Look at Life: Baby Gender

22nd March 2019

The Gender Agenda

By Jennifer Lipman

‘Expecting a Boy? Meghan’s Baby Blue Gown Raises Eyebrows’. ‘Does Meghan Markle’s pink baby shower decor mean she’s having a girl’? For royal watchers, the last few months have been a feverish guessing game, with enthusiasts watching closely to see whether the Sussexes will be gracing the world with a darling prince or princess.

It’s baffling – not just that so many strangers care so much about someone who will be seventh in line for the throne and thus spend much of their life relegated to Princess Beatrice levels of irrelevance – but because it genuinely doesn’t matter. When you’re expecting, the only question is whether the baby will be healthy or not. And I should know; I’m due a few months after the royal pair.

“What are you having?” people invariably ask, moments after finding out I’m with sprog (either because I’ve told them or because my protruding belly has done so for me). It’s as if I’m ordering off a menu: I’ll have the fish and chips and a baby boy, thank you.

As we all know, it doesn’t work like that. When you conceive, you don’t do so with a checklist; other than screening for health issues, you have no control over height, IQ, eyesight or hair colour – and certainly not gender. At best, you spend the first 12 weeks nervously hoping you will beat the horrifyingly high odds of miscarriage – around one in four pregnancies ends that way, after all – and the subsequent ones hoping more generally that everything will be ‘okay’.

Which is why we’re not finding out, bucking what seems to be an increasingly common trend. I’ve got friends, also expectant parents, who know but aren’t sharing – but keeping the pregnancy itself a secret in those early months was tough enough. Other friends are happily telling the world, some even going so far as to introduce you to their chosen name.

The truth is, I don’t want to know my baby yet. I want to know as little as possible about my future offspring at this stage. I’m not even calling it a baby, just bun (as in ‘in the oven’, in reference to my love of baking).

We’ve agreed options for names, but I have no intention of using them until we’re the other side. Until it pops out, I don’t intend to think of it as a person at all. I’m six months in and there’s still so much that can go wrong; thinking of it as a person, with an identity, feels too risky. Knowing the gender makes it too real.

And the fact is that I don’t need to know – not really. I generally dislike the saccharine pink or blue divide; the bun will wear white, or yellow, or whatever hand-me-downs it receives from its future cousins. I have no need of a gender-decorated nursery. 

In another decision that sets me apart from the crowd, I’m not having a baby shower either, partly because I abhor the twee games that are played at these shindigs – thank you, but I’d rather not guess what chocolate is in the nappy, if it’s all the same to you – and partly because I don’t need to partake in yet another American import. But mostly, it’s because I don’t want anyone buying a present for an unborn human or celebrating its existence before it actually exists; I’m too superstitious for that. Tragedies at a late stage may be rare, but they are far from unthinkable.

I may not be a parent yet, but I’m more than aware that having a child is full of uncertainty. From the moment he or she is born, I know life will be one big question mark: what does that cry mean?; should I take them to the doctor or will this rash clear up on its own?; have they eaten enough? Later, I’m sure the uncertainty will grow; will they be okay in school, will they make friends, will they have happy adult lives?

Those questions won’t have easy answers – so I don’t need an easy answer to the one facing me now. When the bun arrives, I’ll get to know it in all its glory. Until then, I’m content for us to remain strangers.

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