This post was inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul by journalist Jenny Nordberg, who discovers a secret Afghani practice where girls are dressed and raised as boys. Join From Left to Write on September 16th as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.
There was a time when I could only imagine having a male child. I’m kind of a teenage boy myself, disguised in a 44-year-old woman’s body. I figured I would know how to interact with a boy. I like to be gross. I like getting dirty. I like to play rough. I pictured us investigating dinosaur bones together. While pregnant, I squeezed my eyes together and tried to picture my future child. I didn’t get a face, just a pair of legs swinging from a chair in the cafeteria of the local science museum.
Yup, it’s a boy I thought.
We only had one name picked out for him: Holden. And at 11 pm each night, he kicked the stuffing out of me, such that we took to calling him “Boom Boom Moore.”
He had to be a boy.
I wanted his sex to be a surprise, much to my husband's disappointment. When we went in for our week 20, high-level ultrasound, I told the technician in no uncertain terms that though my husband wanted to know the sex of the child, I was to be left in the dark. I didn’t want any pointing and giggling. The technician aimed her wand and peered at the screen, pointing out body parts, like a transdermal tour guide. I followed along, but when she got to the pelvic region I averted my eyes because I didn’t want to accidentally see the penis. She gave nothing away. When it was over, I left the room to pee (they make you do this on a maxed-out bladder), and my husband remained behind to find out what we were going to have.
“I don’t know,” the technician said.
“What do you mean you don’t know?” my husband asked. After all, wasn’t it their job to look for nuchal folds and other things indiscernible to the untrained eye?
“The way the baby was turned, I couldn’t tell, not with certainty.”
We walked out of there knowing one thing for sure, our baby did not have an obvious penis. Well, so be it.
Fast forward to 20 weeks later, when the director of the Maternal Fetal Medicine department stood over me and announced that I had just given birth to a baby girl. Much to my surprise, I was thrilled.
How nice that I could be thrilled. That I don’t live in a society where a daughter means shame and disappointment, where a daughter is something to be mourned or hidden. Rather, that I live in a place where being female means freedom—freedom to wear pants or a dress, freedom to cry or be stoic, freedom to get pregnant or decide not to.
Life might have been different had Sophie been born a boy. Different, but not better.