It’s a Girl! (And what that means)

Hi! Thanks for bearing with me during my long silence while I labored and birthed the “baby” I’ve been cooking for the last five years. Now that my dissertation is in the digital hands of the Reading Committee, I have a few spare moments. I’m chock full of things to say, but one post has been brewing longer than most, so I’ll start there.

Peanut’s health crisis and death led to a lot of medical intervention that revealed the sex of our babies many weeks ago. I’ll be the first to admit I was elated to learn both our babies were girls. My mind’s eye saw the backs of two toddlers running on the beach in linen dresses with criss crossed straps across their backs and little bloomers cinched atop chubby thighs. I swooned at the mere thought of them. Sisters! Daughters! Swoon!

R’s Nana would be thrilled to hear we were not expecting boys. We she first heard we intended to have children, she clucked her teeth and told us she hoped we wouldn’t have boys because “Boys need a father.” I reminded her that we wouldn’t have much choice in the matter, but she was undeterred. Opinion delivered, we moved on to a new topic. But I suppose I never really moved on. My internalization of that admonishment contributed to my relief upon hearing the news that both babies were female. At least our inevitable parenting fumbles wouldn’t be chalked up to incongruence between sex chromosomes. But I was also just plain excited to have girls.

My relief and excitement were soon replaced by a defensive anxiety. Shortly after learning the babies’ sex, we began entertaining questions about it. Everyone and his mother wanted to know if we were going to find out the sex. I thought they’d all want to know how we did it! But no, all curiosity honed in on our baby’s genitals. It was truly unexpected. I was so busy preparing to rebuff unwanted inquiries into the nuts and bolts of the conception that I failed to prepare for the number one question — Boy or girl?  We made the rookie mistake of saying we knew the sex, but wanted to keep it a secret until the birth.  NB to all expectant families: if you are going to find out the sex but don’t want to reveal it, pretend you will be surprised at the birth. Otherwise, you will be needled to death by people who claim that they cannot possibly buy something/select a shower cake/knit a sweater without knowing the sex of your baby. And I mean people are out for blood.

We caved pretty quickly. It just wasn’t worth the trouble, and at the time we were still reeling from Peanut’s death, which made us a bit more pliable. Less resistant to pressure from the outside. I made a little sign that said “It’s a girl! But she has a serious allergy to pink.” My own small protest against the wider world’s effort to define my child by her chromosomes and (likely) corresponding genitalia.

It was just the beginning. Later I would argue with my mother in the Goodwill over a $2 article of clothing that I deemed too pink.  I would crumble whilst trying to register for baby items at Target, where I spotted “his and hers” toilet seats (photographic evidence below). I would catch myself wondering if a particular stroller was too boyish for a girl child. I was baited, reeled in, and tossed into the bucket with all the other new parents, floundering with less and less vigor as we resigned ourselves to our collective fate. My cousins told me it was inevitable. Fighting pink and princess was a losing battle.

Magical Moments My Ass.

Magical Moments My Ass.

And then I stumbled across this post by a friend and I realized the princess game is limited only by the lack of imagination I bring to it. My daughter’s princess can be strong, fast, and cunning. She can also be kind and thoughtful. She need not wear pink, but she needn’t be afraid to wear it either.

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8 responses to “It’s a Girl! (And what that means)

  1. Glad to see you posting!

    My own thoughts about gendering and the role of pink/”feminine” stuff in our child’s life (regardless of sex/gender) are shifting too. Soon after I wrote my post on gender, I had a great conversation with one of the few offline friends who reads the blog. She pointed out that so much of what we consider “gender neutral” is actually quite stereotypically masculine. She asked why ruffles, flowers or pink can’t be gender neutral, and why they’re considered so unsuitable for a boy. She then answered her own question, pointing out that we live in a world that devalues things considered feminine. So now I’m thinking about gender neutrality in relation to sexism and femmephobia. Oh, sex and gender!

    • I was just thinking about this, too. On vacation we overheard some kids teasing a small boy by repeatedly calling him “Girly boy.” It was like the ultimate insult these kids (most of whom were female) could hurl at him, and it was really sad.

  2. After having two boys, the arrival of a daughter brought with it a whole new awareness of how gender specific our world has become. The bonus of having two older brothers though, is that my daughter simply dancing between both worlds. She was encouraged to pick out whatever underwear she wanted, so she sports both “boy” and “girl” underwear. Frankly the boy underwear lasts longer as it’s made from sturdier material. Her potty seat is Cars and her dress-up drawer is a delicious mix of hand-me-down dresses and Star Wars costumes. My mom and sister take care of the pink quota so my husband and I steer clear of it. This seems to help with the balance. Now that she’s old enough to really voice her opinion with amazing articulation, I just ask her to chose. Sometimes she is all pink and others not so much. My boys do the same thing:) You and R will do just fine in helping your little one navigate this crazy world.

    As for people in your pregnancy. It doesn’t go away with birth. Soon the questions will morph from “what’s the sex?” to “are you breastfeeding” or “are you still using a pacifier?”. Just smile sweetly and say, “thanks for the advice!” and then do whatever the heck you want. It was hands down one of the greatest pieces of parenting advice I was given as a new mom.

  3. I love this (and thanks for the blog love!). I also like what the first responder said, about how things that are allegedly neutral are also stereotypically masculine. Really, things and qualities that are considered “feminine” can/should be enjoyed/possessed by both males and females. Everyone should be kind! Everyone should be gentle! [Whatever]/etc.

    In some ways, too, I think it might be harder for boys because they take more flak for choosing “feminine” things than girls for choosing “masculine” things. It should be a two-way street.

  4. Thanks for this. I feel like telling people about the sex of our fetus reveals all sorts of fascinating things about our culture and gender. I’ve been getting lots of comments about “boys are easier because____” or “girls are easier because ____” or “won’t it be fun to have a kid who _____?” My kid currently weighs less than a pound and hasn’t even entered the world yet! So all of the things people are saying are just projecting their ideas about gender onto the blank canvas of my kiddo.

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