In an atomized and impersonal city, nothing motivates strangers to approach and talk to you quite like a pregnant belly. What’s more interesting is what people then say.
Here in cosmopolitan DC, I fully expected to get an (unsolicited) earful about this child being one too many. For while it’s not the case at our synagogue, a third child is fairly rare in most local neighborhoods. To wit, an acquaintance asked whether I’d always wanted “a large family”—three is large?—but recent remarks have overwhelmingly been about boys, boys, and the clear absence of boys in my house. In short, numerous people are certain it’s a travesty that I’m carrying a third girl.
Now, if God had seen fit to send me sons, I’m sure I’d be waxing eloquent about their wonderfulness. However, I’m the proud mother of two amazing daughters, and when I found out I was carrying a third, I wasn’t upset. I felt grateful to have a healthy baby on the way. I was also excited about continuing to foster close relationships among my girls.
But what about the people around me? Why have so many asked whether we “were trying for a boy” and looked shocked when I said no? Is that the only legitimate reason for growing a family? Also, why do so many act like I’m cheating my husband, whom commenters uniformly presume has been pining away for a son? (This, of course, requires us to ignore that my husband is smitten with our daughters, and that I have zero control over any baby’s sex…)
It’s endless. And while I’m largely inured to ridiculous pregnancy comments at this point (what haven’t I heard?), this boy-centric drumbeat is notable.
One neighborhood acquaintance recently asked about my belly bulge. Clearly disappointed to hear I was having a third girl, he replied, “You must’ve wanted a boy,” and seemed surprised when I said, no, my family was actually very happy to be welcoming another girl.
Not too long ago, my pregnancy came up on a lengthy customer service call. Hearing my news, the woman on the other end remarked, “Oh, three girls. Congratulations anyway!” Why anyway? Are good wishes only in order for the mothers of boys and mixed broods?
Perhaps the most absurd comments have been from those people—and there have been more than a few—who have responded to my pregnancy news by asking when to expect my fourth child. Why do these people refuse to share in the joy my husband and I feel about our ongoing pregnancy? It seems that for some people, the only “solution” to having three girls is to hurry up and try again, so that maybe we’ll (finally!) have a son.
And that, at bottom, is what I simply don’t understand. In 2016, when Girl Power is no oxymoron, why do so many act like I’ve lost life’s lottery?
Is it my having a(nother) girl, or some general preference for variety? Americans are used to choices. We don’t like being limited to only vanilla ice cream; we like to have our chocolate cake, too.
I took to Facebook to investigate, and based on a poll of friends and friends-of-friends with three consecutive sons, I learned that those parents have had their own mixed experiences. Some reported hearing expressions of disappointment that their third child wasn’t a girl, or being asked if they would try again—whether or not they wanted a daughter, or fourth child—but others recalled fairly supportive reactions.
So for some Americans, it is apparently better to have boys. But for others, there’s some sense that life is richer, or at least more interesting to hear about, if a parent has both daughters and sons.
In the end, I suppose it doesn’t really matter why outsiders are disappointed by my family’s situation. I am grateful to be pregnant, thankful to be carrying a healthy baby, and excited that, God willing, I’ll soon be able to tell people I am the mother of three amazing daughters.