'Boy or Girl?
Choosing Your Child through your diet'
By Françoise Labro and François Papa, Translated by Della Couling, New English Libray, Jan 1985 (excerpt)
Preface by Françoise Labro
On the day my son Jean was born I experienced one of the greatest joys of my life. However, I wasn’t at all surprised – I already knew that my child would be a boy.
Amniocentesis, carried out in the fourth months of pregnancy, had already revealed the sex of my child – and this didn’t surprise me much either, because I had done all I could do to have a boy. Incredible as this might seem, almost two years before our son’s birth my husband and I had decided that we wanted a boy, and so from then on I had followed the ‘boy died’ worked out by Dr. Papa.
Yes, you really can choose the sex of your child! No, the method is not infallible. But it succeeds in 80 per cent of cases. And that is a terrific fact. It is also a minor revolution for all women. For men too, of course! Even more so for them, since until now they have lived with the idea that the sex of their child was their responsibility alone.
This ‘revolution’ was like a revelation. Gradually I learned a great many things which I in my turn, had to pass on by writing a book intended for all those women who want to have a child. But this is not any book: it had been researched and written in close collaboration with the specialist I had met, Dr. François Papa, of the Port-Royal Maternity Clinic in Paris. It is a book that will be a guide, a manual, and a companion. To my great surprise, I have been unable to find any work written for women who want to choose the sex of their child and also to manage their pregnancy well, which deals with the subject in an honest and satisfying way.
Finally, I thought it useful to describe my own experiences to illustrate the truth of our sensational claim: you really can choose the sex of your child.
Chapter 1. My experience
First of all I should like to tell you of my experience, by way of example – if I hadn’t lived through it, I would never have written this book!
I CHOSE THE SEX OF MY CHILD
The firs time I met Dr. Papa was in July 1978 at the Port-Royal Maternity Clinic in Paris.
Some weeks beforehand I had gone to consult my gynaecologist and had told her that my husband and I wished to have another child. We each had a daughter from our previous marriages and we thought at the time that it would perhaps be easier for the girls to entertain the idea of a younger brother than of a sister. During the conversation my doctor casually threw out: “Why don’t you go and see Dr. Papa?”
At the time I didn’t really understand what she meant and, as she often makes jokes, I thought she was pulling my leg rather than giving me medical advice.
At the end of the consultation I turned to her: “And what were you saying about papa just now?”
“Don’t you know Dr. Papa?” she replied.
“You mean Papa. P-A-P-A, like papa?”
“Yes, its not a joke, that’s his real name. He works at the Port-Royal Maternity Clinic and is conducting a very interesting experiment to try to determine the sex of a child before birth by means of diet. Go and see him. He seems to be getting somewhere. You’ve nothing to lose!”
It was true. I had nothing to lose. And in any case we had a 50 per cent chance of having a boy. So I went along to Port-Royal.
When you go to the Port-Royal Maternity Clinic you see nothing but women. They are behind the information desk, sitting in the big glass lobby at the entrance, standing in front of the telephones. They are coming in and out, you pass them on the stairs, you see them through open office doors. They have the air of belonging to two very distinct categories: those in white coats and those with big stomachs!
But right at the end of an echoing corridor, women like myself (neither white coat or big belly) were waiting, sitting on chairs or benches. It was the area which serves as a waiting-room for consultations with Dr. Papa. I found a seat and sat down. It was hot; not a sound, no one said a word. It was boring. To pass the time people short furtive glances at one another. But we all had one thing in common, our reason for being there – to choose the sex of our child. We were pioneers! The wait was long because there are two stages to the consultation: first Dr. Papa, then a nutrition expert.
As there were no magazines to leaf through, tongues gradually loosened. The woman on my left was already the mother of four daughters; the one on the right had three boys; a third outbid us all: six boys. She was no longer very young, but was willing to try anything to give her husband the daughter he dreamed of.
I felt a little ashamed, with my one daughter plus stepdaughter. My case didn’t seem very desperate and I suddenly felt much less decided. It would have taken very little for me to leave there and then. But now it was my turn.
Dr. Papa is young, not very tall, with smiling eyes behind small glasses. He looks more like an affable eternal student than a doctor specializing in sex-selection. On his white coat there was a bright bleu badge with ‘Dr. François PAPA’ printed on it. I couldn’t help asking: “Is that your real name?”
“Yes,” he said. “Actually, my ancestors were called Pape with an ‘e’”. And then, one day at the town hall, as often used to happen when births were copied into the records at the registry office, the ‘e’ was changed into an ‘a’. That’s why I’m called Papa.”
And then he started asking me questions about my eating habits. I immediately realized, by the way, that we almost always eat the same things. Then he asked me: “How many children do you have?”
“Then it’s a girl,” he said flatly.
I was surprised. “How did you know?”
“I knew because your tastes in food mean that you are spontaneously following a ‘girl-type’ diet. So you will have to follow the ‘boy-diet’ very scrupulously and this will perhaps be a bit difficult for you in the beginning, as your eating habits give the impression of being very entrenched. To help and advise you and also explain to you in detail what you will have to do, you can now go and have a talk to the nutritionist who assists me.”
The trouble was that one month later I was pregnant. I had needlessly followed the diet for two weeks. I was in fact already pregnant, but without knowing it, the day I went to the Port-Royal Maternity Clinic. Nine months later my second daughter, Clarisse, was born. Her sex did not surprise me a bit.
The day Philippe and I decided to give Valérie, Alexandra and Clarisse a younger brother or sister, we thought it would be better, for Clarisse in particular, for it to be a brother. In fact we both terribly wanted to be the parents of a boy. We also knew that my eating habits hadn’t changed since my meeting with Dr. Papa – so I didn’t have a chance of having a boy.
The difference this time was that I really was motivated. We had decided to have a fourth child. We were prepared, of course, that it might be a fourth girl, but why, we said, not be the parents of a son for once? I had completely accepted the idea of being the mother (and stepmother) of four girls, but I had the impression that something would be lacking in my life, and in theirs, if all my children were the same sex. Also I didn’t want to miss out on this adventure.
You always hear people saying: “Anyway, you have a 50 per cent chance of having a boy! So why bother?”
I had known ever since my first visit to Dr. Papa that this was not so in my case – my eating habits left me no more than 20 per cent chance of conceiving a boy rather than a girl. I was ready to follow, when the time came, a draconian diet to reverse this percentage and give myself an 80 per cent chance of having a boy.
Finally, I wanted to be able to say to myself one day, if need be: “Yes, we did have a fourth daughter, but at least I did everything in my power for it to be a boy.”
So I went to see Dr. Papa again. Taking careful precautions not to get pregnant, I followed the ‘boy diet’ for the second time. I knew I had to keep to it for at least two and a half months before we could think of having another child.
The first fortnight was very difficult. I was disgusted and nauseated by everything I had to swallow. I wasn’t hungry any more. Philippe and the children wondered how I was going to keep it up for so long. (They didn’t believe I would, to tell the truth!) It was rather as though my tastes and my whole body were fighting my new diet.
After two weeks it began to get easier for me. I could just about tolerate having to add the maximum amount of salt to my food (everything tastes of salt, nothing had any taste of its own any more). I could only drink Vichy Saint-Yorre mineral water but if it was well chilled, it became drinkable. But, being vegetarian, it needed real nerve to be able to eat meat and charcuterie. I also had to have a banana a day (between meals it’s a little easier) as well as fruit and dried vegetables.
In short, once I made the decision, I stuck to it. I ate and drink while keeping my mind on something else. But there were some difficult moments: I had to continue to shop for the family. My greatest temptation was standing in the queue at Barthélemy’s, the cheesemongers in the rue de Grenelle in Paris. As I came through the door of their shop the smell of milk, cream and above all of cheese was so irresistible that I could have given it all up on the spot. You have to wait a long time in their shop as there’s always a crowd, so I would have to advance slowly and calmly past the Roquefort, Saint-Maure, Brie, Stilton, Bleu de Bresse, bowls of fresh cream, fresh mozzarella cheese, piles of farm eggs… in a word – torture, because here were all the things I loved!
Four months later I still wasn’t pregnant. And six and a half months of this diet was beginning to tell! “Carry on, carry on,” I told myself. “This isn’t the time to crack up – a little perseverance!”
There were also dinner invitations I no longer dared accept for fear of having to explain, yet again, to an incredulous and nonplussed gathering the reason why I was abstaining from certain things. Not to mention even my best friends, who said: “Drop it! You can see you’re not getting anywhere. What’s more, I bet it’s this diet that’s stopping you from getting pregnant.” Or: “Stop it. You can’t go against your own nature.”
There were some that were ‘morally’ shocked: “How dare you imagine that a mere diet can enable you to choose the sex of your child?” And the traditionalists: “Women are in control of contraception; now they’re going to take over responsibility for the sex of their children! Where will it end?”
You’ll see – the same will certainly happen to you if you decide to embark on this course. So you need a good deal of tenacity, if you’re going to succeed.
Nine months later (eleven and a half months of the diet without any backsliding) I was still at the same point. It was then when I almost gave up. I couldn’t go on. I told myself: What’s the use, since in any case we’re not going to have another child? Why carry on inflicting this kind of treatment on myself? I’m not that masochistic… I, who had hardly ever been greedy about food, dreamt of buns oozing with cream, gigantic plates of seafood loaded with oysters and lobsters; eggs, scrambled with truffles, hard-boiled with mayonnaise, poached on spinach, soft-boiled with brown bread, fried with bacon, in aspic with tarragon, or as an omelette with mushrooms…
In short, I was having the cravings of a pregnant woman without managing to get pregnant. The limit! So I began to think about giving up the whole idea. Then a fortnight later, after a year of the boy diet, I was pregnant! The child’s sex was decided.
Of course, within a day of the confirmation of my pregnancy I returned to my good old eating habits (and I haven’t changed them since). The die was cast: I was finally pregnant! For several days I didn’t think for a single moment of the sex of my future child. Then I asked myself the eternal question: boy or girl? From the outset I had been full of enthusiasm for Dr. Papa’s theories and hadn’t hesitated to follow the boy diet, without question, for twelve months, but in the end I was still asking myself: “Has it worked?” The answer was already there inside me, but I couldn’t know it yet. We thought and spoke of the ‘baby’, a totally asexual being. We chose girls’ and boys’ names. We said, doubtless to conspire against fate: “Lets hope it’s a girl! It’s so much easier to find girls’ names than boys’.” What nonsense…
About four months later I went back to the Port-Royal Maternity Clinic to have an amniocentesis (…). After the amniocentesis, the young woman who until then had mainly asked questions about Philippe’s and own family histories, said: “We’ll be sending you the results of the culture in about three weeks. Would you like to know the sex of your child at the same time? It’s optional.” I jumped. “Oh, yes, certainly!”
In the days following the amniocentesis, I was obsessed with the question of the ‘normality’ of my baby and – something that hadn’t happened until then – I was worried at the idea of having another daughter. I thought I wouldn’t be capable of loving her as much as the others. I was afraid she would be less appealing than Clarisse, or that she would resemble her too closely. The nearer the fateful day got, the less I slept. I said to myself: “There’s someone, somewhere, who perhaps already knows the sex of my child, and I still don’t!”
Seventeen days later when I got back from holiday, I immediately spotted the letter from the laboratory among the pile of mail handed to me by the porter. The girlfriend who was with me said: “Come on, hurry up! What are you waiting for? One would think you didn’t want to know.”
I would have liked to draw back. The envelope was trembling in my hands. I didn’t know how to open it. After having awkwardly torn it open, I pulled out a sort of photocopied form which confirmed that my child was normal and at the bottom of the long sheet of paper, in beautiful round handwriting, I read: “The karyotype is that of a boy.”
I remember that in spite of my condition I shouted and jumped up and down, as though the floor were a trampoline. I was bursting with happiness and gaiety. My friend, who was also pregnant, danced with me and hugged me and I said to myself: “It can’t be true! I kept rereading that bizarre sentence, those words that I’ll never forget: ”The karyotype is that of a boy.” A boy… Our boy… My little boy… My son.
When my husband phoned from a petrol station on the motorway to tell me he would soon be in Paris, I told him the incredible news. We had succeeded. He told me, when he arrived in Paris in the evening, that from the moment he had phoned me on the motorway as far as the Porte d’Italie, he and Alexandra had sung at the top of their voices, making faces, gesticulating, he more than she, so much so that our twelve-year-old had had to lecture the fourty-four-year-old: “Stop it, we’ll have an accident!”
A few days later, however, I didn’t believe it any more and wondered: what if the laboratory has made a mistake?
But when I was seven months pregnant I saw the sex of my child very clearly on the ultrasound screen. It was true, it was a boy. And then, very quickly, my doubts surfaced again: what if the doctor didn’t look properly? Couldn’t it be an optical illusion? And what does the female sex look like on a screen?
Even on the point of giving birth I was still saying: “If it’s a girl, we’ll call her Mathilde or Louise. Louise Labro, that sounds good, doesn’t it?”
But when I saw my baby being born, doubt was no longer possible: the sex of a boy cannot remain in doubt at birth! That child that I had wanted so much, for whom I had given up and endured so much – to the extend of feeling him even more absolutely mine – surprised me, and I asked myself this simple, yet complicated question: “How have I, a woman, been able to produce a child who isn’t the same sex as myself!”
The facts were clear: I had in effect chosen the sex of my child. Such a victory over what I had long believed to be ‘fate’ – only having girls – was profoundly satisfying. All those who had followed my experiment, who had – sometimes quite kindly – mocked me by doubting the seriousness of the method I was following, were not completely disarmed even so.
The skeptics persisted: “After all, you could very well have had a boy without going through all of that.”
Of course, nothing can ever prove the contrary. But the facts are there and, as this experience, so important in my life, has also excited so much interest amongst women who are not so skeptical, I wanted to go further. To find out more about it, for all women, as well as for myself.
And so, strengthened by what I had experienced, I went back to see Dr. Papa, but this time to write this book. And I asked him a multitude of questions. Here are my questions and his answers, but we must be methodical and begin at the beginning: getting pregnant.
(Chapter 2. I have decided to have a child. How can I ensure that I become pregnant? …)
(Chapter 3. I should like to choose the sex of my child. Is this possible? …)
(Chapter 4: The proposed method: the diet)