Melissa Wilson, LMHC
What Did You Just Ask Me?
"Oh my gosh - four boys - will you try for a girl?" I have lost count as to how many times we have been asked if were trying for "the girl" when they learned I was pregnant with Zachary (our youngest) or if we are going to "try for a girl" when they hear that we currently have four boys. Where does this boldness stem from, especially since I hear this most often from folks who are either strangers or simple acquaintances? Initially, I blamed this blatant lack of social skills on the pandemic. The world was opening up last spring - folks were getting vaccinated. I was seeing neighbors for the first time in a very long time. So, I wondered if people simply forgot how to socialize. However, I am not so sure.
I was two weeks postpartum with Zachary - I had him in the front facing baby carrier, strapped to my body, and he was sleeping peacefully. He and I were outside with his three brothers - they were all running around, laughing, playing, while checking in with Zachary and I - sweetly making sure we were both okay. I was still feeling dizzy from complete sleep deprivation, but I remember feeling really happy in that moment - I was doing something with all the children and they were not yelling at one another. A small win! One of my neighbors walked by (who never stops to talk, but everyone loves babies, so she stopped) - and asked the gender of the baby. After an internal eye roll, I excitedly said "we have another healthy and happy boy!" She paused and then began the following rant: "Oh - were you trying for a girl? Are you disappointed? You have a lot of kids. Where are you going to fit everyone in that house? You have such a small house. You have a pretty big lot of land though. You could add an addition. Or you can move, but the market is terrible right now. Well, if you need anything, let me know." Then, off she went - back to her house.
I stood there shocked by the entire conversation - that was not actually a conversation - it was her rambling, while I stood staring at her, unable to formulate words to unpack her boldness and lack of social skills. We talk so infrequently that I do not even know her last name, but she was asking me if I was disappointed by the gender of my newborn baby, while talking about my small house, while my other children were present and in earshot of the conversation. Did that really just happen? What did she just ask me? In that moment, I blamed it on the fact that it was April of 2021 and people were starting to socialize again after being in their homes for so many months in a row - so, maybe she forgot that you don't ask someone if they are disappointed by the gender of their baby and you don't tell someone they have a small house. What. Just. Happened.
I wonder if she even remembers that awkward encounter. Probably not. I do not begrudge her, but I am fascinated by these encounters that happen more and more frequently. When people ask me if I am going to "try for a girl", I simply say: "My family is complete!" How awkward and inappropriate. I wonder if the folks who ask about gender preference would feel disappointed themselves with four boys, so they assume that I am disappointed. Disappointed? With four healthy and happy children? I am utterly grateful that I get to be their mom. I am blessed. I am honored. I love being a mother. I love my children - regardless of their gender identity.
I never cared about the gender of the baby I was carrying. Truly. We never found out the gender until the baby's birth day. What those folks don't know is that I have had three miscarriages. I had years of unexplained infertility. So, the day I realized I was carrying every single one of my children, birthing a healthy baby was my main focus. My older sister and I used to joke that I would have been excited to have a baby monkey - I mean...not really, but the point is that I wanted children for so long that it did not matter who they were or what genitalia they were assigned at conception.
There are other details that are far more important than their gender. Those folks who ask the gender preference question also don't realize that one or more of my children who were born as male may identify as a female (now or in the future). Those folks don't know that my boys like to paint their toenails. They play with dolls. They use the pink crayon. They walk around the house in my high heels. They tell me they love my dresses. They also play with trucks. They wrestle. They play in the dirt. They spend hours creating stories and illustrating them. They create amazing things out of Lego (did you know it is not Legos with an "s" at the end - even when plural - just Lego - they taught me that!). They also snuggle with me on the couch. They play with my hair. They sometimes choose to "marry a boy" when we play "Life". They cry when I cry. They give me big kisses. They hold my hand. They love family hugs. They tell me they love me. They know that loving themselves is utterly important. They love reading. They make bracelets. They meditate with me. They know that kindness to themselves and others is the most important thing in this life. They are my children. I love them fiercely. I love them entirely as they are and as they will be. How could I ever want anything else?
So - the answer is a resounding no. I was always just trying for a baby. And, amazingly, I got four.
Note: It is absolutely okay for anyone reading this to have wanted a certain gender - I do not judge you. This is simply my own personal lived experience.