If you were expecting a post about sex during pregnancy – I’m sorry, my parents read this blog! [But the Preggie Pals have an amusing take on that.] I mean the sex of my baby, more commonly referred to as its “gender” (perhaps because we are somewhat uncomfortable discussing the “sex” of a child created by sex that has yet to be brought into the world by way of a sexual organ; but of course, in today’s politically-correct environment, I feel compelled to clarify that I mean “sex” when I say “gender,” which I understand is not necessarily the same as a person’s sex and may not be apparent for years after my child’s birth).
As soon as my husband and I announced our first pregnancy, friends and family (even strangers!) began to ask if/when we would find out if we were having a boy or a girl. To be honest, I had never before considered whether I would want to find out my unborn baby’s gender in advance. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on the question, and I felt pressured to declare a position one way or the other. So, true to my penchant for lists, I began to catalog the advantages of finding out what we’re having in advance versus being surprised (there’s really no “cons” here, just benefits that have different weights for different people). Here is what I came up with:
PROs of Knowing Baby’s Gender
1. May facilitate bonding with unborn child (especially for dads)
2. Narrows universe of names to choose from
3. Allows for purchase of gender-specific clothes and baby stuff
4. Satisfies the curiosity of parents and others
PROs of Being Surprised
1. Gender-neutral baby things (which make good hand-me-downs)
2. Anticipation may help get through childbirth
3. Less chance of disappointment
4. A more exciting birth announcement
For most people I know, the benefits of knowing their baby’s gender in advance – particularly being able to better imagine and plan for the new addition to their family – outweighed the benefits of being surprised. For those on the “green team” (parents who choose not to know), the element of surprise is itself the biggest draw for most (including my husband). Personally, I was pretty shocked to learn I was pregnant both times, and the fact that we were having a baby was a much bigger surprise than whether it was a boy or a girl. For me, the other benefits were more important. I did not want a bunch of pink frilly dresses or blue airplane onesies for my child because I hoped to resist gender stereotypes as much as possible. I was happy with a yellow nursery decorated with butterflies and a homemade mobile, and loved the animal-print blankets and clothes our friends gave us.
The deciding factor on the question of whether to find out our baby’s gender during my first pregnancy was my overwhelming fear of being disappointed. I desperately wanted a boy (for many reasons, including my own unmet desire for a big brother and lack of little boys in my childhood). I felt that if I cried upon learning I was having a little girl, she would forever bear the burden of my regret and I would always be riddled with guilt. But I knew that if the doctor placed my first born on my chest and told me it was a girl, I’d love her more than anything in the world without reservation. So my husband and I joined the green team.
As it turned out, I had overestimated the benefits of being surprised. Gender-neutral clothes may be cute and politically-correct, but they make it impossible for strangers to know whether to compliment your handsome son or beautiful daughter, leading to many awkward moments (I know these mix-ups still occur even if your little darling has a pink bow in her hair and a lacy dress on, but attire can provide very useful social clues). As for being motivated through labor and delivery by the prospect of finding out if we’d have a boy or a girl, after more than 24 hours of back labor, I really didn’t care anymore.
Even the “surprise” itself was somewhat anti-climactic. Apparently, since most parents-to-be find out their baby’s gender in advance nowadays, doctors don’t bother announcing “it’s a boy/girl!” anymore. My warm, wiggly newborn was already nursing when I finally asked, “So what is it?” The doctor turned to my husband to let him tell me the news, but my husband was as white as a sheet. He stared at our baby’s genitals for what (to me) seemed a worryingly long time, before finally whispering, “We have a son.” Of course, I was happy, but really, I was too tired to feel as overjoyed as I’d expected to be when I’d imagined that moment.
All that is to say that when I learned I was pregnant again this past May, it was easy for me to decide I wanted to find out this new baby’s gender. The second time around there is an additional benefit to finding out, which to me outweighs the other considerations on both sides of the question, and that is that knowing what we’re having will help my husband and I prepare our son for the new addition. I doubt that a two-year-old can fully grasp the concept of a new baby in his house, but we hope that telling our son he is getting a baby brother or sister will help him understand what is going on, since he already has several friends with brothers or sisters.
So I wanted to find out whether our second child would be a girl or a boy, but my husband was just as quick to declare that he wanted to be surprised again. All that changed, however, when a good friend offered to throw us a gender reveal party. This new American craze (our foreign family and friends had not even heard of the concept) has become ubiquitous in the last couple of years (we even had gender-reveal-themed tableware and decorations!), and yet remains somewhat misunderstood. Many of our guests did not realize that the reveal was not really for their benefit, but that it was the first time my husband and I would find out the big news.
I generally welcome any excuse to get together with friends, and since we won’t be having a second baby shower, this seemed like the perfect way to give Sweet Pea (as we’ve been calling our unborn baby-to-be) a special celebration. [I am very wary of the “second child syndrome” so have been going out of my way to demonstrate that this child will be just as loved and doted upon as our first born. I know it is an impossible aspiration – this baby will never be the center of our universe the way my son has been the past two years – but I aim to try. Stay tuned for a future post on this subject …]
My husband and I did not want anything fancy, and we did not want gifts, so our gender reveal party on Saturday was a simple happy hour with lots of good food and pink and blue cocktails (which somehow all ended up a shade of purple). For the big reveal, my friend had decorated a huge box and filled it with balloons, which my son and niece opened as our friends pulled poppers (and our parents watched via Skype). My heart was racing as the poppers went off, showering us with pink streamers just as pink “It’s a girl!” balloons escaped from the box. This pregnancy, my husband and I had made no secret of both wanting a girl (I got past my fear of disappointment by reasoning that my son would likely prefer a brother, but it was okay for me to selfishly wish for a daughter), so everyone was thrilled for us.
The news is still sinking in. One advantage of having the party, rather than finding out at our anatomy ultrasound or soon thereafter, was that once I’d given my friend the sealed envelope containing our baby’s gender (filled out by the ultrasound technician, who even included a fairly racy photo as proof), I focused on the event rather than the reveal itself. (Before handing over the envelope it taunted me relentlessly, leading to multiple layers of tape sealing it shut from my curiosity.) So I did not obsess or guess about the gender (although we asked everyone at our happy hour to vote and the predictions for boy versus girl came out exactly even!) like I had with my first baby. I knew when and where I would find out, so I just went about my life until the moment came. When it was time for the reveal, having my friends and family around made it even more wonderful and memorable.
Lying in bed on Saturday night, with all the guests gone and our living room filled with pink balloons, my husband and I began to process the big news. Our daughter will be the first girl on his side of the family (his sister has two boys) but will be just three years younger than my niece, so it works out nicely for our extended family. I am excited to buy pink yarn to begin knitting headbands and hats (like I said, this time around I plan to surrender my ideal of gender neutrality in the interest of clarity), and plan to make matching tutus for my daughter and niece. No one needs to tell me that every child is different – their genders alone will make my children two completely distinct beings in my mind so I will be less tempted to compare them.
Although I am thrilled to have a daughter, I am in no hurry to meet her just yet. I am really enjoying this pregnancy and am making the most of every minute of quality time I can spend with my son. Right now I am just basking in my blessings ….