Week 26: Question your givens

This week, take a bite out of traditional expectations for pregnancy. |  U.S. National Library of Medicine

This week, take a bite out of traditional expectations for pregnancy. | U.S. National Library of Medicine

I could have made the task of creating a pregnancy calendar much easier on myself had I just cribbed from Despair.com’s make-your-own Demotivator Calendar. Its entries for Challenges (“I expected times like this - but I never thought they'd be so bad, so long, and so frequent”), Platitudes (“Those who do not learn from cliches are destined to repeat them”), Compromise (“Let's agree to respect each others views, no matter how wrong yours may be”), and, of course, the titular Despair (“It's always darkest just before it goes pitch black”) speak well to the pregnancy experience.

My favorite demotivator concerns Tradition: “Just because it’s always been done that way doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly stupid.” That’s good advice for the holiday season and for your last season of pregnancy. Just because everyone else is making elaborate pregnancy announcements on social media doesn’t mean you have to. Just because everyone else is registered for a snot sucker doesn’t mean you need one. Just because men have traditionally not been welcome at baby showers doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invite them.

During the first two trimesters, we focused on how to read pregnancy and parenting news. Now we’ll turn to developing your own questions and researching the answers. The best way I know to strengthen your skills as a researcher is to question your own givens, which means you’ll need to approach your traditions with skepticism…

…which brings us to pink and blue babies.

Want to know the sex of your fetus? If your spouse is pregnant, sprinkle some salt on her head and listen for the first name she utters tomorrow morning, the gender of which will let you know what sex she’s carrying. If the thought of accidentally waking a finally-comfortable pregnant woman is too much for you, you can always mix her urine with Drano out on the back porch: the resulting color will tell you the sex. Of you can leave your out your house key, ask her to pick it up for you, and if she picks it up on the top, you’re having a girl. Clearly this is why boys are never born, because who picks a key up by the pointy end?

It should go without saying that these are not effective ways to determine the sex of the fetus, and yet my Google results suggest otherwise. Apparently, a not small number of people are urinating on baking soda and consulting “ancient” Chinese gender calendars, which, it should be noted, are neither Chinese nor a predictor.

What’s the harm? (aside, of course, from accidentally waking a finally-comfortably-resting pregnant woman by upending a salt shaker over her head or getting chemical burns from sploshing drain cleaners). Aren’t these all, as Parents Magazine claims, just good fun?

The problem is not that these tests are so bad. It’s that, when conducted in the context of a single family, they are so accurate. Any one of these tests has a roughly 50% chance of being right. That’s dangerous because, even before they are born, male and female babies start to be assigned attributes that have a lifelong impact.

And that attitude might land your child in the emergency room.

If you’re reading this pregnancy calendar, you probably don’t need me to tell you the difference between sex and gender. You’re woke. You’ve picked out a neutral nursery theme and an androgynous baby name to take down the patriarchy. But you would be surprised just how often sex differences are used in health claims.

Let’s say you just found you’re having a boy. That baby is more likely to experience electric shock, more likely to be taken to the emergency room, and more likely to drown in a backyard pool. Does that mean that boys are inherently greater risk takers, or somehow genetically predisposed to accidental death?

No. But it probably says something about the attributes we assign to boys even in the fetal stage. So maybe cool it with the gender reveal parties, or try this alternative.

One more given to question: despite their present popularity, pink and blue aren’t traditional colors for girls and boys. If you really want to be traditional, you should opt for all-white clothing. And maybe add Oxiclean to your subscribe and save order.