Babies, and “finding out their gender”

So, pretty much everyone knows I’m pregnant by now. I’m not great at telling everyone at work, but the word is definitely spreading on its own – people I work with occasionally from other locations often know before I tell them, and the library CEO recently thanked me for the surprisingly convenient timing of my pregnancy in terms of the library system’s bigger projects XD .

Inevitably, people want to know whether I’m going to “find out the gender” ahead of time. Whenever people ask me this, I am tempted to give them one of these:

Because, like, come on! You are literally talking to a trans person *right now*. Do you even hear yourself? Usually I will just correct them to remind them that only thing I can find out at the point is the (probable) sex – really, all you can learn from an ultrasound is whether or not the fetus appears to have a penis, which isn’t really as conclusive of anything as we like to pretend it is.

Personally, I don’t really care whether I find out the baby’s apparent sex from an ultrasound or when they’re born. It’s kind of all the same to me. My partner made a very good point, however, which has made us decide to wait to find out.

The thing is, if we learn the sex early, other people will want us to tell them what it is. And they’ll use the info to start gendering the baby immediately. And we’d like to put that off as long as reasonably possible. So, we won’t be learning the fetus’ apparent sex from my ultrasound on the 22nd (tomorrow!)

My general approach/attitude to my upcoming baby’s gender is the same as what I had planned before I got pregnant. In short: I know that I won’t know the baby’s gender until they are able to tell me what it is; however, for practical purposes I plan to use the pronouns the are traditionally applied to the baby’s apparent sex at birth (if they’re intersex, then I’ll go with they/them), while generally avoiding other forms of gendered language for them.

Big news! This weird little genderqueer blogger is pregnant! (FINALLY!)

[CN: pregnancy, and pregnancy-related worries]

Folks! At long last I got myself knocked up!

My partner and I weren’t even actually trying yet – we would have started probably in the summer or fall this year, but I found out just a few days before Xmas that I’m pregnant!

As of today, I’m at 12 weeks, and I just today had my second ultrasound. All looks good so far!

Early stage pregnancy is a really weird thing for me. I actually have very few pregnancy symptoms at all. I need a little more sleep more than usual these days, and my digestion’s been… wonky, but not in any really notable ways. There’s been zero morning sickness for me.

I’ve also been a little achier than usual some days, but it’s the winter and the weather here in Toronto has been changing wildly – we’ll swing from a pleasant-for-January 10C back to -15C and back up again over the course of a week. Plus I’m in my 30s now anyway, so aches just happen to me now sometimes.

I don’t really *feel* pregnant at all, most days, even now. So I actually have trouble sustaining the belief that I still *am* pregnant, week by week. Although I’m out of the woods in terms of highest risk for miscarriage now, I spent a lot of the last 12 weeks (er, I guess 7 weeks, since I was about 5 weeks along before I even found out about it!) silently at least 50% sure all the time that my fetus had already died inside me. There was a brief reprieve after my first ultrasound at 7-and-a-bit weeks, when I saw that there was definitely a little bean in there and it even had a beating heart and all. But that only lasted for a week or so before I was like, “well anything could have happened since then.”

It doesn’t help that when I google up signs that a fetus has died, it mostly boils down to “you stop feeling pregnant.” I don’t feel pregnant in the first place, so…..?

I’m not actually panicking about it or anything, for the record. And I’m mostly just living my life assuming that all is well and I’m still pregnant all the time.  But darn if it wasn’t nice to have confirmation this morning. My fetus is alive and has a normal heartbeat and is generally baby-shaped, and is a little ahead of schedule for size, even! And I’ll be seeing my obstetrician next week, so I’ll get to hear the heartbeat again then, and I don’t know, maybe I’ll start having actual symptoms someday soon?

In the meantime, YAY Y’ALL!

I’m due to have a baby in August :)

Babies and gender again: “Do you want a boy or a girl?”

So, in thinking about the question of babies, gender, and pronouns in writing my previous post, I also thought about the ways in which I’m going to have to start dealing with binary-gendered questions long before I even have a baby to gender (or not).

Because of course pregnant people get asked a lot about whether they hope the baby is a boy or a girl.

The obvious answer to this question is “I don’t care.” And I might use that. But I have also realized that I might (at least sometimes, when I have the energy) rather answer that I hope the baby is intersex.

For one thing, it’s more likely to shut people up than saying “I don’t care,” since they might continue pestering me for an answer in that case. But more importantly, it’s also kind of true.

I know that an intersex baby would be much better off with me for a parent than most other people. So if one of the intersex babies being born anyway is mine, that would be great.

But also, as I tangentially mentioned in my last post about this, I would probably be able to use neutral pronouns for an intersex baby with far less pushback from people than I would have with a non-intersex baby. Like, no, everyone, I really don’t have anything to go on vis a vis this baby’s gender right now, not even the thing that you wrongly think defines their gender, mmkay?

I don’t know if that would work, really, but at least I’d feel more strongly about holding the line in that case than I might with a non-intersex baby, if that makes sense.

So yeah, if people ask, that may very well be what I tell them.

“When did you have your last period?”

Kate Forbes over at A Cunt of One’s Own recently wrote a really good post on cis privilege with respect to receiving health care. In what seems to be becoming a pattern with me, some of the points in her post got me thinking about something completely tengential to the topic of that post.

Anyway, one particular part of one of her anecdotes really stood out to me, and reminded me of one of my pet peeves when visiting emergency rooms and walk-in clinics (i.e. receiving health care from anyone other than my primary care provider – and I do acknowledge that having a primary care provider is its own privilege. I’m very grateful to be living in Canada.) I get UTIs on a semi-frequent basis (at about a rate of 1-2 per year these days, which is pretty manageable). When I see a doctor to get antibiotics to deal with these, one of the questions that will commonly be asked when I had my last period.

This seems like a totally innocuous question, that may simply be relevant to the situation, right? Well, yes and no. The thing is that when a doctor asks someone when their last period was, they’re really trying to ascertain the answer to other, related, and more relevant questions. In the particular case of my UTIs, they’re sometimes trying to establish whether the blood that’s present in my urine (sorry, guys) is actually coming from my vagina rather than my urethra. In other words, they want to know if I’m a complete idiot who just didn’t realize that they were on their period.

Most of the time, though, the “when did you have your last period?” question is a smoke-screen for establishing the likelihood that you might be pregnant, which may affect the decision-making process for choosing your treatment. Now, there’s a plethora of problems with this approach.

  • First of all, the most straight-forward way of finding out if a person might be pregnant is to ask them directly whether they might be pregnant. But this is often not what doctors do. They ask a related question, about one’s last period, because they do not trust the people they are treating to know anything about their own bodies or the risk factors for pregnancy in their lives. It is simply assumed that we will not correctly of honestly answer a question about whether we are pregnant. This problem, then, has a couple of corollary problems:
      1. By not even making it explicitly clear that the question they are asking is actually about the patient’s likelihood of pregnancy, the doctor does the patient a huge disservice, by assuming that they know what the implications of potential pregnancy should be. That is, if a doctor is trying to establish the likelihood of pregnancy as a part of the process of choosing a patient’s treatment using the question about their last period, that doctor is assuming that patient would be willing to accept non-standard or less effective treatment for the sake of that potential foetus. What if the answer to the real question of “is there any chance you might be pregnant?” is “well, I’m not sure, but it really doesn’t matter, because if I am I’m going to get an abortion”? Then the patient does not get the opportunity to voice their actual position if all they are asked is when their period was.


    1. The actual question, “when did you have your last period?” This question tells you almost nothing about a person’s pregnancy status, or really anything else about their health, either. Particularly since this question is often being asked by doctors in walk-in clinics and emergency rooms, who have no idea what their patient’s ‘normal’ cycle looks like, this question may put many people on the spot for how much detail they want to go into about their menstruation when they are asking the doctor to look after a broken bone, or whatever else. Maybe the patient you’ve assumed to have a uterus is trans* (which itself raises questions about whether you show due diligence and asks these questions of your transmasculine patients, for whom they may be more relevant), or maybe they have a medical condition that prevents them from menstruating, or from menstruating regularly, or there is some other personal reason why they don’t want to fucking well get into this with you because it has nothing to do with the care you are supposed to be giving them. I personally take active hormonal birth control for 11-12 week periods without break, so my uterus only sheds its lining a few times a year. But if I say “well, I don’t know, two and a half months?” which is a normal answer for me, I am guaranteed to get a look of concern from the doctor. And furthermore, some people continue to get mostly regular-seeming light periods-like bleeding through the first few months of pregnancy. Yes, there are certain averages, but very few people are actually average, and the answer to this fucking period question tells exactly nothing about the person you are supposed to be caring for. Honestly, if you really, really don’t trust people to know what their risk factors for pregnancy are, aren’t there better questions you could be asking, about their recent sexual activity and birth control methods? This is just stupid.


Rant end.