When A Baby's On The Way, What Parents Really Need To Know

Nov 22, 2017

What does genitalia actually tell us about someone's identity?

Many years ago, when I was pregnant and gender identity was not in the news, I struggled with ideas about my baby’s biological sex. 

I'd had a prescient experience years before that I would have a daughter. Because of this, I was worried that if the baby were a boy, I wouldn't be as loving and attached.

To guard against this, I chose not to know the fetus’s sex in utero -- I didn't want disappointment or doubt to be part of my pregnancy. At delivery, and for about 15 minutes after birth, I asked not to be told my baby's gender. I wanted this time to deeply attach, whether it was a boy or a girl.

I experience something quite different as a midwife. When I schedule a routine ultrasound at 18 weeks of pregnancy, invariably patients say something like: "Oh, that’s the ultrasound you do, so we know if it’s a boy or girl, right?"

Wrong. This ultrasound is done to see if there's a big problem we should be alerted to in advance.

Parents who don’t learn the sex of their fetus from that scan -- because it’s not always possible to see -- always ask when the scan will be repeated so the sex can be determined. They’ll tell me: "I’m buying baby clothes, so I need to know what color," or, "My shower is scheduled, and we’re having a cake revealing party."

But what are they really finding out by getting that information? What does genitalia actually tell us about someone's identity?

Recently, an Ob/Gyn colleague of mine told me his 20-year-old son had come out as transgender. I asked my friend how he was doing with this change.

His response was an unforgettable testament of love: I don’t care if I have a son or a daughter; I just want them to be happy and finish college. My friend has remained as generous and loving to his daughter as he was towards his son.

Over the years, I've learned that aspects of self-identity we may cling to at one point in life may become ones we must let go of later on; coupled or single, straight or gay, male or female.

As a midwife, I'm doing my best to remind people of what’s most important: Alive. Safe. In loving arms.

I can feel the burn of this uphill climb, but I know it’s entirely worth it.

Evelyn Resh is a midwife in practice since 1992. She lives in Ashfield, Massachusetts.