There's a trend of revealing baby news on social media. We announced our first pregnancy over 13 years ago so I guess we missed the boat on that, let alone the latest in "gender reveal" parties. I don't want to put down the darling announcements and joyous celebrations that have come across my friend screen. They just don't fit for me.
For starters, ya'll know what's being revealed is chromosomes and reporoductive organs, right? Just so we're clear on what is and what is not gender.
Then there's the denial that sex and gender don't matter and the sentiment that no one cares "what" they're having. False! There wouldn't be "reveal" parties if the news didn't matter! Ask any pregnant woman to tell you the most common question she is asked by total strangers (and everyone she encounters, including multiple Labor & Delivery nurses right up to the point of the baby emerging). "Do you know what you're having?" Whether it's because one gender would be easier to repeat clothing for, there's a family name to pass down, or because siblings have desires for one or the other, it matters for most people. It may not matter as much for the first baby because there's a chance of balancing things out with the next one. I have attended thousands of births and for those who are having their second child, family planning is typically based on whether they "get" one of each. Of course, the first priority is a healthy baby. And the next announcement is boy or girl. Period. That may not fit for everyone, but it is more true than not and the insistence otherwise is indicative of people's discomfort with reality and with feeling guilty for wanting something we don't have control over.
I’ve never made it a big secret that I wanted to have a daughter. Intuitively, I’ve just always known I would have a little girl. I raised countless babydolls- Mary, Jenny, Amanda, Rebecca, and Eartha, sewing clothes for them and braiding their hair. No one played dress-up like my cousins and I, with formal ballgowns from the 1940s and 1950s that my grandmother collected, marching down her red-carpeted spiral staircase onto her giant green lawn amidst hydrangea bouquets and flower beds galore. I can be tough (or fake it at least). I valiantly killed spiders in front of my summer campers so 1st grade girls would learn to take care of business instead of screaming their heads off. I did a brief stint as a cheerleader to investigate what all the hype was about. I did my best to embrace an all-female dorm at a male-dominated state college, finding solace in a sorority complete with rituals, pearls, and kickdances. I took Women’s Studies and it didn’t blow my mind. There was plenty of feminism woven into my childhood- my mom taught my brother to nurture, to bake, to sew. I fished, mowed lawn, and absorbed Boy Scouting, traveling to Camp Philmont in New Mexico and staying at Indian Mound Scout Reservation where my dad lived and worked.
As parents, Ben and I understand socialization, even if we gravitate to some very traditional gender roles. We’ve petted our boys' long golden locks, touted their pretty painted toe nails, taught them to bead jewelry, garden, and give one hell of a tea party. Having a girl child isn’t just about the beautiful dresses the grandmas would make her, the mother-daughter outings, the father-daughter dances, the passing down of jump-rope rhymes, favorite novels, and treasured trinkets. It’s not about me re-living my childhood; I have no illusions about the difference between being a giggly, screechy, moody girl and parenting one. Perhaps I just don’t understand the break in family tradition. Why has every woman in my family line had a daughter- only to end with me? In a visit with my grandma a few years ago, she-fully wrapped in dementia- looked around the room at me and my little boys and said, “Where is your little red-headed girl?” Her eyes were bright and eager. Was she back in the 1970s looking for me? Was it a clairvoyant declaration that there really would be a girl in my future? The hope seemed slim. My therapist friend suggested perhaps it was a granddaughter or a lovely daughter-in-law that I was envisioning in my future and that worked for me.....for about 3 weeks.
The demographics of our family expose us to regular and unfiltered public commentary like, “You must be a saint”, “you’ve almost got a basketball team”, and "boys are easier". Is it well-meaning? Doesn’t matter. Here’s the thing. When I was a Special Education Teacher, people would say similar things to me (like, “Oh you must be so patient.”). My husband would stifle his laughter. Patient is not among the top 10 descriptors of this redhead! It is a lovely characteristic, one I admire in those who lay claim to it. I agree it exists in me but is reserved for terribly special occasions, helpless infants, laboring mothers, autistic children, and the elderly. It fits in this way: Capricorns are extremely patient and will wait a long time for something they want. Insert raw unmet daughter desire.
For some time I was superstitious. I had a few theories. I, openly wishing for a girl and imagining my quiet simple life with one daughter, had invited irony. The ultimate in Murphy's Law- the humbling delivery of 4 rambunctious boys. Unanswered prayers, God laughs, and all that. Then I moved on to more scientific-themed superstitious therories such as, “We don’t make girls.” Then we did and lost her due to a severe chromosomal anomoly. We grieved privately. The unsolicited commentary continued, actually worsened amidst our grief. One person said to me, unknowingly, a week after I miscarried our only daughter, "You know so much about babies! How come you guys can't make a girl?" I wish it weren't important to me. But, clearly, it matters.