Do You Know What You're Having?
That question is already constant and I’ve just crossed the 4-month marker. It reminds me of something that would be asked by a waiter in a restaurant. I’m itching to place my order: “Yes, I’ll have one order of human baby, hold the birth defects, as well as a side order of easy delivery with no complications, please. Thank you.”
Despite my previous pregnancy and my stock responses that I’d already lined up, I have to admit that the old answers have felt wrong coming out of my mouth this time. Even the humorous, “A human baby, I’m pretty sure, but it might be a monster of some kind considering the father!” which always gets a laugh, has left me feeling guiltily secretive while hiding behind the face of a performer pandering for laughs.
The truth is, I really want to know this time.
And I hope it’s a girl.
This Thursday, we are heading for our ultrasound—the only ultrasound scheduled for the whole pregnancy provided everything progresses normally, unlike my 9 ultrasounds in China!—and I will have the option to learn the baby’s sex.
I keep saying that “If it’s a boy, I promise I won’t send him back” and, of course, I will love him purely and certainly, the same way that I love Echo. But, there are lots of reasons that having a girl would be easier.
For one, I already have a name chosen. I dreamed about this name (spelling and everything) before the baby was conceived and I woke up whispering it in my thoughts and it never left me. Later, I looked up its meaning and was pleasantly surprised. It feels like the name was communicated to me from somewhere else and that this creature wants to exist here, on this plane of existence. That being said, maybe I could use the same name for a boy. Although, I waffle on this.
Secondly, I grew up with an older sister. Then I came out and lived in the women’s community. I just don’t know much about boys and my other blog is living proof of that! I suppose it comes down to being less confident in my ability to be a good role model to a son than I ever was in my ability to raise a strong and capable daughter.
But, the real reason that I think it would be easier to have another girl is the patriarchal system in which the children will be partially raised, namely: China.
My father-in-law is the only son in a family of seven children. He was the prince in that family and was the only hope for the family’s namesake to continue.
He and my mother-in-law were among the first generation of parents to be faced with the One Child Policy and so, you can imagine how everyone must have held their breath to see whether Guo Jian would be male or female. And, despite his loose gender identity (which I quite enjoy), Guo Jian did emerge as a male child, much to everyone’s delight. He became the prince of the prince—the coveted limb on the thinning family tree.
Now it’s Guo Jian’s turn. He has the option to have as many children as he wants since he’s married to a non-national (me), but I will be quite happy with two children, especially while glimpsing the quickly approaching age-40 horizon through the windshield of this life journey of mine.
The thought of having a boy and having him be treated differently than Echo in any way—more special, more coveted, more likely to be protected from tasks or harm—worries me endlessly. Boys are so often omitted from household roles, for instance, and I couldn’t bear to see my son allowed to sit at the table at his grandparent’s house while my daughter was tasked with clearing the dishes, for instance. It would incense me.
While I know I will have great influence on my children and teach them equally while assigning them equal responsibilities depending on their abilities and not their biological sex, I am only one section on their cultural influence spectrum. I’ve already learned that you can’t control everything and that (even relatively progressive) grandparents will just do what they want when you’re not around. In other words, even my strong influence cannot fully shield my children from these imposed gender roles. In China, they’re still too ever-present and all too often under-questioned. Over there, I’m just the lone foreigner with different ideas, surrounded.
Thankfully, Guo Jian, as their father, is a person who embodies slightly looser gender roles. For instance, he’s very fashion conscious and artistic, hates sports and scary movies, and covets his long hair. However, he also opportunistically revels in domestic laziness that is a direct result of these more conventional Chinese gender roles. They’re convenient for him. It has caused us many battles.
In the end, I know that I’ll have to trust fate. If my belly holds a boy, he will be an extremely lucky boy to be Echo’s little brother. I will work hard to counteract these imbalanced gender roles with egalitarian parenting. It will just be another layer of my mothering role and everything will be fine, I know.
But the truth still stands. If the maternity waiter approached my table today, I’d order another little girl. No hesitation.
(And if my son reads this one day, may he know that his Mom is also just a creature of a habit and often prefers to order what she’s already tried before. My current preference has absolutely nothing to do with HIS perfection. Because, no matter if he is a boy or a girl, he will be perfect. No question. And I won’t, I repeat, I WON’T be disappointed. All children are precious gifts and I will treasure him.)