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I completely understand why all my friends chose to find out their baby's sex via sonogram, before birth.

The middle-aged sonographer thought I was joking when I told her that I didn't want to know. “Really? You're the first person in months to not want to know," she said. But it wasn't that I didn't want to know. I wondered every day. Rather, I was choosing not to know.

As she administered what would be (for that pregnancy) my final prenatal sonogram, this quizzical woman repeated what the sonographers before her had said. “I'm glad you're waiting. That's what we all did when I was young, before you could find out. There is no surprise more worth the wait."

To each her own, I say again. A dear friend was so playfully annoyed that I was waiting to learn the news that she asked if she could come along and have the doctor write it on a slip of paper, so she could start shopping for clothes. I laughed and refused. When this same friend became pregnant a year later, she found out as soon as she could. And halfway through her pregnancy I celebrated the revelation of her child's sex with her. By the time the baby came, she knew the name and had the nursery ready to go.

I delight in planning, in being super-prepared. So why, then, would I choose not to know my baby's sex as quickly as possible?

I can think of plenty of good reasons to find out right away, and friends and strangers alike always ask, “What are you having?" But I think there just might be others out there who would enjoy hearing the story of an expectant mother who waited to find out and would do it again.

Reason #1: The loss of control

You know the very thing I said I revel in? I willingly gave it up. I drove myself crazy... but it was a good crazy. I knew that being a mom would mean a constant loss of control. Why not practice?

After spending nine months totally in the dark about an incredible secret I could have found out, it was like I had endured Control Loss Boot Camp. Not finding out my baby's sex was a way to train myself as a new mom to not freak out on those days when it felt like everything was outside my control.

Reason #2: Loving acceptance

Have you ever noticed that everyone has an opinion on which gender would be better for you to have?

"Ooh, it's probably a girl because you're so girly. I just think you'd take to a girl easier." Uh, I'm sorry. I didn't know the amount of leather or lace I wore affected gender outcome.

"I hope you have a boy. Your husband must want a son more than anything." Did I hear you correctly?

"Hope it's not a girl. They can be so difficult. A girl will give you a hard time, especially when she begins menstruating." Did you really just say that? The child hasn't taken his or her first breath yet.

When you're pregnant, everyone assumes you have a preference. The fact is, I didn't care what I had. I just prayed my baby would be healthy.

But what if you do have a preference, and then find out you are having the opposite? That happened to one of my friends. She spent months worrying that she would not bond with her daughter because she so desperately wanted a son. When she met the baby, she fell in love. Why not avoid the worrying altogether?

First and foremost, your baby is a person, with a unique and beautiful soul. Want to prove that to the world? Wait to find out. Then people will be meeting Baby James with the sparkling eyes and incredible laugh or Baby Alice with the tuft of curls and voracious appetite, and not simply "the boy" or "the girl."

Reason #3: To avoid disappointment + keep unfair pressures off an unborn baby

Some cultures still prize the perceived superiority of sons, and there might be someone in your family, whether or not they admit it to you, who will be disappointed to learn you're having a girl. (There may also be those who are disappointed you're having a boy.) Sure, they may eventually get over it. But why not spare your child being anything but happily anticipated?

Not finding out your baby's sex is a statement, an act of defiance against the temptation (whether yours or someone else's) to "root" for one sex or have preconceived notions about your child's personality. It can also be a way to protect an unborn baby from people's opinions before they are even out of the womb. There will be plenty of time for facing those later.

Reason #4: Green + yellow are cooler than pink or blue

In the words of Gwen Stefani, "Take this pink ribbon off my eye!"Ever get a little sick of bubblegum pink and periwinkle blue? There's a whole color palette to choose from, so why limit yourself? (Even if you learn your baby's gender but break out of the pink/blue thing, prepare for all kinds of pink or blue gifts from others.)

My nursery was seafoam green, decorated with Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck. The clothes my baby wore home from the hospital? A beautiful soft cream onesie with a bunny stitched on the front. All the sweet yellow, green and white outfits looked adorable, and it was fun to go shopping for the more gender-specific clothes after a few weeks of recovery.

Reason #5: You make some people nuts (+ it's fun, right)?

When you might otherwise hear a lecture on what it's like to raise a boy or a girl, complete with "advice," you'll instead hear, "You seriously don't know? It makes me crazy and it's not even my baby." "It's in God's hands," you answer, "not mine." And you reach for more Mexican food. The guacamole tastes even better than usual.

Reason #6: What if the sonographer was wrong?

Think that can't happen? I know someone who thought she was having a girl. But I guess something special was hiding off camera, because lo and behold, she delivered a baby boy last year and brought him home to his pink Disney Princess bedroom.

Sure, it's rare. But can you imagine if they made a mistake? You might feel you were mourning a lost baby you never really had.

Reason #7: Connection to our foremothers + our faith

For almost every generation before ours, women discovered the sex of their babies after delivery. These births had an air of mystery and magic. Loved ones paced outside, awaiting the exciting news, instead of reading about it on Facebook in advance.

Although almost everything about labor and delivery has improved since those previous generations, I like this connection to the sacred mystery of births that came before. Whatever your religion, not finding out your baby's gender is an act of faith, supreme trust that all will be well and that ultimately you will have what you are meant to have.

Reason #8: Giddy anticipation

Remember the feeling of being a kid who couldn't wait to open your Christmas/birthday/holiday present and find out what treasure awaited you? The anticipation is like that, times 100.

My aunt told me, "It helps you push, because you're so excited to find out." And she was right. When my baby was born and I found out, I cried tears of pure joy and amazement. Turns out, it really is the best surprise of your life.

Reason #9: A baby is never the way you would expect, anyway

Knowing your baby's sex might make you think you know what to expect when they're born. Wrong!

Any mom knows that she never could have imagined the perfect and crazy uniqueness that is her baby. Waiting to find out allows you to fall in love with a new baby, rather than the preview report of a gender, which often carries with it stereotypes that your child might transcend.

For example, you might have a rambunctious baby girl who is always getting scrapes, and a cautious baby boy who would rather sit on the sidelines with a board book. We're having people, not pink and blue drones.

Reason #10: It bucks the trend

The big trend these days is finding out. It's so easy—there are sonograms, blood tests and even over-the-counter kits.

If you decide to find out, I totally get it. I almost caved several times, and that would have brought its own excitement, and maybe a gender reveal party. Or there might be a particular reason why finding out makes the most sense for you.

But if you decide to hang in there, I'm right there with you. And we're not alone. If you want to find us, we're the ones with the two names picked out, the frustrated friends waiting with intense curiosity, the ones crying euphoric tears of surprise in the hospital.

Oh, and what did I end up having? Exactly what our family needed... the most beautiful baby my husband and I could have imagined, inside and out.


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Is there anything cuter than adorable hairstyles on kids? We love when little ones look put together and a chic hairstyle is the icing on a cake.Mamas have upped their game and are delivering trendy, inspo-worthy looks beyond basic ponytails.

We get that creating no-fuss hairstyles (preferably ones that don't require toddlers sitting more than 10 minutes) isn't exactly stress-free and shelling out cash for a stylist isn't something we'll spring for. But we're all about easy styles that we can practically create with our eyes closed. Say hello to getting out the door faster! To be fair, there are a few here that are a tad complicated, so you'll want to screenshot them and share with your mama friend who is a master stylist.

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To help you nail the best kid hairstyles, we've compiled a list of 41 cool hairstyles for little ones from Instagram:

Pigtail buns

This classic style never gets old. If you're concerned about it being too light, loosen it up a bit by adding volume at the roots.






Criss-cross braids

Add a touch of style to a traditional braid.






Top knot

When rushing and don't have time, just throw up their hair in a top bun.



Side braided ponytail

After a few hours on the playground, braids tend to end up on the side of their heads, so why not create it into a style?



Cornrows

We're not going to front—cornrows are tough to create. But if you can get it, it's a style that will last weeks. Need help? Check out these YouTube videos.






Waterfall braids

To add a little more pizazz to a regular braid, braid hair on the side and loosen it a bit at the root.




Triple buns

A bun is probably the easier hairstyle a mama can create, but throw in a dash of style by adding two more bun. Create the look by securing buns from the top of the head to the nape of the neck.








Bun + bows

Add a bow for instant fun.









Lifestyle

When the Coronavirus (COVID-19) started making headlines in early 2020 the expert advice was simple: Don't panic.

This week the CDC warned that the outbreaks of the virus will very likely happen in the United States, but it's important to know that officials still don't want parents to panic, they just want us to be prepared.

"We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad," the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, told reporters during a news briefing Tuesday. "It's not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen," Dr. Messonnier said.

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It is totally normal to read this and be concerned mama, but there are several things we need to unpack before we let our anxiety overwhelm us.

Here is what you need to know about the Coronavirus response in the United States:

Top doctors are preparing for this

As the virus has spread rapidly overseas America's top doctors have been monitoring the situation. In not quite two months' time 80,000 people have contracted the illness and fewer than 3,000 of those people have died.

In the U.S., 53 cases have been confirmed (most of those were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan or people who caught the virus while traveling overseas). There have only been two cases of person-to-person transmission on U.S. soil, according to the CDC.

The CDC has more than 1,000 professionals working on the response to this virus, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, epidemiologists, veterinarians, laboratorians, communicators, data scientists and modelers.

"CDC staff members are working with state, local, tribal, and territorial health departments and other public health authorities to assist with case identification, contact tracing, evaluation of persons under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19, and medical management of cases; and with academic partners to understand the virulence, risk for transmission, and other characteristics of this novel virus," the agency states on its website.

And while there have been delays in implementing Coronavirus testing measures in the Unites States, experts are working to resolve issues and make testing more efficient. As the New York Times reports, the health and human services secretary "told a Senate panel that federal and local health departments will need as many as 300 million masks for health care workers."

In other words, the experts in the United States are preparing to fight this virus and they want the American public to be prepared, too.

This could impact school, work and daily life

That's why the CDC is telling us to get ready, not to cause panic or anxiety but just to set the expectation that life could be disrupted by this virus. "Now is the time for businesses, hospitals, communities, schools and everyday people to begin preparing," Dr. Messonnier said Tuesday.

She says schools may have to close or otherwise adjust to an outbreak and students may have to start doing tele-schooling online. She also wants businesses to start preparing to hold meetings remotely rather than in-person and to encourage telecommuting during any outbreak. Community activities like sports and church may also have to be canceled or modified.

As the New York Times reports, "Scientists don't know who is most susceptible to the new coronavirus. Children seem less likely to be infected. Middle-aged men seem to have been disproportionately infected, according to some studies."

This could be really disruptive for families

It is true that the scenario Messonnnier is outlining could be really disruptive for families. No one wants this to happen, but if it does have to happen it's a good thing we are getting the heads up.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare for possible interruptions to daily life:

  • Talk to your workplace about any plans it has for operations during an outbreak.
  • Speak to your child's school or childcare provider about how it plans to operate in a worst-case scenario.
  • Ask your doctor for an extra prescription of any medications your family needs, just in case an outbreak makes going to the pharmacy not possible.

Here's how to protect yourself + your family from the Coronavirus

The CDC does not recommend that we all go buy face masks. Face masks are only recommended for people "who show symptoms of COVID-19...[and] health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility)."

Instead, here's what we can all do to avoid the illness, according to the CDC:

  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe."

We know this is serious and kind of scary, mama. But please, don't panic. Know that pandemic experts are working to keep your family safe. According to the CDC, the "National Institutes of Health (NIH) and their collaborators are working on development of candidate vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19."

On Tuesday, President Trump said the coronavirus is "very well under control in our country" and "is going to go away." The health experts who work for the government are doing everything they can to prove the President right, but they do want the public to be ready in case it doesn't go away as fast as he (and all of us) would like.

News

For nine months, your mother was all you knew.

Before I held you in my arms, your mother held you and never let you go.

Before I sacrificed time for you, your mother gladly sacrificed her body.

Before I consoled you when you were upset, your mother consoled you with just the beat of her heart.

Before I comforted you when you were restless, your mother comforted you with just the sound of her voice.

Before I could do anything for you, your mother gave everything for you.

Your mother is the reason I hold you today.

Before you were even a twinkle in my eye, you were in your mother's heart. Your life, your safety, and your very existence depended on her. Something I'll never be able to repay.

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It will take a long time for you to understand the weight, the depth and the immeasurability of your mother's love for you. But someday, when you have children of your own, you will understand what I now see so clearly.

So, I'll hold you tight. But I'll hold your mother tighter because my love for you grows the more I understand the measure of a mother's love.


This essay was previously published here.
Life

What would bath time be without rubber duckies? Probably not as much fun—but also a whole lot cleaner, according to a study published in the journal Biofilms and Microbiomes.

That's because it turns out those squeaky toys are far from squeaky clean thanks to “potentially pathogenic bacteria" in four out of the five bath toys examined by researchers.

For the study, Swiss and American researchers looked at the biofilm communities inside 19 bath toys collected from random households as well as six toys used in controlled clean or dirty water conditions. They found that all of the examined bath toys “had dense and slimy biofilm" on their inner surfaces. What's more, 56% of the real-use toys and all of the dirty-water toys had fungi build up. ?

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Although the researchers note exposure to bacteria and fungi may have some benefits, the strong existence of grime in bath toys is still concerning. They note, “Squeezing water with chunks of biofilm into their faces (which is not unexpected behavior for these users) may result in eye, ear, wound or even gastro-intestinal tract infections."

Besides tossing all your bath toys, what can parents do?

The researchers say more experimental work is needed. But, for starters, it doesn't hurt to remove water from the toys after usage or give them a good, regular dunk in boiling water. The researchers also said they would like to see more regulations on the polymeric materials used for many bath toys.

There is, however, one simple solution—it just comes at the cost of rubber duckie's squeak. “In fact, the easiest way to prevent children from being exposed to bath toy biofilms is to simply close the hole," the researchers say of toys like this water-tight duck. “But where is the fun in that?"

[A version of this post originally appeared April 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

News
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