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!

Sperm fertilizing an egg via WikiCommons

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.

16 thoughts on “Magical medicine that can give you a son

  1. It’s amazing how our bodies (our = women) are controlled by external factors, – government, in-laws, society, health care system. In the Hmong community, having a son and taking the so called magic herbal medicine has been a phenomenon that I think contributes to the Hmong patriarchal society. A Hmong mother has not fulfilled her role as a woman if she does not have a son. In my family, there’s 5 girls and 2 boys. As you can see, my parents kept trying for a boy and I don’t think my father knew that it was due to his seeds. Yet, the blame was put on my mom and she sees the importance of having sons to carry on the family line and take care of the family. Again, this is a manifestation of a male centered society. I think this mentality still exists in the US. Your blog also made me think of the one-child policy in China where the government controlled the reproductive system and it was women and girls who suffered the most. Baby girls were either aborted, killed, abandoned or taken into an orphanage because a son is more desirable. Now, there’s a shortage of girls for Chinese men to marry and in some parts of China, they are trafficking, kidnapping girls from other countries for marriage or pleasure. One thing leads to another. Such a cruel world!


    1. I am the oldest of 7 children; 5 girls and 2 boys as well. My parents, like yours, tried and tried for the boys. I think that if my parents hadn’t gotten divorced, I would have more siblings than I do today.

      And I am aware of the ramifications of China’s one child policy. It’s very sad that in patriarchal cultures as such, measures, such as aborting, abandoning, or killing a baby girl, are taken to assure the survival of a family’s lineage. I read an article a while back about someone who witnessed the birth of a Chinese baby girl in the early to mid 1900’s (I don’t remember the exact date). The father of the baby was furious that it wasn’t a boy. The midwife took the newborn baby and tossed it in the trash, like it was nothing. The author did not know what was thrown away, so she went to look. Her description of the baby whimpering and its tiny fingers twitching before it died just broke my heart. It’s a very cruel world.


      1. MaiBao, to add to your story about a midwife tossing a newborn in the the trash, perhaps you might be interested in reading this book that I discovered this summer, Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother: Stories of Loss and Love, by Xinran. I could not put this book down when I took it off the shelf at Barnes and Nobles. I read and read, tears rolled down and I still kept on reading the book until it was finished. This book is filled with stories after stories about Chinese women and Chinese babies and the impact of the one child policy. Indeed, the author was part of a village where a mother was giving birth with the help of a midwife but it turns out to be a baby girl. So before holding the baby, the midwife tossed the baby girl in a pail of warm milk and drowned the baby. All was left was two feet twitching when the author went to see what was in the pail of milk. I see a lot of resemblance with Chinese women and Hmong women. At your convenience, this is a good read and hope you can get your hands on it. It’s worth it!


  2. Girl, I’m in the same boat. We have 2 girls, both beautiful and healthy and still my in law blaming me for not having a boy. They were so dissapointed when they found out that we gave birth to a girl, it’s so obvious that they’re not happy. Even when my 1st is only few month old they already told us to have another one and they always made a cruel and mean remarks to me and my husband. They like to blame it on the woman cause personally I don’t think they want to blame it on their son. It’s always the nyab’s fault! 🙂


    1. Sendie-Lou, to the Hmong, a woman is basically a uterus. Our in-laws, families, and society just wants us to pop one baby after another. And you’re right. No one ever wants to blame it on their sons because men just can’t have problems, especially sexual or fertility problems. That just takes away a man’s “manhood” and they don’t want that.


  3. I’m even more radical: I chose not to have children. And resisted many years of comments from parents.

    I don’t think my immigrant parents pressured any of my siblings about the need to have a son: after all, they had 5 daughters and 1 son. So my mother is well aware of this stupid pressure. And she is traditional woman. She is far from a perfect mother but at least this is one lesson she learned and did not foist on any of her children on required gender of grandchildren.

    So for several decades, my mother just couldn’t relate to me at all in terms of my decision not to have children.

    Note: I am the eldest and youngest is 10 years younger. So I witnessed the pressure of child raising on my parents earlier. (And looked after siblings often at a young age, meaning starting at age 11 onward…)


    1. Sometimes, people just refuse to understand the reasons to our life decisions because they can’t see life in any other way. I choose not to have more than 2 children. You choose not to have children. It’s our bodies, our choice. But I’m glad your parents didn’t pressure your siblings about the boy gender requirement.


  4. I would add: my mother comes from an extended family, that is dominated by female children in terms of numbers. So the idea of rejecting a baby/child because they were female is considered truly wrong within my extended family.

    And the idea of giving up (or worse, killing a female baby) just because the baby is female is horrifying to them. My parents were born in 1929 & 1934.


  5. Oh tell me about it, MaiBao. Even the Chinese in the past prefer boys although this has been changing for the past few decades (except there are still some of the elders behaving that way). Yes, it doesn’t matter if the baby is male or female, what matters the most is that the kid is healthy and will be loved unconditionally regardless. Lastly, having many daughters should not be frowned upon.


  6. Too many idiots and too much time on people’s hands. I was lucky to have a boy and a girl, so people don’t give me shit, but I see and hear about it all the time about other people. Some people don’t seem to understand the science behind the birds and the bees, choosing to following wives tales and folk traditions than the modern facts. I’m glad you spoke of this topic. Don’t feel ashamed of your girls. They are beautiful gifts to the world and someday, those “boy” crazy people will be looking for wives for their sons. They better damned be grateful for the people who had daughters, or else they’d all have to turn gay to meet their needs.


  7. i believe it. magic is unexplainable and if it can be, it is not magic. okay thats not what i meant to say but i have seen many successfully succeed by conceiving a male heir. my aunt paid big bucks. my 3 aunts, my 2 cousins, my friend’s aunts, my friend’s sister and friends of another friends relatives. it just cant be coincidents. i dont believe in these thing but i dare not insult or ridicule these things.


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