With two teenage stepsons and a beautiful 18-month-old boy, we’re at that stage where people are asking when we’re going to start trying for ‘the next one’. Inevitably they follow up with a comment ... “I bet you want a girl.”
And as it so happens the answer is yes, much as I adore my boys, I would love to have a daughter as well.
I’ve always believed that the arrival of sons or daughters isn’t something you can control and the odds seem to be pretty much 50/50. Although there are lots of old wives’ tales about choosing the gender of your baby, ranging from putting a wooden spoon under your bed for a girl, to eating bananas for a boy, most of them seem pretty farfetched.
But according to a huge number of women and an extraordinary amount of information available online, the gender of your child is something you can, if not perhaps control, then influence.
Some of the information available is contradictory and confusing, and the online forums I visited could occasionally get very heated as people weighed into the pros and cons of trying to affect gender. But, for the most part, I was overwhelmed by the generosity, support and sharing amongst the women who were, for whatever reason, trying to choose the gender of their next child.
Maree Patapan is co-owner of A-Gender an online business that aims to help women naturally conceive the gender of their choice. The company has worked with more than one thousand families and I didn’t subscribe to her service, but I did speak to Maree in my quest for information about gender selection.
“At the moment we have an 87% success rate,” Maree told me. “But we do stress that people should never have another baby unless they would welcome a child regardless of its gender.”
According to Maree, attempts to influence gender are mostly driven by the woman and 75% of the people who contact A-Gender are hoping for a little girl.
While most doctors and midwives are unconvinced, believers such as A-Gender advocate techniques as diverse as utilising positive and negative ions, lunar calendars and changing the body’s Ph balance.
According to Maree, people outside the situation don’t understand why people can’t just be happy with a ‘healthy baby’ of whatever sex.
“Sometimes it’s not logical, you just feel it,” she says, while stressing that clients need to be careful what they wish for.
“Lots of people have preconceived ideas of their family,” she says. “But every person is different and just because you end up with a girl or boy doesn’t mean they’ll be the one you have dreamed of all your life.”
So does it work?
Hayley, a mother of four, used gender swaying in an attempt to have a sister for her three sons. She believes that it can work but acknowledges that most people, including me, are dubious.
“A lot of people are very judgemental about gender swaying but mostly they are people who have a boy and a girl so they have no idea of other people’s desires,” she says.
While Hayley got the daughter she longed for she went into natural gender swaying knowing that it was far from foolproof.
“I went into it thinking that ‘if this doesn’t work we’ll have a good laugh at ourselves’ but we were very committed to it. If you’re going to bother, it’s worth putting your whole heart into it,” she says.
Like Hayley, Georgia followed the ‘girl instructions’ to the letter but, following the birth of her third son, she doesn’t believe that natural gender swaying is possible.
When Georgia and her husband decided to try for a third child, one of her girlfriends suggested travelling to Thailand where you can use IVF technology to choose the gender of your child.
“There were a lot of reasons that I was against that method,” Georgia explains. “All I could think about was the pressure we would be putting on our child, with them knowing that we went all the way to Thailand to make it a girl.”
In the end Georgia decided to try natural gender selection. “I went into it thinking ‘I don’t know if you can control this, but let’s just give it everything we’ve got,’” she explains. “If it works – fantastic. If not, at least we know we tried and it just wasn’t meant to be.”
So why does the sex of your child matter? Well for me it is about having a mix in my family and, although I know that all children are their own person, I tend to think that I would have more common interests with a daughter as she grows up – certainly my husband and all three boys share a passionate interest in cars that can be quite excluding at times!
Like mine, Georgia’s interest in gender swaying was driven by a desire to have both sons and daughters.
“If we’d had two girls I would have wanted a boy for the third. Unless you’ve been there, you don’t get it. There’s a real physical craving ‘I want a girl’ or ‘I want a boy’ and people who haven’t been there don’t understand.”
Despite having failed in her attempts at gender swaying, Georgia does believe that gender swaying programs have a role. “I think they play an important role in convincing people that they did everything they could. I know that we tried everything and we had a boy and he’s healthy and that’s enough.”
So can you change that 50/50 balance or is it just wishful thinking?
I’ve read an awful lot of information and many opinions in my quest to understand gender swaying and I still don’t know whether I believe it is possible. It really seems to depend on who you ask. But if your primary goal is to have a beautiful, healthy baby there doesn’t seem to be any harm in trying.
Luckily for me, I couldn’t love my son more and I wouldn’t swap him for a hundred girls. If I’m lucky enough to end up with a pigeon pair that’s great but if I have another boy I know that I’ll take one look at him and consider myself to be the luckiest mum in the world.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem