Being Pregnant in China

A boy or a girl?

Second hand baby clothes bought in Finland

Being pregnant is kind of strange feeling, suddenly you have someone poking around in your tummy and you love him or her even though you haven’t really even met yet. Many parents want to find out the gender of the baby before giving birth so that they could start thinking names and the baby would seem more real to them. It’s not an “it” anymore, but a she or he.

In China it’s prohibited to find out the sex of the baby on an ultrasound, because traditionally boys have been favored and girl fetuses even aborted. Xinran has written a heartbreaking book about the lost girls of China in Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother. The traditional views are slowly changing and in bigger cities families have even started to favor baby girls.

But the differences between boys and girls are still seen in my husband’s generation. He as the big brother got often treated differently from his little sister, for example more money was used to his education than to hers. In other matters it can also be seen that his parent’s generation still value the paternal family line when it comes to different assets in the family.

My husband’s sister has a cute baby boy now that the whole family adores. Against tradition her mother took care of her during the one month confinement and continues to do so during her maternity leave. People in the villages have talked how it’s “not right” that a daughter who is already married spends so much time at her parent’s house, but my in-laws enjoy having their grandson next to them. Even though in Chinese he is considered to be an “outside grandson” or 外孙。

Me and my husband think that children should be treated equally no matter the gender or if they belong to the paternal or maternal family line. I’m also more sensitive to not to limit activities or even colors based on gender. In China is much clearer that boys do boy stuff and girls do girl stuff, but I wish that our kid can choose the hobbies she likes without thinking if it’s suitable for a girl.

So yes, because of family connections in a hospital and curious family members we found out that we are most likely having a baby girl. My husband’s family has been guessing it’s a girl since I got pregnant and are very happy of the news. But of course what we hope the most is that she will be healthy.


  • Autumn Ashbough

    Congrats! And I’m glad your in-laws are among the more enlightened, both with regards to the postpartum care of your sister-in-law and their wishes for a granddaughter!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you! I’m happy too that for them both a girl and a boy is a welcomed grandkid.

  • Timo

    Congratulations Sara. I think it is always interesting to see how traditional CHina is still with these things such as taking care of the child of the daughter…
    My wifes grandmother aint different. She had three kids, two girl and 1 boy who is the youngest. All of them got girls again so when news arrived that she would have a grandson she went crazy, going all around her neighbourhood telling about her upcoming grandson :=)

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Timo! My husband’s grandmother took care of him when he was small, but didn’t take care of his little sister the same way, only when she was a bit older did she pay more attention to her. She was living in a much more traditional society then. It’s interesting to see how things are changing now, but traditional views still persists in some way.

  • R Zhao

    Congrats Sara! I didn’t think I’d find out the sex but I ended up changing my mind. I thought for sure we’d have a girl. I don’t understand the hype around boys in China. They are so expensive, considering the modern “dowry.”

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you! Oh yes, boys are so expensive to have because later on you need to buy a house and a car for them, otherwise it’s hard for them to find a wife.

  • chinaelevatorstories

    I can totally relate. I also don’t want our son to be limited to doing “boy’s stuff”. If he likes cars, that’s fine with me, but if he likes playing with dolls (which is also pretty normal for boys at a young age, when they haven’t been told yet that boys can’t play with dolls), that’s also fine with me.

    It’s great that your in-laws will be happy for you no matter if it’s a boy or a girl.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Yes it’s nice that they won’t care if it’s a girl or a boy, but I am a little worried about the difference in treating our kid and my sister-in-law’s kid. For my father-in-law it unfortunately sometimes matters if it’s a 孙子 or 外孙。

  • Betty has a Panda

    Congratulations! I think you will have a lot of work coming up to reform their old fashioned views even more.
    Mr. Panda’s grandfather wanted a son su much, that he got six children – all daughters.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you! Lets see if more traditional ideas come up after the baby is here.

  • Marta

    Woohoo! A girl! Have you thought about names? ;)

    Second hand clothes are not really common in China, right? I think I have never seen a second hand clothes store. Oh wait, yes, I think I saw one in Shanghai. But for babies and small kids it totally makes sense, they only get to wear those things a few times before growing too much!

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    We have a Finnish name ready for her, but no idea about the Chinese name! :D

  • Olga 奥日家

    I can relate so much.

    However, I reckon that, sometimes, traditions have such deep roots there’s no way to pluck them out, no matter how hard we try or how many hands try to help us out. Even the Chinese language has these issues set in stone (the word 外孙 you mentioned, 外公/外婆 and so on).

    Male dominance in China is still prevalent, and will be for years to come. You can give your baby girl cars and balls to play with, legos to build, that’s surely great, and she’ll be off for a great start. But then, there is the Chinese society, sucking you in like a maelstrom and showing her one way or another (some ways very subtle and some others blatantly overt) that she is a little bit less precious/valid than the baby boy next to her.

    I am sorry if I sound pessimistic regarding this issue. After 10+ years with my (Chinese) husband, 2 girls in common, plus a very traditional Chinese family, my Western ideas of gender equality have already been stepped on and smashed into very tiny pieces. Distance has been the only solution I could cowardly come up with.

    Best wishes for the safe arrival of your baby girl! I truly hope you and your readers have a better experience than mine.

    Sara Jaaksola Reply:

    Thank you Olga for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

    I think you sound more realistic than pessimistic. We often have idea views in our heads on how we want to raise our children, but the people or society around us might not agree. But I guess the only way is to do what we think is right and try to encourage our kids the way we think is good for them. Hope we can teach them to be confident even when the people around them doesn’t help the situation.

    I wish you and your family all the best. I can imagine it can be hard for you in a more traditional family.