|Author and Her Child
BY: Mary Kearl Guest Writer
As a woman who was raised decidedly in the “pink” side of the gender binary, with bows, ruffled socks, dresses, ballet classes and gymnastics, I know what I’m trying to do now as a mother is different than what my own parents did and what many others are still doing. Every parent’s journey in deciding how they want to raise their kids will be different and should be respected.
My parenting choice to attempt to raise my toddler free from the pink and blue gender binary wasn’t necessarily a result of one thing, but rather a conscious choice I’ve been trying to figure out over time. What I know today is that my husband and I want my child to have as many options in life as possible.
The first conscious decision I made, along with my husband, was to wait to find out the biological sex, not gender—as one of my doctors reminded me, gender is an identity one adopts over time—until I gave birth. During my pregnancy this involved reminding several healthcare providers not to inform me. As a result, baby’s first nine months of existence inside my womb were full of those possibilities, and, as it was, after my 40+ hours of labor, my husband and I were in so much shock when our 8-pound newborn finally made an appearance that it took a few minutes to ask the midwife what the biological sex was when we realized that the umbilical cord was blocking the genital area.
Those first few minutes are probably the only my child will have free from any expectations of how to look, behave and feel. Because once the nurses found out the biological sex, they began saying things that reflect how our society treats biological females and males differently, even from day one. They’re the kind of things I have probably said in the past, without thinking. That’s how common it all is. “Oh, your girl is so beautiful.” “What a big, strong boy you have.” But now that it was my child, I wanted to start thinking about the words I (and others around me) use and all the other ways we create (or reinforce) gender norms without realizing it.
The very first time I actively had a conversation about this newfound thinking was while I was still in the hospital. A nurse was assisting me with my catheter in the bathroom, while my husband and parents were in the delivery room, and I overheard my husband using gendered language to refer to our newborn. While still on pain meds and bleeding heavily enough that I was being monitored, I was experiencing a moment of clarity.
When I stepped out into the room, I asked him to examine the words he’d said, what feeling or emotion was he trying to communicate? After all, aren’t phrases like “my beautiful princess” or “my handsome little man” placeholders for expressing love and pride? From that moment on, he’s used “mi vida” (“my life”) to convey that same feeling of pure joy and unconditional love that he felt in those first moments of holding our baby. Once we had that conversation, it opened up many more honest ones since, where we’ve discussed how to handle everything from the words others use to the (sometimes gendered) gifts they offer our baby.
... (read More at Huffpost)
When I see my child dart off ahead of me, stepping with purpose down the dirt road outside the home where we’re staying, I don’t see a girl or boy running, I see a small person so full of life — possibility. And I hope that always stays the same.