When I was a teenager and went to see my OB/GYN for the first time, I walked into the doctor’s office and she took one look at me and said “three sons.” I, being from a family of all women – piles of girls, and being the future founder of a website entitled “GirlieGirl Army” and a lover all things sparkly and purple and pink way past adolescence, didn’t believe her for one second. Boys? I didn’t know boys. I had only sisters. I was terrified of boys, having been brought up in a staunchly religious environment and kept separated, and I was the opposite of a tomboy. I love/d all stereotypical drag – the hair, the make up, the glamor, the leopard and gold. There’s no way I was going to end up a mother to piles of that other gender.
The other sex was mostly a mystery to me, long into my twenties. And so, when the little penis line revealed itself on my first sonogram for my first son, I had a feeling my doctor’s Greek-psychic abilities were correct. My first little boy was/ is pretty enough to be a girl, sure, with golden curls, tiny features and a smile that could light up the Eiffel Tower –- but he’s ALL boy in every possible “stereotypical” way. Tough, a daredevil, and into things 10-year-olds are into by the time he was 2. And then came my second little boy – another beauty with massive kissable lips and eyes the size of quarters – nobody said a word to me about gender. But when I got pregnant with my third little man is when the shocking comments started. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has something negative to say. And I’m here to call them out on their gender bias.
(Let me take a break from this piece with the disclaimer that all things I’m about to say are also true of my friends who have multiple girls – they’ve experienced the same strange societal reactions. I look forward to hearing the input of other moms in our comments section below and hearing even more experiences in this realm)
Some special comments:
“I hope the Doctors were wrong and when he comes out he’s really a girl.”
“You have to try one more time to get your girl.”
“A daughter is a daughter for the rest of your life, a son is a son til he finds he a wife.”
“You must have been really disappointed.”
“Oh well, you’ll have Granddaughters.”
“This one is a girl right? I hope so!”
“I’m so sorry!”
“I had post-partum because I found out my second was a boy.”
“I always thought I was such a boy Mama, but now that my sons are teenagers, I wish I’d had a girl.”
“You could try again, but you’ll just keep having boys.”
“Don’t tell my husband you are having a third boy, he won’t let me try to have another baby.”
I know two women who did gender selection with IVF because they “only wanted girls” – both educated and otherwise smart women. I know one women who had her surrogate have 4 abortions “til she made her a girl.” I try not to judge, but I’m judging that, lady. I’m judging.
These comments were crazy to me, they made me clutch my stomach and want to protect my baby from the seeming insanity of the world at large!
I’m one lucky mother to two gorgeous, healthy, magical little boys. I had an extreme scare this pregnancy that very thankfully ended up to be nothing (thanks medical industry for the 100 tests that become insisted upon after age 35 in pregnancy). I’ve currently got one week until my due date and my husband and I saw #3’s beautiful little face last week for the first time on a 3D scan at the hospital. I’m healthy; my sons are magnificent and I’m damn lucky. I’m not sitting around crying that I can’t buy pink booties, a-holes.
“Some people would never be happy without a son or daughter – but is that real or is that something inside that hasn’t been healed?”
However – full disclosure – this third time around there was one moment – when the nurse called me to tell me it was a third boy after my 10-week blood test, where there was a tinge of disappointment that I did not have with either other boy. I was furious at myself for even feeling it, but I processed the emotion thoroughly. Perhaps it’s because, at my age another pregnancy may be unlikely (though not impossible with my fertile myrtle insides, I’m already making jokes about baby #4!) Perhaps it’s because everyone likes to experience all of life’s offerings and try all things once. I wanted to feel that piece of that pie too, just to have experienced it. And I am the girliest girl and love to style and beautify, there was a moment where I worried that all those useless skills had semi-gone to waste. But they really aren’t.
I still style my boys, and once in a blue moon my big boy even let’s me do his hair. Miracles. The point is: there’s no loss in a gain. I was told I had a healthy third baby when I have friends desperately struggling to even have one, with or without medical intervention. The moment passed, and it turned into a big baby blue pride flag.
I have a friend who had four girls, and then her fifth was a boy. Some people just try and try until they get the “other” gender. I know someone else whose mom had EIGHT boys (yes, eight) and her ninth child was a girl (in her 50s, accidentally!) I hear these stories, and I get it, I really do. Some people would never be happy without a son or daughter – but is that real or is that something inside that hasn’t been healed?
Outside of religious and cultural expectation – for example in Judaism if you haven’t had a son you haven’t truly performed the mitzvah of giving life. Total idiotic misogyny, but a rule nonetheless. In half of the worlds’ countries, most famously China, you aren’t a woman until you have bore a son. Female children are looked down on. Birthing male children makes you a queen in nearly every culture but ours. However it seems in the US there’s a HEAVY bias towards birthing girls. It’s nonstop hit over our heads. Women want little dolls to dress up in absurd head bands and tutus. And pregnant women make no mistake about talking about it “I wanted a girl, but I had a boy” is a comment I hear almost always. I find it ludicrous, but also understand and appreciate honesty.
A friend (a mom of two boys) told me, “You have a second child of the alternate gender for yourself, but the same gender for your child.” In other words, my second son came for him -– not for my curiosity of gender experimentation. And mom friend was right, I can’t imagine my boys not having each other. My boys are best friends, madly in love, play wildly together 24 hours a day, truly deeply connected soul mates. Maybe not every mom of boys has experienced this. And maybe it’s a fluke that they both came out so manly – into Transformers, Power Rangers, zapping each other with fake swords – but I think my experience is more common than not. And as a feminist and hater of gender stereotypes, I got a rude awakening when I had kids and subsequent billion playdates and sleepovers – the gender stereotypes are 98% of the time, real. I see, once in a very blue moon, the tomboy little girl or quiet mild-natured boy — but mostly play dates show me when I never wanted to believe in what I’ve seen to be typical boy and typical girl behaviors.
Here’s what awful stereotypes I’ve seen in action ― I’m sorry to say they are almost always right on:
Boys are wild and climb the walls, but are sweeter than sugar.
Girls are tame and more easy going, particularly with play, but have a bitchy, pre-teen-y side that comes in young – as young as 2-3.
I come from a family of not-so-nice women ― I believe I’ve been karmically protected from living out any toxic dynamics all over again. I believe my boys are a badge of honor, I have three SONS, they will bring me nothing but pride because I’m a strong-ass woman who has been picked by the universe to help three men be kind, good, women-loving men. A friend told me “only super strong women have sons.” I’ve got arms full of joy. I’ve nursed, attachment parented, gestated, co-slept, babywore, and rocked these boys – alongside my wonderful husband -for nearly five years now without any help from family or babysitter’s or nanny’s.
My BFF (a father of only daughters) said to me, “You are going to be so FLANKED!” He spun me a tale of walking down the street in 15 years flanked by three men, all who adore their mother (of course, I got teary joyful.) And let’s face it, we’ve all seen how men love their mother’s and it’s generally pretty blindly, even if their moms are total lunatics. Not so much with daughters and mothers who (from my 38 years of seeing) generally have tumultuous and cantankerous relationships.
Point is: Don’t make obnoxious comments next time you find out someone is having their second daughter or son (or third or fourth or fifth!) The only thing you should ever say to a pregnant woman is “How lucky you are – how wonderful! How do you feel?” Keep your own gender bias to yourself, those are your issues to contend with – not ours. Let us enjoy our world of blue trucks or pink tutus or gender neutral wooden toys without attempting to make us feel less than for not producing “one of each.”
Maybe “one of each” is a lonely equation for that other lone girl or lone boy child who always dream of a sister or brother. Maybe for them it’s a lifetime of barbies in one room and batmen in the other. We could play this game with any and all breakdown. Oh – you had two boys and a girl – that girl would feel so alone. You have one boy and two girls, that poor boy. I’ll never know what’s it like to have five kids or one child – each separate breakdown of gender and age and time between kids entirely changes the dynamic of your household. What are you gonna do, cry over it? Reincarnate yourself 50 different ways to experience all combos of gender? Who is to say what gender combo’s are ideal? And for that matter, who is to say what your child may have experienced if they’d been raised with younger or older parents/ richer or poorer parents.. you could play this game unt the cows come home. As my kids teachers say, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”
There are a billion reasons to have only one child, or none at all, in our overpopulated world. I have plenty of friends who agonize over having a second child for years. Once you have your second child, are going to constantly think – what would life have been like if I only had one? No, you are going to be in love with your child and get on with the show.
Each one of my kids is a miracle beyond expression. I’ve never left these little doll angels, I enjoy and savor every to-die-for precious – and many times maddening – moment. I never for a second could imagine that either of them is anything other than who they are – penis and all. I love the boyishness, the wildness, the manliness they were both born with. It was perfect for me. It is perfect for me in a way I never could have understood. It makes me believe in a higher power – the sheer genius of natural selection. So this morning when I woke up, belly so big it was hard to get out of bed, and my little boy said “Queen Mommy, Let me hold your hand and help you out of bed! I have to help you because you have my new brother in your tummy,” believe me, I wasn’t thinking about if he’d had a bow in his hair or his Teenage Mutant Ninja undies on.. I was just shooting hearts from eyes and smiling.
Postscript: I’m now the Mother of 3 boys; ages 7, 4, and 2. Our third baby boy was a chubby ray of light who landed on our hearts like a supernova. What’s between his legs is still irrelevant.
Chloé Jo Davis is the Founder of GirlieGirlArmy.com (“Your Glamazon Guide to Green Living”) and the host of About.com’s Green Living Series, as well as a media spokesperson on eco-living and plant-based parenting.