Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What'll It Be?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a crucial step in practicing belief that the lump in my belly will one day be a Real Live Baby TM: we’ve told lots and lots of people. We’ve told the friends we hang out with but don’t make the “we’d want you to know about a miscarriage anyway” list (GULP). We’ve told my boss I can’t teach in the spring (financial GULP). We’ve even told Facebook (high-school-frenemy GULP).

By and large, this has been great. Most people have said something nice, and no one’s been rude — one of the great things about being loudly gay is that the suckier-type people don’t want to be friends with you anyway. Excitement has come from unexpected quarters: Sugar was suddenly hugged by a moderately nerdy male colleague running for the train yesterday, and the father of our favorite toddler, who was luke-warm at best on the topic of reproduction prior to the arrival of his daughter, checks in on my health nearly as solicitously as my mother does.

Nearly everyone we tell in person immediately asks, “Do you know what you’re having?” which sounds like something a diner waitress would say.

I have an impulse to answer, “BLT, fries, and a coke, please; no mayo on the BLT,” but that would be unhelpful. Instead, I tell them, “I’m hoping for a puppy, but it’s looking more and more like a baby.”*

Partly Mostly, I answer that way because I’m a congenital smart-ass, and I’d hate for my friends to think pregnancy has changed me (though apparently they expect it to — a shockingly large number of them have not laughed, but rather stared at me as if I’ve lost my mind). Partly, though, it troubles me that even now, at whatever fruit-metaphor size it is this week, the bean is already supposed to be defined primarily by its sex.

Now I know, I know. I know it’s just small talk, that no one is saying our baby can’t wear a tutu while operating a steam shovel or be the butchest kid on the synchronized swimming team. I get it. It’s meant to be nice, a way of thinking of the baby as a real person. But though I’m pretty darn gender-conforming in lots of ways, I’m still not nuts about the whole business of tying personhood to sex.


Our anatomy scan is a week from today, and we haven't decided yet whether to find out the sex. Sweet Sonographer has promised she will not let me find out if I don't want to know, even through I'm on deck for lots of extra scans to look out for IUGR. So that means the decision really is up to us.

On the one hand, knowing would make it a little easier to buy/beg for clothes. It is remarkable how much is either pink or blue. I don't hold with the whole pink/blue thing -- both of those colors are a little blah -- but it sure is a lot of what's out there. And even though I grew up in the South, where pink is a normal color for men's shirts and even though I know that pink was the baby boy color in the nineteenth century (apparently because of its association with powerful red) and even though my dad does look very smart in a pink oxford, I'm not so sure I want people to think we're those lesbians, if you know what I mean.

And yet.... I have a strong feeling that once we know one way or the other, the follow-up to those diner-esque questions will be non-stop advice based on stereotypes or anecdotes of babies of whatever sex. Which sounds annoying. (Yes, we can use "Pregnant Women Are Smug"**-style evasion, but I don't think I could really keep that up. Sugar could.) Whether to circumcise isn't going to be a tough decision for us, and nothing else seems like something we really need to decide right away. We like the green IKEA crib. We can pick two names, as our parents did for us.


Yesterday (when I started writing this, for what it's worth), was National Coming Out Day. I don't remember to think about it every year, but it is a day I hold fond. In college, it was the day of my favorite party, after which everyone would stream out all over campus armed with sidewalk chalk. In the morning (and, with lucky lack of rain, well through fall break, when prospective students and parents often tour, heh), every sidewalk and pathway would be covered in explosions of support and affection, everything from "I love my gay roommate" and "I love my parents (even though they're straight)" to triumphant labia and, when Sugar was around at least, the sweetest love poems. It was late on the night of that party, my first year, that I first (tentatively, awkwardly) came out to a friend. These days, when it is so easy to forget how hard that was, it's a good reminder that there are plenty of people, especially teens, who need us to be loudly, gladly out, who need the reassurance that full, happy lives are not only possible but actually easier when we tell the truth about ourselves.

But even though being out is important and often a pleasure (see note about lack of sucky friends, for instance, plus the fact that, in my case, it means being able to marry Sugar), coming out is mostly scary. It's scary because it requires you to tell everyone in your life that you are not, in fact, the sum of the expectations and assumptions of your sex; you are yourself. It's amazing how difficult it can be to remind people of something that shouldn't be so hard to remember.


As you may have gathered from my earlier post, the bean has gotten big and strong enough that we can feel it now. And I mean "we." This has been so far an unusually physically non-mutual pregnancy -- not only didn't all those years of, erm, "trying on our own" work, not only didn't we do this at home with the baster, but Sugar wasn't even allowed in the room for the transfer. It's therefore even more magical that the first time I felt something I couldn't explain away as anything other than its beanship, Sugar was holding her hand on my belly and she felt it, too. The strongest movements don't feel to me like "flutters" or whatever else the book says. They feel like throbbing, like very strong blood. Like another heart, held in my belly.

For now, I like just feeling the bean move on its own, reminding me that it is its own person, even inside me. I'm not sure I'm ready to cover it up with all my expectations and fears about boys or girls. When*** it's out in the world, I will no doubt learn soon enough that it isn't every boy or every girl or even primarily a boy or a girl, just itself. While it's inside, not knowing seems to help.

*On balance, I’m glad it’s not a pony. Those hooves intimidate the hoohas rather a bit.

** You HAVE seen "Pregnant Women Are Smug," right? On the off chance you haven't, go watch it now. I command you.

***Knock wood, knock wood.


  1. Great post! So glad you have not had any negative reactions to your announcements. We haven't either and, surprisingly (and awesomely) have never been asked anything inappropriate about how or why this pregnancy was achieved. (Which, by the way, I was expecting a DELUGE of questions over. But I guess everyone in our circle either knows or else is too polite and/or pc. I've never been asked ANYTHING about the "father" (or the donor!) and it is awesome.

    But yes. Number one question (even when I was telling at like 12 weeks) was: Do you know what you are having? Answer: Not yet. With the inevitable follow-up question: Do you have a preference? And here is where I always say the same thing: I just want them to be healthy. I know it is a cliche and most random, unknowing types (like random colleagues, strangers, students, etc) kind of roll their eyes like: "Yeah yeah...that's what everyone says. That's what they are SUPPOSED to say." And then they often try to push me to commit to a preference.

    But honestly, when it is as hard to achieve a pregnancy as this one was...I long, long ago stopped caring about the genitalia between my kids' legs. We're finding out (10 days after you, on the 29th) simply to help us bond with the babies (and to relieve the stress of coming up with 4 distinct first and middle names) and nothing more. Any combo of what we are having will be amazing and more than I ever thought we'd get and I just feel so lucky and grateful.

    But I do like your BLT line. I'll have to try that out sometime soon. On snarky occasions, I usually respond with: "Yup. I'm pretty sure we're having humans" but the blt line is way better!

  2. I think that if you don't really want to know, or feel like knowing will make the preganancy feel more real, go ahead and don't find out. I've had a lot of friends not know (or not announce) the gender until birth, and none of them had any problems borrowing clothes for their babies. Plus, it does ensure that more things will be neutral (instead of PINK! or BLUE!), which can be nice. But I think it's great that you're at this point and have had only the good reactions that your news merits!

  3. I love this post. And this is crazy, but pertinent: I was at the ATM a few minutes ago and a guy was in there with his two (female) coworkers. They were asking him "how the ultrasound went." It was the 20-week appt and they wanted to know if he found out the gender. "Yes," he responded. And then he didn't elaborate. They peppered him like school girls for the gender but ultimately got the hint....he knew the gender, but the rest of the world would NOT. So maybe you can do that? Tho I suppose if your reason for wanting to know is so you can purchase not pink-or-blue stuff, maybe the gender would become obvious based on what you put on your registry?

    I don't know! But I loved this post, and I'm so happy you are doing great and feeling the little one move move move! xo

  4. great post. its interesting to think about how "coming out" has evolved from that radical thing we did as college students to the daily ritual of it as parents. i find myself coming out more and more to random strangers than i ever did pre-motherhood. i want to be visible for my daughter...

    as for finding out the sex, we did with both pregnancies and have been able to keep the girly pinkness to a minimum even though everyone knew/knows the babies sexes. the most pink has come from hand-me-downs, and in that case, our frugal side wins out over our desire to keep things gender neutral! ;-)

  5. I decided to watch the video before commenting. It's great although not quite as great as this post. The video is funny. Your post is also funny as well as awesome and clever and thoughtful and so utterly Bionic Baby Mama.

  6. From one congenital smart ass to another, I absolutely adore your answer when people ask you what you're having.

    This is a brilliant post on so many different levels...I don't even know how to say everything I am thinking.

  7. Love your post. Yay, on telling everyone (as scary as that can be). :D

  8. I like knowing the gender because I have an insane need to plan ahead, organize, and nest. It makes me uncomfortable to fly by the seat of my pants. But there's nothing wrong with having a big reveal at the end either.

    And aren't those first kicks awesome?

  9. I love your post, so well thought through in so many ways. I agree with the blue and pink and that gender should not define who you are, and even have two names picked out... But I'm just so curious about this little being growing inside me, I'd find out color of the eyes and future grades if at all possible :)

  10. Awesome awesome post. Glad all is well oh and your BLT line is the sh*t ! Love it! I would have loved to have answered something like that but mine would have had to be like a turkey club or something cause you know I am porkless over here, LOL. For us Superbaby's gender just had to be known. We are just like that and would have never been able to hold out and be surprised. I have so much respect though for those who choose not to find out, how strong and patient and for whatever their reason, they are amazing to not know until the end. If Superbaby was a girl there would have been a minimum of pink, I am so not a pick girl. I have not been reading any blogs, but so glad I caught up alittle with you. Thinking of you both and so glad all is well! xoxo

  11. I forgot to say you are lucky I am not in NYC cause we would have so had to hang out and EAT. Ok so maybe you are unlucky, cause I am one cool and hungry pregnant woman who would have requested waaaay too much greasy, drippy, thin NY pizza. xoxo

  12. Love this post. I especially love your smart ass remarks. I, alas, am not blessed with speediness of wit, but Q. has it in spades. He's now in charge of answering whenever anyone inquires about names, as his answers are truly ridiculous. My personal favourite: "Well, given the current trend in North America to use surnames as first names we thought we'd go with Barrington-Smythe, because why use one if you can use two?"

    Glad everyone is being supportive. You deserve nothing less.

    Also very glad things are going well.

  13. My husband DID want to know beforehand, I was ok with waiting and seeing. Our ob/gyn never got good enough of a look to be certain!

    I'm not a girlie girl, so I'm surprised when my daughter loves lip balm, wants to go clothes shopping (she's 3) and loves to twirl in a skirt.
    I wonder where it comes from, and my guess is it's innate.

    Have you heard about a couple in Sweden who refuses to tell the outside world the gender of their child (now in pre-school). They dress it as a boy one week and as a girl the next. All this to avoid pressure from gender expectations.
    A bit extreme (if it's true at all).

    Wishing you the best!

    (Arrived from the Crème de la Crème list)

  14. I arrived from CdlC - we didn't find out with our "first" (post miscarriage #1) because I didn't want to put her in a gender box. The pink arrived after she was born and I've given in. She's a girl through and through, who loves airplanes, helicopters, and garbage trucks. We did find out with our second (after miscarriage #2) because it was such a difficult pregnancy and I wanted the extra bond. I had two weeks knowing he was a boy before he died and am grateful for that. It's different for everyone and for every pregnancy. And it's always perfect, whatever you decide.
    Wishing you a beautiful healthy baby.

  15. We didn't find out whether Eggbert was a puppy or a pony for exactly the reasons that you articulated. I didn't want anybody to tell the Egg who to be. One of my pet peeves is when people call it a "gender scan." Gender isn't something that shows up on an ultrasound, people! It drove people crazy, but whatever.

    Now that we know that the Egg has a vagina, well, not much has changed. She's still her own person. But I thought we should at least get born before she had to fight for her right to her own identity.

    Great post. (here from creme)