This Is My Version of a Gender Reveal Party

The bad news is, there’s no cake. The good news is that you don’t have to leave your house in order to attend.

Did you know that they have a blood test now that can tell you whether you’re having a girl or a boy (or at least, a baby with two X chromosomes or one X and one Y)? Well, they do. You take it at about 12 weeks, and it measures fetal DNA in the mother’s blood.

The test also tells you, with a high degree of accuracy, whether or not your baby has Down Syndrome or Trisomy 18 or 13. Needless to say, I was more concerned with these results than the other one. Regarding the boy/girl question, we have a niece and a nephew, and they’re awesome, and nothing that’s awesome about them is because of their gender.

But I am roughly one-thousand years old in mom years, which adds to the risk of chromosomal abnormalities.

Delivery Notification

The results came in through the automated system at LabCorp, which was a very good sign. Doctors tend not to release your results when they’re bad. They call you on the phone, like our ancestors did, or worse yet, ask you to come in to the office. If a doctor ever asks me to come into the office, I’m moving to Costa Rica, ASAP, to live out the rest of my life in the sloth sanctuary. I don’t need more information than that phone call asking me to come in. I can guess the rest.

Anyway, there was no need to move to Costa Rica just yet, because the results were good: negative for all trisomies.

Also negative: the test for the presence of a Y chromosome. “Consistent with a female fetus,” the report read, which slayed me for some reason. Medical lingo is so cautious: “We’re not saying it’s a girl, but we are saying that it doesn’t have a Y chromosome and probably won’t have a penis. What you do with this information is up to you. We’re not into the whole labeling thing.”

Which is for the best, really. Before we got the results, Adam mentioned that you can only learn so much from a test.

“I mean, by the time this kid grows up, we’ll have about 800 different gender identities,” he said. “So it probably doesn’t really matter what their underpants situation is today.”

Consistent With a Female Fetus

I will confess that I wanted a girl, for one reason and one reason only: I did not want to have to deal with the whole circumcision issue.

Many of you will read that and start tsking, regardless of where you stand on the issue. People tend to be very passionate about their stance. I’d guess conservatively that 80 percent of the parents reading this have very strong feelings about circumcision one way or the other, and to those parents I say, hey, you’re probably right.

There are certainly good arguments for both sides. On the one hand, if we had a vaccine that prevented HIV and HPV infection as well as circumcision does, we’d give it to everyone, probably at Costco while they were trying cheese samples. On the other hand, well, doesn’t it seem odd to lop off parts of people’s bodies before they get a say?

Bottom line, whatever you decided to do with your son, I’m on your side and will vigorously defend your choices. But, oh my sweet baby Jesus, am I glad we won’t have to decide.

Beyond that, I feel like I have a better handle on the precise flavor of bullshit that a girl is likely to deal with in life, although that’s a good news/bad news situation. I’m not looking forward to teaching her how to deal with street harassment and the gender pay gap and unconscious bias. But I am definitely looking forward to telling her about all the excellent women who paved the way for her to build the life she wants.

Because she will have that, no matter what some of the men in charge right now would have us believe. Their time is coming to an end, but Baby Girl Luckwaldt’s is just beginning. And yes, it’s a big scary world out there, full of people who would limit her potential based on nothing, a report containing news so inessential, it could be sent via email with an automatic notification.

But it’s also a world with Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Hillary Clinton. Maxine Waters and Elizabeth Warren and Malala Yousafzai. Fannie Lou Hamer and Mary Harris Jones and Margaret Sanger and Shirley Chisholm and Mary Wollstonecraft and Sojourner Truth and Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Emmeline Pankhurst. Simone de Beauvoir and Bell Hooks and Maya Angelou. So many more.

My secret is that I’m an optimist. Beyond that, I’m determined. I’ll be the first to make fun of a male celebrity when he claims that he cares about industry-accepted sexual harassment because he has a daughter, but it does make a difference, having a girl. Already, I’m thinking to myself, “But she’ll be brand-new. How can anyone try to limit her potential when she doesn’t even know who she is yet?”

Soon, we’ll have a daughter. Forget the nursery. It’s the world we have to get ready for her.

Image: Karen Eliot/Flickr


I’m Not Going to Breastfeed, Because I Don’t Feel Like It

Don’t get excited: I’m not pregnant, and it’s not on the schedule for a bit yet. But although I’m up in the air about a few parenting things, there’s one thing I’m 100 percent sure of: I’m not going to breastfeed the little bebe when he makes his debut.

There are a number of reasons for this, but I need to practice being firm about this before the entire populace of Park Slope descends upon me and my choices, let’s start with this: I’m not going to breastfeed, because I don’t want to.

I think it’s important to say, right off the bat, that I don’t care if you decide to breastfeed your baby. In fact, I don’t care if you feed your baby breast milk, formula, Yoo-hoo, Kombucha, or Miller High Life. I will also rigorously defend your right to feed your baby wherever you like, or, in fact, just to take off your shirt for no reason at the Wal-Mart, if you want to. They’re your boobs, and you can do with them as you please. However, I’m not going to be using mine in this fashion, and I’ll thank everyone to judge me behind my back, as God intended.

Do I sound defensive? I am, and for good reason. In the past couple of years, there’s been entirely too much talk about who gets to decide what women do with their bodies. Much of it has been from conservative, white, male politicians, but a disturbing amount has come from women themselves, policing each other’s choices. Maybe it’s another way to compete, when we’re temporarily away from the office, or maybe it’s displaced anxiety about our own decisions. But for whatever reason, there’s a lot of judgment around how women choose to feed their children, and I think we should all cut it out, breastfeeders and formula feeders alike.

A lot of childrearing decisions are, dare I say, influenced by trends. When my mom was raising us, the fad was to sleep train and formula feed. Now, it’s cosleeping and boob milk. No matter what you decide to do, you’ll make mistakes. It’s pretty clear that no one has developed the perfect system of childrearing. If they had, there would be at least a few totally fault-free children out there. Since there aren’t any, it seems like it’s probably a bit of a crapshoot.

“But science!” you say. “We know more now than we ever did! In the 1970s, they gave children cigarettes to keep them slim and let them ride motorcycles to nursery school!”

Don’t worry: I’m not going to feed you a stack of anecdata and pretend we’re dealing in facts. I understand that a few stories about kids who thrived on formula doesn’t mean that formula is the best choice, just as I know that a couple of old geezers who smoked three packs a day and died running a marathon on their 90th birthdays doesn’t mean that cigarettes are secretly kale.

But here’s what I will say: Everything doesn’t have to be the best all the time, even in parenting. Even if something is clearly the best choice in a vacuum, doesn’t meant that it’s the best choice for actual people, who live in the world and have to make compromises.

I believe that breastfeeding my child would be slightly better for the child. It seems pretty conclusive that breastfeeding decreases, at least slightly, the incidence of ear infections and gastrointestinal problems. I’m less convinced, by the way, that it makes any real difference in terms of allergies or IQ points. But for me, it would mean either not taking medication for a pretty serious autoimmune disorder, or gambling that taking it won’t hurt my kid. Which makes it not the best choice for me, and my family.

There are other reasons, of course: I’m squicked out by the idea of it, which doesn’t mean that I think you’re gross for doing it, breastfeeding moms of the internet, or at least not any more than I’d think you were gross if you liked tapioca pudding, which has just never done it for me. Everyone’s got her own idea of a good time, you know?

“You should get some therapy!”

I’ve had lots. More than Woody Allen at the time of the filming of “Annie Hall.” Breastfeeding still weirds me out. Also, it seems like it hurts, and I’m not into torturing myself.

“But it doesn’t hurt if you have a proper latch!”

Bullshit. It might stop hurting eventually, but in the beginning, everyone I know who’s done it has said it makes you sore. Even women who have an easy time admit that it was “uncomfortable” at first. I’ve been to the doctor. I know what uncomfortable means.

“You know what else hurts? Giving birth!”

It sure does — which is why I’ll get every drug they’re willing to give me, including that gas they gave Daisy Buchanan, if it’s still available. Also, imaginary lactivist with whom I’m apparently arguing, the fact that one thing hurts is not a persuasive argument to do another thing that hurts. Let’s have as few things that hurt as humanly possible, say I.

Most of the time, when I have this discussion with real people and not the people in my head, they eventually suggest either that my attitude will change when I have a child, or that a person as selfish as I am has no right to have a kid. I disagree with both statements. I’m already aware of the fact that having a child means making sacrifices, which is why I’ll go off my meds for my pregnancy, even though the medical literature is divided on whether or not there’s a real risk to the fetus. In the end, it’s just a matter of which sacrifices are the best ones for our family, which includes me, the lady who will (fingers crossed) be carrying the little guy.

And as for being selfish, I’d argue that a little healthy self-interest is an essential ingredient in a good mother. The best mothers, it seems to me, aren’t the ones who give up absolutely everything for their kids, because giving up absolutely everything means you’re dead and you can’t take care of anyone. As they tell you on the plane, put on your oxygen mask first, before you help others.

What my kid potentially lacks in immunological advantages, I hope he’ll gain in having a mother who doesn’t martyr herself to someone else’s idea of what’s the correct thing to do. If there’s one thing I want to give my child, no matter what, it’s the knowledge that unless you are militantly on your own side, no one else will be.

But in the end, all these arguments are just a fun way to pass time. I get to choose, and I made a choice. If we start questioning women’s right to do that, we’ve got bigger problems than what to feed the baby. And in the meantime, if anyone questions your right to breastfeed when and where and for as long as you want, I’ll be by directly to whip a canister of Enfamil at their pointed head.


Did I Mention My Mom’s a Nurse, and That I’m a Spinster Lady?

Ma Smash: I got here right in time to see him born.

Me: No way! He was waiting!

Ma Smash: Yup! Three pushes and he was out.

Me: Ew.

Ma Smash: Oh, look! Here comes the placenta!

Me: EW.

Ma Smash: That’s so interesting. You know, it looks just like cube steak!

Welcome to planet earth, Baby Oz Piddlington. Your Mommy is brave and your Gramma is ridiculous.

The Big News

I’m going to be an auntie!

Mrs. Piddlington is expecting a Pidlet sometime in July. We’re hoping it’s a Cancer and not a Leo, as she’s a Scorpio and Mr. P is a Sagg and that’s just a whole lot of people who aren’t willing to listen to reason. I’m only a little bit kidding. She lives in San Francisco, but I have no excuse.

I am way ridiculously excited about this. I put her sonogram up over my computer at work. It’s a very cute baby and I plan to fill it full of candy and shake it upside down at every opportunity. Then I will give it back and race off laughing.