We didn’t find out Runner Bean’s sex as my husband was desperate to enjoy one of life’s only true surprises. He was totally devoid of a preference. Even though Hollie McNish’s book Nobody Told Me made me realise my hypocrisy by calling myself a feminist while wanting a specific sex – I would be putting my baby in a gender stereotyped bucket before he or she had a chance to express personality – secretly I wanted a girl. I know girls, I am one. She’d be a better version of me and we’d skip along together finishing each other’s sentences (in a healthy parent child way. I hope I don’t describe my children as my best friends. They’ll have their best friends for that, as I have mine).
When I realized my preference I was happy not to know. If a scan told us we were having a boy I’d feel disappointed. I didn’t want our unborn baby to feel my disappointment. I call myself a feminist. I can’t judge worth on sex.
When RB was born and announced as a boy, I felt a pang of disappointment. It wasn’t big but it was there. I said ‘Ah no [our choice of girl’s name which I love and might never get to use]’. RB was rubbed down then given to my husband for skin to skin. I held him a few minutes later. All of a sudden I didn’t care that he was a boy. I didn’t see sex. I saw my child. Sex was totally irrelevant. I was holding my darling child. That’s all that mattered.
I realise now that my desire for a girl was similar to the tick lists I used to believe in for the ideal boyfriend. The lists only exist before you find real love, when you meet someone who defies the entire list but you adore and marry them regardless. Because love isn’t found in theoretical notions of ‘perfection’. Love is found in people.
I also figure I’ve never wished my brothers were sisters, I don’t remember ever considering it. The people matter, not their sex.
However this realisation makes the strong gender norms of babies even more baffling to me.
To me, the ‘it’s a girl / boy’ thing is akin to someone getting their dream car. They think this car is beautiful. It’s fast. They want to spend all day driving it around. To them it’s the best thing ever. They’re jubilant. And you say ‘Congratulations on your new petrol / diesel’. Yes it’s an aspect of the car, it influences a few things, but it’s not its defining feature or its most interesting one.
Nearly every card we’ve been given is blue and says a variation of ‘Congratulations on your boy!’ I couldn’t give a shit that he’s girl or boy, it’s irrelevant. He’s my baby. When I breathe in the smell of his head as he snuggles on my shoulder, I don’t think of girl or boy, I think of my precious child that I promise to love and nurture for the rest of my life. Hopefully if I love and nurture him well enough he’ll know that even after my life ends my love and nurture will still be there. I’d like more cards that say ‘Congratulations on your darling child’. It would feel more fitting.