The debate: Should parents find out their baby's sex?

Two parents face off on the topic of finding out your baby's sex.

Photo: RTImages/iStockphoto

“Yes, I found out the sex of my baby”
Dave Coodin, Father-to-be

I’m incredulous when expectant friends tell me they’re not going to find out their baby’s sex. Their reasons are usually twofold: “I want to be surprised when the baby comes,” and “I don’t want pink or blue gifts.”

To the first reason, my reaction is, “Really?” My partner and I are expecting our first child early next year, and from delivery day onward, I cannot imagine a minute going by without a sippy-cupful of surprises: Will my child be healthy? Will it look like me? How will I manage on no sleep? At three in the morning, can poo-laden hands successfully operate a TV remote? With so many unknowns for the next…50 years, “ruining the surprise” might let us enjoy some small amount of predictability for the last time in our lives.

The second reason is trickier. It’s true that telling people the sex of the baby in advance can lead to getting a slew of heavily gendered clothes and toys as gifts, instead of more gender-neutral gear. And I agree that gendering sucks. But, whether it’s a boy or a girl, I’m going to do my darndest to raise this child in my own image: a baseball-loving, beer-guzzling, ambivalently Jewish curse-monger.

If you’ve ever looked at an ultrasound, you know there’s a little more at stake. The 12-week photo on our fridge looks like something James Cameron dreamed up for the Avatar sequel. Right now, we can only speak about our baby on a good day as “it,” on a bad day as “that spooky-looking demon-beast whose unformed eyes follow me around the kitchen.” I know we won’t really think of it as a person until it takes its first breath, but there’s something undeniably exciting about imagining our little one as a teeny human, lounging it up in a bathrobe right now at the Hotel Placenta, martini in hand.

Who will our child be in 30 years’ time? We can’t know, but knowing its sex can help us construct fantasies that satisfy us in the present, no matter how crazy or deluded. At the very least, when I do my fetus-as-Jewish-comedian voice, I’ll know whether to do Joan Rivers or Jackie Mason.

“No, I did not find out the sex of my baby”
Aparita Bhandari, mother-of-two

From the moment I announced my pregnancy, “Do you know what you’re having?” was the most common question I received. When I said no, they followed up: “Are you going to find out?” Again, I replied, no.

For many people, including my husband, there are practical reasons to find out the sex of the baby: to paint the nursery, buy clothes and pick names. Then there’s the more ridiculous, recent trend of hosting elaborate gender-reveal parties (where expectant parents publicize the sex of the baby by, for example, cutting into a cake with pink or blue layers inside). But I wanted to be surprised, especially with my firstborn.

I expected it to be a dramatic moment, like those labour room movie scenes. It was also a loaded question for me. In India, where I grew up, male children are preferred, despite the many initiatives to support girls. Centuries-old attitudes persist: The male child will continue the family name and help parents in old age, while a girl is a burden to be married off. Female feticide is so rampant that gender ultrasounds are illegal. I was concerned by the number of times I heard “Hopefully it’s a boy,” especially from older South Asian women.

The morning of my 20-week ultrasound, my husband asked me if I might change my mind. His excitement and well-crafted logic for finding out was amusing. (“We’d cut the names list by half!”) He even asked me to have the technician write “boy” or “girl” inside a closed envelope, but I was adamant.

Later, as the technician slathered gel on my belly, I concentrated on the blurry image and considered my husband’s request again, wavering for a moment. But the whole process was so cold and clinical, I couldn’t ask, “What are we having?”

Four months later, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. With our second pregnancy, the comments continued. “If it’s another girl, will you try for a third?” I shook my head, incredulous. During the last weeks of the pregnancy, though, we needed frequent ultrasounds, and finally, I gave in. We knew what we were having but vowed not to tell anyone. A month later, we happily announced the birth on Facebook: “It’s a boy!”

A version of this article was published in our November 2012 issue with the headline, “Boy or girl: Did you find out what you were having?” pp. 162.

Read more:
7 best gender reveal videos
The baby gender-reveal party trend is out of control
10 old wives’ tales for predicting gender

 

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