You hear it all the time: “As long as the baby is healthy, it doesn’t matter if it is a boy or a girl.”
When I was pregnant with my first child, that was what I said, too.
But truth be told, I only imagined being a mother to boys. I was unable to articulate exactly why, but my bias was clear.
As soon as the pregnancy was confirmed, I found myself picking out boys’ names instead of girls’ – Owen, Seth, Alex and Luke.
About 16 weeks in, my husband and I sat on a picnic mat in the Botanic Gardens on a wet Saturday morning, our board game left untouched as we talked, with nervous excitement, about what was to come.
I observed a pair of brothers balancing on the brick-lined perimeter of a pond, each trying to push the other off and laughing as they fell.
A little boy poked the ground with a stick, exclaiming that he had found a beetle.
His father picked it up and put it on the child’s palm and they both watched it fidget and hum before flying away.
Boys, I surmised, learn by doing. They have a lot of energy to expend and are happy as long as they have an outlet. They are cut-and-dried. Things are taken less personally, social navigation is less prickly.
Of course, I knew enough to recognise that my preferences were likely to be more deep-seated.
I never quite fit in with the girls in my early youth, which I spent in several international schools in China, where my father was posted for work.
I was the geeky teenager with the weird accent struggling to fit into a new environment filled with “grown-up girls” who wore push-up bras, listened to hip-hop, knew how to put on mascara and were invited to house parties.
Many of them seemed to me to be self-involved, caring only about boys and how they looked.
When I was in college in the United States, my female roommate would spend hours telling me about who was mad at whom and why.
She was good at holding a grudge and would block people on Facebook if, say, they had not been “loyal” to her – whatever that meant. I soon stopped listening, wondering why all this mattered and was grateful when she finally switched rooms.
It could be that my biases were formed closer to home. Being the eldest of a family of girls, I may have come to associate the gender with wonderfully frank conversations and deep love, but also of ceaseless competition.
I sensed that I was also scared. Would I be able to connect with my daughter? Would I like the things she did? Could I raise a strong and confident girl?
Next page: What happened when we found out her gender