On why I’m not finding out ‘What it is?’

by Jennifer

Disclaimer: This is a personal reflection on why I am not finding out the sex of my baby. Parenting is not a one-size fits all and we’re all out here trying to do best by our child. There’s too much bashing and judgment of parenting and is not my intent to pass judgment on others parenting or to incur judgment on my own parenting.

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“Are you going to find out the gender?” Aliens-Movie-Chestburster

Or my person favorite: “do you know what you’re going to have?” (um, a human infant or you know, a thing like in the movie Alien based on the present kicking/movement)

I’ve been asked these questions and variations of these questions a lot. My answer is an emphatic ‘No’. And the simple explanations I give go along the lines of ‘We’d like it to be a surprise’ or ‘I don’t love pink or blue and don’t want people getting us a lot of either’. But the truth is my reasons are a lot more complex and are rooted in my feminist understanding of the world.

First, we gender children enough once they are out of the womb, so why start before the baby has even finished gestating in the womb.

As a feminist, I am concerned with all the ways that children get socialized into gender roles through clothing, toys, media, and activities. Just look at what gets labeled as a ‘girl’ toy and you’ll see, often in a plethora of pink or purple, princesses galore, dolls, cooking stations, tea party sets, and Barbies with endless outfits, shoes, and accessories. These toys emphasize the importance of looks, nurturing, cooking, and cleaning. And in a ‘boy’ toy aisle, in hues of blues and greens, are super hero figurines, guns, cars, dump trucks, train sets, tool sets emphasizing physical labor, action, and violence.

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From bithmedia.org blogpost

For people that are comfortable with traditional gender roles and think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, this might not be a problem. But for a 21st century feminist, I think it’s important to think critically about the messages children are receiving that suggest how their gender informs their identity and role in society. And as a parent, I would like to foster an environment that first shields from these messages and than encourages my child to critique them.

To address my second reason for not wanting to find out, let’s start with a basic, simplified lesson on sex and gender. (disclaimer: I’m a cisgender person trying to simplify a very complicated topic that I’m still learning more and more about.) Sex is not the same as gender. Sex refers to the biological – i.e. organs/chromosomes – including male, female, and intersex. Gender refers to how an individual A_TransGender-Symbol_black-and-white.svgidentities and expresses their gender identity. Someone’s biological sex might not always match up with their gender identity and expression and they might identify transgender. Further, someone may not identify with the binary gender system (male or female) and identify on an expansive continuum of non-binary or genderqueer identities.

So when someone asks me if I am going to find out the gender of my baby, I can’t help but think that there is no medical test or professional that can tell me the gender of my baby. Only my child will be able to discover and reveal, over the course of years, their gender identity and expression.

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Pregnant and Still Pro-Choice

Now that I got the old stuff out of the way (see last post), I can move on to my current thoughts and reflections which due to my current condition revolve around pregnancy. And I am speaking a topic on which people hold passionate opinions and am sharing how my opinion has been shaped by this new experience so I am a little nervous.

My grandma Margaret was a staunch and die hard Republican. She campaigned for Nixon back in the day. When I was studying at Georgetown, her friends commented that I’d one day be running against the likes of Hillary Clinton not imagining that any granddaughter of Margaret could NOT be a Republican. However, I clearly remember my grandma talking about her discontent with the Republican stance on abortion. My grandma often grumbled about male Republicans making decisions that impact women and that it’s a woman’s body and a woman’s choice.

I’ve been thinking about my grandma’s frustrations about men making policy decisions on issues they have no experience with because I am currently pregnant. And while I don’t think you have to be pregnant to have a stance on abortion, it has been an experience that has given me a new perspective on abortion. I am currently 20 weeks pregnant. Before getting pregnant, I had thought that pregnancy might make me question my pro-choice stance. I thought I would be overwhelmed by the miracle of a life growing within me and the different milestones reached (which I have been). What I hadn’t counted on, though, was all the ways the pregnancy would impact my bodily well being.

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Source: Wikipedia

I appear to be one of those woman that gets hit hard by morning sickness, otherwise known by anyone who has experienced it as every day pregnancy sickness. In my first trimester, I had nausea all day and I often violently threw up all that I drank or ate in the evenings. I went days where I spent up all my energy at work and found myself lifelessly living on my couch afterward (in between trips to the bathroom).

To fully set the stage for how awful this is, I will unapologetically share in detail. Imagine that you find yourself bowed in front of the toilet peeing yourself (even though you just went) because your body is so violently trying to empty it’s insides while everything you ate and then some (think acidic bile) projects out of you into the hated bowl. Then repeat multiple times a day multiple days in a row. Then imagine your hormones are all over the place and while you feel you ought to be happy at this blessed occasion that you’ve been dreaming of, you’re actually miserable, depressed, and fatigued (probably in part due to dehydration as not even the liquids can stay down). And the things that you know might help your mood (seeing friends, being social, getting out of the house) seem impossible due to the fatigue, nausea, and necessity to remain close to the toilet. All the while you learn through your pregnancy app about all the ways your body is and will continue to change to accommodate this precious life inside you.

For me, it was a physically violent and emotionally draining experience. And I experienced all this with my consent. I want this life to be born and to be its mother. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to go through all this if it weren’t my choice. As a result, it is now staunchly my view that it is simply and plainly violence against a woman to force her to go through pregnancy when it is not her choice.

(I know that was a lot of details and build up to say just that one simple statement but there it is.)

(Also for any women reading this struggling with morning sickness, I stumbled across this blog post at Double the Batch and all the comments and they gave me a lot of much needed comfort.)