It’s a Girl!: Gender and Pagan Birthing

I just got the word that I’ll be making a presentation at the Pagan Alliance’s 1st Annual Conference on Earth-Based, Nature-Centered, Polytheistic & Indigenous Faiths, 2011 Theme: Gender & Earth-Based Spiritualities.


The conference will be on Saturday, September 24 in San Francisco (the page linked to above has all the conference details, but the time of my presentation is going to change).

My presentation will be

It’s a Girl!: Gender and Pagan Birthing

It’s a girl!  It’s a boy!  The announcement of sex at birth is just one of many ways that gender matters when Pagans bring new babies into the world. This presentation will provide an overview of what Pagan parents, birth professionals, and clergy need to consider about gender during pregnancy and birth, and it will introduce frameworks for approaching these issues. “It’s a Girl!” will be an interactive presentation so come prepared to participate.  This event will also be the first public presentation of the new website Pagan Families: Resources for Pagan Pregnancy and Birth.

The conference program, full of smart, creative people, is part of some really important ongoing conversations about gender in the Pagan communities.  Pregnancy and birth can represent such a critical time for gender experience – I’m pleased that the organizers agreed that the topic belongs at the conference.

One of my goals for participating in this conference is to bring the Pagan Families website into the ongoing dialogue about gender.  Here’s how you can participate:

  1. If you’re in San Francisco, come to the conference, and add your voice to this session on birthing.
  2. If you’re a writer, this would be a great time to submit a contribution to Pagan Families related to gender.  It would be fantastic to get a whole series going, thinking about the gendering of babies, parents, clergy, birth professionals, and the gods who attend to pregnancy and birth.
  3. If you’re a reader, help get the conversation rolling by answering a simple (or not so simple!) question in the comments: Did you learn the sex of your baby before birth?  Why or why not?


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When Kids Meet the Gods
About Sarah Whedon

Sarah Whedon is founding editor of Pagan Families, the author of Birth on the Labyrinth Path: Sacred Embodiment in the Childbearing Year, and former Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious History at Cherry Hill Seminary. Sarah’s teaching, research, and advocacy work center around topics of spirituality, feminism, and reproduction. She makes her home in the Boston area with her partner and their children.

  • Niki Whiting

    I found out the sex of my first but not my second. I chose to learn the first because I was WAY too invested in him being a girl due to fears about my family life that ended up being true and ultimately unimportant. But I didn’t know they were unimportant until after I’d had my son.

    I learned that I didn’t care at all about the sex when I was pregnant a second time. Of course, I did sigh relief when I found out she was a girl. I remember thinking, ‘Oh thank god, I don’t have to do this again.’ So clearly I wanted a girl!

  • Phoenix

    I didn’t find out the sex of either of my children before birth, in part because I didn’t have any tests which would have revealed it which reduced the temptation. I’m quite happy that I managed to delay, if only by months, the onset of gender expectations for both of them as well as to challenge, just a bit, the assumption that it *matters*. (I could always answer the second most common question regarding my pregnancies, “Is it a boy or a girl?”, with “It’s a baby!”)

  • vika

    I did learn, yes, just a week ago.

    Why? Because, while I don’t have a preference for a particular sex for my baby, it will make a difference throughout our life together. Socially, politically, physiologically.

    I don’t have a preference for either sex, but I also don’t feel the same about the available options: it’s not a qualitative better/worse axis, but there are differences. The proposition of raising a girl as a single mom is different from one of raising a boy as a single mom in myriad ways that I’ll have to deal with, whether I like it or not. (Just one example: I can easily imagine teachers tsk’ing about a boy being raised “without a father” [implied judgment of a gaping lacuna here] who is acting in non-sanctioned ways. Reaction to a girl acting in non-sanctioned ways is likely to be independent from whether a day-to-day father figure is involved.)

    Now that I know, I can read some books on raising a child of this particular sex in the kind of thoughtful way I’d like. Books like that give me ideas and seed thoughts that I ought to consider.

    Another reason I found out: I was really curious to know!

  • SarahWhedon

    I’m thinking about your different answers in terms of Pagan values. Pagans’ explicitly stated religious or spiritual values often include: family, knowledge, freedom, and gender equality. Those values sound more or less prominent in your personal decisions. But they’re all also very personal decisions — I don’t think any of you are saying that the way you made a decision should be the way another person should make the decision.

  • Khimaera

    When I was 11 years old my little brother (2 years old) passed away. At the funeral I knew that my first child would be a boy and that I would give him my brothers name. Eight years later I got pregnant and at the time I really wanted a girl even though I knew I was carrying a boy. I had an ultrasound at seven months and it confirmed that I was indeed carry my first born son. For me this was important to honor the memory of my little brother, and I admit I was proud to be having a son. Though I know I would have been just as proud if he had turned out to be a she.

  • Christina

    We found out mainly because we wanted to know what pronouns to use. I know it’s prosaic.

  • Kelley

    Our twins told me/us their genders. I didn’t have to ask them or the doctors.

  • Suus

    Actually, I knew from the moment I did my pregnancy test that I was carrying a girl, so the 20 week ultrasound was just a confirmation. Even before I got pregnant I always knew I would have a girl. A boy would have been just as welcome, but I think being the mom of a girl comes more natural to me.

    Ooh and yes, we really wanted the ultrasound confirmation because we were just so darn curious.