Earlier this week, after dropping Harry off at school, I stopped to talk to a woman I vaguely know. She’s the grandmother of a child who was at preschool with Harry. I now see her a couple of times a year and we have a little chat. This time, we ended up talking about whether I was going to have more kids and she said, “You might hit the jackpot next time.”
At first, I wasn’t sure what she meant, but once I realised and did a bit of gasping like a stunned haddock, I blethered something about how I’d be perfectly happy with another boy, thanks very much. She said, “Oh, of course, boys are great” or something. We chatted a bit more and went our separate ways, but I kept thinking about it.
Now she wasn’t being nasty – not like the woman who, when I’d been for the scan where I found out Joe’s sex, asked me what I was having and, when I said boy, looked at Harry and pulled a face – she was just saying the same kind of thing I’ve heard from lots of people over the years, before and after I had children. Things like “Are you trying for a girl?” or “If it’s another boy, will you keep going?” or “You could try for a girl, but you wouldn’t want another boy, would you?”
Even if it’s a boy…
The thing is, before having Harry and Joe, I may well have said that kind of thing myself. When I was pregnant with Joe, I really wanted a girl. I blogged about it at the time:
I do find myself wondering what would be the point of having another boy since we’ve got the perfect boy, but I don’t want to be disappointed if this hypothetical baby did turn out to be a boy.
But I just can’t seem to get past it, so I spend a lot of time thinking about families I know with same sex children (like, er, my own), thinking “If so-and-so had thought like me whatshis/hername would never have been born” (of course the fact that me and D are both first borns tempers this slightly!).
I need to keep in mind that every child is a blessing and no matter what happens, I will love the next baby (even if it’s a boy!) just as much as I love Harry. I just can’t quite imagine such a thing.
The “even if it’s a boy” was a joke, I promise you, but oh my god it actually causes me physical pain to read that now. It makes my stomach hollow out. Even if it’s a boy! Our beautiful Joe.
It’s a(nother) boy!
After I had the scan and found out it was another boy. I wrote:
Earlier in this pregnancy – or perhaps even before this pregnancy – I wrote about how I didn’t want another boy, didn’t see the point, etc. I’ve been changing my mind about that gradually anyway, but the weird thing this morning was that, when the sonographer said it was a boy, I cried, but not because I was disappointed, but because suddenly my baby became real.
He’s no longer an “it”. He’s no longer some amorphous mass of baby. He’s a boy. He’s another son. And, the more I think about it, the more I feel like I know him. And the more I think his name is Joe.
He stopped being ‘a boy’ and became ‘Joe’. A person. And he just becomes more and more ‘Joe’ every day.
As my amazing friend Stella commented on the above post: “Even though we know Harry is the perfect boy, another baby boy of yours will be perfect too but in a completely different way. People assume that I MUST have a favourite out of my boys but honestly, I can’t say that I do. What I can say is that I love them all equally as much but for different reasons because all three are completely different people.”
Stella is wise
I had no idea at the time, but I completely agree now. Or, um, do I? (Yes, I do. But hang on.) Last year I went to LA with Stella and, on the way home, we saw a family with, I think, a boy and a girl and then baby twins. They looked like they were really struggling and so we were watching them and thinking “Poor bastards.” I probably said that the idea of having twins is one of the things that puts me off trying for a third baby. And then I said I couldn’t understand why they’d gone for a third anyway, since they already had one of each.
And Stella said, no, that’s the same as you thought when you were pregnant with Harry and worried about having a boy. No, I said, probably looking at her like she was an idiot, that was two boys. This is one of each. Two boys are the same. A girl and a boy are different. Duh. She said something like, “No. You were thinking there was no point having another boy when you already had Harry and now you love Joe just as much. It’s the same for them, just with a boy and a girl.” And I probably said, “Er. No. It’s not the same.”
Even at the time, I knew there was something I wasn’t quite grasping, I could feel it just out of reach of my tiny brain. Quite some time later – like weeks – I was in the shower and suddenly went, “Oh! I get it now! The gender’s not important. They’re people. I now have two boys and they’re both amazing and I’d be happy to have another one. Or more. (I’m not going to, mind, but I’d be totally cool with that.) So why shouldn’t that family want more amazing children?
Pigeons learn quicker than me
The thing that freaks me out about this is that I am quite obsessive about this kind of thing. I read books about gender equality. I complain about gender imbalance in the media. I send angry tweets about inappropriate comments from acquaintances. And yet I had this big blind spot about how ‘one of each’ was the ideal. It made me think of a line I loved in Simon Amstell’s stand-up “Why can’t you be less judgemental? And be more like me. Which is judgemental.”
Probably for a couple of years after having Joe, I still wanted a girl (as well as, not instead of!). I’d look at friends’ daughters and think “It would be lovely…” I don’t even do that anymore. In fact, earlier this year when I was idly pondering a third child (trying to trick my brain into letting me know whether or not I wanted one), it just didn’t come up. I kept imagining another gorgeous, amazing, joyful little boy. You know – the jackpot.