Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thoughts on having a son

When I first told two close friends I'm pregnant and thought I was having a girl, one said, You’re okay with that right? and another said, there’s nothing wrong with that. These reactions surprised me. Why would there be anything wrong with it?

There has been a tumble of emotion since learning I'm having a boy. Every little boy I see looks different now, as does every man. I will be responsible for raising one. But something makes me feel emotional, and after having thought about it for some time I’ve realized what it is.

Boys and girls, it takes both genders to make the world we see today and yet it is undeniable that throughout the centuries one gender has been preferred over the other across cultural, religious, and racial lines. This history of preference is wrong but its the truth, when looked at from a statistical perspectives, throughout history, males are preferred over females.

Chinese orphanages are filled with baby girls who are not in the truest sense orphans because they have parents who, because of the one-child rule, would rather send their child away while hoping for the coveted son. In India there was, and there still may be, a ban on ultrasounds that indicated gender because of the sharp uptick of abortions of female fetuses. The female infanticide rate was so extreme that today there are villages in India where there are simply no girls, and girls must be imported from neighboring villages when it is time to marry.

Close to home my own aunt had five daughters in her quest to have her son which she ultimately had on baby number six. What must it feel like to be the first five daughters who know their birth was merely a disappointment. My grandfather was pressured to marry someone else because my grandmother only gave him daughters. As ironic as life can be sometimes, his second wife gave him three sons. My FIL proudly announces from time to time “I am proud I had a girl, I don’t mind.” Why is there a need to make this proclamation if gender is not an issue?

I can’t stop thinking about this, the emphasis on boys. The desire for boys. The devaluation of mothers who could not produce sons. How people will drive themselves to a litter of children, and abortion of little girls, in their quest for their son.

And then there's us. The IF sisters who would do anything for a child, a healthy live breathing baby to hold and care for and love and raise. The very idea of wanting one gender over another seems silly when you come down to it, just being able to reproduce is something not to be taken for granted.

This overwhelms me. I'm having a boy and I wouldn't have cared either way. Yet because my baby has a penis instead of a vagina, this would matter to so many people in ways I cannot comprehend. This small detail in another place, another time, another country could be the difference between life and abortion, between adoption and raising one’s own child.

When I thought I was having a girl I felt determined to raise her to have self-confidence and pride in being who she was. I was ready to snarl like a mother bear at anyone who dare give a disappointed glance at my female child. And now I’m having a boy. I’m thrilled to pieces but it bothers me that people may smile with approval at this. That somehow because I am having a boy I may have more worth, or my child my have more worth.

Both genders are beautiful and worthy. I hope I will be able to raise him well, into a man who will be a productive member of society, and who will never consider himself the better gender simply because of the goods God put between his legs.


  1. I haven't found out the gender of Bean, but I think it's a girl, and that makes me so happy. I really want the mother-daughter relationship that I so treasure with my own mom. Since this is probably the only child we'll have, the gender feels important, but not to the extent that I would be unhappy if we had a son of course.

    A lot of our friends -particularly the women- have pointed out that we need more sons brought up by enlightened moms to respect women and be strong, caring partners and fathers when their time comes. And I agree with that. If I were to have a son it would be a privilege to raise him to be an empathetic man. I'm so thrilled that you will have this opportunity!

    As for the gender preferences you outlined...I totally hear you. I come from a family of three sisters and my parents always say that we are both their daughters and their sons and that they gave us all the opportunities they would have given their sons. And that's true.

    But as you said, the fact that they have to say it or that people were still praying that God would give them a son until *very* recently (they're in their 60s now) makes it clear that there is a perceived deficiency in having daughters but not sons.

    My parents have articulated the desire for Bean to be a grandson. They have one grandson and three granddaughters already, so on some level their desire is natural, but on another it feels a little hurtful.

    People have preferences and biases, but I hope more of us can move away from that and cherish the children that are given to us and bring them up to be the best human beings that they can be.

  2. You are definitely right that boys tend to be "revered" more than girls, especially in other cultures. (So sad.) :(

    But at the same time, I think people feel sorry for me because I am not having a daughter. It seems like all new pregnant moms on one of the TTC/parenting boards I visit are praying for a daughter (these are non-IF people, for what it's worth). My mom was disappointed to hear that she wouldn't be getting a granddaughter from me. And a friend of mine actually cried after her u/s told her that her second (and last) child would be a boy like her first.

    I am just happy to be having ANY children, infertility or not. I feel incredibly blessed to be raising three boys, and I don't give a sh*t whether anyone thinks this is wonderful or pitiable.

  3. my experience in telling people we're having a girl seems to fall in line with sunny's above...people have reacted to our news with comments that leave me feeling like i wished i was having a boy sometimes just to prove i'd be just as happy and that boys are valuable members of society too. i wonder about the need people feel to make any comments whatsoever...just say congrats people!

    and i'm sorry to hear J's parent's responded as expected. i kept hoping they would surprise you both by responding with warmth and excitement. i'm glad J told them they didn't deserve to know. "respect your elders"? intriguing response. wow.

  4. I hear you - it is crazy, people are crazy. We, like most IF couples, did not care, really, truly did not care what gender our babies were - when they told us one boy and one girl, we were like, okay, thanks - we would have been just as overjoyed for two girls or two boys.

    I get so pissed when I tell people what we are having and they are like - oh that is perfect - like two girls or two boys would be less than perfect.

    I remember having such strong feelings of hope and joy for these two babies and the different set of fears for each - and a thought popped in - crude but real - that this son of mine will not be a pig!!! My husband is the best example of a man - and our son will be as well.

    ((HUGS)) to you and congratulations!

  5. This is so interesting for me to read because, honestly, I never thought about it in these terms before. As someone above mentioned, I feel that those around me are more "disappointed" (too strong a word, but you know what I mean) to have a boy than a girl. But that's definitely not the way it is everwhere.

  6. Don't worry, you will still snarl like a mama bear when someone gives your son a disapproving glance.... I too, thought I was having a girl after several IVF's and IUI's, but, on that day when they told me, I was in shock, my husband beamed with pride as I processed "a boy?". I was not disappointed, I just saw myself with a girl....
    Now, I can not imagine NOT having a son. You will find so much joy in being the first woman in his life and knowing you are the blueprint who will set the standards for all women to follow.
    You secretly wish for a mama's boy (don't tell your husband) and cherish every snuggle and hug - when they fall and don't need you to help, you rush over and hug them anyway.
    Congratulations! Boys are the best.

    Kara (in Chicago)

  7. Beautifully said!
    We live in a city where there's a high asian/indian population and many ultrasound labs won't tell you the gender until late in pregnancy. Sometimes it's a not only a unfair world but a sad one.
    Congrats on your pregnancy, btw!