Do you know what you’re having?

4 Feb

So now that I am out as pregnant at work, I get one of two questions: “do you know what you’re having,” and/or, “do you know if it’s a boy or a girl.” Or even better: “do you know the gender?” I try to find ways to gently correct the oft-confused use of the word gender when people really mean to ask me about the sex of my fetus. Until Wednesday, I would say, “well, we will have to wait till they are a teenager to find out their gender, but we will probably find out the sex in a few weeks.”

These conversation have been top-of-mind thanks to the brouhaha resulting from a Canadian Medical Association Journal article a couple of weeks ago, suggesting that doctors should withhold information about the sex of the fetus until 30 weeks, in an effort to prevent sex-selective abortion. I imagine that this debate was also coloured by the influence of the best selling novel Secret Daughter, which tells the story of a woman in India whose husband kills her first daughter and who secretly takes her second one to an orphanage, in an effort to save her life (It’s a great book, I just finished it).

This is complex ethical territory for pro-choice feminists. The desire to end female feticide is a legitimate aim, but it’s dangerous territory when we start withholding medical information from women “for their own good.” And as media reports have revealed, this practice is already informally happening and it’s leading to racial profiling by ultrasound technicians. South Asian women report that technicians are refusing to tell them the sex of their fetus, out of an assumption that they will choose to terminate their pregnancies.

I believe that women should have right right to choose abortion. Period. But this conversation and the one I struggled with around prenatal testing opens up some tricky ethical dilemmas.

That being said, I think that the emphasis on trying to predetermine a child’s gender from day one is also pretty dangerous. I know lots of people whose gender identity doesn’t match their birth sex. If we pin all of our hopes and dreams on what we think our children will become, we lose the potential to know who they really are.

But when it came time for our 19-week ultrasound earlier this week, we couldn’t resist finding out the sex. Even though this child will have the option of presenting however they was when they grow up, for now … it’s a girl! Or a “fetus assigned female at birth” if I want to be technically correct.

Many of our friends share similar ambivalence about gender, so it was nice that we didn’t get the “Team Pink!” reaction from too many people. But as a proud queer femme, I’m not going to lie. I love girl stuff. Not of the nausea-inducing glitter-encrusted pink variety, but I do love a good frock, a fabulous pair of shoes and a great shade of red lipstick. There’s nothing inherently wrong about celebrating femininity and getting excited about the prospect of raising a kick-ass daughter. So that’s where I’m at. Thrilled that this future baby has four limbs and all necessary bodily organs. And excited to take on the challenge of raising a girl.

Here’s her first portrait — a fist in the air already! I think this bodes well for the future.

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5 Responses to “Do you know what you’re having?”

  1. Hazel Cohen February 5, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Now I’m imagining your foetus with red lipstick and teeny tiny Fluevogs. 🙂

  2. cathy February 6, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    congratulations!!!!!! what an adorable little revolutionary. 😉

  3. Ray February 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    exciting! and if the gender does match the sex what amazing role models she’ll have as parents. and actually… i guess even if they don’t match up! xo

  4. Kristin February 10, 2012 at 3:28 am #

    Gorgeous first portrait! Congratulations!

  5. Aly Windsor March 3, 2012 at 4:24 pm #

    “If we pin all of our hopes and dreams on what we think our children will become, we lose the potential to know who they really are.” Love this! I’m a queer femme mom of two boys, and I couldn’t have said this better. Best of luck to your family!

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