My wife and I were going out for a rare brunch together.
It was our ‘date night’ brought forward in the day, and on this occasion, came with a bonus. We were going to discover the sex of our unborn baby. We already had two boys, aged 4 and 2. Would we have a third?
In terms of having another boy or girl , the odds of having another boy after two boys is only slightly more than having a girl. Even after two boys, you are only 2.3 per cent more likely to have a third boy than a girl.
But my bloodline had proven different. Historically, there hadn’t been a female baby born in my family in 89 years. My mum was the last, in 1930. None of my aunts or uncles had children of their own, while I was one of three brothers.
Having grown up as an only child, I’d always wanted to have a bigger family, even after I discovered I was adopted and had two biological brothers. Unable to have kids of their own, my parents were gifted a baby by Mum’s brother in 1974. I then grew up in Australia away from my two older brothers in Greece. I learnt that truth in 1999, before becoming a dad myself in 2015 and again in 2017, both through natural means.
As the father of three boys, I feel it is my responsibility to speak them with tenderness and care. To teach them kindness for girls.
With our first two babies, we decided to not discover their sex before birth. We wanted to retain this last little moment of mystery – there are so few left in the world – although this approach is now firmly in the minority. Internationally, most parents wish to know the sex of the expected child . Percentages vary; in the US, 58 per cent of pregnant women desired to find out the sex prenatally , while studies in Nigeria showed that this value was
over 90 per cent.
A midwife told us that it was about 80 per cent in Australia. There are several reasons for this wish: to plan for the baby’s arrival, to acquire appropriate things for the child, and simply for curiosity.
Today, increasingly extravagant gender reveal parties are becoming popular through social media. But we knew that wasn’t for us. We instead opted for something more understated and private.
We ended up down by the water at one of the city’s hip new cafés. After a tasty vegan pancake and smooth flat white, my wife and I together reached for the sealed white envelope given by her GP. It held the results from a prenatal genetic test for chromosomal abnormalities. Opening the envelope, we were relieved to find that all three
trisomy tests showed low risk.
And then, we read the fourth line, which showed the constitution of the 23rd chromosome pair, the sex chromosome, and revealed the gender of our third baby: “M”
It was another boy. We exclaimed with elation, surprise, and a little sigh. We would soon
be the parents of three boys.
The world needs more good men. Hopefully I can provide three.
As the realisation sunk in, stories from friends who had three boys began to materialise in my mind. One friend said that her youngest two boys learnt the path to travel because their eldest had paved the way. ‘Our eldest even reminds his younger brothers that he made their lives easier by pushing the parental boundaries,’ she said. ‘He tells them to be grateful.’
She described the dynamic of her three boys – now teenagers – as full of contradictions and opposite emotions. ‘They love and hate each other with a passion. They know how to push each other’s buttons like no one else, but if someone else hassles one of them, they will be the fiercest protectors.’
She talked about their deliberate choice in having both traditional boy and girl toys, from drill sets and footballs to prams and kitchens. We already had a mix at home.
From a practical perspective, hand-me-downs would be easy, even though number three probably wouldn’t get any new clothes for years. My wife admitted she would give away the hand-me-down dresses and skirts that we’d been gifted with a little sadness.
This was another issue – the perceived private grieving for not having a daughter, or from having all girls and no boys. There’s apparently a camaraderie among such ‘unfortunate’ parents, and there’s even an Australian group called MOB – Mothers of Boys.
Another friend had two sons and was convinced that her third was also boy. ‘When I said this to friends, they looked at me with sympathetic eyes and apologetic faces,’ she recalls.
‘It was a case of – “oh, you poor thing”. As a result, I remember becoming very protective of my baby in the womb.’ As it turned out, her third baby was a girl.
In our case, my wife and I can’t deny that having a girl would’ve been a different parenting experience that we’d have embraced. After all, variety is the spice of life. My friend with three sons had also hoped for a girl ‘but this grief was fleeting when I was pregnant. As soon as they were born, there was only love and joy.’
But all children are different, including our two boys already. There would be no reason to believe it wouldn’t be the same with a third. Hopefully, they’d all grow up as good mates and look out for each other. And the third would always be a little special as the youngest.
That said, when I now watch girls playing sport or making inroads into traditionally male activities, I quietly admit that having a daughter would’ve been nice. To watch her take the world by storm and break down barriers.
But it wasn’t to be. And at the end of the day, we wanted three healthy kids, and we got what we wanted. We were quietly grateful that it wasn’t twins.
On a personal level, the outcome had a nice symmetry to it. I would soon be the father of three sons, and was one of three brothers. But because I was adopted, I missed out on seeing how three brothers grow up together. I missed the games, the laughter, the pranks, the teamwork, the arguments, the tears, the jealousy, the competition. I had thought about that ever since the day I learnt of my adoption. Finally, I would get to experience the dynamic of three through my own boys.
I imagined that I might even have a soft spot for the youngest one since he would be the same as me, the third of three brothers.
A reviewer of my memoir called it an ‘antidote to toxic masculinity’, which I rather liked. There are several strong female characters who are at the core of the story. Without them, my book would be nothing, and neither would my family.
This is something I want my boys to know. As the father of three boys, I feel it is my responsibility to speak them with tenderness and care. To teach them kindness for girls and hope they grow to respect and protect women.
The world needs more good men. Hopefully I can provide three.
Peter Papathanasiou and his wife welcomed their third son earlier this month. You can follow Peter on Twitter @peteplastic.
Peter Papathanasiou’s debut book is published as Little One by Allen & Unwin in Australia and as Son of Mine by Salt Publishing in the UK.