I’m not a mother yet, but mothering is becoming part of me.
Much of my selfhood is currently in gestation—I have a 22 week fetus gestating in my uterus, snuggling into my placenta and rubbing her or his head on my pelvic floor, and I have a mother-self that is in development.
The question that’s always first on my friends and family’s lips is: “Do you know yet?” That is, do I know the sex of the baby. “No, we’re going to be surprised.” Is my response, but really in my mind the answer is “I am making a person in me, which is so special and sacred, but also so uncomfortable and identity-shifting. The sex of the baby isn’t my main concern.”
Of course it matters. But the more I learn about gender, the more I come to understand that sex is only a small part of the equation. We are all somewhere on an indefinable spectrum of boy/girl, man/woman, masculine/feminine. I’m personally a pretty stereotypical female person; petite, soft-voiced, and gentle-mannered, but I can also be outspoken, stubborn, selfish, and protective. My gender as a woman and mommy-to-be has recently become a larger chunk of my identity. As I take on the roles of wife and mother I’m suddenly feeling pushed up against being defined by my sex. It’s not something I want to do to this little life growing within me.
What I do want to do is learn about little Ms. or Mr. What does she sound like? How does he move? What is she fascinated by? How does he play? How does she fight?
As I learn more about gender via advocacy groups and news reporting, I’m struck by the ease we fall into binaries in our culture. The male/female binary is comfortable to most of us. It helps define self and others, it’s clear-cut, and it gives us social crutch for our own behaviors. I’ve definitely used this binary in my life, both to get out of doing certain things (like fixing the car), or to indulge in self-care or the occasional shopping spree. But as I think about these tiny arms and legs thumping around in my torso, I wonder how I allow a gender identity to emerge from this little one, rather than teach her/him what it is to be a girl or boy.
Of course myself and my partner not the only teachers. Our village that will raise this tiny beast will have many people with many ways of teaching. The year after the popular vote, but not the presidential seat, went to a woman I hope we stretch the definition of girl to include roles like leader, trailblazer, loudmouth, fixer, and warrior and for the boys we include nurturer, artist, quiet explorer, designer, or listener. What matters most to me is that this small being has room to explore the spectrum of gender in a loving space.