This morning’s Guardian carries a piece titled ‘We get what we want in life’, which is about couples choosing the sex of their baby. For me & Mrs E, this turned out to be an interesting read, and brought back some memories that frankly were probably best consigned to a bucket marked ‘irritations of the past’.
For background, and in rudimentary code, this is how our family arrived:
010 Set ‘children we have’ to zero
020 Mrs E fills a little faint, and several months later adds 1 to ‘children we have’
030 Despite expecting to have a girl, we had a boy. And he was gorgeous and we couldn’t imagine our lives could be more perfect.
040 If ‘children we have’ = 4, go to 060
050 Go to 020
060 Live Happily Ever After
Thus, by the time we got to line 060, we had four fantastic and healthy boys, all of whom were great value and continue to be so. And largely, you’d think, that would be that, and we could look forward to living HEA. Which, of course, we’ve largely done, and only little minor annoyances have distracted us from that course. Especially the early ones, where ‘children we have’ had just equalled 4. Mrs E would find herself stopped in the street by relative strangers, who’d tilt their heads gently to one side and tell her that she mustn’t be so sad at having a boy. While she was pushing him along in the pram. I heard one exchange with a woman at a supermarket till that ended ‘Oh dear; I was lucky of course, I had one of each’. I was asked incredulously at work (in an IT department, indeed) ‘What are the chances of having 4 boys?’, to which, of course, the answer is 16:1, i.e. the same odds as any sequence of 4 children.
Quite apart from the gormless insensitivity shown by people who really should know better, it really teed us off at the time to think that Jr Emu #4 should arrive as a disappointment. He has, incidentally, been a bit of a testing individual since, but that’s not the point. The point is that, by and large, he arrived healthy and happy and has continued to be so.
So, when the Guardian feature quote a woman with four boys as being ‘traumatised by what she hadn’t got’*, it really…feels wrong. Not so much morally, although the middle class outlook on gender selection is of tiny relevance compared to the interest in, say, India or China, but in the context of just being happy with your lot.
For our part, I don’t think any of us could contemplate a different gender mix in the family. Nothing against girls, you understand, just can’t imagine how it would work. For Mrs E, it’s like having two sets of the Kray twins on hand. For Jr Emu #1, he has 3 younger brothers to boss about, and for #4, 3 to copy, wrestle with and torment. And neither #2 or #3 has exclusivity on being a difficult middle child. And if you’re reading this and you have a family, you’ve almost certainly got a similar dynamic going on, because that’s how families work, they just get on with the situation of just being a family. And so, in my humble opinion, it should continue.
*Accompanying pictures to the article: 4 solemn looking boys on p16, the 2 girls born via IVF, post vasectomy sperm extraction then gender selection in Spain** on p17
** Because it’s banned in the UK