Why I decided not to find out the sex of my unborn babies

Lots of people plan elaborate gender-reveal strategies, but when it comes to finding out whether I was having a boy or girl, my choice was to wait it out.

Photo: iStockphoto

The whole world is speculating: Is it a boy or a girl? I’m talking about the third royal baby-to-be, that is—not the latest Kardashian offspring. (Although there are a few more of them coming too…) But as usual, the British tabloids and odds makers are abuzz with speculation and the palace is mum.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the royal couple actually have decided not to find out the gender of their unborn child. After all, as someone in (a long) line to become the future king or queen of England, this baby has big shoes to fill. But most newborns have much smaller baby booties.

Thanks to modern technology, pretty much every mother-to-be these days has either an ultrasound, an amnio or both, so the opportunity is there to find out the sex of their unborn baby. And most it seems want to find out what they’re carrying before the baby arrives into a gender-specific world of pink and blue everything from birth announcements to diapers, tiny tees to toys.

In this world of information overload, it’s the rare expectant mom who doesn’t know—and announce—that she’s having a boy or a girl.

   Illustration of a boy and a girl in front of pink and blue doors    
   Gender in the classroom
Tons of people now organize gender reveal celebrations, where the parents-to-be cut into either a pink or blue cake to learn their future baby’s sex along with a crowd. And some expectant parents now even have ultrasound parties where their family and friends gather around while a technician wields what seems like a magic wand so they can watch as the baby’s privates are revealed on a computer screen right in their living room.

Even years ago, when I had my own two sons, I felt like the odd duck in my decision not to know until delivery day. I wasn’t going to paint a room in the classic boy/girl colors so why did I need to know? I’m not judging, and I may just be old-fashioned, but I’m all for staying in suspense for the entire nine months.

But it seems the world wants to know. After I passed the “I just look a little overweight” stage and I was obviously pregnant, I received lots of congratulations from friends, neighbours—even the security guard at my local bank.

After accepting their well wishes and answering the first question (the predictable, “When are you due?”), I knew what inevitably would come next.

“Do you know what you’re having?”

“A lawyer,” I often answered. Or, “a doctor.” Occasionally, I’d say, “a rock guitarist.”

But until the delivery day, the real answer to their questions sat silently in my medical file. It was known only to my doctor and nurses, and, at my request, they weren’t telling.

Once upon a time, the whole process of conception, pregnancy and childbirth was a big mysterious miracle. Now we live in an amazing world where women have apps on their smartphones to help them track their ovulation and tell them the exact moment when they should copulate in order to conceive, and fetuses are subject to physical and chemical scrutiny and occasionally even surgery in utero.

Finding out the gender of their unborn child was an option earlier generations didn’t have. Pregnant women had to rely on the old wives’ tales of how you were carrying (all up front like a basketball, it’s a boy; spread out around your middle, it’s a girl) and whether or not you had morning sickness (if so, it’s a girl; if no, it’s a boy), and wait full term to discover the happy little secret.

In a world with few mysteries left, there’s something to be said for the joy of hearing the doctor or midwife announce, “It’s a …” as the baby arrives into the world.

I have always preferred not knowing what’s in my presents until I open them. Of course, a few hints are fun. I enjoyed the guessing games while I was pregnant and trying to predict the baby’s sex from my dreams and the fetal heartbeats (fast, it’s supposed to be a girl; slow, a boy). Yet I was happy to wait until the final push (or C-section date, had it happened that way) to know for sure.

As corny as sounds, all I truly wanted was healthy babies who would grow up to be successful and happy at whatever they chose and find equal opportunities, be they male or female.

Plus, I have to admit, one reason I didn’t want to know the sex of my unborn child was because I needed the excitement and anticipation to get me through the pains of labour. After all that hard work, the surprise of what was waiting for me behind door No. 1 just made it all that much sweeter.

Read more:
Does your child challenge traditional gender roles?
This Canadian baby is the first to not have a gender assigned on their health card

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