Thursday, May 9, 2013

Placing an Order

When one gets pregnant, one of the first thing one is asked by friends, family, co-workers, and random belly touching strangers is:  So what do you want?  A boy or a girl?  

It's almost like placing an order in a restaurant. Yes, I'll have a boy this time, please.  As if we have any say in the matter.

Most people will play the game, though most will answer coyly - It doesn't matter to me, as long as the baby is healthy.  (As if we won't love our children if they aren't healthy, but that's a topic for another day).

This is generally a lie.  Usually there is some kind of gender preference.  And I haven't conducted any research on this, but from what I can tell, in America today, that gender preference is generally for girls.

Why?  The typical reasons are draped in gender stereotypes: Girls are so much calmer than boys. Boys are wild.  Girls clothes are so much more fun!  Boys clothes are boring.  Girls will stay close with their families.  Boys will stray.  Girls will be their mother's best friend (eventually).  Boys will never talk to their mothers (eventually).  Girls will share their emotions, express their love, and show vulnerability.  Boys will be aloof and cold and strong.  Girls are sweet.  Boys are rough. Snips and snails and puppy dog tails.

I certainly felt the pull for a girl.  Coming from an all girl family, for my first child, if I were placing an order, I would have ordered a girl.  When I found out it was a boy, I wasn't upset per se, but I wondered what it would be like.  What am I going to do with a boy?  I thought.  Eventually I got used to, and embraced, the idea.  I went crazy for blue bedding and baby suspenders and figured I could do all the frilly stuff with my next child.

When I got pregnant for the second time, I felt a bit differently.  I already had a boy, who I loved more than life itself.  I knew what to do with a boy, and I knew that no matter what, I would love the child I would get, no matter the sex.  But, knowing that it may be my last child, if I had to place an order, I probably would have ordered a girl.  After all, I already had a boy, what would a girl be like?  I'm the type that likes to experience it all - to visit every country I can, to try all types of food. When it came to motherhood, why not have the girl and boy experience?

When I found out #2 was a boy, I mourned for a day or two, but quickly recovered.  I embraced the idea of two boys - brothers.  Besides, who knew - maybe we would have a third child, and maybe that third child would be a girl.

After a couple of years, my husband and I started talking about having baby #3.  When we discussed it, we acknowledged the fact that, in all likelihood, we would probably have another boy. I know it's supposed to be 50/50 and all that, but from observation only, it doesn't seem to happen that way. And anyway, having a child just to have a girl seemed like a pretty crappy reason to have one.  I sat long and hard and really looked inward - why do I want a third child?  When I realized that the gender was not the reason, we decided to fledge forward.

I started telling some close friends, family, and acquaintances that we had decided to have a third child, sometime in the near future.  The reactions were ..... interesting.  Most all of them centered on the gender of the child - Hopefully you'll get your girl! or You know you could end up being one of those moms with three boys who has to buy 50 gallons of milk a week? or You know about the Shettles method, right?  Such comments came from parents of boys and girls alike.

The assumption was that we were going for that girl.  And in a weird way, I started to feel like I would let people down if we didn't get just that.

It's not that I didn't want a girl.  Once again, if I had to place an order for this pregnancy, I probably would have ordered a girl.  But all the anti-boy sentiment had me a bit defensive about the boys I already had.  What's so wrong with them?  Would having one more of them be that bad? That lamentable?  It's as if people were feeling preemptively sorry for me.  And I don't like people to feel sorry for me, generally.  Especially when the subject of their sympathy is what I find to be my life's treasure.

Once I did get pregnant, the gender question hung over me with a pressure I hadn't felt in my prior pregnancies.  But this time, unlike other times, I was convinced I was having a girl. EVERYTHING pointed to that.  The Shettles method, the chinese fertility calendar, the heart rate, the nausea, my friend Sabrina's pencil test that has worked for generations...  I just felt it this time, I felt different. And with that certainty, I felt.... relieved.  Relieved that I wouldn't let anyone else down.  Relieved that I would get "my girl" and know what that felt like.

I narrowed down my baby girl names.  I fantasized about painting the baby room a pale yellow and throwing away all of the raggedy boy clothes we had been storing in the attic.

On April 30, we got the call from the geneticist.


Let me say that one more time.  BOY.

I wasn't upset at all when I heard the news - not in the least bit actually.  The only word I can use to describe my emotion was SHOCKED.

I was shocked as hell.

I don't know why.  Obviously, it could have been either.  But I was shocked at the fact I had been so wrong.  Shocked at the fact I would never have a girl.  Shocked at the fact I would be a mom to THREE BOYS.


I picked up the phone to call my husband, who shared in my shock.  But also in my happiness.  We laughed, and in that phone conversation, I started picturing my baby boy in my belly.  The boy I would love more than life itself.  I started remembering what my sons looked like as infants - what it felt like to hold them, to smell them, to nuzzle them.  And in that moment, in Target no less, I realized I didn't care.  My reality became my reality and my visions of my fictional daughter vanished.  Of course he was a boy.  He always was.  And he is mine.  My baby.

I love that baby inside of me.

Despite coming to my own peace, I remained nervous about telling others.  Because there's that sense of failure, isn't there?  I didn't get my girl!  And THREE BOYS!  Some people couched their reaction in, Oh, three boys will be so fun! or You'll never be bored! (Read - your household will be a looney bin).  Some weren't so subtle - I actually had a mom of two boys say, See, this is why I'm scared to have another child - I couldn't handle another boy!  Some merely laughed and shook their head, almost to say, Well, you took a chance!  I could be wrong, but I venture to say the reaction to having three girls isn't the same.

There was one person who didn't react that way.  It was my former neighbor, Heather, who also happens to have three boys.  I thought about calling her that day - the day I found out, but I didn't. When I finally did reach out to her, and I told her why, I was honest.  I said: I couldn't call anyone.  I was just too shocked.  

She said she completely understood.  In fact, she said that when she found out her third was a boy, that she also experienced the shock factor.  She said that she couldn't tell her co-workers face to face, and instead sent an email on a Friday night.

I don't know why, but when she said that, I burst into tears.  There was a relatability about it that was just so close to home, so real, so understandable, that it made me emotional.

I want this baby.  I want this boy.  And the fact that his impending arrival elicits anything than utter happiness in anyone - that anyone would feel sorry for me, or wish something different for me, is devastating to me.  This boy is not a third child.  He is my child.  He is a child.  And I know that no matter who he turns out to be - wild and crazy and stoic or emotional and vulnerable and calm, or, more likely, some combination or permutation of all of the above - he will be my world, my everything.

These stereotypes about what gender represents do us all a disservice.  At the end of the day, our children are first and foremost people, before they are a boy or a girl.  Gender is secondary, and more often than not, not an accurate predictor about who a person is at their core.  And while I may wish I was able to experience having a daughter, I also wish that my husband had an English accent and an EU passport.  There are some things about it that would be more exciting, but nothing that would make me wish for someone else.

I have never once looked at either of my children and wished they were anyone other than exactly who they are.

I know I will feel the same about this boy.


  1. I'm so happy for you! Congratulations and thanks for sharing with us. I'm pregnant with #2 and my first is a boy. I will not lie, I am hoping this one is a girl, but you know what? Reading this post brought light tears behind my eyes, because my boy is amazing and another one (or two, we also want three) would be too. I've had a lot of anxiety about eventually being a mom with all boys, and feel resigned, in advance, to that being my fate. That's a load of BS and I need to get over it. I should be so lucky to have three boys, one day. You are very blessed, and your perspective was much needed on my end.

  2. As the older sister to three brothers--congratulations!

    (I know, it's not the same. But, having three boys in our family was fun.)

    Kate @ BJJ, Law, and Living

  3. I know more families of 3 boys than I think anything else. CONGRATS!

  4. I really thought you were going to say the opposite in your line about "gender preference is generally for girls." Funny, how everyone has their own ideas about the subject. I always wanted to be the mother of 3 boys and while that dream won't happen for me, I want to wish you all the best.

  5. Congratulations! I'm the oldest of five kids, three of whom are boys. The three boys are best friends. They are much closer than my sister and I are. It's always "the boys" this and "the boys" that in my family because they are three peas in a pod despite the 8 year age range. I think it's natural to want to experience having a girl when you already have two boys, and I appreciate your honesty in this post. Gender stereotypes are BS anyway. ;-)

  6. Beautifully said! I am a mom to two boys right now, but I can picture myself having three boys. That would be just fine - delightful, even! I was also sad (hurt?) by the comments that some people made when I announced that our second was a boy. "You're going to try for a girl, right?" "Aw, did you want a girl?" Ugh. Really, I was glad to have a CHILD and thought the idea of brothers was great! If we have a third, I really do NOT care the gender but I do think having another boy will bring on even more comments... unnecessary comments... because I would love to be a mom to three boys, but I would love to be a mom to two boys and a girl as well. It is a privilege to be a mom PERIOD.

  7. If #3 is as wonderful as #1 and # 2 you are the luckiest mom. You have made grandma and grandpa very happy.

    We love you

  8. Congrats! 3 boys will be so much fun. I think that 3 girls would be way harder than 3 boys, but I come from a family of 3 girls and a boy. Oh the elementary school/tween/teenage drama! Although I used to say that if I had 3 boys I would have to stop because I couldn't risk 4 boys. I think I would feel the same about 3 girls too.

    After my first boy, I actually hoped for a second boy but got a girl. I find it really annoying how many people tell me that I am done having kids because I have my boy and my girl if that is what makes a family complete. In some way it is nice that you can tell people you are done on your own terms - it isn't getting a girl that matters.

  9. Congratulations! I really wanted my boy and don't understand why girls are typically the "preferred" gender. I love being a mom to a boy. Full disclosure - my second child is a girl and I love her too :)

  10. Congratulations! It's funny that the preferred gender is a girl, that must be an American thing because I think generally boys are the preferred gender in most other countries (ahem, China).

    My husband and I are trying for our first baby and I really really hope that it's a boy. My sister in law has two girls and I'd love to have boys. We shall see. However, like you said, we will love this baby no matter what gender.

  11. As a new(ish) mother and lawyer-who-would-do-almost-anything to be able to quit her job, I have to tell you I love your blog! Thanks for another funny and relatable post. And congrats!

  12. My mother would answer "a human" whenever she got that question. It would usually put an end to the nosy questions.

  13. Another mom of three boys here, now pregnant with #4, who I expect to be a boy. Thank you so much for this post. Especially the last couple of paragraphs -- you expressed everything that I have felt and believe. When #3 was a boy (and I also thought was a girl because of different pregnancy symptoms), I was not upset for myself, but because I knew the disappointed reactions everyone would give us, as if I had failed, as if this child was not a unique human being, not "just another boy."

  14. You really think ppl prefer girls? Hmmm, I don't think I agree. personally, I prefer boys and want five of them! I honestly think boys are such blessings and envy moms with a gaggle of rowdy boys. so congrats, very happy for you! also I read if you have a child, the chances of having a second child of that gender is higher, not 50-50.

  15. Wow! That was absolutely beautiful, and exactly as it should be. I am wishing you, a wonderful mother of 3 perfect children, a Happy Day : )

  16. Thank you for that very refreshing post! I am a new reader of your blog. I recently resigned from my law firm, and was looking for a blog geared toward attorneys who were taking time to be stay-at-home moms. I was so happy to find your blog--I really appreciate your honesty, wit, and your devotion to your family. I wish I lived in D.C., I would love to meet up (I used to work at a D.C. firm and then moved to DE when my husband and I got married). Your last post was very timely, because we just found out we are having a second boy. At our little gender reveal party for our families, some people were visibly disappointed, and we got all the ignorant questions/comments about needing to try for a girl, etc. The boy news seriously went over like a lead balloon. It made me so upset, even though I had fully embraced the idea of having a boy. Once we picked out a name, it made it that much more real and exciting, and all the self-pity about not having anyone to take to ballet lessons faded away. If he is anything like our first, he will be precocious, but an absolute blessing. Thanks again for your insightful comments, on this topic and many others!

  17. Congratulations! Three boys are awesome. Three is great period - I have girl/boy/boy and my girl is not "girly" at all FWIW. I personally think that not only does it not make sense to try for either gender (since you have no control), gender doesn't determine very much at all about the child itself.

    It was a pleasure meeting you at the meet-up downtown. Look forward to talking again soon.

  18. I know this is weird but I have always told everyone I wanted 3 boys!!! You got my dream:)

  19. Thank you for such an honest post. I have two boys, and the main reason why we won't have a third child is because I want a daughter more than three kids. I am not a girlie, pink kind of girl. What I will miss not having a daughter is not the girlie shopping trips or dressing her. It is more my future grandchildren. I certainly not intend to be an awful mother-in-law. But I don't know what kind of mil I'll be. Also, I even if I am the kindest mil, I cannot expect my future daughter-in law to prioritise me over her own mom when they find out about the pregnancy, when they have any questions about the baby or when they need help in the immediate weeks after the birth. I will always be a'second' granny to any future grandchildren. I love my boys more than words can say, but I cannot deny I would love to have a daughter too.

  20. Thanks for writing this! I have two girls and am pregnant with my third. I (not so secretly) hope it's a boy, and this post really hit me hard. I will love this child with all my heart, boy or girl. I think being a parent and having a family is the ultimate goal, whether your kids are boys or girls is really secondary (though the experience is different). Congratulations and enjoy! For what it's worth, I think three of one gender will probably be closer siblings than two and one.


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