Why I Refused To Give In To The Pressure To Have A Gender Reveal Party

It represented more than just a party to me.
Courtesy of Tonilyn Hornung
Courtesy of Tonilyn Hornung
Courtesy of Tonilyn Hornung

When I was almost three months pregnant, I was desperate to keep my pregnancy private. That was five years ago, but I still remember how the wondering stares felt.

During that time, every week of my pregnancy brought a new emotion and a new decision. The big ultrasound was scheduled at exactly three months in, and it was just around the corner. It would officially tell me the sex of the baby, and I was fairly certain I wanted to know. Still, every time I imagined having the procedure, the butterflies in my growing gut fluttered ― or maybe that was my baby working on his/her gymnastics skills. Did the butterflies mean it was another milestone I wasn’t ready to share?

I hadn’t felt ready to tell people I’d been pregnant, either. I’d been surprised to discover that growing a baby felt so intimate. It was a deep and profound relationship the two of us were having inside my body.

As a first time preggo, I was trying to find the balance between what secrets I could keep as my own and the proper pregnancy protocol. I reveled in the knowledge that my baby and I had kept this secret for close to three months; but now that my belly was out, so was my secret. The week before my big, revealing ultrasound, preggo protocol (and my baby bump) suggested it was time to bring family and close friends into the inner circle.

I wasn’t sure if I was excited or unhappy about the change. Then came the question that made me really consider hiding in bathrooms for the next seven months.

“Why don’t you have a gender reveal party?!”

Instead of feeling excited, I felt tense. I’d heard vague things about these parties, but I’d never been to one. Not one to disappoint, I did some research. I learned the event could be as simple or as lavish as the hosts wanted, but ultimately, the idea was to make known the sex of the child to a lot of invited party guests — at the same time as the parents. The butterflies in my belly started doing a roller derby.

“As a first time preggo, I was trying to find the balance between what secrets I could keep as my own and the proper pregnancy protocol.”

When the gender reveal question had first been broached, I brushed it off. It seemed like something I could avoid during my pregnancy, like soft cheeses and sushi. Then the calls came, asking if I’d made up my mind about the party since my ultrasound date was fast approaching. Was this one of those “pregnancy protocol” things I was supposed to do? I felt pressured to decide.

After looking at photos of parties, I understood their lure: Sharing a fun, life-changing moment, like the revelation of a child’s sex, connects people in a deep way. It would be a bonding moment for all involved — and it seemed like once I was pregnant, everyone wanted to be involved. Strangers in line at the grocery store were even becoming bold enough to reach for my belly as they asked if I was expecting.

I just wasn’t sure I wanted a big party. This gender reveal would reveal more than just the sex of my baby: It would reveal me. Not only would I be showing my new pregnant body (to many for the first time), I’d also be disclosing my innermost feelings for my world to see. I’d be on display to examine and appraise.

With friends and family ogling, I feared I couldn’t have an honest response. Would partygoers judge my reaction? What if I didn’t look excited enough? What if, at that moment, I realised I was disappointed in the sex of my child? Could that even happen? If I needed a moment to collect myself, with my big belly throwing me off balance, there’d be no way I could run and hide. I’d be trapped.

“When the gender reveal question had first been broached, I brushed it off. It seemed like something I could avoid during my pregnancy, like soft cheeses and sushi.”

Acting out the role of proud Mama, I feared I wouldn’t be able to feel vulnerable with the one person who’d helped me create the moment — my husband. I’d be having some strange, out-of-body experience staring at pink or blue balloons and not be properly grounded in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’d imagined sharing this moment since my first pee-stick test. Was the original pee-stick something I had to reveal, too? Was it gross that I’d saved it? This type of party might just be too intrusive for me — and my unborn child.

When a friend assumed I was up for the whole party vibe and asked if she could be the one to order the blue (or pink) party favours, my belly full of butterflies started their break-dancing routine. I understood the colours were just traditional symbols to quickly identify gender, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a traditional mom.

Ever since Tom Cruise wore a pink shirt in Risky Business, I’ve been a fan of boys wearing pink, should they choose. I was treading in more free and easy waters, and I wasn’t sure I wanted such conventional colours to define my babe’s beginnings. My husband and I certainly weren’t painting the baby’s room blue for a boy or buying a girl pink ballet shoes.

As odd as it seemed, I felt like my child and I were already developing a certain level of trust. I thought about the possibility that my kid might not identify with either colour scheme and wondered if a shindig jeopardised that trust. I didn’t want to set up the rest of my pregnancy with a strict pink-and-blue mentality, because I felt like leaving room for all the colours of the rainbow.

Would this party feel like I’d set my child up with an unmovable gender belief system — one I didn’t even believe in? Later in life, their choice might be more complicated than pink or blue cake icing, and I would never want to simplify such a complex decision. Sure, my ultrasound would reveal the physical sex of my child, and I could opt to share that at a “gender reveal party,” but it would never reveal how they felt about it. My child needed to know from the start that I’d be there to support them even if their gender eventually ended up being different from the one the doctor assigned them at birth or was fluid and didn’t fit at either end of the binary.

“My ultrasound would reveal the physical sex of my child, but it would never reveal how they felt about it.”

I was experiencing a constant connection with my child that no one else could fathom. Maybe my cantaloupe-sized gut was telling me this wasn’t what I wanted — what we wanted. I felt very protective of that baby in my belly, so I decided to keep this one for ourselves. I’d let my inner sanctum know the baby’s sex when I felt ready. The butterflies stopped their rumble in my belly once I decided to follow my gut.

I didn’t want to let my friends down or commit a major preggo protocol error, but it was important to me to hold my pregnancy milestones as close as I was holding my growing child. Friends were surprised I didn’t want an awesome party, but once I explained why it wasn’t for me, that I preferred to keep some secrets secret, they were quickly supportive. A gender reveal would be a cold, hard privacy breaker. Everyone would know soon enough, and if someone had to know and used the excuse of needing to know what to buy, I just told them, “All babies look fabulous in every colour.”

This article first appeared on HuffPost US Personal

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