When people find out you’re expecting, their first question is often “boy or girl?” Doctors can reveal your baby’s sex at the 20-week ultrasound (or even sooner with a blood test)—if that’s what you want. But there are several great reasons to save the biggest surprise of your life for the day you meet your new baby.
One benefit of not knowing whether you’re having a boy or girl is avoiding pressure to fit your baby into a certain mold. Gender stereotyping starts young—some research indicates babies distinguish male from female faces by 3 months of age and link women and men to stereotypical objects, like a scarf or a hammer, by 10 months! Some families consider it a perk that they (and extended family) can’t stock up in advance on frilly pink tutus or “boys will be boys” T-shirts. Preparing for a baby without factoring in gender may inspire you to be more creative or open with your expectations. After all, why shouldn’t a baby girl wear a “Tough Like Daddy” bodysuit? Gender-neutral fans can go full speed ahead decorating the nursery and shopping for tiny clothes.
If you’d like to indulge in some of the conventional colors and styles for a baby boy or girl, don’t feel like your hands are tied until the baby’s born. A light blue or white nursery can easily lean either feminine or masculine. You can get the furniture in place and make a trip for accessories, bedding and gendered clothing later. If you’re planning to keep the baby in your room in a co-sleeping device or bassinet, you may have a few months to complete the finishing touches.
It’s a … oh
Ask any expectant parent, and they’ll tell you they want a healthy, happy baby. What fewer parents admit to out loud is that they have their fingers crossed for a particular sex. A 2011 Gallup poll found that 68 percent of respondents favored either boy or girl—rather than picking a no-preference or no-opinion option. Gender disappointment is real, and it can be a guilty and isolating feeling.
It’s OK to experience a mix of emotions about your baby’s sex, including disappointment. Some parents feel unsure how to relate to a child of the opposite gender or may have cherished ideas about sharing special activities with a son or daughter.“Active reframing,” where you consciously think positively, is one way to resolve feelings. Parents might try saying, “Our two boys will be more likely to be buddies growing up,” or, “My daughter’s going to wind me around her little finger—and I’ll love it!”
You can also ask yourself if the memories you hoped to make are really confined to one gender. A baby girl could grow into a daredevil tomboy. A little boy might love leaping in the dance studio. As for bonding, rest easy. No matter whether your child follows or defies gender conventions, know you’re still the most important person in the world to your baby.
If negative feelings persist or get worse, talk to your doctor. If your gender disappointment is tied in with postpartum depression, asking for help can get you feeling like yourself faster.
The big reveal
Hoping for the Hollywood “It’s a boy (or girl)!” announcement? Plan ahead. Your medical team may assume you already know the baby’s sex and miss the cue. If you want your partner to do the honors of sharing the news, make that preference clear, too.
Elaina Loveland was disappointed to miss out on the big announcement she’d waited nine months for. “Instead I got, ‘What’s the name?’ as she was sewing me up. I said, ‘What’s the gender!?’ … It was so disappointing.”
Loveland recommends reiterating your eagerness to hear the old-school announcement as often as possible: at your final prenatal appointments, in your birth plan and at the hospital. “I’d even make a sign and put it on the bed at the hospital,” she says.
Sarah Bradley, who waited to find out all three of her children’s sexes at birth, agreed that the movie moment pretty much happens only on the big screen. “The first two times I had to ask what the baby was because my husband was too distracted by the birth. The third time, I actually reached down to look as soon as he was born and announced it myself. Even though the moments weren’t perfect, they make for great stories now.”
Finally, as many new moms will tell you, a birth plan isn’t a guarantee. Think about what you’d want in the event of a C-section, or a birth where you or the baby need a little extra care. If you’re vomiting into a bowl right after the baby’s born, should doctors hold off on the announcement? When Clara Wiggins delivered her second baby via C-section, she planned with the doctors to lower the screen for the moment of birth, so she could be first to find out the sex. Thinking up a similar contingency plan may help you feel more prepared and confident about delivery day.