Sunday, July 5, 2009

What’s wrong with “It”?

Amanda and I have been writing and talking about the baby for several months now, but have still been unable to solve a linguistic problem. We don’t know what to call it. It. People, as they continually point out, are not comfortable with the pronoun “it” directed at another person – even an undercooked one.

I initially dismissed people’s aversion to “it”. “It” is the gender-neutral pronoun. We do not know or plan to find out the sex until birth so by default it is “it”. However, as the pregnancy progresses I am beginning to understand people’s difficulty, and have been guilty of accidently using “he” or “she” depending upon my mood. Using “it” was especially difficult for a short period of time around the 20th week. Amanda and I both separately decided we were 100% sure that we knew the baby’s sex, and we were in agreement that it was a girl. I came to my conclusion during the ultrasound. Not because of seeing any genitalia – I could really only make out its head and hands without the technician telling me what we were looking at. I knew it was ridiculous, but I saw it moving around in the ultrasound and knew it was a girl. Since then both Amanda’s and my confidence have wavered, and she has returned to “it”. I am relieved by this return to ambiguity because I do not want a definitive answer yet.

One of the reasons Amanda and I are strong advocates of the use of “it” is that revealing the baby’s sex immediately encourages people to begin making inferences about the baby’s personality, likes and dislikes, and behavior based on one bit of information. At the very least we would like for people to be able to meet the baby before making assumptions. Maybe at that point, there will be so much more to learn about it. How big or small are its feet? What color is its hair? How loud and quiet can it get? I hope these little details will help our baby to be seen as more than simply a he or she, but as a new person.

1 comment:

Jessica said...

When I'm at home, I'll try to find an article I read last week about a family in Europe that has kept their toddler's sex a secret from all but very close family (those who bathe or change the child). They chose a gender neutral name and change hair and clothing styles to what is considered traditional for both b/c they wanted to see how the child would grow up when not forced into the gender stereotypes. The article wasn't great, didn't go into much, but I thought it was interesting.