I was so hoping to have a son. I will fully admit that. I assumed it would just “be easier” for us. This baby was a tie breaker since my husband already has one daughter and one son. This is our one and only baby to have together because we don’t need four and I’m not ever doing this again.
I was a non-gender-conforming kid. I was definitely a girl who was PROUD to be a girl. But every single holiday was an excuse for my extended family and society to school me in proper gender presentation. I didn’t play with dolls. I played with horses and trucks and planes. If you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d have been more likely to tell you I wanted to be president or an astronaut or avet than a “mommy” or a teacher or a nurse or any other “acceptable” occupation for a lady in the late 80s/early 90s. My sister was the absolute opposite. She wore dresses. She played house. She played with dolls. She was rewarded at every birthday and holiday by receiving presents she actually wanted. I would end up feeling demoralized. My parents were fairly keen to start a tradition of receipts for this reason. I knew the rules: accept gracefully, tell mom and dad you are sad on the way home, go pick something out you actually like.
The situation I remember frustrating me the most was a holiday Christmas party my mom’s company did. I grew up in a manufacturing area and mom worked in engineering for a big firm. Each year, everyone from the line on up would bring their kids to get a toy. But, like the frustrating trip through the McDonald’s drive-thru in which you had to announce a “boy toy” if you wanted something that DID anything and wasn’t just a model of a stupid princess, girls lined up for “girl toys”. Santa would turn a lever and down the line your stupid girl toy would come. I waited patiently knowing my only options were a doll, a housecleaning set, or a tea set. ALL CRAPPY. The boys got a boat, a plane, or a car. I wanted to go in the other line. But nope. I had a vagina, so I got stuck with a housecleaning set. Now, the irony in this is I actually have OCD, so I actually really do enjoy cleaning and desire cleaning in a way most people don’t. But 4 year old me was so unimpressed.
So, when they got the “money shot” up on the ultrasound that sealed our fate, I started crying. The tech asked me what I thought the baby was. I told her I thought it was a boy “but that’s not looking like a penis”. I was right. We are expecting a baby girl in just a few more weeks. Everyone was overjoyed and to be honest, I was crying tears of joy because as awful as pregnancy has been, I wanted this baby desperately and I will love her so much. But my husband was worried I was crying because I was sad. He waited until the tech left to ask me and I assured him while I have my worries, I am thankful to be given the chance to raise an amazing little feminist.
But that said, god it’s so much harder to raise a girl from the outset. I mean, with a boy, you can debate the merits of circumcision or what sports you are willing to let him attempt because head trauma but we’d already had those conversations. WIth girls, the conversations just got so much more everyday and involved so many harder subjects. The beginning stuff was rather simple. For my friends – most of which had been gifted daughters- I had been warned that the clothing nightmares were real. Oh boy were they!
I’ve put off buying clothing because I hate it so much. Bows? Why? What the hell is the point?! I will wear a bow. I’m actually a fairly feminine-presenting adult hetero cis-female. I’m very unremarkable. However, I’ve CHOSEN this performance of gender. She can’t choose. Bows scream “I’m a girl! See! Don’t call me a boy because this bow is big enough to see from space!”. And all the outfits have a stupid theme – high heels, ballerina shoes, cats, daddy’s little princess (oye that word). My husband and I have struggled. Most of our clothing is “boy” because the only other option is so very “boy”. I don’t care. No child of ours is going to be a ballerina. I’m not built for it. I’m built like a steel locomotive. Her dad is like a tall steeple of a human. We aren’t building dancers here, people. We don’t like the idea of the woman who needs saving. And why does it matter if the baby possesses certain genitals? It’s a baby. Unless you are a medical professional or changing her, it’s really none of your business (I feel strongly about asking people about decisions to circumcise their children but that’s another story for another day). Clothing with ruffled pants (because standard pants are just unacceptable?) make your child look like a deranged clown. Which, right now, is just dangerous. Again, if you like these things, fine. But I hate them and I think my baggage of being tormented by being forced to “do” gender “right” or pay the social price has really turned my stomach.
Further down the road, you get asked about whether you are piercing your daughter’s ears. The arguments for are almost entirely predicated on “well she will want them done later”. I am whitewashing here a bit because I know culturally there are more “meaningful” reasons, but I am talking about middle American whitebread moms because that’s mostly what I know. I hate the above argument that you should get them done now because it’s silly. What if she hates them later? What if she’s allergic to nickel (I am and so are my mom and sister) and now she has to spend an arm and a leg to keep up this habit later? What if they are hard to cover up for sports? I’m a full grown-ass woman who, no, has never ever had her ears pierced. People lose their minds when I say this. I am fully-functioning, I promise! And really, the “she will want it done later” is not the argument. The real underlying argument is this is another way to signal “hey I’m a girl! Don’t you DARE call me a boy because I will be so offended!”. Again, it’s a baby. The argument she wants it later is still predicated on the assumption that girls have pierced ears and it’s a way to properly “do” gender.
Then further down the road you have to worry about consent and really heavy things with a girl in a way boys don’t have to. I don’t mean this should exempt the parents of boys from teaching their sons “no means no” and how bodies are not theirs just to touch when they feel like it. Parents of boys are just as responsible for this. They should take it incumbent upon themselves to help solve these problems. Still, my reality was that by age 14, I was a survivor of sexual assault. I was abused by a friend on school grounds. My parents taught me the importance of consent, using proper terms, you name it, but the whole “boys will be boys” and “boys say stupid things when they like you” messages society had put in my brain overrode everything else. I spent years blaming myself. I ended up in an abusive relationship after all of it and still blamed myself. My stepson will never have to worry about walking down the street alone at night as much as the girls do – it’s incomparable. We worry about the girls much more.
It’s so hard. Still, I don’t think of it as a disappointment. This implies I’m sad I’m having a girl. I’m not. I’m just frustrated that “having a girl” means a greater degree of complication and mindfuckery. I’m not even concerned about the things I thought I would be. I don’t worry about her being limited by her gender presentation – no matter how girly or not – because I don’t think I ever felt limited back in the day. I’ve surrounded myself with kickass ladies. Our baby’s family includes a mom with a PhD who currently programs for a living, an aunt who runs a tech startup, an aunt who is an aerospace engineer, a grandmother who works in engineering creations out of sheet metal, an aunt who is a special ed teacher, and a number of other “aunties” who have advanced degrees and don’t fear the math required to do their jobs.
I worry more about the everyday struggles women face. I worry I will either make her feel weird about being girly which I don’t want to do if that’s the way she chooses to be or I will make her feel like she needs to have this big girly identity because I do (even if it wasn’t already that way). I worry about what others outside our immediate circle will beat into her. I have to hand it to my mom and mother-in-law so far because I haven’t received bows or tutus. Most things have been fairly neutral. But I know it’s gonna happen as she grows. You can’t protect them from the real world even if it sucks. That does more of disservice. So, I’m thoroughly frustrated for her and for us because the world is not kind to our type.
But I’m not disappointed.