I completely understand why all my friends chose to find out their baby's sex via sonogram, before birth. The 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 my final prenatal sonogram (for that pregnancy), 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.
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 had picked a 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 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: You'll drive some people bananas (and 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 want to know? That makes me crazy and it's not even my baby." "It's out of my hands," you answer, "whatever happens will happen." And you reach for more Mexican food. The guacamole tastes even better than usual.
Reason #5: 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 #6: 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 #7: 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, "Not knowing 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 #8: 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 wild 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 or 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 #9: 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.
A version of this story was originally published on October 10, 2018. It has been updated.