Last laugh

Flights of fancy

Your Pregnancy - - Contents -

HAVE YOU EVER read those sub­lime short sto­ries by 1930s English vet James Her­riot? If not, then you’ve just been in­tro­duced to a favourite new au­thor, per­fect for preg-lit. I prom­ise. Any­way, there’s a scene in one of his books where James scoffs at the ad­vice given to him by a griz­zly old York­shire farmer. See, Her­riot has just got­ten mar­ried to He­len, the daugh­ter of an­other lo­cal farmer, and they’re ob­vi­ously try­ing for a kid. Griz­zly farmer has one of the most suc­cess­ful dairy herds in the district, and he lets James in on his se­cret – al­ways face the heifers north­wards when the stud bull mounts them. That way you are en­sured a fe­male calf. The sci­en­tific-minded James dis­misses this as me­dieval bunkum. He tries not to imag­ine con­vinc­ing his beau­ti­ful but prac­ti­cal wife to shift her bum round in their tiny bed of an evening. But griz­zly farmer’s an­ces­tors have had an award-win­ning milk herd for gen­er­a­tion af­ter gen­er­a­tion. The short story ends with a glo­ri­ous twist. As James is driv­ing away, the griz­zly farmer’s fam­ily come out to wave him good­bye. As James laughs to him­self at the quaint su­per­sti­tions of th­ese iso­lated hill folk, he can’t help notic­ing griz­zly farmer’s eight strap­ping sons lin­ing the court­yard. The point is, hu­mans have al­ways been fas­ci­nated by the pos­si­bil­ity that we can con­trol the gen­der of our un­born sprogs. Make no mis­take, some­one or some­thing seems to be con­trol­ling it. Con­sider – more girls are born in the trop­ics. Af­ter wars, more boys get born. Whether this is due to di­vine in­ter­ven­tion, ge­netic sta­tis­ti­cal odd­i­ties, or horny sol­diers re­turn­ing from the front line, the jury is still out. The Chi­nese have a lu­nar con­cep­tion cal­en­dar with “girl” and “boy” months. Astrol­o­gists claim that the po­si­tion of Venus, Mars, and yes, sorry, I can’t re­sist, Uranus, also in­flu­ence the gen­der of your child. Other myths in­clude hav­ing sex un­der a full moon for a girl, and un­der a quar­ter moon for a boy; get­ting it on un­der a wild west wind for a boy, and a cold north wind for a girl, in au­tumn for a boy, stand­ing up for a girl, and so on. One “sci­en­tific” the­ory holds that “boy” sperm swim faster than “girl” sperm, but have less stay­ing power. (As an aside, look at which gen­der holds all the ul­tra-en­durance swim­ming records.) This means that if you want a boy, you should have sex as close as pos­si­ble to ovu­la­tion. Other the­o­ries cham­pion hor­monal fluc­tu­a­tions, blood al­ka­lin­ity, core tem­per­a­ture and diet as ways to de­ter­mine gen­der. They all ul­ti­mately end up at the same con­clu­sion. Un­til Gattica meets The Hand­maid’s Tale, it’s a 50-50 gam­ble ei­ther way. But my mind keeps go­ing back to the York­shire hills. Did that griz­zly old farmer line his wife up south­wards eight times? Was there sim­ply noth­ing else to do of a cold win­ter’s evening in ru­ral York­shire mid-1930? Was she a will­ing ac­com­plice? Are th­ese all just old wives’ tales? Maybe I bet­ter pay at­ten­tion. Af­ter all, my wife is go­ing to be old one day, and by God, she loves her tales or two. Mean­while, I see Cape Union Mart has a spe­cial on com­passes. I’m three kids in, so I want an ac­cu­rate di­rec­tion­finder, that’s for sure!

WAS THERE SIM­PLY NOTH­ING ELSE TO DO OF A COLD WIN­TER’S EVENING IN RU­RAL YORK­SHIRE MID-1930?

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