China Elevator Stories

“You Should Have A Baby Boy”

A co-worker in Shenzhen wishes me a boy.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


In February 2014, one of my former co-workers who just had a baby girl stops me in my tracks: “Let me see your belly.”
After looking at it, she concludes: “It’s really big. You’re wearing quite sexy clothes. You should wear more layers.”

She says this on a sunny day with 21°C that reminds me of spring, on which I am wearing cotton tights, warm winter boots, an undershirt, a dress and a long-sleeved cotton shirt (and this is only what I’m wearing when I’m inside). The same day, a few of the other female co-workers have remarked on how little my belly still is.

illustration boy - Ruth Silbermayr

After telling her that I’m sweating already, she goes on: “You should have a baby boy. Boys do look more like their mothers than their fathers and since your husband isn’t that handsome…”
I tell her: “I’ve heard that before – that supposedly boys look more like their mother, while girls look more like their father. We’re 8 brothers and sisters and I can’t say that I see evidence of that belief in our looks.”
“Well, it holds true with Chinese genetics. Anyways, if you have a boy, he will also be an insurance for you.”

Have you ever heard anything like this?

Explanation: Traditionally, in Chinese families boys are expected to support parents in old age, while girls were marrying out of their original family and were considered part of their husband’s family once married. Nowadays, the belief that only boys can support their parents in old age is still quite common in many rural areas and although this kind of view is getting rarer in larger cities, there are still many parents (and grandparents) who wish for a “male heir”. This, the one-child policy and the fact that many abortions in China are gender-specific, is the reason why it is not legal for Chinese doctors to determine a child’s sex before birth. It’s not legally allowed – but this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen: According to my former co-worker who did determine the baby’s sex before giving birth, it cost them 2000 Yuan (about 241 EUR or 330 USD) to find a doctor willing to determine their baby’s sex here in Shenzhen.

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