No, I Don’t Want to Know the Gender. (And You Can’t Change My Mind.)

I was going to write some sort of intro to myself, since I have all these new readers now [yay! hi new readers! I love you!]. The gender of this fetus, however, seems to be a source of endless fascination to strangers, so I’m going to write about why I don’t want to know. Not because I need to justify this, but because it relates to actually important stuff people are talking about. Namely, gender and children and body issues.

Reason #1: I do not want to know the gender of this fetus until it is a baby I can hold in my arms, because I do not want to worry about raising Girls or raising Boys. I feel that I am qualified to worry over and take charge of raising my girl or my boy, but if I find out which I am carrying halfway through this pregnancy, I will research, gather information and obsess. I do not need that kind of anxiety. Here’s what I might worry about if I knew I were carrying a girl:

There is no longer a child too young to be assaulted by the friggin gender police. There are wigs for bald baby girls and “loungerie” for prepubescent girls. Rainbow Brite and Care Bears and My Little Pony and Barbie and other toys marketed to preschoolers look thinner (Candyland and Shutes and Ladders are now featuring thinner girls, too) than they did when I was small. Why a bear or a pony needs to be skinny and how anyone thought that Barbie could get any skinnier, I do not know. The Gap seems to have no problem selling a mini skirt for infant girls (their words, not mine). Wal-Mart, Target and Disney are actively marketing make-up for girls as young as seven, including anti-aging crap, and no one has ever bothered to study what the ingredients might do to a child’s skin.

But now, it appears, by age three girls equate thinness with beauty, sweetness, niceness and popularity; they associate “fat” meanwhile with laziness,  stupidity and friendlessness. – Peggy Orenstein, “Fat is a Preschool Issue

And a boy:

As for boys, about a year ago, the “news” media regarded an ad depicting a five-year-old boy with pink toenails as a sign of the coming apocalypse. Last year, my friend Avi, aka The MamaFesto, and her husband found themselves arguing with a waitress last year that their then-four-year-old son is, in fact, a boy with long hair, not a girl (yes, the waitress actually told them that their son just had to be a girl with that hair); this year, Avi also covered the absurd “news” on the Today Show that boys sometimes have long hair (gasp!) and adults’ cruel reactions to this shocking revelation. We’re all still waiting to see what happens when he starts sporting his new pink crocs, which he absolutely adores, in public this summer. Most certainly, someone will say something. Will he let it get to him? Gosh, I hope not. Wear neon as long as you can, little man.

Reason #2: I can stave off the waves of unecessarily-gendered stuff that will inevitably come into our home.

I do not have anything against pastel pink and blue, necessarily, but it’s more that I prefer bright colors like yellow, orange, red and green. I love stripes and polka dots in all the colors of the rainbow. If it’s a girl, I do not want her to own, especially before she is even born, anything that says “Princess” or “Diva,” especially if it’s written across the bottom. I’d just rather the baby were a few months old before we add tiny dresses or suits to the wardrobe. And since newborns can’t really play with toys, I’d rather just leave all that for later, too. Perhaps we will even manage to find out what the child actually likes before filling the house with the arbitrary Boy or Girl toys s/he is “supposed” to like.

Reason #3: I would rather hear about how stupid and annoying we are being for waiting to find out than hear every stranger’s advice on how properly to raise girls or boys.

While I am sure that every stranger who asks “Boy or girl?” will have excellent advice on how to raise a real gentleman or how not to raise a stripper, I will hear it all when I’m walking around with the actual baby. I wish I could apologize for all the trouble we are causing by waiting, but I can’t, because I don’t understand why anyone needs to know.

In short, I just don’t want to deal with the fact that we live in a culture that produces crap like this stuff I saw (again in Peggy Orenstein’s blog) at least until after I give birth:

Fisher Price’s “Brilliant Basics” girls’ and boys’ teething ring/rattles which highlight both gender hyper-segmenting and the downward creep of Kardashianization: The set for your “darling baby girl” features a purse, diamond ring and charm bracelet; your  boy gets a saw, hammer and wrenches.

Girls need to cut their teeth on materialism, apparently.

 

At least our boys get to make stuff, right?

32 Comments

  1. Lindsay @Lilloveandluck said:

    Good for you, my dear. I had to find out, mostly because I’m extremely nosey. I share your distaste for all of the forced gender toys, colors, etc. I made it very clear, (much to the offense of some, but too frighin bad) that there would be no signs of Elmo, Diego, or any of the other nonsense that kids are “supposed” to like, until he is old enough to voice these things for himself. If that’s what people want to do for their own children, I will comply. Just not in my house. I chose a nursery theme that can be recycled for number two, no matter the gender. My son can wear pink if he likes.

    My point is, rock on! That moment when you hear those words is absolutely breathtaking.

    March 29, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Thanks, Lindsay! I worried about my niece so much after reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter, that Peggy O. finally had to say to me “Anne-Marie, your niece is going to be fine.” (We’ve corresponded since I was a teenager.) I just know I would start hyperventilating at 20 weeks, especially if I heard “It’s a girl!” (How sad is that?)

      March 29, 2012
      Reply
  2. Skydisk99 said:

    Great article! With my first I found out, I couldn’t wait. With our second my boyfriend didn’t want to know. The control freak in me wanted to know. But at three sonograms and the baby wouldn’t let us I decided that fate had played a card here and it didn’t matter if it was a girl or boy. The majority of people who asked the gender actually congratulated us and supported our decision. Only a few made any comment I should of found out. Next time we aren’t finding out either. There is nothing as magical and the best surprise life can hand you is to hear my boyfriend exclaim as the baby came out “IT’S A BOY!!”.

    March 29, 2012
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    • Anne-Marie said:

      My friend is just past 20 weeks, and her mother-in-law has accused her of knowing the gender and keeping it from the family just to be “mean.” People have asked them, “How will you prepare?” A nurse at her OB said “Oh, I just hate when people do that! It’s so dumb.” Maybe it’s different in Kentucky, where they live, and we won’t hear the same here in Connecticut. 

      At least in my family, my sister-in-law does the same with every baby–#3 is due in July. She claims that labor goes faster when you can’t wait to find out! I love that idea!

      March 29, 2012
      Reply
  3. Hope said:

    How the heck anyone has a tantrum about the gender of someone else’s child, I have no idea. The parents can choose to find out the gender and rveal it to everyone, or to no-one, or not to find out until the birth, and it’s only their own business. I didn’t find out the gender, and I think if anyone had tried to give me a hard time about it, I would have told them it’s not really any of their business. “Mean” not to tell everyone? Come on people. We chose not to announce our daughter’s birth to even our family for a couple of days. Our business. They’ll all live.

    March 30, 2012
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    • Anne-Marie said:

      This is such a mystery to me, too! Why do people think it’s any of their business what I do with my pregnant self or my kid? I mean, you’re not raising this one. Chill!

      I happen to love The Mouthy Houseives’ take on this whole trend of telling everyone everything so far in advance: “it’s hard to get jazzed about the birth of a baby when you already know every detail months in advance. ‘I’m having a baby. It’s a girl. Her name is Elizabeth Sarah. The c-section date is on April 25th. She’s a Taurus and her hobbies will be horseback riding and rowing.’ TMI people.” (http://mouthyhousewives.com/kids/i-hate-your-baby-name)

      March 30, 2012
      Reply
  4. Tiffany said:

    It is unfortunate that you are being given a hard time in regards to waiting on finding out the sex. often times, family members don’t mean to be hurtful they just want to connect to the baby. Knowledge of the baby’s sex can help others feel like the baby is more “real.” Gender is a social construct that is hard to avoid in our society. I found out the sex of our now three year old when I was pregnant. I wanted to know mostly so my husband and I could assess if we needed to have lengthy discussions regarding circumcision prior to delivery, we had different views and it was important to me that both of us respect each others opinions. If we were having a girl, which we did, that was an issue I did have to worry excessively about. My daughter does have the stereotypical girl toys, including barbies and kitchen sets but she also has race cars and tool benches. It would be unreasonable for me to say I could completely keep her away from gender stereotypes as she grows older her peers will play a large role in influencing her. At the end of the day I love my daughter no matter the toys she finds amusing and I think that is something all mommies or soon to be mommies can agree with. 

    March 30, 2012
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    • Anne-Marie said:

      Well, we’re not being given a hard time, per se, just seeing some disbelief. And I hear stories. I suspect that the stranger danger will come when I’m more visibly pregnant.

      I have no intention of avoiding Gender as a social construct, or even gendered toys. It’s just that navigating what is appropriate and what is sending an unhealthy message has become increasingly difficult (see Peggy Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter and the blogs Pigtail Pals and The MamaFesto, all linked above, for more discussion of how this has changed in the last five-ten years). And I don’t want to run away from or avoid gender or stereotypes; it’s important to talk with kids about this stuff and to point it out, even, sometimes, so that they know that it’s a construct. I simply do not want to worry about this during my pregnancy. Once the baby is born, I’ll worry enough.

      For the record, I have no problem with feminine and masculine; I have a problem with limiting our children to only “appropriately” gendered play. For example, I don’t know several toddlers of both genders who doesn’t like dolls and kitchen as well as toy cars and tool benches. But by the time they go to preschool, they’re pressured to *choose.* Toy stores have girl sections and boy sections. The worst example is Lego–now you can’t just go pick out Legos, your kids have to see pink Lego sets with cupcakes and puppies and even cocktails vs. black and red ninja or pirate legos that actually have the potential for more than one scenario in play.

       It’s limitation that I object to. And if I can have 20 weeks of *not* worrying about all the ways our increasingly split-along-gender-lines kid culture, then thank the Lord! 

      March 30, 2012
      Reply
  5. Molly Sloan said:

    I’m a new reader and I really enjoyed this post. You aren’t over-the-top about it, but I love that you have educated yourself and you are most certainly not coming from a place of ignorance as many are. 
    We just now bought our daughter ( Alden ) a baby-doll. She’s almost 8 months and we didn’t for a while, she had a lot of bright toys that were really gender neutral, but one day at church in the nursery she went over a picked up a baby doll and started kissing its face. She really enjoyed it so we went to Wal-mart and found several colors, pink, purple, blue, and green, and held them up for her to pick one. She literally picked the most basic baby with no hair and purple clothes. She loves it, but I think I also love it knowing I didn’t force dolls on her and she equally (if not more now) enjoys the drums at church which sing in Spanish (gasp!).

    March 30, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Oh my gosh do kids love baby dolls! In the childcare center I used to work for, they would get so attached, both the boys and the girls, starting very early. The basic dolls are almost always a hit, boy or girl, among the 0-3 set. 

      That is a truly adorable story about her picking out that doll, though! I love it when even the littlest ones get to show a strong preference. My niece had a selection of two or three, but she loved this beat-up hand-me-down doll so much that she ended up giving it two names. We asked her if she had changed the doll’s name, and her explanation amounted to a doll with two personalities! It was hilarious. I wish I could remember both names. She came up with Baby Susan first, and the other name just showed up one day. So cute.

      March 30, 2012
      Reply
  6. Misty Pratt said:

    Just discovered your blog! We didn’t found out for number 1, and it was a lovely surprise. Plus, she’s always hated wearing anything constricting, so skirts and stupid dresses are never in her closet ;) However, I’m currently pregnant again, and although I would love the surprise, we have a whole shelving unit downstairs filled with donated “girls” clothes. And although I agree with you (I enjoy different colours and don’t care to dress my daughter in frills!), I’m still not willing to dress a newborn boy in pink….which is mostly what was given to us  :) So I think I will be gendered here and find out, so I can chuck all the pink if I want to.

    March 30, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      You’ve got to take advantage of that nesting impulse before you’re too tired to think about making space, for sure! And I had to *sew* skirts and dresses for my niece to find anything she could actually *play* in. (Fun projects!) But if there’s a #3…. ? ;)

      I’m not so into the surprise as much as I want to delay the worry. But I suspect that if/when there is a #2, I will not have quite so much time to think about all these things in such detail.

      March 30, 2012
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      • Misty Pratt said:

        hahaha, nooo #3 here! I have been battling anxiety/depression since I was 16, and I’ve found pregnancy/postpartum to be a very difficult time for me. I’m currently 12 weeks pregnant, and I’m really enjoying your blog as I can relate to a lot of what you write about.

        March 30, 2012
        Reply
        • Anne-Marie said:

          Oh, I’m so glad! Thank you for reading!

          March 30, 2012
          Reply
  7. Raine Vollor said:

    The other boy in my son’s daycare insists that things like barbies are for girls (He is 3) but my son, i am proud to say, insists boys can play with them too. now, he doesn’t buy i am so glad he knows that he could if he wanted to.

    March 30, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      I miss that about working at a childcare center! Those conversations are always great. 3-year-old logic: well, my friend is a boy, and he has a Barbie, so that just can’t be true! 

      Hearing a peer question things like that makes a big difference for kids who learn from wherever that colors or toys are gendered. They really do often think twice. We had some four-year-olds get into it at the last place I worked about baby dolls, and it turned out that the kid on the “that’s for girls” side was repeating what his grandfather had said. He was quite relieved to learn that that is just one opinion and it’s ok to not agree, because, as it turned out, he *really* wanted to play with those dolls!

      March 30, 2012
      Reply
  8. Lacey Ellen said:

    Great post!

    As a (3rd trimester) pregnant woman who doesn’t have any interest in finding out the sex of our baby I am so glad someone finally wrote about this topic.

    It’s important to note that “gender” is not the information parents get at an ultrasound. The World Health Organization defines sex and gender as follows:

    “Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.

    “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles,
    behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers
    appropriate for men and women.

    Sex is just the type of genitals a child has. Sex does not have anything to do with the color of clothes or the sports a child picks to play. The clothes and stereotyped toys are what make up the gender construct in our culture. Gender develops/evolves over time, not in utero.

    March 30, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Ellie, I appreciate your precision. If they told me the sex of the baby at the ultrasound, I would spend the following 20 weeks worrying about gender issues. I didn’t make a conscious decision to skip over the distinction, but I think I did that because the sex of the child is not in itself a source of anxiety. Know what I mean?

      March 30, 2012
      Reply
  9.  I wish I had had the nerve to wait, but I’m a control freak by nature, and control freaks MUST KNOW EVERYTHING, or life feels out of control. My LO possibly won’t be here for another 2 weeks yet, and I have enough pink cotton candyness in her nursery to make me want to vomit. Just what, pray tell is wrong with a little more purple, blue, and OMG THE HUMANITY… black?

    March 30, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Haha, Kailye, I wish you had gift receipts! I definitely have the Must Know Everything Impulse, because usually, knowing more helps me feel better about something. But, in this case, there is too much to learn. I’ve been reading about gender issues since I was 12-years-old, starting with Peggy Orenstein’s Schoolgirls (still a fantastically relevant and wonderful book). I feel like when it comes to the parenting books on the subject, I haven’t even scratched the surface.

      My options: spend 20 weeks reading everything online and in books about parenting a boy or a girl, whichever I’m carrying. Or not. When I think about the headaches and nausea that kind of worry would induce, it becomes a lot easier to just not know!

      March 30, 2012
      Reply
  10. Sarah Buttenwieser said:

    I loved the surprise & the pressure for pink & blue crap is much greater than with my first (16) now. Even then there was pressure though. As my husband says, “there aren’t that many good surprises in life!” Savor the surprise.

    March 31, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      I love that, it’s so cute! It’ll be a pretty big surprise, that’s for sure… 

      March 31, 2012
      Reply
  11. Leah Marie said:

    Two thoughts: Why would any one care whether or not you know?  I don’t get that.  I found out (I’ll get to that in a minute) and had several people harass me about not waiting.  My response was generally, what do you care?!?  I say finding out the gender is a surprise no matter what day you do it.  Also, the moment I learned that I was having a boy (both times)  and the moment I met my baby (both times) were no less special because they weren’t the same moment.

    But I like your reasoning for waiting.  And if I thought I would have worried about these things I would probably make the same call (I do worry about those things now, but didn’t when I was pregnant). As it is, I get so incredibly sick while I’m pregnant, and stay sick for the entire time I’m pregnant, I mostly don’t think about anything but how I wish I wasn’t pregnant.  When you’re vomiting 10 to 20 times a day and loosing 25 while pregnant, you start seeing the fetus as a parasite.  It’s horrible and it’s depressing and it made me question all of my maternal instincts.  Finding out the gender, picking out a name, planning my life with the baby… these are the things that get me through the pregnancy sane.  I HAD to find out for my mental health. (Also, I’m the type of person who can’t stand secrets, and there was little chance I’d be keeping a secret from myself that long under any circumstances, if I’m being honest.)

    I only share that to highlight the point that it is totally your choice and we’re all different. I don’t know why other people think they can make normative statements about what you do or do not know about the fetus you haven’t met yet.  

    March 31, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Totally–WE are the pregnant women, we cope how we can with a less than comfortable situation. Heck yes, picturing as much detail about that kid sounds like a great coping strategy for being miserably ill (hyperemesis?). My strategy is tailored to a life-long fascination with gender issues that needs to be tabled for the sake of my sanity. What is it about a pregnant woman that makes strangers go so totally nuts with the desire to invade privacy?

      March 31, 2012
      Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Totally–WE are the pregnant women, we cope how we can with a less than comfortable situation. Heck yes, picturing as much detail about that kid sounds like a great coping strategy for being miserably ill (hyperemesis?). My strategy is tailored to a life-long fascination with gender issues that needs to be tabled for the sake of my sanity. What is it about a pregnant woman that makes strangers go so totally nuts with the desire to invade privacy?

      March 31, 2012
      Reply
      • Leah Marie said:

        Yes, hyperemesis.

        And yes, with the strangers going nuts.  It’s as thought having a pregnant belly is an invitation for them to touch you and ask super personal questions.  People are so weird.  And, mostly, it’s just better to ignore them.  ;-)

        April 1, 2012
        Reply
  12. Michelle said:

    Great post!  We also waited until our son was born.  It was funny to hear people’s guesses (I think its becoming a lost art) and the way they would try to convince us to find out… In the end, I do not regret it one bit. In fact, after he was born, finding out his sex was the last thing on my mind.  We waited like ten minutes to check (I asked the midwife and doula to not announce it in advance so we could stay in the moment).

    The most common justification I heard was “how will you know what to buy?”  And while it is incredibly hard to find neutral clothing and misc. baby items (people gave us a lot of yellow and ducks) we also ended up not filling our house with a bunch of crap we didn’t need.  We kept it simple and got the basics.  

    Had we known and had people (like my mom) gone crazy getting us fire trucks and sports themed stuff, honestly,  I would have been totally overwhelmed.  And it started a good precedent, even now at 16 months, he wears a lot of plain, striped, plaid, earth tones and his toys are basic.  I feel like we’re allowing him to choose the things the he likes and not just assuming boy=sports or whatever.

    April 1, 2012
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      As much as I love online shopping, we are actually trying very hard to cut down on the amount of stuff we have. We’re doing pretty well. I think it would drive us both nuts to have tons of stuff for a baby who hasn’t even arrived, yet. I spend my days with an infant, and she really needs very little. I want some nice soft onesies, hopefully cloth diapers if we manage to move someplace with laundry machines that function, a good thermometer… there’s an expensive high chair I’ve gotten attached to after using it at a couple different houses… I can only think of about five different toys that a kid will use in the first eight months. The rest is just for us. And how long can you stare at a toy your kid will, you hope, one day use, before it just becomes more stuff taking up space?

      April 1, 2012
      Reply
  13. May said:

    I am, like so many other women, it seems, a control freak. I am well organized. I am 39 wks + 2 days pregnant and I’m happy I don’t know the gender. Motherhood will give me plenty of opportunities to overthink,plan ahead, worry myself sick, etc. I felt like giving up this control over knowing would be a healthy exercise for me. A reminder that I don’t have control over everything and that that’s ok. It’s actually liberating and exciting. Also, I’ve been hearing friends talk about their little such-and-such since their 18 week scan and I can’t help but think that it takes the novelty and excitement out of it. There’s a name floating around but still nobody to attach it to.

    November 8, 2013
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      That does sound really healthy! And, now that my son is 12 months, I can state with real confidence that no, no we don’t have as much control as we sometimes think we will. I don’t think wanting control when it comes to our children makes us “control freaks” – they are so vulnerable to so much! We want to control whatever we can, because there is so much we know we will never be able to “fix” for them, perhaps?

      I ended up decided to find out the sex with my husband (the tech wrote it down, sealed it in an envelope, and we opened it together) when I had a mood dip in my second trimester. I really needed to know who this little person was, so that I could lift my mood by thinking about him. But we didn’t tell anyone until after the shower, and that was fun!

      November 9, 2013
      Reply
  14. Lizzy said:

    I enjoyed reading this blog, always learn something new. I always thought of different colors like green and purple, white and yellow. Never cared about the girly girly stuff. I don’t have a girl and don’t know the gender to my 12 weeks fetus but I never thought of dressing a daughter of mines in skirts or a lot of pink and stuff. I’m just happy that I’m having a baby :)

    January 8, 2014
    Reply
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Even the most relaxed Girl Mamas I know were a bit overwhelmed with the sheer amount of pink they received; variety is the spice, as they say! I’m not saying that anyone should be ungrateful for a gift, but my son now receives gifts like blocks and puzzles, while his female friend, three days older, got pretend makeup for her first birthday. Of course, they both received plenty of similar books and toys, but his little girl friend has quite a few toys that scream “girls like makeup and shopping and talking on the phone and princesses!” despite being only fifteen-months-old.

      January 18, 2014
      Reply

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