We didn't know the sex of the baby for the longest time and it was becoming a source of debate. I remember insisting that I was carrying a boy. I was sure because of my so called "mother instinct". It's laughable now but I really believed that I who was carrying my thing knew what I was carrying lol!
Fast forward to the third trimester when we decided to find out and went for a scan. The nurse said she thought it was a girl but didn't a hundred percent confirm as can be the practice with medical personnel who don't want to get sued or quoted verbatim when things don't turn out as they initially said.
But that innuendo was lost on me because I was my baby's mama and mama knows best. As we left the hospital that day, I started to ask myself why I was so hung up on my own conclusions that even the standard proof of a scan was in doubt.
As I sat and peeled back layers of reservation, I was quite surprised to find at the bottom of it, not only the desire to be right but the realization that I just naturally expected a boy like a child expects a gift from Santa if they had been good and for all the wrong reasons the Nigerian society emphasizes the gender of a baby.
I couldn't believe this was me!
Especially because I would not take myself for a traditional "old school" Nigerian and I would have thought that those sentiments were so far removed from my values and beliefs.
I mean, I have broken the mold a few times and would describe myself as not only properly educated, sufficiently exposed, culturally evolved, and rationally thinking but emotionally intelligent in that type of way that questions the subtle ways in which society favors or absolves the male gender over the other.
But here it was happening as second nature as people asking the question "Was it a boy?" without thinking, when enquiring about a mother who just put to bed. In those situations, even when the question is "What did she have, boy or girl?", the expectation hangs over the silence between asking and answering that "boy" is the expected response to the pregnant question.
So I took myself aside and asked where this was coming from and dealt with it.
As I think on this experience now, it reminds me of all the other societal expectations we have internalized and become conditioned to accept as measures of if we have succeeded and deserve celebration and measures by which approval is doled out or withheld.
The unspoken rules that become audible in debates like if a woman who has had CS has failed by not having her baby naturally or if a woman who opted for pain relief failed for not bearing the unbearable pain of long hours of labor.
The worst part is not so much these "rules" that make us unkind to and hard on ourselves, it is that we actually get tripped over by them and feel guilty, and responsible, and wrong and imperfect when we come up short.
And maybe it is a good thing, this bad feeling of being a disappointment in some way, because that is really the decisive moment where we can rewrite the script, change the channel and set ourselves free.
By the time Angelface made her arrival, I was ready, not only for my beautiful gift of a girl but freed to show her that she is enough and does not need to do a single thing more to deserve her place.
Never again! I will be finding out right away what the sex of my future babies are.