~ by Kendal
When it comes to finding out the baby’s sex, there seems to be two types of people. There are those who are patient, who relish the surprise at the moment of birth, who find bonding with their unborn child easy, regardless of knowing whether they’re a Timmy or Tania. I am not one of those. I am the other kind of person – the kind that could not bear the idea of being able to know something so exciting and yet choosing not to.
I am simply not a very patient person. This seems to come as a surprise to a lot of my friends who have an idea of me as a super calm, super zen Mama who never gets cross. Of course this isn’t true, but when it comes to surprises, I genuinely have absolutely zero patience. None.
I am the kind of person who would rather watch a series of something back to back, over an intense period of time, than wait week by week. The kind of person who will buy a lovely big bar of Lindt and have eaten it by the time she’s left the shop and crossed the road. So you can imagine, when it comes to the possibility of knowing what gender my baby is, there is simply no question. I want to know. Of course I want to know!
Those that do not find out, frankly, confound and impress me. I do understand the logic and I have contemplated what it must be like, at the moment of birth, to suddenly know whether your baby is male or female, but I just don’t understand how anyone can possibly wait so long.
After all, a surprise at 20 weeks is just as good at 40, no? And what’s more, the moment of birth is so monumental and overwhelming that the added surprise of gender seems superfluous to me. But the main reason, impatience aside, that my husband and I are both keen to know what the baby is, flavour wise, is because we both feel it makes it so much easier to round out this little person in our imagination.
To stop calling them it, or them, or Pillywiggin, as we have been, and start referring to the baby by name, seems like no small thing to us. With Ava, we started calling her Ava the moment we left the hospital, and by the time she was born, she was very much Ava to us, complete with an imagined personality which, strangely enough, turned out to be pretty accurate.
So, on Wednesday, we found out. We are having a boy. A boy! And funnily enough, I knew, without a shred of doubt, that this little one was going to be a boy. Even during the scan, when the sonographer was slowly going through his anatomy, measuring, analysing, I kept referring to him as ‘him’. I just knew. And I know how that sounds…because whenever I’ve heard someone say that in the past, my inner sceptic raises her head and eyebrows and thinks, ‘Hmm, well, sure, you think you know, but you have a 50% chance of being right so…’
I can’t even explain how it is that I knew. When we found out the baby was due in April, my first thought was that he was going to be a boy. (I’m a bit of an astrology nerd, and family astrology is of particular interest…Howard and his sister are October/April babies, as are Howard’s parents, and since Ava is an October baby it wasn’t a surprise at all we were due an April one next…)
Partly, too, it was down to how different this pregnancy has been. I have been a lot more sick, and that lovely second trimester surge of energy kicked in about two weeks ago as opposed to at 12 weeks when I was pregnant with Ava. I have been craving meat as much as I was disgusted by it with Ava, and I have generally just felt …different. It is hard, of course, to know whether that’s down to carrying a boy instead of a girl, or simply any number of other variables, like the fact I am looking after a toddler this pregnancy and am much, much busier and much more active. Or the fact that I am two years older. Or…well, you get the picture.
So, there we were on Wednesday, in a dark room. Me on a hospital bed with a rod poking my belly whilst Howard did his best to make the baby on screen seem interesting to a tired two year old, and as soon as the sonographer said, ‘See that, there? That’s a willy’’ and I thought, ‘Yes! I knew!’, I was also flooded with a whole wave of other emotions and thoughts which surprised me somewhat.
Things that, given my dislike of stereotypical gender roles and my attempt to discard them at any opportunity, I was surprised I was occupying. ‘What will I do with a boy? I don’t know boys. I can do girls. I have a girl. But boys?’ And, ‘What will he wear?’ ‘What toys will he play with?’ …and so on, and so on.
Every time I thought one of those thoughts, I also realised how absurd it was to think it. How some habitual, learned part of my brain was bombarding me with things I didn’t really think. With stereotypical gender ‘norms’ that I have never bought into and certainly don’t want to now. As a dear friend wrote to Ava when she was born, ‘There’s no such thing as ‘for girls’ and ‘for boys’. There’s just what you like and what you don’t.’
And I know this. I do, of course. I genuinely had no preference when it came to what sex this baby was, as sure as I was that he was a boy. But if I’m being totally honest, the reason I didn’t care is because I already have a girl, and in the film that has played out in my head since I was a child, the one where I fantasized and dreamed of being a Mama, it was always to a little girl. I’ve always felt relieved that we had a girl first, because on some basic level it ticked a box I had waiting to be ticked. I had always wanted a daughter.
And now, I also can’t pretend that knowing this wee one is a boy doesn’t add an extra level of excitement to this, my second child. After all, we’ve never been parents to a son, and whilst his anatomy might be totally irrelevant to what kind of person he will be, it’s still different and new. Something we haven’t yet experienced.
Recently, a friend pointed out that it is almost impossible, now being a Mama to both a girl and a boy, to tell whether the difference in their personalities has anything to do with their gender or simply personality, and a whole bunch of other factors in their environment. The fact that a second child is generally more chilled out (or so I’m told by friends and parenting books), because they don’t get the kind of 24/7 microscopic attention a first child does, or the fact that, as a second time parent, you are not quite as freaked out by everything, not quite as paranoid and nervous….these are all things that are bound to have a huge impact.
When I think of all the little boys and girls I know, it is certainly hard to make sweeping generalisations, although I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see some small, but common differences at times. For example, in general, the little girls I know are less likely to become aggressive in times of frustration than the little boys. I’ve read that this is, indeed, in part due to hormonal differences between girls and boys. Likewise, it’s always funny to be in a big group of children and notice that, as someone pointed out recently, all the little girls had found dolls or teddies and were playing quietly, whilst most of the little boys were running around, making more noise, and even banging things with sticks.
Yes, it was quite a startling difference that particular day, watching how very different the girls and boys were behaving. But of course, once again, it’s impossible to tell whether or not that’s down to gender or down to the way they are treated by parents and friends. If a boy is always encouraged to rough play, he will be more comfortable doing so. If a girl is always handed teddies and soft toys, she will most likely go to do the same. I suspect, of course, that like most things, it is a combination of all these factors. That gender may well play a role, albeit quite small, I think, in defining a person’s characteristics, but that it is other factors that have more of an impact on a developing personality.
The boys I know (like the girls) who are gentle and kind and introspective have parents who are like that, themselves. Or who, at least, are encouraging of them to be as emotive and sensitive as they would with any girl. And if you’ve met my daughter, you’ll know that she can be extremely energetic and boisterous. Whilst she seems to have next to no aggression in her (most of the time she is pretty calm and chilled out) she can be as physical and as excitable as any boy I know. She loves nothing more than throwing herself off chairs and down slides.
I’d like to think that by the time our son is born, I will have had enough time to contemplate how silly some of my learned gender assumptions are. Any time I think something about having to buy ‘boy clothes’ for example, I can remind myself that Ava dressed mainly in blues and reds and that so will he (until he is old enough to decide what colours he wants to wear) And not because those colours are gender neutral, but because there is no such thing as gender neutral colours since all colours are gender neutral. I just happen to dislike pink.
I am lucky enough, and very grateful, to know some exceptional people who just happen to be male. Some of them are young and are incredibly kind and gentle souls, some are full of energy and excitement and curiosity and I hope that we are the kind of people, with Ava and our son, who will always be able to look past what gender our children are and to take account of the whole person, whoever they may be. To encourage them to be whoever it is they want to be, without the need to behave ‘like a girl’ or ‘like a boy’, whatever that means.
Knowing that we are having a son won’t change anything about us. It won’t make us decorate his and Ava’s bedroom differently, or buy different toys. At most, it allows us to imagine what having a little boy is like, and to imagine what his personality may be, but really, this has little to do with gender and more to do with acknowledging that, although he may still be in utero, he is, after all, a whole, definite, important and unique person.
It is nice to be able to say to Ava that the baby is a boy and to hear her refer to the baby as such. It’s lovely to see her ‘draw’ four different spiders – Mama Spider, Daddy Spider, Ava Spider and Baby Boy Spider (she likes to draw spider families at the moment). And it is easier for me to carve out a space, mentally, emotionally and physically, for this new person, being able to refer to him not just as Pillywiggin but by his name. Ezra. Or, as Ava says, Ezzzzza.
- 'What are little boys made of?
- Slugs and snails
- And puppy-dogs' tails,
- That's what little boys are made of.
- What are little girls made of?
- Sugar and spice
- And everything nice,
- That's what little girls are made of'