23 weeks pregnant this week. My belly is big enough that I can’t squeeze between rows of desks in classrooms anymore, at least not without inadvertently bumping students. At the grocery store, in the hallways picking up the girls after school, at the dance studio, friends and strangers and acquaintances ask the same questions: How are you feeling? When is your due date? And of course: What are you having?
A baby, I say. I’m having a baby. Sometimes I say, Well, I don’t think it’s kittens!
But they’re not asking about kittens. I’m just delaying the inevitable: No, are you having a boy or a girl? Or if I’m out with all 3 girls, always this version: Your husband must really be hoping for a boy!
I love pregnancy. I love the feeling of the baby in my belly, the fullness of my body and my spirit, the way everything seems possible when I sit quietly and feel this little one’s presence with me. I know some women feel frustrated with the strange publicness of pregnancy, the way complete strangers feel entitled to open up personal conversations with you, and I completely understand their position, but for myself, for the most part, I don’t mind this at all. I like the feeling of connection to other people, the acknowledgement of our shared experiences as women, as mothers, as parents. But this you must be hoping it’s a boy conversation? It’s like a sucker punch when I was hoping for a moment of shared humanity.
We’re not finding out, I tell people. We don’t know. We don’t need to know. We don’t want to know. Older women, I’ve found, approve wholeheartedly of this. Maybe because so many of them carried and birthed babies before ultrasounds were the norm, before infancy was so deeply gendered, before names were chosen and nursery décor was pinned on pinterest months before babies were born and people hosted elaborate “Guns or Glitter” themed parties to release pink or blue balloons from a box and announce their ultrasound results .
But women my age and younger tend to be aghast. How can you stand not to know? Don’t you need to plan? Don’t you need to get things ready? Don’t you just feel like you have to be prepared?
As if choosing pink or blue clothing, or painting pink or blue walls could possibly prepare anyone for the overwhelming intensity, the beauty and joy and heartbreak and exhaustion and sweetness of bringing a baby into the world.
As if knowing what body parts this baby has would tell me anything at all about its soul, its spirit, its hopes and dreams, its gifts, the unique presence it will have in the world.
I know the questions are well-intentioned. But it’s clear to me that when people say you must be hoping for a boy I bet your husband is really hoping for a boy gosh wouldn’t it be great if this one is a boy, part of what they’re assuming is that having a boy will be somehow uniquely different from raising my girls, who must be similar, because after all, they’re all girls.
But if the past 7 years of pregnancy and parenthood have taught me anything, it’s that each of my children has their own amazing, beautiful, powerful, unique place in this world—and their sex has nothing to do with it. D is sensitive, stubborn, thoughtful, curious, insistent about being heard and respected, always wanting to hold on to as much of life as possible as tightly as possible. She thinks hard, loves hard, cries hard, wanders out of her bedroom long after she should be asleep with just one more question, one more idea. Lucy is adventurous, a risk taker, always wanting to climb higher, ride faster, turn another corner. Her sense of empathy and friendship runs deep, but she’s lighthearted, easy in her place in the world. And Margeaux, still unfolding, smart and funny, joyful and easy going, ready to take on every adventure, unaware of her limitations as the littlest. Three girls, yes. But each her own fierce, independent spirit.
So what do I hope for this baby? That it’s a boy? That it’s a girl?
I hope that this baby, that none of my babies, grow up in a world where people think their identities or possibilities are limited by their sex or their gender.
I hope they are smart, curious, driven, bold. I hope they feel powerful enough to reach for all their dreams, to build the world they want to live in, to fly far from home without losing a sense of where they came from. I hope they love hard, find and nurture relationships with friends and lovers and partners and families who value them as whole, complex, imperfect, beautiful individuals. I hope they are kind, thoughtful, empathetic, generous. I hope they think deeply about their responsibilities to others and strive to live ethical, purposeful lives. I hope they fling their hearts open to all the beauty and joy and possibility in this amazing world we are all lucky enough to pass through together.
And I hope I am strong enough, patient enough, present enough, to guide them on this path.