A few weeks ago, I walked into a bakery with my three kids–all boys– ages 6, 4, and 2. My sons and I love trips to the bakery. There is no shortage of cookies in our lives when we feel we deserve a treat after a good day. We were debating the merits of white-chocolate macadamia nut versus peanut butter monster cookies when I heard the familiar question:
“Is it a boy or a girl?”
The bakery employee was referring to my third-trimester belly, which seems to have become the focus of much attention from strangers these days.
“It’s a fourth boy!” I grinned.
I waited again for the common reaction, though this one was harsher than usual. The young lady contorted her face into disgust and said, “Ugh. I’m so sorry.”
I felt stung and a little indignant. Suddenly the cookies didn’t smell so delicious.
Whether for good or bad, our culture seems to have accepted the right to engage pregnant women in personal conversations about their bodies, babies, and births. What pregnant mama hasn’t received a comment from a family member or perfect stranger about how huge her belly is, even though comments about other people’s body shapes and sizes are normally politely deemed off-limits?
What woman hasn’t been asked about her gender preferences, her level of discomfort, or how her current children are responding to the idea of a coming baby? By and large, these interactions from others are well-meaning and I almost never begrudge them. Normally I receive them happily and enjoy engaging with other people about my children. I haven’t been dubbed a “small talk artist” for nothing.
There is, however, a limit to my tolerance, and the bakery employee crossed that threshold. I cannot control characteristics of my family such as the sex of my children, and her reaction indicated great disappointment in the children that I have helped create and love very much. If she was the only woman who had conveyed such condolences to me, I would have dismissed it as an isolated incident.
Sadly, though, when I tell people that we are having a fourth boy and have no girls, the general reaction seems to be an expression of sympathy, as though I’m disappointed in this outcome. People assume that we tried for a fourth child in search of that elusive girl, or that because I am a woman, I must not feel complete without a girl to raise in my footsteps.
What they seem unable to comprehend is that these things are not true. I’m actually giddy raising all boys, and when I got pregnant with a fourth child, my husband and I actually hoped for a fourth boy. If you are a parent of kids who are all the same sex, you can probably understand our desire. We know how to raise boys, we know what to expect, we have all the boy clothes and necessities, and we have a room already set up with two bunk beds, just waiting for baby to grow out of his nursery and join his brothers in all of their adventures. Is it really so hard to believe that we might prefer this scenario? Apparently.
Sometimes when I respond, “It’s a fourth boy,” I am met with a delighted smile and congratulations from a woman who shares my experience of raising multitudes of children all the same sex. Instant bonds are formed. Sometimes people laugh in surprise and tell me jokingly that I’m a rock star, that they have no idea where I get the energy. With these people I love to share laughs and thank-yous.
But to the women, well-intentioned as they may be, who tell me that they are sorry about my all-boy situation, I will respond exactly as I did to the lady at the bakery: I’m not sorry in the least.