Dear Spouse had an interesting short conversation with an older Hmong man recently. This was how the conversation went:
Hmong man: How many children do you and MaiBao have?
Dear Spouse: We have two.
Hmong man: How many boys?
Dear Spouse: We have two girls.
Hmong man: You should go find medicine for MaiBao so that she can have boys.
WHAAAAT? Rewind, please! Find medicine for MaiBao so that she can have boys. Again, what?
The ignorance of some people really baffles me. This man is a social worker. One would have to go to college—graduate school—to be a social worker. Did he sleep through his biology classes in high school and college? Or did he not take any bio classes at all? I’m scratching my head.
Just in case you didn’t pay attention in biology—specifically the sexual reproduction section—welcome to the X’s and Y’s mini lecture!
The gender of a child is determined at the moment of fertilization: when the sperm and egg joins together to form a zygote. Human cells have 46 chromosomes. These chromosomes carry our DNA, which determines the color of our eyes, the color and texture of our hair, how tall we will be, our gender, and more. If you’re a female, your 46 chromosomes look like two X’s: XX. If you’re a male, your chromosomes look like this: XY. Sex cells (the eggs and sperm) are called gametes. Gametes contain only half of our chromosomes (23 chromosomes). Female gametes carry the X chromosome, whereas male gametes carry either the X or Y chromosome. (If you split the XX from a woman, you get X and X. If you split the XY from a man, you get X and Y). If the sperm carrying the X chromosome fuses with an egg, you get XX. That zygote will develop into a baby girl. If the sperm carrying the Y chromosome fuses with an egg, you get XY. And you guessed it! That zygote will develop into a baby boy!
Review question: Whose sex cells determine the gender of a baby? The man’s!
One reason why the Hmong practice polygamy is because of the belief that if a woman does not give birth to a son, it’s her fault. The man may be pressured by society to have sons to carry on his name. He either divorces his wife and marries a new one or marries a second wife. And if the second wife gives birth to a son, it just validates the Hmong belief that the woman determines the gender of a child.
Sometimes I wish I can gather up all the older Hmong folks and educate them on how a child’s gender is determined through the father’s sex cells. However, I doubt that will change anything because some Hmong are stubborn by nature; they just refuse to change their beliefs. I have informed my grams of the X’s and Y’s, and yet, she still tells me that she has medicine that will guarantee a son. And this medicine is not given to the man, but the woman. I could understand it a bit if older Hmong folks were to say, “I have medicine for your husband so you can have a baby boy.” However, that is not the case. I speculate that the Hmong believe that since a woman carries the fetus in her womb, she is responsible for its gender.
My aunt and uncle (my mother’s brother and his wife) has a daughter as their first born. When my aunt was pregnant the second time, my grams gave my aunt herbal medicine that she claims will guarantee a son. My aunt and uncle’s second child is a boy. I do believe this to be mere coincidence. I have heard of herbal supplements to increase the odds of conceiving a boy and maybe this is what my grams gave my aunt. However, there are two things wrong with this. One, why have the woman take this supplement and not the man? His sex cells are what determine the baby’s gender. And secondly, what use is of the herbal medicine if my aunt was already pregnant when she started taking it? A baby’s gender is determined at the moment of conception, not during the pregnancy—although the sex organs will develop during pregnancy. Is this a magical herb that can change the gender of your child?
I have blogged about being pressured to have at least one son by family members and the Hmong community. Those who are informed of the X’s and Y’s tell my spouse and me to have as many children as possible to increase our chances of conceiving a boy. Those who are ignorant of that, tell us to find medicine. Luckily for me, Dear Spouse knows that his swimmers are the ones who will determine if we’ll conceive a boy or girl. Additionally, he has stated that he doesn’t have a gender preference. Boy or girl, we love our children unconditionally.