My Husband and I Default to Masculine Nouns and Pronouns

My son playing with blocks

While serving a Latter-day Saint mission in Uruguay, my husband chose a name for his first daughter before he met me. It was the Spanish feminine subject pronoun ella with the Uruguayan pronunciation of double l — aysha. Meanwhile, I roomed with his sister south of Brigham Young University campus.

After I came home early from my mission due to bipolar, my former roommate arranged for her brother and I to have a blind date. My husband and I married four months later. He shared his desire to name a girl Ella. The name sounded fine to me. I said let’s adopt a Chinese girl one day because I had taught English in China. Anything seemed possible.

Fifteen months after our marriage, we found out we were having a boy. We were stumped what to name him. More like what name to agree on. I had the name Edmund in mind from The Chronicles of Narnia, but my husband nixed that name. He had an annoying college classmate by the name Edmund, so naturally we couldn’t name our firstborn that. We asked other people for name ideas as weeks passed by. My maternal grandma mentioned two names that she liked. My husband and I didn’t dislike one name she suggested, which we both liked after awhile. So that’s what we named our son.

On our second pregnancy, we hoped for a girl still. We still had a name picked out. Perfect pronoun Ella. We felt some disappointment when we discovered the second was another boy. But there would be a third time to try.

Only now we had to choose another boy name. I liked the name Liam, but I wasn’t sure how different it was. I don’t remember my husband’s feelings about the name. We went for the easy naming strategy of family names. We shared a male family name on both sides of the family. Thus, we named our second-born after his two grandpas.

Officially, my husband and my default nouns and pronouns changed to “Boys!”, sons, he, and him. It wasn’t children or kids or they or them.

The third time is the charm.

That’s what the saying says. That’s what my husband hoped. That’s what I hoped, but I would be okay either way. My psychiatrist said that I should expect a boy and be surprised if it was a girl.

When the radiologist performed the ultrasound on our third child, she acted strangely. She announced it was a boy, but then she exited the room to consult with the doctor. My husband and I silently wept. Our oldest son was sad too. No girl. But I recovered quickly. I could tell something else was wrong when the doctor returned, which wasn’t procedure. The doctor showed us the baby’s left club foot and explained how treatable it was.

My husband and I cried more over the lost opportunity of a daughter than our son’s club foot. That was treatable, almost reversible. His club foot has required casting, minor surgeries, and orthotic shoes. But we wouldn’t trade our third for a daughter. He fits in perfectly.

At this point, my husband let me choose the name because he was out of ideas. I chose a friend’s brother’s name who was kind, smiled big, and teased. Somehow that seemed destined to be my son’s name. He smiles big and teases his brothers.

At a restaurant several years ago, my husband yelled “Boys! Boys! Boys!” to round them all up. Many looked at him strangely. My husband realized that they thought he could be calling any boys from any family. But our boys know our voices. They sometimes respond to our calls — selective hearing (or fluid in their ears).

Friends, relatives, and strangers asked if my husband and I would try a fourth time for a girl. I wondered if the fourth time could be the charm. It had been for my family’s history. My paternal grandma had my aunt after three boys and my sister had my first niece after my first three nephews.

On my fourth pregnancy ultrasound, I recognized the anatomy of a boy before the radiologist announced what the gender was. My husband felt some disappointment. I felt fine with another boy. It is what I was used to. My oldest two sons were disappointed.

I wanted to name our son after my uncle and use the nickname that sounds like a girl’s name. I fell in love with the name from a children’s book too. But my husband didn’t like it for the first name. So I mentally searched more family names. My great uncle’s real name sounded good — not his nickname. My husband approved that name with my other uncle’s name as the middle name.

After my son was born, receptionists said “she” at doctor’s offices when they called for my son. I cringed. I had chosen a boy name. I went to the library and a mother called for her child with my son’s same name— but a girl. No! This was a classic boy name for hundreds of years and suddenly it had been co-opted as a girl’s name. Then I realized that I knew of a girl in her teens named that. Had I subconsciously named my son a girl name? Well, an androgynous name.

“Boys!” became a louder noun as my husband and I yell over the chaos of four male children. Our boys occasionally bring home female friends. Usually, it’s more male friends. More boys. Boys. Boys. More noise. Noise. Noise.

I am surrounded by testosterone as my boys come closer to teenage-hood. I feel outnumbered. I am the only she/her among the he/hims. Other boy moms and I bond together in unity. We understand the chaos of boys, but the world of girls seems foreign. Some of us still yearn for a girl. Some of us have accepted our fate. We enjoy boys. All children have their challenges at different ages.

Yet a neighbor family recently had a girl after four boys. Our realtors tease us about having a fifth child to have a girl. They are an older couple who had four boys and their fifth child was a girl. The fifth time could be the charm. But then I see my former mission companion having her sixth boy and a fellow boy mom having a fifth boy.

It is all a game of chance.

If my husband and I ever roll again, we just have to bet on a boy.

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