A few months ago when my belly was still gently swelling and in the ‘is she pregnant or has she just had too much pasta?’ phase (the answer is yes to both), someone also asked if I was going to have a gender reveal party. I should add that this person is American, such is the inevitable transatlantic importation of yet another occasion for which to generate party decorations. The concept was so alien to me that I literally had to do a Google search only to find images of garish gatherings festooned with pink and blue balloons and cakes, and at the extreme, those coloured smoke cannons that subsequently led to catastrophic wildfires. Because a giant puff of baby pink or blue smoke is what we really need to announce a child’s sex.
Someone also unhelpfully said because of my ‘geriatric’ pregnancy that I should be more aware of the risk of Down’s, Edward’s and Patau’s syndromes, hence why I did a private harmony test at an early stage — which also incidentally tells you the sex of your baby. And so I very unceremoniously found out that I was having a boy by opening up a PDF email attachment. There was a glimmer of disappointment on my daughter’s face, which was then batted away by her assertion of, ‘Don’t worry mummy, I’ll teach him how to play with my dolls.’ He’ll be au fait with the sass and spice of googly-eyed LOL dolls in no time.
For my partner and me, the prospect of a boy is far more loaded. There’s trepidation. Specifically of a ‘lad’ emerging from my nether regions. His femur is already measuring far above average. Will those legs grow into sporty, rangy ones that run fields, chuck balls (please, let it not be rugby!) while he engages in crude changing-room ‘bantz’? Both my other half or I are ill-equipped for machismo-fuelled behaviour. He, a Brighton-born indie kid with a penchant for feminist prose (the proof is in the creased book spines). Me, allergic to contact ball sports and cosseted by a liberal working environment of the fashion industry where LGBTQ+ people far outweigh cisgender and heterosexual.
Countless polemic-esque articles, podcasts and books have been devoted to the subject of how to raise a boy in the 21st century, against a backdrop of pervasive toxic masculinity and the #MeToo reckoning that rumbles on. I fear the internet’s clutches on this would-be long-legged being, currently jabbing his way through my stomach. I fast forward to him ghosting girls on whatever communications means will exist 20 years from now. I am regularly intoning to my belly as I take much-needed long baths: ‘Please don’t be a dickhead.’
Perhaps down the line there’s the other scenario that he/they eventually comes out to us. In a perverse way, that seems almost ideal — except of course, as we celebrate Pride this month, we are reminded of the challenges that the LGBTQ+ community still faces. That it took over 30 years for an active professional footballer to come out. That there’s yet to be a ban on sexual orientation conversion therapy. That IVF is still prohibitively expensive or inaccessible for LGBTQ+ couples. But we’re also reminded of the vastly more inclusive environment where notions of traditional gender values are tentatively eroding.
I put my over-active neuroses down to having way too many weeks in this pregnancy pondering the arrival of a boy. Maybe let’s just dial it back and start with the basics and go from there. Hope for the best. Roll with what life dice gives. For instance, will this child pee in my face when I change his nappies? The answer is, most likely, yes.