthfully, not knowing and finding out the gender at birth is the most beautiful and wonderful surprise a person can receive. Nothing compares!

      • Reply HC January 14, 2020 at 7:33 pm

        If it makes you feel better, my husband and I did want to find out about our (rainbow) baby’s gender too. I wanted to feel prepared too – there’s a comfort in knowing in advance, whether symbolic or practical. The reasoning for us was actually more along the line with Erin’s point of view here. I wanted to be prepared in a way that I react to the baby’s biological gender, so that we educate ourselves in advance about the gender dynamics in reality. I found knowing the baby’s gender to be helpful because it opened my eyes on how the majority of baby and toddler merchandises divide and amplify heteronormative, binary gender norms and let me think upon strategies to navigate that reality. So yes, choosing to know in itself can come in a variety of personal reasons, although what I often found was the reveal kind of opening the way towards dividing reactions as to gendered gifts or expectations towards the future child. I read this piece more as a caution against putting possibly more than enough emphasis on gender, not the plain fact that a parent can want to know the gender in advance, in itself.

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        • Reply Emily January 14, 2020 at 8:29 pm

          I’m currently pregnant after a loss this summer, and I totally understand the need for more information this time around. I chose an early ultrasound and more blood tests to make sure our buddy is growing well in there. But finding out the sex of our baby is still something we will choose not to find out. For us, it’s not something we’re attached to, and we know how fluid gender is. And, like you, Erin, we find it’s a helpful way to remind ourselves and those around us that sex and gender are different and knowing can’t tell us anything important about who our child might be. If you are someone who feels defensive about this post, perhaps ask yourself why that might be before responding.

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  • Reply Alida January 14, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    I so appreciate this post. While “knowing” might feel nice in a time of so many unknowns, we don’t actually KNOW who our children will become. I have just found it so curious that, as our society has become more open the fact that someone’s anatomy does not necessarily dictate their gender identity, “gender reveal” posts/parties/cakes/etc. have been blowing up (literally! > https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/11/gender-reveal-disasters/601801/)

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  • Reply Catherine Cox January 14, 2020 at 4:31 pm

    I am with you on this, Erin, and with Samantha (two home births, didn’t want to know their sex) – it does speak to that great question that I often ponder as to why people are so intent on labeling according to this or that (sex/gender, ethnicity, age, not to mention all those other divisions we’ve had through the ages – religion, politics). Why can’t we let each other move freely through life based on (evolving?) individual preferences rather than constrained by those predefined check boxes? What underlying need or fear does it speak to?… Sorry, waxing way too philosophical – but I loved this post and the thoughts it brought up all over again! 🙂

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  • Reply Irene January 14, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    As Amy Poehler would say, good for her, not for me. My reason for finding out the gender wasn’t to pick out a paint color or a name. It was to give myself something concrete to know about my child. Because last time around, my pregnancy ended in a horrible loss. The ground fell beneath my feet and I was brought to my knees for months. I’m 5 months along now and I’ve chosen not to share my pregnancy on social media. I won’t be making any announcements about the pregnancy at all. And I won’t be posting any photos of our little one on the internet. To each her own.

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  • Reply Audrey January 14, 2020 at 4:49 pm

    While we did find out the sex of our son when I was pregnant, we kept preparations generally “gender-neutral”. It was fun to know more about what’s going on in there! I love that you point out to keep in mind the importance of understanding the difference between the sex a child is born with and ultimately who they will become. Not only their gender identity, but what career they will pursue, who they will love, and so on. I’m also relieved to see that gender reveal parties are starting to lose momentum.

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  • Reply Rachel January 14, 2020 at 4:51 pm

    I chose to find out the sex of both of my children, and if I were to have a third I think I would again. Not to feel prepared (both my children (female and male) have with the same clothes, the same cloth diapers, played with the same toys etc.), but more because my personality likes to find out all information and it helps settle the anxiety that the unknowing nature of pregnancy brings. If it were possible to find out their hair colour, eye colour, their life passions, their favourite song, whether they preferred to feed off the left or right breast… I would find it all out. I think for some finding out the sex may define some of their parenting decisions, whereas for others (like myself) it has nothing to do with gender.

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    • Reply Erin January 16, 2020 at 1:41 pm

      I’ve always thought it funny that often people say they want the gender to be a surprise – it’s always a surprise! You don’t get to choose the gender if you find out early before your baby is born. It’s just a matter of WHEN you want to be surprised. We loved knowing. I’ve had lots of friends who didn’t and loved not knowing and waiting for their birth to knows. My sister and her husband found out early but didn’t tell anyone else (amazingly they didn’t slip up with a pronoun). I love that everyone can make a choice that works best for them.

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  • Reply Kimberly January 14, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    I assume the desire of most parents to “be prepared” by knowing the anatomical gender has to do with how heavily “gendered” children’s clothing and toys (and bedding and decor and dish ware and and and…ugh) are. Not everyone is as keen on the various shades of neutral as you are, Erin. 😉 (I remember a post before you had Faye about your mom joking that your child would be referring to shades of white in highly descriptive terms in no time!)

    I also think that along with a movement toward greater openness in how we frame gender for our children is a movement toward not assuming clothing (or haircuts!) indicate anatomy. In the early days of one of my children’s lives I corrected a stranger in a store when they repeatedly referred to my daughter with male pronouns. I was polite, but was then reprimanded (!!) for not having her clad in pinks and purples. She was wearing pale yellow. It felt absurd to be scolded for not dressing my child in a way that made her anatomy obvious to the public. It WAS absurd!

    Ah, societal expectations. We all do our best to shift and shake them. Glad you’ve found a way to engage with this topic that feels right for your family.

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  • Reply Alana January 14, 2020 at 4:56 pm

    Erin, I’ve loved your blog and your way with words for such a long time. This post was especially meaningful for me. I’m currently expecting my first child, and the question of finding out the sex is something that keeps coming up and asked to me. I have never wanted to find out the sex, for all of the reasons so eloquently expressed here. I’m saving this post to share later with my family, if wanted and needed, in the future to help express my thoughts in a way that I struggle with. Thank you.

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  • Reply Steph January 14, 2020 at 4:57 pm

    Super interesting thoughts. We didn’t find out with our two boys (now 6 & 4) and the biggest reactions we got were annoyance about limiting people’s buying options until after the baby was born.
    And to be honest it was a side benefit to not finding out. I wanted the surprise but also I liked that if people wanted to purchase a present it wasn’t impacted by knowing the gender.
    Funny thing is now 6 grandchildren have been born and no one found out the gender. And no one complained the other 5 times!

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  • Reply Darenda January 14, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    I didn’t wait to find out, but applaud you for waiting. I think waiting till the end makes the birth that much more special and surprising. Sometimes I wish I had, but it is what it is. Congratulations!

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  • Reply Kate January 14, 2020 at 5:11 pm

    Oh I love this! I chose to find out the genders of both of my babies because I’m a need-to-know-everything-I-possibly-can type of person. But I didn’t need to know. And it didn’t change anything, except for the way me and my husband and our family have tried to impose social constructions upon our kids. We try, of course, to break away from those whenever possible (our second child, a boy, wears his sister’s old purple winter boots and pink pants). It’s so interesting, and very sad actually, in my opinion, how people align colors and prints with one gender or the other. My son wants to wear pink flowers; why would I deprive him?!?
    As always, thank you for writing what you write!

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  • Reply Lexie January 14, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    My mom wrote letters to me in utero (my favorite being the one where she shared they had just bought a Toyota Tercel). She was convinced I was a boy because of how active and jumpy I was in the womb. I love being her fun surprise.

    I will probably find out the sex of our future baby because I know my husband really wants to know, and there isn’t much he gets to be let in on in that process.

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  • Reply Sam January 14, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    We chose to find out the sex mostly because I’m the nosiest person ever and need to know everything I have the ability to know. We’ll probably do the same with this current pregnancy. We chose not to tell anyone the sex during our first pregnancy in the hopes that the odd gifts we got would be more likely to be gender neutral, but alas that was not the case. People just waited until after the baby was born to purchase all the obnoxious macho boy shit they could for him. We definitely use gendered pronouns for our son, though his name is quite unisex, but I try my hardest to treat him like human child, and not what people think a boy needs to be like. The most fun is when he gets confused for a girl and it comes up the he’s a boy later. People feel AWFUL, and I just don’t get it!

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  • Reply Lauren January 14, 2020 at 6:28 pm

    We found out with our baby. I was very attached to having a girl (for reasons beyond what I could articulate) – when I found out we were having a boy it gave me time to consider why I had that preference and confront my fears. If we are lucky enough to have another I don’t know if we will find out. I’ve worked past this fear so it matters less to me now.
    – In the fog of newborness, especially in the middle of the night, both my husband and I would often forget his sex and use she/her pronouns. I don’t think baby cared one bit ha.

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    • Reply mado January 14, 2020 at 6:45 pm

      I love your last comment – it made me remember that I used to do the same! Since we already had two girl dogs, I found “good girl!” coming out of my mouth quite often in those newborn months.

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    • Reply Alex January 15, 2020 at 4:48 pm

      Exactly. I found out both times because I had a preference, and I wanted to give myself time to work through any disappointment.

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  • Reply Liz January 14, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    I feel the same way about gender! Since it doesn’t affect the baby’s health one way or another, why not enjoy the surprise! Blessings and here’s too a healthy baby and momma!

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  • Reply Lee January 14, 2020 at 6:29 pm

    Erin–Thanks for this post. I’m expecting my first child and my husband and I aren’t finding out the sex of the baby. When people ask, he always says–well I have a pretty good idea of my chances. We’ve been framing it as we like the element of surprise, but it is much more nuanced than that. Neither my husband and I have appreciated the cultural confines of our “gender,” and we don’t want to push that onto a child through the barrage of “gendered” gifts we would get if we found out the sex (we both hail from the Deep South). We’ve also been joking about having a baby shower/party with friends and having a cake iced with the phrase “gender is a social construct.”

    I’m also learning how you might feel when sharing your decision about parenting makes others feel judged. I recently shared our decision to have an unmedicated home birth with a friend and they felt like I was judging their use of an epidural. I respect every woman’s right to chose how she wants to give birth, but unfortunately, the societal judgement placed on women tends to put most of us on the defensive.

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  • Reply Ashley January 14, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    We didn’t find out the sex of any of our three kiddos either. Added bonus to this decision— all three had the same baby stuff and we didn’t feel compelled to acquire anything new each time.

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  • Reply mado January 14, 2020 at 6:53 pm

    During my pregnancy I was pressured by my obgyn of all people to find out the sex! “What are you going to call it? How will you form a relationship if you can’t call them by their name in utero?” In a time that was full of anxiety and uncertainty and feeling out of control, sticking to my decision not to know helped me feel like I was in control, maybe not of what was happening, but of my reaction to it. Also, we chose not to find out specifically to avoid all the gendered clothing and baby stuff for as long as we could. My MIL now proudly reports each time she is asked “for a boy or a girl” in the bookstore, toy store, etc. and responds with “for a person!”
    And, as a regular reader, when I saw your tease on Instagram I expected just this sort of post.

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  • Reply Karen January 14, 2020 at 6:56 pm

    I’m currently 20weeks with my third and all three times I WANTED TO KNOW THE SEX HOLY COW SO EXCITING I HAVE NO PATIENCE!!!!!

    All three times I was sure of the baby’s sex and thought of each of them as he/she until I knew for sure whether they were anatomically a he/she. I was wrong every time. Knowing the sex ahead let’s me deal with gender disappointment, or more specifically name disappointment. This time, we had a girl’s name all tied up – welp, it’s a boy. First, my husband and I have 5 months to figure out a boy’s name (and BOY do we need that time to really try a name out in earnest and see if it feels right calling him by it). Second, both of my older kids (a boy and a girl) were disappointed not to be having a little sister. Knowing it’s going to be a brother gives them 5 months to adjust so the innocent little love doesn’t get any “Oh no, I wanted a sissssster” whining on his birthday. Just love.

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  • Reply Ema Hegberg January 14, 2020 at 7:17 pm

    Wonderfully written, Erin! Thank you for this post. My husband and I know we won’t be finding out the sexes of our future kiddos and I know that isn’t going to be a popular decision with our families. Reading your post and the proceeding comments, I now feel more prepared for that situation and even more confident in our stance on the matter.

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  • Reply Helen January 14, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    I very much appreciate reading the comments raised about loss and name-knowing. I hadn’t thought about this (and perhaps, unlike Erin, made some assumptions about people who found out the gender). My own experience with my kids was that *not* knowing was I found fact a hilarious act of avoidance on several fronts. I did genetic testing for both (being a “geriatric mother” haha) and had to ask midwives to not share the sex. And of course the technician avoiding certain areas. Given that, not knowing felt like more work that knowing 🙂 but I agree that I felt free of something by not knowing..among the most precious 30 seconds of my life were those immediate following my daughters birth, as I held her without knowledge of who…no “it’s a girl!” yet, just me and this person. I will freely admit that every moment after that is a struggle against the gendering that I and society do, and a hard battle to help her (them) discover their real desires, identity. It’s hard work.

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  • Reply Claire January 14, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    We chose to find out with the desire to find out every single detail possible (five fingers, a nose, two kidneys, a penis). In the end though I do wish a bit that we kept the details that our baby had a penis to ourselves….particularly when four boxes of hand me down clothes showed up all with football, baseball, truck, and train themes. I do find an incredible comfort and connection thinking of this baby as “little brother” but constantly wondering what it even means that this human is biologically male. We find ourselves pulled by our leaning towards being gender neutral while also striving to not buy anything new. So much blue and pink in the hand me down market! And, I find my brain going constantly crazy as I take the pink and white stripe crib sheet off the old mattress and put the green and white hand me down on. Why am I reaching for the green over the existing pink? Why do I find myself pulling out some of our old little pink outfits to gift to friends who have had “girls”? My brain know gender is a social construct, I’ve watched friends kids change from one gender to another, I never questioned putting my daughter in blue, yet why do I find myself slowly and casually making the pink disappear as “neutral” hand me downs come in. I justify that the neutral works better with the existing room being turned into the nursery but I know that ultimately there’s a part of my brain that is just not letting go of the binary constructs I’ve grown up with as we await for our children to tell us what gender they identify.

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  • Reply Jessica January 14, 2020 at 9:01 pm

    I have a lot of conflicting feelings here! Thanks for raising this topic and creating this space for discussion. We chose to find out the sex of our kiddo bc we knew that whatever gender our child turned out to be, a baby born with a vagina would be treated in ways that a baby born with a penis would not. I’ve never phrased it this way before, but I suppose that in that sense, I wanted to be prepared for that (mentally prepared, as it was one of the things for which I could tangibly prepare). I have a vagina and I know intimately the joys and challenges of being a human with a vagina. I was nervous for a child with a penis, as I don’t have one and didn’t grow up with a sibling with a penis, and felt wholly unprepared for navigating everything, including the privilege, that comes with having a penis (all of this regardless of gender). We use she/her pronouns, and gave our kiddo a femme name, but I fully acknowledge that our child may not fall as neatly on the gender identity continuum as I’ve named and call her. I sometimes feel guilty for not being more “neutral” in my naming choice, although at the same time, who’s to say that a boy cannot have a femme name. The fact that our chosen name is femme is a construct in itself. Our kiddo wears all colors because no one part of the color wheel is “girl” or “boy.” “Gendered” colors and “gender neutral” are constructs. If we had another kiddo, I’d probably not find out the sex. I have in my home a tiny human with a vagina whom I love and protect fiercely. Knowing that another vagina or a penis will be joining us will not add much to what’s going on in my head around the topic. The person part would be the exciting part for me now. (I’ve also noticed that some commenters aren’t clear on the fact that sex is the biological fact (chromosomes/penis/vagina, though we should also allow for differences in sex development that might place someone on the spectrum somewhere between penis and vagina) whereas gender is a social construct — what we think and learn and see and heard and do related to “boys” and “girls” or “men” and “women” (“boys are tough,” “girls are maternal,” “men don’t cry,” “women like shopping”).

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  • Reply Julie January 14, 2020 at 9:04 pm

    My husband and I chose to find out our baby’s sex at 20 weeks – then lied to every single person we knew and told them we were waiting until the birth to find out. This way we got to enjoy our own little secret whilst avoiding an avalanche of gendered gifts, expectations, and general nonsense. It was a fun bubble for a few months!

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  • Reply Kathleen January 14, 2020 at 9:13 pm

    We’ve done it both ways! With our first son, we did not find out. I thought the surprise at birth would be fun (and it was). For our second son, I honestly can’t remember why we decided to find out at 20 weeks that time around. With our third, my oldest really wanted to know whether he’d be having a brother or sister (he was hoping for a second brother) so we brought him along to the ultrasound and I remember so vividly how excited he was when they pronounced it would be a boy again. 🙂 I appreciate the tone of your post and thought it was beautifully written. I find it interesting how “gender reveals” have become so popular in recent years at the same time that we are having a growing cultural conversation around gender, what it means, etc. We all have our reasons for making decisions, none better than others, and you described wonderfully your perspective. Congrats on being in the home stretch of this third pregnancy.

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  • Reply Judge Judy January 14, 2020 at 9:59 pm

    It’s difficult to raise our children outside of the human framework that we are able to offer them. People determined to raise loving, kind, empathetic kids have to know and practice these qualities themselves.

    The notion that we can raise gender neutral children is absurd. Not in its ideals and not even its practice – but rather in its fatalistic outcome. We represent a gender even when we chose to be gender neutral! The notion of “no gender” highlights an implied gender construct and as result removes all neutrality by way of the intention to avoid it!

    We are not a genderless creature! We are not a neutral creature!! We can no more raise gender neutral children than we can raise the very opposite of a gender neutral person (whatever the heck that is?!?)

    What we actually physically*, mentally* and spiritually* CAN do is be OPEN, be AWARE, be EDUCATED, be CURIOUS, be TOLERANT, be PATIENT, be CARING, be KIND . . . be . . . LOVING?

    All this fuss.
    (Insert eye-roll AND forehead slap)

    It’s an ideal!!! NOT a certainty.

    Erin. Is. Offering. A. Perspective.

    By EXACTLY the same logic we OFFEND anyone and everyone able to be offended when we make public the ideals/perspectives/choices/arguments/viewpoints
    we’ve chosen as a direct result of being exposed to things that “offend us” (replace the word offend with disagree/challenge/upset/antagonise etc and the same logic applies)

    Let’s face it people. The only one single truth that exists in the face of every single issue ever raised and examined is this . . .

    “If someone can be offended, they will most likely be offended”

    Let’s just love our kids (AND ourselves AND each other) SO much that it becomes virtually/nearly/almost/very much impossible for them to feel insecure in who they are and how they chose to live their lives.

    *disclaimer – bearing in mind that anyone who feels judged because they have physical, mental and spiritual limitations WILL be offended because my very logically privileged brain came out with an expression that may (or may not) be construed as physically, mentally and spiritually prejudice. I could offer up a detailed, convoluted defence case outlining exactly what I meant to say in a
    non-offensive manner – but that in and of itself is impossible; and would assail the logic I am basing this argument upon in the first place.

    PS – zero apologies to anyone and everyone I may or may not have offended with this comment. Instead my sincerest apologies to those who’ll never read this post and all the comments – because let’s face it – it’s brilliant.

    PPS – Levity

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    • Reply Callie Avis January 17, 2020 at 8:00 pm

      As a medical provider who takes care of non-binary and gender fluid young adults, the evidence is not up for debate. Children whose parents do not support and affirm their gender identity have a much much higher rate of suicidal ideations and suicide. A much much higher rate. Affirming a child gender identity from ones parents alone will save lives. Please seek the guidance of a medical provider who knows the research.

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  • Reply Penny January 14, 2020 at 10:13 pm

    Hello Erin. Thank you for sharing your convictions. I’ve decided to leave a comment as this post triggered some conflicting views from yours and almost all of those who have replied. As someone who found out the gender of all three of my children, I love and celebrate gender and it’s proven differences. I am grateful to have the privilege of raising two girls and one boy. I feel the immense responsibility of raising them in a way that honors the integrity of how they’ve been created and shepherding their impressionable minds. I feel with great conviction that gender is not fluid, even if the child feels otherwise. I am currently raising a child who is struggling with the desire to be the opposite sex and instead of encouraging the idea, I feel as her parent the need to guide and teach towards truth. Just as I wouldn’t allow her to choose to either steal a toy or put it back, depending on which idea “felt most right” to her, I shudder to think of a society that encourages those to choose what feels most right to them. What are we basing this form of morality on? Personal preferences? A genderless utopia is not the answer to all the pain, heinous injustice, prejudices and suffering.
    Just wanted to let you know you have a wider audience than you may realize…or maybe you do

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    • Reply Katie January 14, 2020 at 11:25 pm

      It’s interesting that you’re framing a child’s thoughts about his/her gender as a question of morality, and comparing it to making a decision about stealing a toy.

      I can’t agree that gender assignment or fluidity has anything to do with morality, but if you want to go there you need to take it a step further. It’s not about whether to steal the toy or put it back. It’s about whether to steal the food that you’ve gone without for days, years, your whole life, because without that food you’re going to die. Pretending you don’t need the food to live is crushing you spiritually, just as lethal as the physical hunger.

      The analogy is still fundamentally flawed, but that’s closer.

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    • Reply Angy January 15, 2020 at 12:16 am

      Penny, may I ask – what do you base your morality on? And may I ask what gender has to do with morals? And may I ask what does it mean to be female? An what does it mean to be a man? What are the proven differences of gender? How does it feel to you to “be a woman”? Are there things you choose to teach your daughter and not your son because you perceive them as gender specific teachings? Are you suggesting that choosing to steal is always wrong? Let’s say your child chose to steal food for a starving child? (shudder) Was/is stealing wrong in this case or are there times when stealing can be fluid in its implications? And tell me please, if stealing is always wrong then what punishment is best if say a child steals a teddy versus a teenager steals a gun? Would these be punishments that we vote on as a society or would they be something you feel you know instinctively since before becoming a mother? Were your morals and ideas taught to you by your parents only? Also – if your child is struggling with their desire to be the opposite sex why is it you that gets to tell them which desire is ok and which is not? Why can it not be their father/aunt/grandparent/dear friend? These are not intended to be antagonistic questions (you cannot provide globally acceptable answers for them even if you tried) – I just think they are vitally important questions for everyone to ask before they decide for themselves what their “forever and ever amen gavel dropping” truth is.

      Let alone deciding truth for another human being.

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    • Reply Lauren January 15, 2020 at 6:54 am

      This breaks my heart for your child. Hopefully they can find some acceptance outside of their home. I would encourage you to do some additional research about gender.

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 15, 2020 at 8:09 am

      To my mind there is simply not a correlation between gender expression and morality. Allowing someone to freely express themselves is not at all the same thing as encouraging a child to inflict harm on others. I am quite aware of my audience, but this doesn’t change how I write about the things that matter to me.

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    • Reply sari January 15, 2020 at 9:09 am

      “A genderless utopia is not the answer to all the pain, heinous injustice, prejudices and suffering.”

      Certainly not. But a family that accepts their child for what they are (have always been, have been created as), IS the answer to a lot of the pain, injustice, prejudice and suffering in that child’s life (and later, adult’s life).
      If it is not morally wrong to be a boy born with a penis or a girl born with a vagina, I cannot see how it could be morally wrong to be a girl born with a penis or a boy born with a vagina.

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    • Reply Jessica January 15, 2020 at 9:36 am

      This so deeply hurts my soul (among the many things that hurt the soul) — to know, concretely, that this child is expressing the gender they are experiencing and the child’s parent is vigorously denying that. I truly hope this child has a loving adult in their life to welcome and support them. Please, please, please look up rates of suicide among trans individuals — rates are staggering. Denying an individuals gender identity and/or sexual orientation is harmful, hurtful, and life threatening. This is not about morality. Please reconsider your position. Please speak to trans individuals — find a therapist specializing in gender identity. If other readers have book suggestions (particularly those related to the harms associated with denying children’s gender identities), perhaps you might consider reading them.
      Erin, I want to explicitly thank you for being vulnerable in order to be an ally for children — children who are gender fluid, trans, non-binary, and anywhere else along the continuum (including children whose identity firmly aligns with their sex — you created space for all, even for them, to be who they are). As this comment demonstrates, there are still so many children without a supportive community. By creating this space, by responding to commenters who are concerned about your “bait and switch” (eye roll), and commenters who, rather than acknowledging that this is a challenging topic that we’re all working toward, scold you for being “judgy,” you are hopefully building an even larger community for kids who desperately need it — it is quite literally a matter of life and death for them. Thank you.

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    • Reply Lindy January 15, 2020 at 2:29 pm

      Hi Penny.. I applaud your living your life with morality as your compass. Your community might be very morality based and having a child that is really a girl or boy is not something your community would view without judgement. Your child is who he/ she feels to be.. and whether is is an easier transition with your family support/ or a transition later with family judgements/ it will happen.. and hopefully in the process of being denied their feelings.. be able to keep their mental health. Its all Difficult.. But can be made gentler with LOVE. Which you have for your child in spades. I wish you courage and your child his/ her comfort and mental health. Cause in the end it’s Mental Health that creates a healthy human being❤️

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    • Reply Cady January 15, 2020 at 8:25 pm

      Reading your comment filled me with compassion for your child who must be struggling to come to terms with their identity while being confronted with your strongly held ‘morals.’ As mentioned by others, denying a child their identity can and will result in traumas, if not more harmful, yet entirely preventable, tragedies (eg. suicide). This is confirmed by countless scholarly articles from reputable researchers. If a continued relationship with your child as they enter adulthood is a priority, reading further about gender identity and expression would be highly advised.

      While I did find Erin’s use of the societal buzzword “gender-reveal” to be misleading, she is very much aware of her audience.

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    • Reply Tamara January 15, 2020 at 11:11 pm

      Just want to throw out this little tidbit that gender essentialist people tend to conveniently overlook: 1 in 200 people is born intersex, meaning with some version of both sex organs. So tell me again what those proven differences are and how do they play out in the lives of intersex persons? My child might literally not be alive today if we hadn’t allowed him to be who he was. I’m not saying it was easy because it wasn’t but with the help of a therapist, and supportive friends, we are all so much happier and he is thriving. He is a kind, compassionate human who also knows better than to steal. Believe me, your kid isn’t deciding this on a whim; they are thinking about it much more than you are. I hope you can put aside your preconceived notions and just listen to your kid and be a safe place for them.

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    • Reply anonymous January 18, 2020 at 1:46 pm

      Penny, You are not alone .. and yes, it is a question of morality, when, to walk down a path that is not intended for you (gender reassignment surgery, in the case of my father) you abandon your wife and baby to do so, walk away from all familial responsibilities and do the opposite of “training up a child in the way they should go”. It results in lifelong hurt and confusion for the family that the abandoned child carries around the rest of her life and makes wrong choices, all as a result of the abandonment due to him “needing to explore and discover who he really is” That IS a moral decision! In the end, it was all a mistake and he now thoroughly regrets living that way 20 years – and of course, can’t get his penis back even though he wants to. [REMOVED BY ADMIN] Here’s to living proof of another perspective that should be taken seriously.

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      • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 18, 2020 at 3:19 pm

        Your family history with gender reassignment sounds difficult, complicated, and painful. I’ve published your comment here with edits, removing the personal attacks against me, both in an attempt to protect you from further reader comments and, of course, to protect myself. It’s never enjoyable to read these kinds of notes and I wouldn’t wish that experience on anyone. Also sending a reminder that I write this blog from my own perspective and with no hope or expectation that everyone who reads it agrees with me. That said, if you find the subject matter here to be disturbing, please remember you are not obligated to read. I will not be publishing further comments that include personal attacks.

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        • Reply anonymous January 18, 2020 at 7:43 pm

          I apologize. You didn’t deserve that …thank you for protecting me regardless …

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  • Reply Elizabeth January 14, 2020 at 10:23 pm

    Thank you, Erin, for bravely sharing a personal decision that affects only you and your family – and enduring the whining of people who cannot bear that someone have a different opinion. I appreciate that you are willing to use a personal time in your life to share your reasoning for the decisions you have made and how those reasons support your feelings regarding excess, social justice, and orderliness. It’s strange to me when people reading your blog seem personally offended that you live in a tiny apartment, make thoughtful purchases, etc. this entry felt very much like your tiny apartment posts – this is what we are doing; this is why we are doing it; this is how we are doing it. My only darling is a sophomore in college but I teach a preschool Sunday School class and I am always striving to find ways of interacting with them that are not gender biased. We are all strong – we are all creative. But since I am older, some of it seeps in. I deliberately read articles like this to help me re-set, to practice speaking in a way that doesn’t pigeon hole any of them. Thank you so much for so often being that source. Also – that mushroom is adorable!

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 15, 2020 at 8:05 am

      Thanks for this note! I so appreciate this understanding of this space and my work here. Here’s to all of us being open to change and understanding and continuing our own personal journeys while allowing others to do the same!

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  • Reply Lia January 14, 2020 at 10:38 pm

    With our first, we didn’t find out what we were having. We had a traumatic birth – I was under general anesthesia, my husband didn’t make it into the OR because there wasn’t time to scrub him in. So I found out what we had a girl from my bawling husband, no baby in sight, and I could have cared less because I was so worried about her. I met my daughter probably at least an hour after her birth and didn’t get to hold her for days. She’s totally fine, btw! We ended up calling her by the name she would have had if she had been a boy because we liked it so much and it is relatively gender neutral and has a more feminine nickname which is what she goes by.

    Our second pregnancy was a twin pregnancy and we elected once again to not find out what we were having. The only downside was having to come up with 6 names/combinations (2 boy names, a boy/girl combo, and 2 girls). This birth could not have been more different – when our son was born we were excited, yay, one of each…then came 20 more minutes of pushing (during which the calendar rolled over to a new month – they have different birthdays, lol)…lots of anticipation….then out popped our daughter! It was so fun and exciting to not know and find out two surprises at birth.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed the surprise with each child. But I also get wanting to know, it was a struggle with our first child – we both had our moments of wanting to find out. I also think that my husband and I liked frustrating our families to death, haha. They were all dying to know!

    Also, we tried to be as gender neutral as possible but our daughter picked it up at daycare and we had a two year period where she would only wear dresses, the frillier the better. Ugh. Our son is obsessed with firetrucks so right now the only clothing we can definitely get him to wear are red things or shirts/pants plastered with firetrucks. We bought many of the same shirts for his twin and she refused to wear them. So interesting to see their preferences!

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  • Reply d January 15, 2020 at 3:15 am

    “while we know that we’re still a far way off from living in a post-gender world”.
    Genders are beautiful. All of them, in all their complexity and despite their individual challenges; and I love the fact that genders and sexes do exist. I hope we never end up having to live in a neutral, gender-less society. I love celebrating the uniqueness of every soul out there. But beige, odorless, colorless, sexless and joyless uniformity should hardly be an ideal to aspire to.

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 15, 2020 at 8:02 am

      This is hardly an argument for a beige, odorless, colorless, sexless, and joyless uniformity. Exactly the opposite.

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  • Reply maria January 15, 2020 at 4:31 am

    that is just too far for me..
    not knowing your baby’s sex doesn’t prepare you to simply anything about his/her future as it doesn’t knowing it.
    i’m not naive and really aware of the discussion but we have a lifetime to be amazed and to worry..
    this continuing overthinking, always putting new meanings and weigh on something that is pure magic, is it really necessary?

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 15, 2020 at 8:01 am

      It’s magic indeed to see a person grow and develop and change and come into themselves, whatever that self might be.

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    • Reply Jennie January 15, 2020 at 11:44 am

      Maria, I could not agree with you more. OVERTHINKING!!! Putting new meaning and weight on almost everything in today’s society. So fatiguing!!!

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      • Reply Lauren January 15, 2020 at 5:36 pm

        I find learning about ideas of gender energizing, fascinating and expansive. I can’t imagine what could be fatiguing about expanding your thinking about social constructs unless you are the person who is gender non-conforming and has to do the emotional labor for simple acknowledgment.

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  • Reply NanaD January 15, 2020 at 7:01 am

    We had no choice, just like in all of history. My daughter chose not to know in advance, all anyone can hope for is a healthy human baby. We never had any considerations like these.
    Although I wish to be tolerant and modern, gender is really the least important thing about having a baby. Sex has some minor importance as far as care is concerned. I fear some young parents are going to be disappointed that their child is on the scale of „normal“ when they are so open to gender choice… which goes into the realms of ridiculous (in my view). We need some kind of order – where I live you have a wide choice of names to choose from, with restrictions if a name could have a negative impact on a child. If the sex is not clear from the first name, you must give a second name that makes it clear (names like Kim, Dominique are not clearly male or female), and you must have names ready when you get to the hospital for either sex. You have a few days to change it afterwards if you need to.

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 15, 2020 at 7:58 am

      I can’t imagine that the fear of parental disappointment in the case of raising a cis-gendered child will be a big concern. There’s a world of space between allowing a child the freedom to express their gender in whichever way they choose being disappointed that a child is not non-binary.

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    • Reply sari January 15, 2020 at 9:18 am

      Naming deadlines differ by state, so one should check locally. I home-birthed in Michigan, and my midwife told me that “after one year, getting a birth certificate becomes considerably harder” lol.
      We named our child about a week or so after birth, because we had no suggestions we both agreed on until then. The hospital has no legal authority on this matter, and cannot hold you “hostage” because you have not decided on a name.

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      • Reply mado January 15, 2020 at 5:05 pm

        Just want to put in that perhaps the commenter is from a different country where the laws are different! I live in Ecuador, and while you do have some leeway of time before facing a penalty for not registering your baby’s birth/name with the central registry, the officials at the registry do have some legal oversight (or at least they think they do) over the names “allowed” (a holdover from colonial times when only Christian names from the Bible were legally allowed, a discriminatory practice against indigenous peoples). Laws vary!

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  • Reply Kat O January 15, 2020 at 7:32 am

    As a non-parent, I think “gender” (ahem, “sex”) reveals are SO weird. Like you said, knowing the baby’s physical sex has nothing to do with their gender, and I find the whole “let’s throw a party celebrating our baby’s genitals” thing to be gross and bizarre. Just my outsider perspective.

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    • Reply Maggie January 16, 2020 at 8:58 pm

      🙂 maybe if they were called sexual organ reveal parties people would be less excited? “It’s A Penis!”

  • Reply Sophia January 15, 2020 at 9:20 am

    Erin, just finished reading through all the comments and wanted to say hi, and I hope you’re doing well. It takes a lot of bravery to put yourself out there. I imagine you had some idea that many of these comments were coming, but I also imagine that the experience of seeing them roll in, reading them, and finding the words to respond takes a certain toll. I see this as you continuing to be willing to put yourself out there to encourage conversations and thought and perhaps new considerations among readers. I am a social worker and part (most) of my work involves having difficult conversations and navigating lots of other people’s big emotions. It’s my work, and it’s important, so I do it, but I’m also affected by it, often deeply, and it takes its own toll. Wishing all the comments here were as centered on personal experiences as your essay was. Wishing you peace today, too, and sending love to the tiny human inside. They are so lucky to have you.

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 15, 2020 at 9:27 am

      Thanks so much, Sophia.

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  • Reply Laura January 15, 2020 at 10:36 am

    We are trying to get pregnant with our 1st , and I have never understood why it is so important to know boy or girl and now that I have read a lot about gender and sexism etc, I am 200% sure I don’t want to know before the birth! And I will be really happy to explain why to everybody, that sex doesn’t equal gender and that my only wish is to have a healthy baby ! 🙂

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  • Reply S January 15, 2020 at 10:37 am

    We learned the sex of our longed-for child before her birth. Perhaps I’m less evolved :), but it was an absolute joy for us and did make it all feel more real. Had no effect whatsoever on how we planned or purchased or decorated, other than that we chose a traditionally female name; but I was pretty shocked by the deluge of pink after we shared the news. If we have another child, I think we’ll go with Julie’s plan of finding out but keeping that bit of knowledge to ourselves.

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  • Reply Sarah January 15, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Erin, thanks for sharing this. What pronouns do you use for your baby right now?

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 15, 2020 at 1:10 pm

      We mostly refer to it as “the baby” but also use they/them!

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    • Reply Nadia January 15, 2020 at 4:05 pm

      Also curious, Erin do you plan on choosing a gender-neutral name for your child? Your other two children have gender-specific names so how does this play into the conversation?

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      • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 15, 2020 at 6:17 pm

        Name choice plays into the conversation in just the way I shared above: “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.” James and I haven’t settled on what we might name this next baby, but yes, of course, we’ve talked a lot about naming conventions and what choices we might make this time around.

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        • Reply Lindy January 17, 2020 at 11:35 am

          Is there a gentler word than stifling? This is such a big conversation.. sort of like Trump.. brings everyone’s values into play.. It’s a polarized time right now.. let’s be gentler. Wishing you a a healthy baby

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          • ERIN BOYLE January 17, 2020 at 11:42 am

            Of course there are gentler words. I’m writing about my own feelings here and stifled is how I feel when I think about needing to conform to gender norms and how I feel when I think about my kids needing to conform to gender norms, including, and especially in these last few days, the unbelievable efforts that get made to control the language that women use to describe their own experiences and opinions.

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  • Reply Lourdes January 15, 2020 at 10:58 am

    I find the inability for people to separate their own life choices from that of a personal essay that they are reading to be absolutely fascinating! Erin’s writing is beautiful, thought-provoking, nuanced, wonderfully articulated, and above all, personal. I would no more read a memoir by a 78 year old man and expect it to mirror my own choices and feelings than I would any other type of writing on the internet. Part of what the joy of reading different blogs is to get a variety of perspectives, and I’m not quite sure what indicated to so many that one person’s life choice are an indictment of their own. Erin’s lovely children are lucky to have a parent who takes a very thoughtful approach to every aspect of raising them.

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  • Reply Heather January 15, 2020 at 11:10 am

    I want to wish you every joy and blessing with this new little person in your family. Congratulations.

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  • Reply Christie January 15, 2020 at 11:41 am

    I love this, Erin! So many comments, too, that I haven’t read. For our first two (born male), we did not find out the sex. But for our last one, I really wanted to know. My husband wanted the surprise. So when I went (alone) to my ultrasound, I decided to find out. A little girl. I never told anyone, including my husband that I knew, and I feigned surprise when she was born. It was my special secret. I probably will tell him one day, but not yet.
    Of course, as you say, sex means nothing. We learned this with our 5 year old middle boy, who prefers long hair and beautiful dresses, and idolizes Queen Elsa. He has not said yet that he wishes he were a girl. He has made no indication of changing his gender. In fact, he seems happy to be a boy and be called “he.” So “He” is a boy who loves beautiful dresses. And we are just going with the flow, with what he wants, however that evolves, and however it turns out to be one day. I am so happy for him that he is growing up in a loving home with parents and siblings, family, friends, and teachers, who really do not care. I imagine it would be so much harder to discover who you are (gender-wise) without such support.

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  • Reply Jessica January 15, 2020 at 12:07 pm

    It’s definitely important to emphasize that sex does not equal gender and I personally have more work to do questioning my own ideas of gender constructs based on family and societal influences, so this post and the conversation around it is welcome! However, the sex of a fetus does impact various factors in pregnancy. Male fetuses are more vulnerable. Different hormone levels affect mom and baby in different ways. Of course, whether or not that information is helpful or welcome during a pregnancy, would be up to individuals to decide. After a high-risk twin pregnancy where my babies shared one placenta unequally, knowing that their sex was male only heightened my anxiety.

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  • Reply Autumn January 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm

    I never comment on ANY blogs, but your statement was so wonderfully written. Falling in the “unpopular” opinion category, I wanted to make sure you received support not only for a position with which I AGREE but also for speaking your truth before potential disagreement.

    I found out the sex of my two children because of a family naming obligation, but gave them gender neutral rooms and clothes until they started requesting otherwise or indicating favorites. My son (first born) had a blue kitchen which has since been through 6 other children with like minded parents.

    That being said, my children both chose single gender schools. My son wanted a school where more kids were identified as having ADHD and Executive Function challenges (BOYS) and my daughter loves math and wanted to be with girls who didn’t lose their love of math because of societal influence. I teach in an different all boys school that focuses on the unique needs of boys of color who face with own double stigma. All three schools accept children who IDENTIFY as that gender, or are that sex but identify as non-binary. It’s perfect, to me.

    You can raise and child with reduced gender pressure while allowing self-selected gender expression. I often think we actively encourage girls to “do boy things,” (play sports, getting dirty, leading, science, wearing pants, having male dominated occupations) while actively stigmatize boys “doing girl things,” (doing art/craft, caring for babies, being neat, reading fiction, wearing skirts, being teachers/nurses/secretaries).

    Thank you for unabashedly recognizing that we all limit our children when we define them as pearls or bowties before we meet them.

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    • Reply Christie January 16, 2020 at 4:58 am

      Wow! Where are these school-utopias located? Sounds amazing!

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      • Reply Autumn Sadovnik January 16, 2020 at 2:40 pm

        No school is a utopia, I can say that. They are filled with a variety of other flaws- but they are in the Baltimore Metro area. We have a lot of niche independent schools to choose from, and I feel very fortunate.

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  • Reply Stephanie January 15, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Thanks, as ever, Erin, for being willing to share how you think and make decisions.

    I thought I’d always be the person who waited to find out my baby’s sex until they were born, but in the end, I did find out as soon as I could for the one pregnancy that went to term (I’m sure the dramatic/terrible end of my previous pregnancy had something to do with that choice). I’m glad I did. We didn’t tell anyone, and in a funny way, I felt like it helped diminish the “big announcement” moment at the birth, too. Knowing the sex felt like it gave me no information at all into the mystery of whoever this person turned out to be, and I had months to reflect on that realization (and reflect on how I might need to be mindful as a parent to account for the world—it was my first kiddo, so I had no experience to draw from as a parent). And when he arrived, I mostly felt like, wow—welcome, human!

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  • Reply Rita Tocta January 15, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    I just want to comment:

    I am so happy for you guys!!!!! Ehehe

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  • Reply Ramona January 15, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    Everyone is different and I respect everyone’s personal decision on this matter. When I was pregnant with my own children (40+ years ago) ultrasounds weren’t even performed unless the Doctor suspected a “problem.” I honestly don’t know what I would have chosen to do if I was presented with that opportunity, so who am I to say what anyone would choose to do. Take Care.

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  • Reply TB January 15, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    I recently had my (surprise) third baby. We found out with the first two, not this one. The reason: so no one would buy us anything. It worked!!

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  • Reply Laura Stark January 16, 2020 at 1:26 am

    I waited to find out the gender of our children too. I looked at it like the best surprise I could ever have. No regrets, ever!

  • Reply Christie January 16, 2020 at 4:53 am

    Trans children who are judged by their families and are unaccepted by their parents are at more risk of suicide. This may seem immoral to you (why, I’m not sure) but because you love your child you may want to consider finding a way to support them. Perhaps therapy could help everyone. This might not be the child you wanted, but it’s the child you got. And for the sake of that beautiful child, do what you can to embrace them.

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  • Reply Alexandra January 16, 2020 at 9:54 am

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on this subject. I do not find them smug or self-congratulatory.
    .
    I always thought I would prefer not to know the sex of my children ahead of time, but then once pregnant I realized I had always held a strong vision of myself as parenting a girl, and I felt that if my baby turned out to be a boy, I wanted to work through those feelings ahead of time. I am now the mother of two boys, and those are the only people I will parent. For me, learning the sex of my children in utero allowed for a period of time to grieve the mother I had always subconsciously imagined myself being – the mother my mother was to me and my sisters. I parent my boys gently, with respect, the same way I’d parent any girl, but of course there are some things in all my girl-life experiences that won’t carry over, whether it’s as literal as a first period or as ideological as what it means to parent a strong girl in the 21st century, versus a strong boy – what it means emphasizing, encouraging, opposing. What it means, to raise a boy to be critical of the patriarchy, versus what it means to raise a girl to be critical of the patriarchy. I had always imagined bringing a daughter up into a sisterhood, and I grieved the loss of that barely-consciously-thought dream. I was surprised to discover these feelings in my self, and I am grateful that I had the ability to feel and let go of those feelings ahead of time.
    .
    But I also know that not everyone has these sorts of feelings at all. For me, learning the sex of my unborn children allowed me time to grapple with feelings I did not want affecting my children. Is that better or worse than people who want to know the sex so they know whether to buy pink or blue? Am I really in a position to say?
    .
    So much of parenting cuts to the core of our most judgmental selves. I think that is because, in parenting children, we are creating the future, for them but also for everyone of their generation (and the previous generation, as well, who will rely on these once-children someday). My sister, who has a daughter, gets incensed when she sees friends put those headband-bows on their baby girls, often still in the hospital; it’s tempting to join in the judgment, and also tempting to ask, “Who does it really hurt when people do this?” but of course her answer would be: “It hurts my daughter, who will grow up alongside people who learned at two days old that embodying traditional femininity is super important.” And so we all feel like we have a stake, in each other’s parenting choices, in a way that perhaps feels more pressing and more justified than so many other issues.

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    • Reply Genevieve January 16, 2020 at 3:51 pm

      Alexandra, I really appreciated your thoughtful comments.

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    • Reply Lindy January 16, 2020 at 8:22 pm

      Life is endless navigation. We all take stands or adopt stances that make us feel more able to navigate the world. Some progressive.. some traditional.. some religious etc. We are more divided than ever.. tolerance is being threatened. Let’s know that other people’s choices are their choices and let’s be gentler with eat other. Compassion. Maybe someone who is more traditional in their views will be challenged at some time to grow and expand. Hopefully Love will show the way when it’s needed.. a child wanting to be different…

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  • Reply Europe calling January 16, 2020 at 11:01 am

    Some of the statements I’ve read here have left me puzzled.
    I am not a parent, so do forgive the idiotic question, but is this an American thing? Half of the population throwing ridiculous gender reveal parties (that are usually about the parents craving attention more than anything else!), after having ridiculously expensive weddings and the whole shebang, and then the other half getting irritated and overreacting because another parent has simply decided to put flowers on their OWN daughter’s hair? I mean, how dare they dress their female child without consulting random strangers first!! For god’ sake’s!
    Is it just me perplexed by this polarization?
    People have to make a billion decisions every day, and NOT every single one of them needs to be a political statement, a fight or a struggle. Flowers are beautiful, just like all genders are beautiful and some girls will always look more feminine than others, just like some boys will always look and be less masculine than others. And so what!
    Talking about post-gender societies makes me cringe. We have all fought hard to support and force the society to acknowledge the existence of more than 2 genders and now we have to aspire to having no genders at all? This sounds so wrong…
    Enjoy your children, protect, love and cherish them. Enough with all the parental judgement and the “who’s the wokest of them all” competition.

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 16, 2020 at 11:46 am

      Enough with the judgement, indeed.

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      • Reply Charlotte K January 16, 2020 at 8:00 pm

        I love happy surprises. I would do whatever it took to ensure a healthy human being, but otherwise I want the big, joyful surprise. I want to think of lots of different names and dress them however, have the new person come out and figure it out from there. I’ve had to put my fingers in my ears and sing “lalala” a few times to avoid finding out others babies info because I don’t even want to know about other people’s! I love anticipation and not knowing.

  • Reply Abby January 16, 2020 at 11:05 am

    As always, I deeply appreciate your well-thought and articulated commentary on parenting. I read a fascinating article about one of the first social media influencers to publicize gender reveals, and how she’s since rethought the purpose of gender reveals as she’s learned more about the fluidity of gender expression (https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/family/story/mom-blogger-credited-viral-gender-reveal-party-anymore-64628701). Additionally, I think gender reveals have only developed as a result of Instagram and the social encouragement of having stylized, instagrammable moments at all times. It’s fascinating (and a little scary) to see how social media can deeply influence cultural expectations.

    We chose to find out the sex of both our children in advance, in part because it helped us hold onto something in such a period of uncertainty. My husband and I fully acknowledge that our children’s gender identity may be different than their biological sex, but your post gave me a lot of food for thought. What if we had chosen not to find out in advance, because of the very points you make here? As always, thanks so much for helping me learn and think. And three cheers for having the bravery to put this post out into what can be a very judgmental internet.

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  • Reply Genevieve January 16, 2020 at 3:54 pm

    Erin, I loved your piece. It was very thought-provoking for me, even as a non-parent (though my brother and sister both have children and it’s a joy to be their aunt!). I love to see the space we as a society are opening up around ideas and expressions of gender and to have the privilege of looking on to see what children and others will do with that space.

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  • Reply Raine January 16, 2020 at 9:51 pm

    Erin, this is totally real life. Although this is my first time leaving a comment, I read your blog religiously. I just love how raw you are in your posts. My non-binary partner and I (also non-binary) just had a baby and we went a bit further than you and thought, “why does this baby have to identify as a human” – so, our baby was born in March of 2013 and identifies as a tiger and some days as giraffe because it likes to push chairs into the kitchen to grab mac ‘n’ cheese off the top shelf.

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  • Reply Sarah January 17, 2020 at 4:59 am

    Oof. What a range of opinions. I am reminded that you cannot *make* me feel a certain way; how I respond to your words is how *I* respond, I’m the active one here. And for what it’s worth, I understand why you came to the decision you came to. Where I will land on that one I’m not yet sure. However, it’s taken us 6 years and an overwhelming amount of hard, difficult, medical interventions, loss and the generosity of a very kind friend for us to be currently 7w pregnant, waiting to see if it sticks. I am living to day with this pregnancy and the possibility of looking forward into the future, even just a week or so to my first midwife appointment that the NHS has insisted on booking me, feels really very tenuous and presumptive. How dare they *assume* there will still be a baby there in a week’s time?! So I think that by the time we hopefully get to the point that we might find out the sex of our baby, I might choose to know, in order to just *know* something tangible, even if that does come with a host of societal baggage and assumptions. I do doubt however whether we will tell anyone else.

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    • Reply Samantha Jeanne Jones January 17, 2020 at 11:31 am

      Wishing your family the best Sarah.

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  • Reply Caitlin January 17, 2020 at 6:54 am

    A mantra I like to repeat to myself, and sometimes gently share with others, is “my parenting choices are not a judgement of your parenting choices.” We are all just doing our best. It’s hard to be a human and it’s hard to raise humans.

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  • Reply Margot January 17, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Almost 30 years ago, when I had my first baby, we chose to not find out the sex. One idea floating around at that time was that you bonded better with your baby if you didn’t know – I’m not sure why that was supposed to work! Lol! Anyway, my husband and I enjoyed the delicious anticipation of not knowing and spending our time thinking about the possibilities. I’m sure I would have appreciated knowing more had any prenatal tests pointed out a problem.
    One point I would like to make as a great aunt to many little ones. These days it’s sometimes difficult to rouse much excitement for a baby’s arrival when you already know the day and time of arrival, the sex, the name (on our way to the hospital, on March 16, we were still throwing out new names. If it’s a girl, if she is born tomorrow what do you think about Kelli instead?!), and sometimes the size of baby for weeks before the event. When baby arrives you aren’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. There aren’t the wonderful anticipated but unexpected phone calls announcing “Baby’s here!” with all the details. Guess I’m just a fan of The anticipation and surprise but, honestly, everyone should do what works for them. As my son frequently says, “you do you”.

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  • Reply Bonnie January 17, 2020 at 10:25 am

    I had so many terrible “surprises” along my pregnancy that I wanted no extra surprises, happy or otherwise, in the delivery room if I could help it. In the grand scheme, it’s not as important as other information about the baby but it made me feel like I had more control in an uncontrollable situation.

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  • Reply Abby January 17, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    It’s been interesting reading all the comments here because I always assumed expectant parents would make the decision that’s best for them and whether they found out or not, their family and friends would support their choice. Especially considering there are probably so many factors that can go into making this decision. I’ve always been excited to learn the news whenever it happens.

    I thought it could be worth sharing another reason why one may choose to find out the gender of their child. My husband and I are a facing a difficult decision and gender is a factor. I’m only 7 weeks pregnant but recently found out I’m a carrier for a rare genetic disorder which only shows up in males as it’s on the X chromosome. If it turns out I’m having a boy and he carries this gene there are huge ramifications for the quality and length of his life. We always thought the gender of our future children would be a surprise until they were born, not for any particular reason just that it could be fun to wait to find out. But with this new information we’ve decided to find out so we can prepare and plan for the future. I only bring this up because I’m sure there are many of us who find out the gender, whether we initially wanted to or not, because knowing the gender can be tied to the health of the child. I wish I could go nine months not knowing the gender while also knowing it was healthy but that’s not the case for us. This is just a part of our parenting journey and it’s different for everyone. I’m guessing many other expectant parents fall into this same box so I know we’re not alone in having to navigate this situation and others may make a different choice and that’s okay!

    No matter what your experience is I hope when talking about gender reveal we can practice empathy for one another and support one another, whatever choice is made. I think having these conversations is really important and I’m glad your are bringing various experiences to light. I’m so excited for you and your family as you await the arrival of this new little one and can’t wait to learn more when you’re ready to share it 🙂

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    • Reply ERIN BOYLE January 17, 2020 at 6:14 pm

      Yes of course! There are other folks in the comments above that talk about this very same need. Absolutely understanding that the reasons for finding out the sex of an unborn child, or not, is deeply personal and varied. In this as with everything, there’s no one size fits all approach.

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  • Reply Cara Sipprelle January 19, 2020 at 1:59 pm

    I found this post and all of the comments to be absolutely fascinating. Erin, I’m sorry that so many have reacted harshly, but thank you for creating the space for an interesting discussion.

    I am eagerly awaiting learning the sex of our second baby when we undergo genetic testing next week (as we did for our first). Both times we’ve wanted to know every bit of information we could before the baby’s birth — even if it ultimately doesn’t reveal anything about who that little person will become. However, I appreciate and understand the desire to, at the very least, push off gendered expectations. This discussion has given me much to think about.

    On a lighter note, I have always found it funny that waiting to discover the sex at birth is considered “the surprise!” For most parents, learning the gender is a surprise at 12 weeks, 20 weeks, at birth — or anywhere in between. And what part of bringing a unique, new life into this world — and then watching that person grow and develop — is ultimately not a beautiful, if sometimes challenging, surprise!?

    Congratulations to you and your family on your new baby. <3

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  • Reply Rue January 19, 2020 at 8:19 pm

    It seems like the before/liminal/after of pregnancy and childbirth is what people really hand-wring about on all sides. Humans tend to be uncomfortable in middle spaces, and when there are cultural stories about how to navigate the middle, some people seem to grip tightly to those stories as if they were railings on a ship.

    The middle is so hard, no matter what it’s the middle of. The event itself will create meaning that isn’t imaginable until it happens. My heart goes out to everybody in the anxious anticipation stage of pregnancy, adoption, schooling, engagement, health concerns, divorce, or any other big long middle.

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  • Reply Sofia January 20, 2020 at 5:52 am

    Dear Erin,
    I am totally aligned with your toughts: for me having to realize i was carrying a HUMAN was already completely astonishing (i had dreams i was giving bith to a fox or a dolphin!), sex was genuenely not something i was interested in. The baby was our little Cacahuète (peanut in french), nickname that sticked longer than in utero, as we were adjusting to call him by his name.
    I have to say that I am absolutely puzzeld by the comments that i read: I live in Switzerland and it is very VERY common not to know the gender of the baby, so i genuinely don’t understand how opinions can get that polarized on such a common and personal choice?! Maybe the US culture should just take a little step back on the Morals/Judgment Olympics! 😉
    Tous mes voeux pour votre fin de grossesse et l’arrivée de votre petit pois !

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  • Reply ACD January 20, 2020 at 3:40 pm

    I typically don’t comment, but I’ve been thinking about this post and the comments all week. Thanks, as always, for starting a thought provoking conversation, Erin.

    My mother chose not to know any of her children’s sexual anatomical parts while pregnant, but at the time, she was a staunch Republican. And I have several progressive friends who did choose to know. In other words, while I don’t think there is always a correlation between knowing and politics, I do think it is a powerful thing when pregnant people get to make choices that align with our visions of a more tolerant world for people of all genders, sexualities, and experiences.

    For everyone on this board who wrote about loss–I can understand how this and so many pregnancy conversations come across as unintentionally privileged. From my experience, once you’ve experienced loss, there is no way to express what subsequent pregnancies are like to those who haven’t. My first thought reading this was, “What I would do to have a pregnancy that developed so far that I get to even make this decision.” What I would do to have a child with healthy organs of any kind, period, and I would be so grateful that I wouldn’t give a shit about knowing or not knowing. But those of us in this frame of thinking are in another space, one that we can’t expect others to understand. But for all of you there: I do understand. And send love.

    In kindly giving us a space and forum to acknowledge our reactions, Erin is supporting us in all of our various situations. Thanks, Erin. Congratulations to you and your wonderful family!

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  • Reply Alex January 20, 2020 at 8:14 pm

    After several years of trying to fall pregnant, one early loss, a long pregnancy (lots of nights on-call as an emergency physician) and 36 hours of labour, I birthed a baby that was not breathing. The room was silent for ten minutes as the paediatrician called the quietest code I’ve ever seen. I spent that time feeling so thankful that I lived in a place that has free, world-class healthcare whatever the outcome. Knowing that we would love this baby forever, whatever the outcome.
    They finally put the baby on my chest (now a thriving one year old). I checked at some point. The surprise was lovely and would have been either way. The love was/is unconditional.
    I’ve attended a few dozen deliveries and the anticipation is different (not better, just different) not knowing. Sometimes information is really important. Other times it’s just information.
    All the best for the rest of the pregnancy, Erin. Thanks for providing a space for this discussion.

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  • Reply teresa January 22, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    I find it sad that this is even being discussed as an “issue”. Who cares WHEN you find out if you are having a biological boy or girl?! Everyone finds out eventually! Whether it is in utero, at birth, or many years down the road, it is EXCITING and FUN to discover new things about the human you have given birth to! Peace and love!!

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