pregnancy

We’re Having a Girl! Or Whatever.

| On Parenthood

We’re having a girl! I’m over-the-moon happy. We wanted a son and a daughter. God willing, we’ll have both.

But why am I happy? I shouldn’t care. It should only be her health I’m concerned about, right? Right.

But, a girl… *sigh*

I always wanted a girl. In all honesty, I always wanted a boy, too. I was once a nanny to two young boys and they were simply amazing. I was smitten. So, when I found out Judah was a boy, I was thrilled. Not because of all the things that supposedly come with being a boy, but because I thought maybe I would have grand adventures again, like I did as a nanny. And maybe my kid would be amazing, too.

Let me be clear – grand adventures will be had with my daughter. And I don’t want a daughter because I want to dress her like a little doll and parade her around. (I don’t.) It’s not because I’m excited to decorate her room in various shades of pink. (I’m not. In fact, no pink, please.) And it’s really not because I want to share all the Disney princesses with her. (I hate princess culture.) When I strip away all the girlie things, all that’s left is her anatomy. So, why does the fact my unborn child has a vagina matter?

My son’s new favorite movie is Marry Poppins. His favorite part is “Steppin’ Time.” Though, I really love the part when Glynis Johns (the mother) bursts into the house singing “Sister Suffragette.”

“Our daughters’ daughters will adore us, and they’ll sing in grateful chorus, ‘Well done, Sister Suffragette!'”

I sing along (until Judah shushes me) and this line gets me choked up every time. I think the reason I’m excited to have a girl resides here.

When parents have a gender reveal party everyone makes a big deal about the prospect of this little person being a “girl” or a “boy.” Pink balloons are released into the air, or blue filling oozes from a slice of cake. Surprise! As if we already know how this baby will identify in the world, whom they will love, or what pronouns they’ll prefer. We don’t know. We celebrate boyishness and girlishness when what we should really celebrate is this child’s freedom to choose from all of the above.

When I found out I was having a boy, I asked my friends and family to refrain from buying him overly boyish clothes. Nothing with sports symbols. Nothing that says, “Little Man.” Blue was okay, but not too much blue. Gray is a nice color.

But as gender neutral as I try to be in my parenting, I am not.

Last December, we took a trip to Disney World. Jude noticed Tinker Belle on a poster and asked about her. I explained she was a fairy and that we would see her during the fireworks the next day. He was enamored with her. He noticed her everywhere we went and pointed her out. “Yes, that’s Tink!” I’d affirm, like it was a celebrity spotting.

I suggested we get him a little Tinker Belle something while we were there. Like, maybe a Tinker Belle eraser or key chain. My husband and mother-in-law (God bless them!) picked out the fanciest Tinker Belle doll in the shop. I mean, if you’re going fairy, go all the way, right? Tink went everywhere with us for the rest of the trip.

Now, had he been a girl, I would have down-played Tink or completely ignored every reference to her. And I certainly would not have suggested we pop into that dreadful Fantasyland princess shop and buy anything. Whatsoever.

But he is a boy. So, we embrace all the princesses. I created a YouTube playlist of my favorite princess songs. (Because I can hate princess culture and still love the songs. Humans are so complex, aren’t we?) I cue it up and we sing “Let it go” and “Part of Your World.” And sometimes I get choked up.

Am I a hypocrite? Maybe. I’d rather think of it like this: I’m going to follow their lead, wherever that takes us. And I’ll be especially encouraging when it comes to non-traditional, non-gender-conforming interests. My son is curious about princesses? Great! Here’s a princess doll; let’s see what fun adventures she will have! My daughter is curious about rocket ships? Awesome! Here’s a kit; let’s build one together and see if we can make it fly!

What I realize now is, when it comes to the typical stuff, I have to be right there to help them navigate that, too. In doing so, my hope is that we’ll steer clear of all the negative stereotypes that come with their assigned genders. My son can have fun in sports without internalizing the notion that men are natural aggressors. And my daughter can enjoy wearing tutus without believing on some level that women are meant to be on display. Though this can’t happen unless I am aware, and diligent about countering the powerful messages they will receive from the outside world.

At the end of the day, my joy in having a son or a daughter can’t be tied to gender. It just can’t. Doing so creates too many expectations. The joy comes from the ways they will surprise me, delight me, and make me proud for simply being themselves – whomever they may be. And I’m not excited to have a girl because I can now raise a feminist. I’m already doing that. His name is Judah.

What I am excited (and determined) to do is raise a self-confident, bold, and strong girl. I want her to know being sensitive and kind doesn’t make her weak – it’s her superpower. I want her to be so assured in her identity that gender never deters her (knowingly or unknowingly) from following her interests. I want her to have what it took me a couple decades to find, and I want her to have these tools before the world steps in and tries to make a mess of her (because with girls it always does).

I know her sexuality and gender will be determined by her, not myself or her doctor. Still, her path will be decidedly different from mine even if she does identify as a straight woman. Whatever identity unfolds for her, I’d like to think there will be a sister suffragette within her throwing her fist into the air and making this world a little better – right beside me, her brother, and her father.

And my son? It turns out he is amazing. I know my daughter will be just as amazing. Together, our little family will have many grand adventures.

“Shoulder to shoulder into the fray.”

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Dear New Mom

| On Parenthood

Dear New Mom,

You don’t have to apologize. So, stop right now.

You’re in the mama circle now. That means you get to fall off the face of the earth, complain, cry, ask for help, or not return phone calls and texts, and we’ll still be here. We’re crying and complaining about our kids too, so no judgement.

However, if anyone complains while they are “helping you out” even if that person is another parent, politely ask them to leave. You don’t need that shit.

Speaking of help, people are going to want to help you. Let them. They won’t fold your clothes the right way, they’ll put the groceries in the wrong place, and the dishes they just washed may still have food on them, but who cares? Let them help you. You can’t do everything. And you’ll send yourself to the crazy place if you try. Let them feed you, let them take the baby so you can poop, even if the baby cries the whole time. You need to poop. (more…)

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My Body – Roadmap of a Life Well-Lived

| On Living Well

Angel Wings Tattoo

I once heard a woman call her tattoos – and she had many of them – a roadmap of her life. She admitted that the artwork she had done in her youth was not necessarily what she’d have done again. Some might call her earlier tattoos cliché; some might even be embarrassed by them. But she wasn’t.

She said they told her personal history. They acted as a roadmap reminding her of where she had been. She had no regrets. How could she? Each patch of ink represented a time and place in her past, just one of the many steps that brought her to the present. And the present was pretty good.

This got me thinking about our bodies in the same way (more…)

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Just Have Fun

| On Parenthood

Just Have Fun!It seems the universe is sending me a very clear message: take the stick out of your butt and relax, already. It’s time to have fun.

For months I have been reading childbirth books, asking experts and moms for advice, and watching the best of what YouTube has to offer. I’ve been collecting data and anecdotal experience. I’ve taken classes, watched DVDs, and listened to books on tape. All this in hopes of creating the perfect birth experience for myself and my baby.

Of all the experts who have weighed in, no one has ever said to me what my doctor said to me today. (more…)

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Raising a Good Man

| On Parenthood

Raising a Good Man

 

I’m having a boy.

When I found out I was about 12 weeks pregnant. As soon as I heard the news, I was giddy. I was stupid, can’t-smack-that-smile-off-my-face happy. I was more happy than when I found out I was pregnant. I could barely think straight. I left my office and paced the sidewalks outside, thinking a boy, a boy, oh my freaking gosh, a boy.

It actually had nothing to do with his gender. I felt pure joy just because. Because the little sea monkey in my belly suddenly had a gender, and with it an identity. A gender made him a person in my mind. It made me a mother in a way simply being pregnant hadn’t.

So, yeah. A boy. Not long after I learned of his gender, I began to think about all the things that exist in a boy’s world: circumcision, peeing standing up, hiding gross things in pockets, farting, etc. Then my mind shot ahead to a teenage boy’s world: penis, penis, penis, etc. His life path would be unique to his experience as a boy-man – an experience completely foreign to me and not just a little bit scary.

Riding this mental wave, I thought of all the shitty boys I’ve ever known, and all the shitty things I’ve ever witnessed boys do, and all the shitty things boys have said (to me). It got me real nervous about having a boy. I mean, there are a lot of boys (and men) out there doing shitty things.

I am mystified by the world of boy. I’ve spent my life tip-toeing in, making surprise entrances, or allowing myself to be seduced into the world of boy. I’m fine hanging out there but I don’t want to stay there for very long. Don’t get me wrong, I adore boys, but I can’t pretend to get them. And sometimes (and I know I’m not alone when I say this) I just don’t feel safe around them.

It got me thinking, if I could avoid gendering my child, I may be able to raise the kind of man I do feel safe around – the kind of man who is respectful of women and not afraid to call himself a feminist. The kind of man who doesn’t exist solely in boy world, but glides between genders with aplomb. Like Prince.

So, I let my family know I would not dress my baby in overtly boyish clothes. No footballs, no soccer balls, and nothing that says “All Star.” He will have an array of toys to choose from. Sure, he can have cars and trucks, but he will also have dolls and kitchenware to play with.

On these things I am still firm. Yet, since telling my family all about this gender neutralish fantasy I hoped to raise my kid in, I realized a gender-neutral world does not guarantee he will grow up to be a good man who wields his powers to help others.

Does giving him a doll to play with make him more sensitive? Maybe, but maybe not. His life experience will be defined by his gender (whether he identifies with it or not). For sure. But when I think of all the good men out there – and I have been blessed to know a few really good ones – I realize that raising a good man goes beyond gender.

 

Raising a Good Man

 

I think it boils down to this: compassion, empathy, and vulnerability.

Embracing these three qualities is not reserved for one gender or another. These are things I would aim to instill in my child, girl or boy. The traits I admire in a man are the same things I admire in a woman. The people I look up to most in the world show strength of character, the ability to show kindness to a stranger, and the confidence to own their flaws while taking healthy risks.

I think raising a good man is really raising a good person. Because good people don’t objectify others. They don’t want to hurt, dominate, or belittle others. Good people see strength in differences and seek unification instead of opposition. Good people stand up for what is right in the world and become a part of the solution. Good people is what I hope our son becomes.

While I still intend to raise him in a somewhat gender neutral world, I don’t think this is what will make him a good person. It may help. But I think the most powerful thing I can do for him is lead by example and be the kind of good person I hope he becomes.

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Big Bellies and Bikinis

| On Parenthood, Uncategorized

Pema Body QuoteLast weekend, at 35 weeks pregnant I pranced around a public pool in a bikini and it was grand. But sharing bare skin with the sun hasn’t always been top on my list of things I love. This has been a journey 25 years in the making.

When I was in middle school my family got a pool.  I’m sure my parents imagined that my sister and I would splash around from sunrise to sunset, that our summers would be filled with pool parties and sun-kissed adventures. My sister’s childhood movie may be filled with such wonderful water memories. But not mine. (more…)

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