After someone glances down at my (now-huge) bump and congratulates me, I can anticipate what comes next: “What are you having?” It’s a simple question, but it’s led to some surprisingly intimate conversations everywhere I go. In the checkout line at the grocery store. In the mascara aisle at Sephora. In my local pharmacy. In a hotel elevator. Even in the dentist’s chair when my mouth was pried open during a routine cleaning.
When I explain to the person asking that I don’t know the sex of my baby yet because my husband and I want to be surprised, I can see their facial expression shift from mild curiosity to wide-eyed fascination.
“But how do you prepare without knowing if it’s a boy or a girl?” (I have names picked out for either scenario.)
“What kind of nursery will the baby have?” (I gravitate towards neutral furniture and color schemes anyway.)
“What will you do about their clothes?” (I stocked up on essential onesies and both sets of grandparents have happily announced that they’re going on a shopping spree after my little one is born.)
And then there’s the big one: “Why would you choose to wait?”
I never had a big sit-down discussion with my husband about it—the subject naturally came up in conversation a few times long before we chose to have a child. We both instinctively knew it was the right decision for us.
We couldn’t imagine a more thrilling moment than having the obstetrician announce the news to us right there in the delivery room. The 40 weeks of anticipation leading up to our baby’s birth would feel like Christmas, our birthdays and every other happy occasion magnified by one million.
I didn’t realize how in the minority we were in this simple (to us) decision. The first time it came up was during my nuchal translucency screening. One of my doctors asked if I wanted to order an optional specialized blood test to find out the sex. When I declined, his shocked expression threw me for a loop.
At each subsequent appointment, we had to tell the sonographers and medical professionals we came into contact with that we didn’t want to know. I couldn’t even check my test results on the patient portal. My husband and I joked that we should wear “Team we’re not finding out” stickers on our shirts to make things easier.
Since then, our desire to keep the sex of our baby a secret (even from ourselves) continues to evoke strong emotional reactions on both sides of the spectrum. Loved ones have either applauded our decision or told us we’d lost our minds.
Some of the most memorable encounters were with people I had never even met before. A grandmother shopping with her daughter threw her arms around me in a warm embrace. “I’m so excited for you! No one does that anymore!”
Another day, I was testing out strollers when another expectant mama-to-be creating her registry struck up a conversation. “I would die if I were you,” she said, shaking her head in disbelief.
Just because we’re not finding out doesn’t stop everyone from guessing. We’ve heard it all from our relatives: “I dreamt that you’re having a girl and I’ve guessed eight out of the last 10 pregnancies correctly.” “Your stomach is shaped like a basketball, so it’s definitely a boy.” “Based on your sonogram photo, it looks like a girl.” “You have that glow about you so you must be having a boy.”
It wasn’t that I couldn’t appreciate the benefits of finding out the baby’s sex ahead of time. During my pregnancy, several close friends and relatives announced that they were expecting, too, and I was so excited to share in their joy of finding out whether it was a boy or girl.
But something in my heart kept telling me that waiting until the baby was born was the right thing for the two of us. This was the first of many times throughout motherhood that I realized I needed to do what’s best for my family.
My husband never wavered, but I have had some moments of self-doubt along the way. There was a period when my Instagram feed was filled with back-to-back photos of creative gender reveals featuring cakes, confetti guns, and even fireworks. By not broadcasting the sex of our baby, were we missing out on some sort of magical joy? And also depriving those closest to us that same happiness gained by knowledge?
But not finding out the sex came with some surprising benefits. My Type A tendencies were forced to take a backseat and I learned to appreciate the present.
I relinquished control and surrendered to the pregnancy process, unknowns and all. I didn’t go overboard and buy 50 newborn outfits because I didn’t want his or her wardrobe to consist entirely of gray and yellow. I wasn’t able to pre-plan everything or impose unrealistic expectations on what my relationship with my future child might be.
Now I’m one month away from my due date, and the joyous reality of getting to meet my child is finally sinking in.
I’m so glad that I didn’t succumb to the pressure and stayed true to myself. In an era of instant gratification and social media documenting our every move, the surprise of finding out the sex of my baby feels like it was well worth the wait.
A version of this post was published July 31, 2019. It has been updated.
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