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What's the Big Deal About the 'Gender Neutral' Baby?

In this week's 'Parents Talk': keeping a baby's sex a secret.

By now, many of us have read or watched the story about the Toronto couple who decided that with the exception of a few people, no one would know the sex of their baby, born on New Year's Day.

According to the Toronto Star, Kathy Witterick and David Stocker only shared the identity of their baby, Storm Stocker, with his/her two older brothers and a few midwives.

In an email to the Star, Witterick wrote, "in not telling the gender of my precious baby, I am saying to the world, ‘Please can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s (he) wants to be?!.”

Since the May 21st article, the story has made its way around the world and created a media frenzy in papers and on network news here in the U.S.

I get why this story has attracted so much attention.  It's interesting and fascinating, and most of us have never heard of parents doing something like this before. 

It's especially interesting to my husband and me because we're expecting our first child in about a month.  There has been a lot of backlash toward the Toronto parents, and while I understand the fascination with their decision, I don't understand why people are actually angered by it - especially people who don't know them.

Growing up, I was a tomboy with four older brothers and two younger sisters.  I liked Barbie dolls, but I also loved kickball and kick-the-can.  I wore my share of skirts and dresses, but I wore a lot of hand-me-down clothes from my brothers, too. 

I think being a tomboy was one reason I raised my hand in class and did especially well in math and science - something many studies and test scores show girls do not do nearly as much as boys. 

So when my husband, Nate, and I found out we were having a girl, I wanted to be sure that we wouldn't shy away from boys' things.  We let our friends and family know we prefer gender neutral baby things, but we certainly haven't frowned on pink ruffles.  If my Olivia Lorraine likes cars and trucks or wants to climb trees and play sports, I'll be thrilled.  If she wants to put on pretty princess clothes or have tea parties, that's fine, too.  And Nate and I want her to know that anything she wants to try or play or learn is OK, regardless of her gender.

We're just finishing up Olivia's nursery.  We chose to use white and bright green because we wanted to celebrate new life, and what better way than with spring green?  Sure, we've got pink, but we've got blues and oranges, too.  We want the whole world to be at her fingertips, not just sugar and spice and all things nice.

We feel comfortable in how we've chosen to bring Olivia into the world, and I'm not going to pretend I actually know what I'm doing or have a perfect plan I'll adhere to.  We know we have plenty to learn.  Nate and I both have loving parents and friends who have supported our ideas, and if anyone opposes our thinking, we haven't heard about it.

Many have said that Toronto couple is fame-hungry, will hurt their son/daughter in the long run or is somehow hurting their new child.  I don't know their true intentions, but if they really are setting out to keep sex and gender from defining little Storm Stocker, why do we care so much?  I want the same thing for my child, but I'm just going about it differently. 

What do you think?

Erik Larson June 02, 2011 at 12:36 AM
The older brothers are gonna spill the beans soon enough. In the meantime let's leave the Stockers alone. Protest birthday party invitations if you must, but telling someone else how to raise their child is not our role. Ours is to offer support. If we cannot do it then it's best to leave it alone.
Katelynn Metz June 02, 2011 at 12:36 AM
Can't help myself here... I think Storm is a boy. I'm just saying... (-:
Greta Marston June 02, 2011 at 01:29 AM
Why did they not name him/her Pat then? I could not care less what they are doing - even if I have no idea why!!! I dont envy them when potty training starts though.
Jodi Quam-Johnson June 02, 2011 at 03:12 AM
I happen to believe in the value of gender - male and female. They are distinct biologically and are not part of a "spectrum." Male qualities should be valued - being aggressive is part of a man's natural urge to protect. Female qualities should be valued - women are natural nurturers. I am not saying that personality-wise there isn't cross-over. Some women start out as tom boys and stay that way, some men pass on rugby and read poetry. In the end they are still male and female. It is my belief that the parents effort to somehow "erase" their child's gender will only lead to an identity crisis - I am sorry for the child.
Lisa Buck June 02, 2011 at 03:29 PM
I see a movie deal in their future..."Meet the Stockers." I have two sons and two daughters, age 6-11. I didn't paint anyone's baby room pink or blue. We didn't know their gender before birth so all newborn clothing was gender-neutral. But it wasn't long before the boys wanted to play with trucks and toy guns and play superheroes or pirates. The girls want to be princesses and have tea parties. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls. There's no avoiding it.

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