Sisterhood Blog

Just How Important Is Gender?

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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On one hand, the sex of a baby appears not to be important. At least it’s not for the Toronto couple that has been in the news lately for refusing to reveal their baby’s gender. On the other hand, expectant couples seemingly obsessed with their unborn child’s sex are now having “gender cake” parties, as Marjorie Ingall reported on Tablet.

According to Ingall, these parties culminate a process in which the mother’s obstetrician hides a note with the baby’s gender inside a sealed envelope, which is passed on to the bakery, where either a blue or pink cake is baked and covered in a neutral color fondant (or basic icing, if you’re less fancy). Once the couple excitedly cuts the cake at a prenatal shower, the gender cat is out of the bag — or, in this case, out from under a thick layer of sugary goo.

Personally, I preferred finding out my three children’s genders only once it was the umbilical cord that was cut, and when it was the babies themselves who were covered in a different kind of goo.

Of course by hiding their child’s sex from the world, the Toronto couple is making just as much of a big deal of it as those parents who need to know their child’s gender and eat it, too. Gender is important and is central to a person’s identity (as is evidenced by recent reports that Nepal has just become the first country to recognize a third gender choice — an option for gays and transsexuals, if they so choose — on its national census), but if that is what parents of unborn and newly born children are so concerned about, then they have no idea what is really important about becoming a parent.

“As long as the baby is healthy,” sounds trite, but it is absolutely true. Parenting is challenging enough without there being additional physical, mental or developmental challenges thrown into the mix. I’d venture to say that mothers and fathers ferrying their child from doctor’s visit to doctor’s visit, supporting her through medical treatments, or fighting bureaucracies for her educational rights are not thinking, “If only my daughter had been a son, this (with the exception of sex-chromosome-related illnesses) would not be happening.”

Only new parents would think that the gender of their baby is a big deal. News flash: Parenting actually gets harder and more complicated as your children grow. And whatever anyone tells you, teenage boys can be as hard to deal with as teenage girls.

I chose during each of my pregnancies to anticipate the person — not boy or girl —who was gestating inside me. I considered each of my children a gift, and the kind that you can’t give back or trade. So if there’s no exchange policy, then why the need to know everything about it until it miraculously arrives?

I am thrilled to be the mother of three wonderful boys who are growing quickly into wonderful young men. When strangers look at our family and ask me if I feel bad that I don’t have a daughter, or whether we are still trying to have a daughter, I just look them in the eye, smile politely and tell them that the shop is closed and that we are thrilled to have three sons. I might joke that it is sometimes difficult to live with all the testosterone flowing in a house full of males (including our dog and guinea pig), but that is the extent of my “complaining.”

Some people need to grow up and learn what even a preschooler knows. When it is time for things to be handed out: You get what you get and you don’t get upset.


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