Gender Predictions and Celebrations

Moving to the city has been incredible for our pregnancy. I can’t believe I’ll be 8 months next week!

We’re settling into queer-friendly and feminist midwifery care, and I’m trying to get my head around labour and parenting now that the baby-making process and most of the pregnancy are behind us. I’ve read a few books on labouring, watched what feels like a million youtube videos of water births, and I have even begun reading about parenting strategies, sleep ‘training,’ and baby sign-language.

Here is a short version of my reading list:

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth: Updated With New Material*

Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding 

Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting by Janet Lansbury 

No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame

The Baby Signing Bible: Baby Sign Language Made Easy by Laura Berg 

The Sleep Sense Program — Proven Strategies For Teaching Your Child To Sleep Through The Night by Dana Obleman 

In addition to these books, I am following the Baby T.Rex blog on Autostraddle. Clearly, I am procrastinating every other to-do I have on my list, such as answering work emails and finishing that half-written article.

We’ve had some wonderful queer and feminist friends offer us completely solicited advice on both labour and parenting, and we couldn’t be happier with the knowledge being shared.

That said, we’re also in the stage of receiving unsolicited pregnancy and parenting advice and gender predictions. Now that I am visibly pregnant (without question) in public space, we’ve found ourselves battling normative gender assumptions about our relationship, our pregnancy, our parenting future, and of course, the ‘gender’ of the fetus (by which, people mean the sex designation). *

When people ask us if we know what we are having, we tend to answer with the following: “A human!” or “A baby!” Sometimes, I say “Hopefully a cute one and a good sleeper.” Some people respond to these answers by asking if we are going to find out the gender before birth (i.e. sex designation) and either congratulate us on our patience and our willingness to be surprised, or say “interesting” (with judgement).

I used to really despise these answers until I was at a small (and otherwise delightful) family function of Norse’s where the entire table began to make gender predictions. Gender predictions are so much worse than both the “wow, you are patient” or  “interesting” response.

The trouble with gender predictions is super complicated. When it happens in front of a trans person, and about their baby, it is pretty comical–not in a funny way, but in a how is this happening? kind of way. Have people learned nothing from Norse’s experience?

Additionally, gender predictions have happened to my body nonconsensually. Gender predictions (save the wedding ring on a string  and salty vs. sweet craving tricks) are based on whether a pregnant person is carrying high or low, and about how fat has accumulated on their body. So, when this gender prediction was happening around the kitchen table, everyone was guessing gender (a social construct, so joke is on you!) on the basis of the high/lowness of my baby belly and where I’ve put on weight.

Of course, in this moment, the pregnant person no longer exists as human. Instead, they are merely a vessel for a baby (objectification is a serious pregnancy issue), and no matter what, the prediction it is meant to be “good fun” and “not to be taken seriously.” But, on what other occasion is it ever “harmless fun” to stare at a person’s belly and talk about what might be inside?

The only fun I’ve had talking about what might be inside a pregnant person’s belly is with my chosen family. My sister is pregnant with her fourth child, and her second oldest is convinced she is giving birth to a ninja turtle. He, apparently, has frog-minon babies growing inside of his belly. How fun!

In the case of gender predictions, all I feel is body shame, regulation, judgement, fatphobia, and insecurity. Zero fun.

I also think it is really weird to talk about a fetus’ vulva and/or penis in a culture where such subjects are otherwise taboo. Are people asking us because they want to know how we are going to raise our child? Do they need to know this information to make choices about how to care for and love the child? Will they treat me differently based on whether I am carrying a fetus with a penis (‘a boy’) or a fetus with a vulva (‘a girl’)? And where do intersex babies fit into this mess?

Thankfully Twitter and Tumblr via Buzzfeed came to my rescue and provided me with some solid laughs about the whole thing.

buzzfeed gender reveal joke 5

The gender pressure continued with our baby celebration. After experiencing this in the party store:

IMG_0395.jpg

we opted for rainbow streamers and Beyoncé/Lemonade-themed napkins.

In the end, we held a lovely picnic in the park for friends and family to celebrate the almost-here babes and to thank our community for their love and support of our growing family.

No one guessed the ‘gender’ (in front of us, anyway), and we revealed our babes’ gender-neutral name in green icing. It was delicious.

***

* I went down a bit of an internet rabbit-hole reading about “The Farm” and it was worth it.

*As a side note, I am currently working on updating an article I wrote on racism and sex-selective abortion panic in Canada for a public presentation, so the gendering of our fetus based on sex- designation is a very interesting subject for me academically and personally at this moment.

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