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The boy or girl dilemma

Photo: Nation

Photo: Nation

I am one of those people who don’t particularly like surprises, so when I was expecting my second born about two years ago, I asked the doctor who was doing my first ultra-sound what the sex of the baby was.

He paused, and in a guarded tone, asked why I wanted to know. Surprised, I asked him why not, but instead of replying, he asked whether I had another child. Even more puzzled, I told him that I did. “Boy or girl?” he asked. “Boy”, I replied, wondering where this strange question and answer session was headed.

He sort of breathed out in relief and told me that I was expecting a girl. As I was leaving, I asked him why he had been reluctant to disclose the sex of my baby.

Apparently, quite a number of women break down in disappointment and distress when they find out they are expecting an “undesired” sex, a girl, to be specific.

His explanation was not difficult to believe, but I was genuinely taken aback that in 2012, in modern-day Kenya, and smack in the heart of Nairobi, a woman would shed tears of regret and dismay for conceiving a girl.


The only reason I had wanted to know whether I was expecting a boy or a girl was so that I could buy suitable clothes — I mean, people would look at you in a funny manner if you dressed your newborn baby boy in a pink frilly dress, wouldn’t they? I would have been equally happy had I got another boy.

I also find it astonishing when I hear women saying that they will not be satisfied until they “name” a child after their mother or father.

“What if you get another boy?” I once asked an acquaintance who has two sons, but is “determined” to get a girl named after her late mother.

In the community where she comes from, the first girl is named after the man’s mother, meaning that should luck be on her side and she gets a girl third time round, she would have to conceive yet again to chance on her coveted girl.

Imagine what a fiasco it would be if she happened to conceive another boy — you can’t keep going on forever, can you?

Her predicament just goes on to prove what a dissatisfied society we are; there are those who cry themselves to sleep for being unable to conceive boys, and then there are those who pray day and night to get a daughter they can dress up and go to the salon with.

Meanwhile, as we faint in droves in doctors’ offices across the country after learning that we’re expecting a sex we don’t want, there are women who would do just about anything to conceive a baby, any baby. Boy or girl, it wouldn’t matter to them. What irony.

Someone I know, I will call her Betty, knew even before she got married that she wanted only two children. Her husband too thought this was an ideal number, and so after getting their second boy, Betty happily said goodbye to childbearing. Unknown to them, Betty’s mother-in-law was eagerly waiting for them to get a third child, this time a girl.


The pressure started when their second born was about to celebrate his second birthday. Every time she visited them, or whenever they went to visit her, she would ask, though not directly, when they planned to get her namesake.

After a year of relentless hints and veiled prodding, Betty gave in, if only to get her mother-in-law off her back. The old woman’s prayers must have been potent because Betty did get a girl.

A few weeks later, the proud grandmother came to see her namesake, a contingent of women in tow. You won’t believe it, but the first thing she said when she saw her granddaughter was, “Why does she look like a boy?”

Had Betty not been too shocked, she would have kicked her out of the door. No, we human beings will never be satisfied.


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