When you find out you’re pregnant there are so many decisions ahead of you; breast or bottle, cloth or disposable, cameleon or donkey (prams not pets). Doctors. Hospitals. Names. Birth plans. Nursery furniture. It’s just one big long list of things to do and stuff to pick.I have it on good authority (my own) that pregnancy is not for the indecisive.
One of the biggest and often most hotly debated of these big life decisions lies in whether or not to find out the sex of your baby ahead of the birth. When it comes to the great gender reveal debate, I’ve been lucky enough to have had it both ways.
There were undeniable merits in finding out our first baby’s gender whilst pregnant, particularly as my first baby ended up not just baby, but babies. As surprises go, discovering during an early scan that we were expecting fraternal twins rated pretty highly on the wow-ometer. We kind of felt like we had won the genetic lottery when we found out at 21 weeks that we were expecting a boy and a girl. By the time they were born we had planned every single facet of at least the first three months of their lives; nappies, nursery, clothes, comforters. We had it sussed. The second time around, however, when pregnant with our third and final, we requested that the sonographer keep mum on the gender of our little apprentice human.
And speaking from experience… The surprise? Way way way better.
I should probably mention in the interests of full disclosure that that I’m a notorious planner. I like to know things. To be prepared. I’ve been known to organise my organiser. I have implemented an intricate and precise system of colour coding for my children’s picture books. And yet despite these (charming) personality flaws traits, if I were to have another baby, I would opt for another gender surprise any day of the week, and here’s why.
1. Elimination of awkward silences
Carrying low and out front? Boy. High and looking like someone just dragged you face down, over a gravel road for 10km at high speed, tethered to a hilux? Girl. Or so the story goes.Aren’t those conversations so much FUN? Isn’t it enlightening, enthralling and down right gratifying each and every time you’re told your ass has expanded so exponentially that you simply must be having a girl? So many things to speculate on when you don’t know the gender of your unborn. Rings to dangle over your much examined bump. Draino to wee into (my personal favourite fail safe method of gender prediction). In depth analysis of fascinating facts like the foetal heart rate, the nature of your cravings, the frequency in which you’ve taken to riding the porcelain bus, which direction your pillow faces on the bed (because; science).
To some, these things may sound tedious. But to the well trained mind these seemingly mundane conversations are the perfect antedote to the good old awkward silence. When you don’t know the gender of your unborn baby there’s always something to talk about when random strangers decide to strike up a conversation with you while you’re waiting in line at the supermarket checkout, or whiling away the hours in the doctors surgery waiting room. You can get a whole lot of leverage out of gender speculation, it’s the perfect fallback when you can’t think of anything else to say. Don’t want to go to a party because you won’t know anyone? Don’t find out the gender of your baby and you’ll work that room like you own it and leave the place with 25 new facebook friends who have all made you solemnly promise to include them in the group text birth announcement. It’s a sure thing.
Also, some sadists people actually enjoy the endless speculation about their girth and their degree of skin flakage relative to the potential gender of their baby. So there’s something for everybody.
2. Limiting the purchase of all.the.STUFF.
Boys wear blue. Girls wear pink. And such is the meaning of life. When you’re pregnant with a boy you will have lots of varying shades of blue to choose from. And then yet more nautically themed blue. Blue blue blue. Blue da ba dee da ba di. Hope you like blue. Having a girl? PINK. In your face pinkness. Pink pink everywhere. Pink performing at your gender reveal party. Actually that would be pretty cool…
What’s my point? STUFF. Lots and lots of stuff. Stuff for you to buy, and, more horrifyingly, stuff for other people to buy for you. People who may or may not share your impeccably flawless taste.
Not finding out the sex of your baby prior to its birth is actually quite an effective money saving exercise. In my experience there’s not exactly wealth of gender neutral baby gear available, unless you’re particularly fond of varying shades of grandmas-orthopaedic-shoe beige or big bird yellow. So it makes it harder for you (or other people) to throw money at five hundred shirts, skirts, jackets, booties, bonnets, Tshirts and other delightfully adorable and stylish items that won’t get nearly as much wear as the two wondersuits you rotate through the wash every other day.
I packed five white onesies in my hospital bag when preparing for the birth of my third. That’s it. It was all kinds of liberating.
3. No chance of a f*ck up
Ultrasounds can kind of be a bit of a 60% of the time it works, every time, type of science. Technology is great and all, but sometimes there’s a f*ck up. Human error and the like. A little baby finger positioned unfortunately close to the nether regions masquerading as a penis. If you don’t find out the gender, you aren’t going to go off and prepare yourself to introduce a little doodle into the family only to be met with a surprise twinkle instead. This avoids all sorts of annoyance like having to dress your little pink in all the little blue you bought, which would be an unmitigated disaster.
Not finding out also bypasses any potential feelings of disappointment. Some people can get pretty invested in the gender they’re hoping for, particularly if they already have multiple children of the same sex. Finding out during an ultrasound that it’s not what you had your heart set on can lead to possible unnecessary wallowing and misery. When you set eyes on your little bundle at the delivery, no matter the gender, it’s pretty much a given you’ll fall madly in love with the little blighter, whether it’s what thought you were hoping for or not. No niggling feelings of disappointment harboured or to feel guilty over later. There’ll be plenty of other things you will feel unnecessarily guilty for when you become a mother, so there’s plenty of time for that.
4. Extra motivation to push like a mofo
Ok so I call bullshit on this one a bit because for me there was pretty much no better motivation to push than GET THAT GOD FORSAKEN BABY OUT OF ME and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD LET THIS BE OVER. Epic, mind blowing, DNA altering agony tends to be a pretty great motivator. I’m pretty sure that in the late stages of labour with my third, her mystery gender never even entered my mind as I was hysterically yelling “this was a bad idea, this was a stupid stupid idea”. However, what I can say is that the moment she was born and all the jaw grindingly agonising torture was over, seeing her wrinkly little body and hearing my husband say the words “it’s a girl” through stifled sobs was one of the best and sweetest moments of my life. That moment can never be replicated. That moment made all the suspense and speculation worth it, ten thousand times over.
5. Giving people the shits
In my experience, it kind of shits people when you don’t find out the gender of your unborn child prior to its eventual appearance. I know this from personal experience and also because I used to be that annoyed busy body who wanted to know the gender of everyone else’s expected progeny. I’m pretty sure I groaned “oh how boring” when my old boss told me she wasn’t going to find out her baby’s gender. Sorry about that. Aside from just the sheer pleasure of giving people the shits though, there’s also something extra exciting for those waiting expectantly for the birth announcement text message when they’re wagering on the gender. Added bonus? When your crazy aunt who loudly exclaimed for your entire pregnancy that you were definitely having a boy and that she is always right, finds out it was actually a girl… you get the pleasure of affording the whole family the smug satisfaction of saying to her “oh so you were wrong then”. And that’s akin to a public service really.
6. The element of surprise
In a world where your husband can’t even plan you a surprise weekend away for Mother’s Day without the hotel accidentally leaving a message confirming the reservation on your mobile phone, true surprises are few and far between. And not finding out the sex of your baby until the birth really is an opportunity to experience one of life’s greatest surprises. It’s not like falling asleep on the couch and waking up to the unexpected sound of having your hair cut. Surprise mummy! Nor is it like unwrapping a birthday gift expecting jewellery and receiving a car charger for your digital camera instead. This is a surprise you’re guaranteed to love… And you can’t beat that.
This post was originally written for ivillage.com.au