Long ago in the mists of time when I found out we were expecting Bailey, I wrote this post.
And now, 2 years later, expecting more new arrivals to join our gorgeous little son, it’s time I addressed the elephant in the room. I didn’t have a girl. I had a boy. The very thing I feared and the opposite of what I thought I wanted. I mean, I kinda brought that on myself the moment I dared to publicly declare my preference to the world really, didn’t I? It was bound to happen! So now that we are back in that same position again of being quizzed daily on the potential genitalia of our unborn children I thought I’d have a little reflect on how I felt back then, and how I feel now that the universe called me on my shit and granted me a son!
Well, first things first, I don’t feel bad about what I wrote. I still believe it is perfectly normal to feel a preference when it comes to the gender of your first baby. Is it healthy? Probably not. The wishes we have for a child that’s specifically a girl or a boy probably stem from some deeply rooted memories of our own childhoods, and in some cases would probably be a therapist’s delight! They are very real emotions though, so you are not going to catch me judging you for feeling that way – I was exactly the same when I first found out I was pregnant. And you DEFINITELY won’t catch me telling you you should just be hashtag grateful when many can’t have children, because while that might be true, and I sympathise greatly with those people, it’s not in the slightest way a helpful response to what are valid feelings. Not to mention, it’s a really spiteful thing to say, because it suggests you are not grateful, that you’re an incredibly selfish, entitled person who doesn’t really deserve a baby. But your perceptions of how different your life may be when that child arrives – no matter how misguided they may be – do not in any way, shape or form suggest you are not going to love and cherish that child no matter what. Many women who themselves have battled to become or stay pregnant have found themselves thinking these exact same irrational things when the time comes. So, for the love of god, will people PLEASE stop saying it!
Anyhow, here’s the thing. Being pregnant – for myself and for most people I’ve spoken to, anyway – is a completely bewildering experience. You know there is a real, live human growing in your belly, but trying to comprehend that as fact is almost impossible. It’s a highly emotional time, your hormones are running rampage, and you will probably see a trillion different versions of your future appear and disappear on a daily basis. Until you have been through the experience – and even afterwards, because no two experiences are ever the same – you simply cannot know what day to day life will look like when you finally take that little bundle home and start living as a newly expanded family. But not knowing what is in store is frankly terrifying, so instead we make it up. We choose names. We buy clothes and decorate nurseries. We study our own faces and our partner’s, pondering which of those features we will see. We plunge all our own hopes and dreams into a little fantasy of what this baby will eventually become, and we cling to it, because it’s the only way we can make it all feel real. And that’s where the gender comes in.
Now, I have always thought of myself as a progressive thinker. I am a feminist. I don’t believe in gender roles and stereotypes and I truly thought I understood that your biological sex did not make you the person you are. But then I got pregnant, and found myself desperately wanting a baby girl with a passion that confused and alarmed me. When I really analysed why, I knew it didn’t make sense, but that didn’t make the feelings any less intense. I am a pretty stereotypically girly girl. I like shoes and clothes and pretty things. I’m not sporty or particularly interested in manual jobs. I love the theatre, going out to eat in nice restaurants and drinking cocktails. I like to keep a tidy house and have an unhealthy obsession with filling it with useless but aesthetically pleasing ‘bits and bobs’. When we began discussions about having children, I knew that I wanted to be the one taking maternity leave and doing the lions share of childcare. But I didn’t think I am this way because I was born with a vagina, and I certainly didn’t think people who weren’t can’t also enjoy and want these things, so why was I suddenly so scared that I didn’t know how to raise a little boy? Why did I worry that they would fall in love with football and Formula One like their Dad and leave me sat on the sidelines, left out? Why did I feel sad that they might not want to watch musicals or sing along to show tunes in the car with me? Why did I fear so strongly that I wouldn’t know what to teach them? I knew it was nonsense, yet I couldn’t shake those unwelcome thoughts.
Well, the answer is that no matter how forward thinking we think we are, this bullshit is so engrained in our society that it’s almost impossible to escape. Even when we don’t want to believe we have these preconceived ideas, they’re still there deep down. It’s essentially hundreds of years of conditioning, and it isn’t something you can switch off overnight. Once I realised this I knew that I didn’t want to spoil this incredible experience with what I knew were completely irrational ruminations and decided to wait and see what nature delivered, because let’s face it, 5 months is a really long time to spend dwelling on nonsense that has no bearing on reality, isn’t it? And as I knew would be the case, as soon as that little baby was in my arms it couldn’t have mattered less, and hasn’t ever since. It’s really been quite life affirming, to be honest, watching this child blossom into his own being, and realise that I really was right – the fact he has a penis really hasn’t contributed to who he is at all, or how we have bonded and connected with each other. He is just this little person who is an equal mix of both Dan and I. Who wants to be just like his Mum and his Dad. He is obsessed with trains and cars, but loves wearing my shoes and handbags. He loves going on bike rides with his Dad, but also copies me as I put on my make up. He’s incredibly inquisitive, always wanting to work out just how things work, fit together or feel between his fingers. But he’s also a creative who loves colour, singing and reading. My fears about knowing what to teach him have been eradicated, because now I know I just have to teach him how to be a good person, and my experiences growing up as a girl will still be just as valuable in helping him understand how to be a loving, compassionate and respectful human being. And I feel thankful now that we waited to have our little surprise on the day he was born – because I never had the chance to dream up a version of him that wasn’t meant to be. He is who he is, and that first time we locked eyes was truly the first we knew of each other, and there is something really beautiful about that to me.
And so now that we’re expecting again we want the same, only this time for slightly different reasons. I no longer worry that what’s between their legs will affect the relationship we have, because I’ve seen with my own eyes that it simply isn’t true – as long as you don’t want it to be. And I can genuinely now be one of those smug people who says, ‘Oh, we don’t care as long as they’re healthy!’ and mean it! I really don’t care. Because I’ve had a little boy already that I love with all my soul, so how could I not be happy if I had more? And if we get a little girl or two? It will be another whole new experience and I’d relish the chance to see if and how it’s any different. So at this point it really feels like a win win! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dying of curiosity, but we just can’t wait to relive that magical moment of meeting our little ones for the very first time and getting a first glimpse into who they might be with no preconceptions or pressure. I want to give them the same gift we gave Bailey – a blank page for them to write their own story. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
P.S – apologies to anyone that got caught out by our little tease on Instagram at the weekend – we just couldn’t resist poking fun at the whole gender reveal trend! Plus, I really wanted cake…