A letter to my unborn child

by Stephania Silveira Hines

Dear baby,

I’m sorry you don’t have a name yet.

That’s because your dad and I decided to wait until you’re born to find out your gender.

It’s part of your dad’s culture not to reveal the baby’s sex before they’re out into this world.

In Brazil, where mummy is from, parents know the gender of their babies as early as 9 weeks. And before the embryo is yet a fetus, they already have their names announced on social media and a pink or blue registry shopped in Miami to avoid Brazilian import taxation.

It’s so unusual not to find out the baby’s gender over there that your Brazilian grandfather asked your dad the reason of all this waiting nonsense. Your dad replied:

“Life doesn’t have many surprises anymore.”

And grandpa fired back:

“In Brazil, surprise means the Federal Police knocking at your door at 5am. Or someone stealing your wallet on payday. We have enough surprises every day. We always look forward to certainty.”

You should see the look at your dad’s face. The look of a privileged guy who, although he loves to travel and has tremendous curiosity about the world, never lived in a place where difficulties go beyond ‘the wifi doesn’t work’ or ‘I spent hours queuing for brunch.’

In mummy’s hometown, there’s even an event called the ‘Revelation Party’.

This is how it works.

The expecting mother draws blood to find out the gender of her baby. A close sibling or parent returns to the doctor to pick up the results. The family member then takes the results to a bakery and orders a cake that has the interior made with pink or blue dye.Then they invite the whole family to cut the cake and find out together if the baby is a boy or a girl, as if this fact was as important as announcing the pregnancy.

Although I really do admire the part of my culture that desires to be part of every single moment of your life, I decided to follow the British way this time.

Not because I think it’s better than the Brazilian way.

(One thing that I’ll always try to teach you, as a mixed-race child, is that there’s usually no right or wrong when it comes to traditions. There’s always a logic behind why people do things the way they do, and it’s up to us to understand and not judge their behaviour, even if sometimes it makes us uncomfortable or embarrassed.)

The reason why I wanted to wait until you’re born is that announcing your gender in advance will make a lot of people, including myself, try to determine your personality before you’re out of mummy’s cozy womb.

For example, I couldn’t sleep last night because you were kicking hard for the first time. I was wide awake at 3am and explained the cause of my insomnia on the family’s What’s App group. Their response: “it’s a boy for sure, if it’s kicking that hard” as if strength could not possibly be a characteristic of a baby girl.

I hear comments like that all day. Some of my friends even think that genetics are gender-related: “If it’s a boy, it will be stubborn like the dad” or “If it’s a girl, it will inherit mum’s Brazilian feisty temper.”

I want to protect you from this stereotyped culture as much as I can.

I want to protect you from the pink and blue tsunami that is society’s most powerful symbol of gender bias.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wearing blue or pink, but forcing a gender-specific colour upon you will limit the infinite choices that life has to offer you. Being manipulated to like gendered colours might lead you to choose gendered activities, like ballet or football.

The last thing I want to do as a mum is to limit your options.

Because the world will be in charge of that.

The world will tell you what you can and what you can’t do, depending if you’re a boy or a girl.

They will tell you what to wear, what to do for living, what words you should write, what to listen to, how to educate your own children, how to love…

One of mum’s biggest frustrations in life is the fact that she didn’t believe she could do what she really wanted. She was discouraged because of her gender, her nationality and her age. And she spent a lot of time and energy trying to prove herself and others that she could do her job, rather than enjoying doing the job itself.

I want to save you some time, my dear.

Boy or girl, I promise I’ll try to support you on whatever decision you make in life so you can spend time doing what you really love.

You might shock me. You might scare me.

You might come one day and tell me you want to go to space, live on another planet.

You might come and say you want a sex-change.

Or you might come and tell me you want to be an accountant. (That will hurt!)

As long as you have a reason that comes from your heart, I’ll be by your side.

But for now, just enjoy the freedom of being a human being.

Not a boy or a girl.

Just yourself.

A baby swimming in peaceful amniotic liquid.

Because as soon as the world knows your gender, things will be very different.

 

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