Boy or girl?https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/web-edits/boy-or-girl/

Boy or girl?

I know a woman who is pregnant for the fourth time because her family wants a son.

“So,did the doctor tell you if it’s going to be a boy or a girl?” A relative asked me as I met her after my first ultrasound scan almost six months ago. “Isn’t it illegal?” I wondered,replying in the negative. But she insisted doctors would tell you if they were convinced you won’t harm the foetus after knowing its sex.

I have since met many people asking the same question,and thought every time why was it so important to know. For,I find this suspense no less interesting than a gripping whodunit thriller. I sign a document every time I go for a USG,declaring that I won’t use it for pre-natal sex determination,a mandatory practice everywhere,and for everybody. But many mothers I know told me they had always known the gender of the child they were carrying. There was,however,one common factor between all of them. They all had sons.

In this part of the country,where an ultrasound machine goes missing from a leading hospital,and where the health department of a state has to order registration of each veterinary USG machine in use,to ensure these are not carrying out sex-determination tests on humans,I am sure doctors won’t risk telling a woman that she is carrying a female foetus. I was,however,not asked to sign any declaration before my USG in Kerala,a matriarchal state where girls are not unwelcome,though the report mentioned a line to the effect,in keeping with the PNDT Act guidelines.

As girls,my two sisters and I never faced any discrimination at home,and I have always wished to have a daughter. I don’t know why,but whenever I imagine myself in the role of a mother,I see myself running after a sweet little thing wearing a frilly frock and waving two tiny ponytails tied with satin ribbons. And this has been a dream,which I sometimes see with my eyes open,since my school days.

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I was in Class VII,when my grandmother got my horoscope made. The small booklet with a pink cover had something to say about every aspect of my life — health,education,wealth,marriage,husband and,of course,children. I don’t remember the details much,but was surely stuck at this one short line that read: “Female issue likely”. I did not know then children can be referred to as “issue”. Ever since my grandmother explained the meaning,I realise now,this had been engraved somewhere in the back of my mind that I would have a daughter. My imagination of running after a girl,too,could have stemmed from this fact,rather than it merely being a ‘wish’ to bear a girl child.

Till recently,I was quite sure that I will have a daughter,but the confidence was shaken after my mother and other relatives saw me at the wedding I attended in April. Most of the women there were of the opinion that the shape of my belly pointed towards the possibility of a boy. But my mother was a little confused because of my “glowing face”,as she believes,going by the old wives’ tales in India,a woman looks good when she bears a girl child,and the opposite happens in the case of a boy. Some people have a “scientific” explanation behind this ‘logic’ — if you can call it one at all. They say if you are carrying a female foetus,the same-sex hormones make things easy for your body and cause the glow,while carrying the hormones of a different sex takes a toll on your own,which results in a withered look of the mom-to-be. I found the explanation intriguing,but if you want to believe it,please do so at your own risk. On the other hand,there is also another school of thought that says you don’t look as good as before during pregnancy if you are carrying a girl child.

My mother’s confusion had made things more interesting as it had only escalated the suspense. But with the glow fading with time,along with the effect of bleach and facials,I don’t know what she will say when she visits me in July.

If you ask me,thinking about the sex of the unborn is only a waste of time. But it is harmless unless you are under any kind of pressure to bear a son,or a daughter for that matter. I know a woman who is pregnant for the fourth time because her family wants a son. Another one I know is elated after the birth of a son,more so because she won’t be asked to try one more time. On the other hand,yet another acquaintance had a daughter this year after two sons.

In my case,though my mental preparation had been for a girl,I am now thinking about the other possibility too. I don’t think I will be disappointed to have a son,though I must admit the beautiful dresses and accessories for girls displayed in different stores attract me more,and I find the stuff available for boys quite boring and unimaginative.

There are a number of websites that offer fun ways to find out the sex of the child and prove to be a great pastime. The colour of your urine,which side you sleep on,the foetal heart rate,your cravings for sweet or sour foods,your mood,the dad-to-be’s weight gain or loss,and of course the shape of your belly – everything seems to have a say on this. There are questionnaires,you answer them and the sites will tell you the gender of your baby,all for entertainment purpose,though. Besides,there is a readymade ‘Chinese lunar calendar’ that calculates your age and the month of conception to tell you if it’s a boy or a girl. A caution: There are certain websites that ask for money to tell you the baby’s gender. Don’t fall in the trap.

By the way,the Chinese calendar tells me I will have a boy,but foetal heart rate and a few other ‘parameters’ don’t agree. Hence,the suspense is still on,and I am enjoying every moment of it!