Niño o Niña?

When Clancy was working in the interior southwest, the largely immigrant population had its plusses and minuses from a doctor’s perspective. On the plus side, they were actually among the best behaved of the patient populations she had. They had low rates of drug use, almost always showed up for appointments that were made, and in the overall had healthier habits than most of the other groups she had worked with up until her current job. On the downside, they were bad about establishing and seeking prenatal care, there were language barriers, and some non-progressive attitudes towards gender preference.

They wanted sons, not daughters. They also tended to be much more fixated on this than virtually any other group. With nearly every visit, there would be questions about gender, when they could find out the gender, and so on. It drove Clancy absolutely nuts. They’d sometimes ask if the gender was known before Clancy had the chance to tell them that the baby was healthy.

She was disinclined to know the gender of her child prior to this experience, but it actually reinforced it. She’s 38 weeks pregnant, and we still don’t know one way or the other. My personal preference was that I didn’t want to know until or unless the doctors knew (which they would find out) but I’d want to know at that point. However, she’s the one carrying the baby around in her belly and the extra five pounds (which, okay, isn’t a lot but it’s somehow a very solid give points), has dealt with the morning sickness, and so on. She doesn’t want to know, then I don’t want us to know.

The interesting thing about this is how common it appears to be in the medical professional or at least the obstetrical profession. While almost everybody outside of the hospital I know already knew the baby’s gender by the time the baby arrived, three-quarters of her colleagues said that they, too, didn’t want to know.

I don’t know if it has much to do with Clancy’s history of parents obsessed with the matter. Or, having dealt with such a wide variety of prenatal health that there eye is on that more important ball, but it does seem to be a thing. I also wonder if maybe, when you deliver babies, there are so many fewer mysteries that you kind of hold on to the one you have.

Not knowing the gender is tough, in some respects. My friend’s wife is kind of mad at us for not knowing because she doesn’t know whether to make bows for the baby or not. People who want to buy us stuff don’t know whether they should do so in pink or blue. The vast majority of baby stuff comes in one or the other. Oh, and we have no gender-neutral pronoun. We refuse to call him or her “it.”

We’ve become fans of the color green.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. The whole color coding of babies by gender really makes me loathe society.

    • +1. Though I understand that some people do this deliberately to the 3-7 set, because otherwise folks will get the wrong idea if a girl’s got short hair.

    • I actually meant to link to this article on pinks and blues.

      I have mixed feelings about it myself. On the one hand, it’s particularly frustrating to us right now since so much of everything is in one of those colors and it’s overdone. On the other hand, it is a useful signalling device. Early on, we’ll probably use pinks and blues simply to signal that JB is a he or a she.

      I have a little female dog sitting next to me. I bought her a blue collar because I think blue looks good on her. People generally assume that she is a he. I don’t know if it’s the collar, but I’m getting a red one to find out.

      This wouldn’t be an issue if we were going to pierce JB’s ears in the event that it’s a girl. Or, for that matter, if we were in to other signals like bows and whatnot. But we’re probably going to save the blue if it’s a girl and certainly pink (and probably red) if it’s a boy, just to avoid confusion.

      • Do not pierce Jaybird’s ears. Not if you know what’s good for ya!

  2. Assuming you don’t want to use any of the neologisms spat out by the feminist academy, the singular “they” has a broader and wider history of use than certain prescriptivists like to pretend.

    • In this context, “they” seems as likely as not to have people wonder… “twins?”

      I use “they” in most other contexts. Still not as good as unique words.

      I actually have no problem with neogolisms… but that nobody understands them. I have used Spivak a couple times.

  3. My parents picked my name based on two criteria:

    1. Gender neutrality. They also did not want to my gender pre-birth

    2. The inability to give it a nickname.

    That being said, the thing that really freaks me out are the gender parties. In these, yuppie couples hand a sonogram to a baker or friend. Said person makes a cake with a blue or pink inside. Everyone comes over, finds out the gender by opening of cake, the whole thing is filmed and put on youtube.

    I am way too private to put something like this on youtube.

    • If we’re going to be pedantic, then it would have to be said that English has plenty of gender-neutral pronouns — it just doesn’t have a gender-neutral third-person singular animate personal or possessive pronoun. Although for several centuries up until a few decades ago, the English-speaking world was content to consider “he”/”him”/”his” as gender-neutral in the appropriate context, so you’d really have to say that English doesn’t have a gender-neutral third-person singular animate personal or possessive pronoun that’s non-homonymous with the corresponding male pronouns.

      • Pedantic doesn’t enter into it. The words are misspelled in Spanish.

    • Changed. We need tilde-n on American keyboards. Maybe an accented shift key that, when used for n would add the tilde.

      • Many thanks. I genuinely appreciate it, Will.

        My keyboard is heavily modified to support French, German and Spanish. For the Microsoft crowd, I recommend MSFT’s own tool as a starting point, but for Linux, I’ve written my own handlers for loadkeys and xmodmap.

        Sigh. If only the world recognised the benefits of open source operating systems.

        • I’ll say this for open-source. At the hotel we were staying at last night, Windows 7 refused to hook up to the hotel’s WiFi. My Linux laptop connected without a second thought.

          Now, if only I could get my Linux laptop to reliably connect to the NAS and/or do it’s equivalent of “mapping the network drive”.

          • Next time you have trouble, just look for the hotel’s private wifi system and guess that the password is 123456

          • Well, think about it. You might need to do a sudo mount -a after getting through the hotel wireless.

  4. We didn’t find out, with either. It broke down (hugely unscientifically) in our circle as roughly 30% didn’t want to know, 70% did.

    I’m curious as to the actual numbers, now that I think of it, and what it would look like, for everybody else in the League.

    • We didn’t want to know with the first one. All the “scientific” indicators (the needle at the end of the thread moving in a circle rather than back and forth, the height at which the baby was being carried, the psychic at the psychic fair we happened to walk by [1]) all indicated girl, so we shouldn’t have been surprised it was a boy.

      For the others, since we’d done the “be surprised” thing, we asked to be told right away.

      1. The same one who told my wife that she’d been Empress of China in a past life, and when she didn’t get the reaction she was hoping for, amended that to Empress of Japan. Still no go. It never occurred to the poor woman that my wife is Korean.

      • Oh, I thought that only happened when you do that thing separately on your own, and not together.

        • I would just like to state for the record that I resisted the masturbation joke.

      • It’s interesting to me how many people here went that route. It makes me think that my acquaintances are perhaps atypical in that I can’t think of a single one of them (except via Clancy’s work) that kept it a mystery.

    • We found out and never doubted that we wanted to know. My line of work kinda makes me overly concerned with what the baby was going to wear.

      My sister-in-law didn’t want to know, but to acquiesce to those in her family who wanted to know what to buy, the nurse texted my wife the gender and we bought all the gender-appropriate stuff and hid it in a closet until the baby came.

  5. I’d want to know, to prepare.

    And as you point out, lots of stuff is gendered. People want to buy you things and you should make it easy for them to do that.

    • We’re having our baby shower after the birth. We hadn’t actually intended to have one at all, but the wife of one of Clancy’s coworkers insisted.

    • Burt,

      With all sincerity, how would you prepare differently for a boy than a girl? I mean, I’m already on record saying that if I do have a daughter, she’ll be locked in the basement from approximately age 12 to age 40… but I don’t know that I need to do anything in preparation for that NOW…

        • Gotcha. See my post below then, I suppose. I’m not too worried about that stuff. At least not right now (approaching 16 weeks).

  6. We are also opting not to know, unless there is a reason why we would.

    In discussing this with folks, they often sort of sigh and say resignedly, “I guess you’ll have to go neutral color on everything, eh?” To which I respond, “I don’t think my son would mind a pink room. Or my daughter a blue room. We’ll choose colors that suit us and less the chips fall where they may.”

    Now, I understand that beyond gender norming, the color-coding serves a purpose of signaling to others what a maybe is, so that they can avoid referring to the lil’un as “it” or misuse a pronoun. Which is fine if parents prefer that shorthand to avoid whatever awkwardness might ensue (for some reason, I’m tempted to think that these moments are excruciatingly awkward and knee-slappingly funny in sitcoms but otherwise just sort of happen in real life).

    But us? Eh. If you call our son a she because someone bought him a pink hat not knowing what he’d be and we decided not to exchange it? No big deal. And if our daughter grows up in a room with blue walls, I’m sure there are worse things we’ll do to her as parents.

    Regardless, it is an interesting phenomenon.

    (None of this is to say that I don’t have a preference! Oh, I do! And, conveniently enough, I also have a *FEELING* that my preference will come to pass. I’m not sure if that is wishful thinking or if there is really some vibe I’m getting, real or imagined. But I will be happy no matter what and won’t think twice about what color the wee one is wearing.)

    • My daughter’s room is blue, it was before she was a twinkle in her daddy’s eye. We bought a lot of green stuff with animal themes and now it’s her jungle room.

      That said, the long speeches from strangers about your baby’s gender get annoying really fast. It may have something to do with general new-parent stress.

  7. I was all ready to come in here and tout my employer’s gender-neutral stuff for babies, but I just looked at it . . . and I suppose most people are finding out the gender these days.

    This is one of those self-enforcing trends – more people find out so we sell less neutral, making it harder for parents/friends/family to shop not knowing, subtly biasing more people toward finding out and so we go.

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