Sunday, November 10, 2013

Saving the surprise: my corner of the gender divide

Finding out the sex of your baby well before they are born has become a pretty standard pit stop on the modern pregnancy road trip.

Somewhere around the twenty week mark, pregnant women now pull off the proverbial pregnancy highway to visit the ultrasound technician for a pink/blue diagnosis and some nursery colour scheme directions.

This new pregnancy milestone has given a quick and drug-free birth to the 'gender reveal market': pink and blue cream-filled cupcakes, cutesie black and white photographs featuring ribbons and bow ties, and pinatas laden with tell-tale toys and treats.

Gender reveal parties are all the rage; they seem to have almost over taken the tired old baby shower in the must-do-must-have stakes, and now come replete with a mother (to be) load of baked goods, paper decorations and appropriately coloured sparkles.

Call me a cynic, call me a party pooper, call me old-fashioned, but both the concept of finding out the sex of your baby ahead of time, and the market that has grown with the technological capability to do so, goes over my head. Something just doesn't sit right with me about peeking inside my unborn baby's house without invitation and revealing one of life's coolest mysteries before it's fully cooked.

My brain lumps the concept in the same nonsensical category as finding out the winner of the relay race before all the batons have been exchanged, or watching the final season of How I Met Your Mother before starting on the rest of the series.

My lack of agreement is not an indictment on those who have found out their future ahead of time or skipped merrily down the 'gender reveal' path. Each to their own, I say, and while I reserve the option to critique your decision, I will also do the Macarena in an inflatable swimming pool of glittery pink and blue balloons to defend your right to make it.

But as a reciprocal gesture to my embarrassing Macarena performance, I sincerely hope you will accept my decision not to find out the sex of my baby and stand up for my right to keep the surprise alive - with all the gender-neutral lime and lemon baby clothing glory it comes wrapped in.

Because my decision to save the surprise is just as valid, and just as logical, and just as practical as your decision to find out the sex of your baby at the earliest possible scan and reveal it to the world through a clever Facebook status.

My decision to stick it out in suspense for ten months was built upon a solid foundation of personal beliefs and experiences, and was constructed with a unique quilt of handmade individual thoughts and factors.

One of the standout pieces of my decision pie was my unexpectedly awesome relationship with my bump. I didn't like many things about the pregnancy experience, but I loved my bump. It stuck right out the front like a watermelon and also right round the sides like an exploding cheese-ball. It was warm and taut and bouncy and came with me wherever I went like a cool pet rock.

My husband and I named my wriggling, kicking bump Bob - minus seven points for originality there - and included it in our daily conversations: did you like the thai chilli basil dish Bob, how was that crowded tram ride this afternoon Bob, who do you think you'll turn out to be Bob?

Bob was the heart of our pregnancy journey. When our beautiful daughter was born, she became the heart of our universe, and Bob hopped into the happy memory bank. Bob was the possibility, and my daughter is the brilliant actuality, and I love that we got to know them both in their own time. 

It wasn't just the bump though. I also wanted to hold off finding out my baby's sex before the big day because I really wanted to meet my son/daughter for the first time without the baggage of preconceived notions and expectations.

I didn't want to create a mental picture of a little boy or little girl who would never exist outside my subconscious wandering and lazy daydreams - I wanted to meet my child as a complete little person, and it felt like I couldn't do that if I already knew one of their biggest secrets ahead of time.

Another big serving of my decision pie was cut from my dislike of the infamous pink/blue dichotomy. I had absolutely no desire to find out the sex of my baby and dip my toe into the gender-appropriate-colour war, or try and navigate a compromised pastel path through the Great Pink and Blue Dividing Range.

Giving credence to traditional sex and gender stereotypes has never been my thing (I have an Arts degree, it goes with the territory) and I've never been fond of following basic rules - there's just something about accepted norms that makes me want to twist knobs and push buttons and mix up all the puzzle pieces to create a headache.

Not finding out the sex of the baby proved as effective as abstinence previously did in keeping the pink and blue stuff out of the nursery, out of the gift bags and out of the firing line of my wordy ideological rants (until today).

Of course, the house is now full to overflowing with pink and purple plastic stuff and frilly floral dresses with matching socks and headbands - but at least I know I held off the invasion for as long as possible. 

The real stickler for me in the great gender reveal debate, though, it that it's just not cricket - just because we humans can find out the sex of our unborn babies halfway through gestation doesn't necessarily mean we need to or we should.

Technology has given our society amazing capabilities that generations past never even dreamed would be possible, and those capabilities are truly exceptional. We can microwave our cups of tea when they go cold, we can post blogs for global audiences from our couches, we can design and produce motor vehicles and space shuttles ,and we can save sick children and eradicate horrific diseases. We can do a myriad of brilliant things with technology - but we don't have to do them all, and we don't have to do them every day.

We can pick and choose how we engage with technology to suit our personal wants and needs and desires. I choose not to have a television in my bedroom so I don't stay awake all night watching trash, I choose not to have notifications on my smart phone so I don't get fired up every time someone sends an angry tweet about one of my posts, and I choose not to use an electric mixer when I bake because I find something deeply satisfying about creaming a cake batter from scratch with a wooden spoon.

The same goes for finding out the sex of my babies. I could easily have found out my daughter was my daughter before she was born and I could easily find out what sex my future children are before they push their way out into mortal existence, but I choose not to - because I don't need to, and I don't want to, and I don't have to.

Did you save the surprise or embrace the great gender reveal?

M x 

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photo credit: JFXie via photopin cc

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