Much ado about a baby’s sex;a man’s viewpoint



Sylva Nze Ifedigbo, writer and social commentator is the author of ‘The Funeral Did Not End’which is available for purchase here. He blogs at


X and O is a paper-and-pencil game for two players who take turns marking the spaces in a grid. The player who succeeds in placing three respective marks (X or O) in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row wins the game.Despite its apparent simplicity, there is a trick to winning this game; detailed analysis and guess work.

Nature plays a similar X game with us but this time with Y as its pair. In this case also, unlike in the X and O game,the players are some invisible hands and we are mere spectators, or perhaps I should say participatory spectators since we are the ones who actually set the game in motion and then sit back for nine months, analysing and guessing, waiting for what the winning pair will be; XX or XY.

Some of us cheat though. We attempt to rig the game. To kill the surprise. To predetermine the outcome. A quick search on Google will reveal countless strategies, from the scientific to the down-right ridiculous. From gymnastics inspired copulation positions to faith induced emptying of savings at the pleasure of a miracle working Man of God. From expensive and complex genetic engineering procedures to mysterious black magic rituals. And everything in between. All of which is to enable us influence what the outcome of the game will be.

Even then, we do not wait. We pinch the parcel, anxious to peek at its content. We want to know before time what hand nature had dealt us. We make the excuse that it is about our baby shopping, what colours to buy, as though a baby really cares about that. Sometimes it is not our fault, this tendency to cheat. Along with ‘when are you due?’ the next most asked question during those nine months is “Is it a boy or a girl?” which could be sometimes annoying. Oftentimes, you tell them “Any one God gives us” in reply even though you’re secretly wishing for a particular sex or have even peeped at it.

XX or XY, girl or boy, what really is the big deal about it all? Why is the pairing so important that we go to such length to manipulate the dice rolling and peep into the unknown to satisfy our curiosity? Is it worth all the trouble? Does it matter anyway?
It does matter, and greatly so. Like with gifts, we have our preferences. If an uncle abroad was to send you a phone for example, you are likely to make specific demands of a particular brand, model and even colour. In this case, it goes way deeper. The gender of a baby often has far reaching implications, with consequences on such matters as love, marital harmony, inheritance and other largely mundane issues like ego, manliness and pride.

It is only natural therefore that we worry about the sex of the child. In most African societies like ours where male children are accorded superior status, the parents are expectedly anxious. A male child for the woman seals her position in the family, and for the man, guarantees the continuation of his name, his genealogy. Medical imaging practitioners have tales of couples who come in for anultra sound scan smiling and leave, frowning. The men react even more dramatically, some leave their wives behind in the consulting room, disappointed. Heartbroken.

As a man, I can perfectly relate with the reaction of such men eager for a male child and having the opposite. In addition to all the pressure society puts on us, there is also the big issue of validating our existence, of stamping an “I was here” mark on the surface of the earth through a male child. Interestingly (even though ignorance makes us make the women take the fall for it) nature puts the power of making it happen literarily in our hands. In the X and Y pairing game, we it is who have the ability to roll either the Y dice for a male child or an X for a girl. Ironically though, we exercise no control over which of the million swimmers we shot out, gets to score the bull’s eye.
Religion, education and exposure however makes me appreciate the fact that either of the sexes is a beautiful gift and that the apprehension that greets each pregnancy is largely needless and banal. Sometimes the happiness we think we get by having either of the sexes turns out being our own nemesis. Every child must enjoy as much love as we can give regardless of its sex and must be given every opportunity to attain all her potentials in life. Anything short of this, societal demands and personal yearnings notwithstanding, amounts to plain irresponsibility.

One final point; Finding out the sex of your baby before it is born is ordinary. Surprising yourself and others at its birth is extraordinary. It’s not even like by knowing ahead we are able to change anything anyway. If anything, it just leaves us heartbroken when the outcome is not in line with our wish. So why bother? The excuse of wanting to know so as to prepare is just what it is, an excuse.

A baby is a baby. It will eat, sleep, cry and poo regardless of the colour of its cloths or cot… and it won’t care.


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