"So, do you know the gender yet?" is the first question a lot of people asked, pointing to my belly, sometimes even before "How are you?" or "Nice to meet you, what's your name?"
I used to laugh at the articles making fun of the outlandish, or well-meaning but invasive things people suddenly feel the right to say to pregnant women. Even a few months ago, I laughed and thought, "Omg, who says that?" But as my belly had swollen to more obvious proportions, I found out just who, exactly, says that. Everyone, anyone. Except for a few women who've been through this themselves and gave me a knowing, commiserating look when they overhear this.
I'm still laughing, trying to maintain a sense of humor, reminding myself that people are generally well-meaning and curious. I thought about writing about the most common questions I got asked but there are several posts/ articles out there about the funny and ridiculous things people say, and I find myself stuck on that one question: Do you know the gender yet?
Now I also commonly got asked how far along I am, when I'm due and/ or if I'm excited. I found myself doling out rote answers, 5 months, beginning of December and Yes, of course I'm excited, and anxious, and yes, life is going to change. Although I wanted to answer things like, what baby? how fat have I gotten, omg! But I can understand people's assumption that I was, in fact, pregnant, because I had a small frame with a protruding, baby-shaped belly.
But back to gender: Literally everyone has asked this question, from the moment we decided to tell people about the pregnancy. Ok, except my parents and my brother because they're awesome and we're just excited about the baby, and because they know we are keeping it a secret (even from ourselves). So this question has been bugging me, and making me think for a while.
Some people were excited we decided to keep the gender secret, and some were perplexed- Don't you want to know they ask? Don't you want to plan? I would need to know so I could plan...
Well, I ask back, is there a difference in the basic needs of boy or girl? Because as far as I know, no matter what sex the baby is, they need diapers, food and love, not much else.
The word "gender" gets me in this question. Do I know the gender? Well, no. I don't know the gender, not only because we've asked not to know, but because the ultrasound, or other tests, would only tell me the sex. I'll have to wait until baby can tell me their gender identity. Wait, they ask, I'm confused. Yes, sex and gender are different- sex is about your genitals, gender is about your identity. We like to thing they are the same thing, and they are often tied. Most people with vaginas identify as women and most people with penises identify as men, but not always. And then there's intersex: not everyone with a penis is necessarily XY chromosomes, nor does everyone with a vagina necessarily have XX.
I decided that I didn't want to know the sex because I didn't want to be tempted to gender the baby before they are born. My beautiful husband, also perplexed, let me do things my way here and has since gotten much more understanding. I know that as soon as the baby is born, their genital status will be known, but I thought, at least I can protect them for a few months from the onslaught of pink or blue, ballerinas and dolls or trucks and football. That's another thing I tell people, they can be a ballerina or a football player, either way.
Now that I've ranted about other people's reactions, the most important thing I've learned by trying not to gender my child yet, is how I really think about gender myself. Why do I have a hard time buying pink, lace, polka dots or bows for a unknown gender- am I afraid of putting a bow on a baby boy? Yes, kind of. Gender neutral is mostly gray in the stores and we have a bit if yellow. When buying things, I'm leaning towards green, blue, pants, dinosaurs (which, I just like anyway, so even if I knew it was a girl, I would get), things in the baby boy section. We can't let things get too "girly."
Now that my baby has been born, a boy, I find myself avoiding the "girlier" clothing we have. Aqua-marine and polka dots? That's girly for some reason. But now the real job of not gendering my son begins. It is about way more than clothing and it is nearly impossible. For now, I tell him he is not just strong but sweet. Not just handsome but beautiful and smart. And most importantly, loved.