The following was written for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at [email protected].
After 30 hours of labor, the magic moment had finally arrived.
Crouched between the stirrups, our doctor looked up to me, and asked, “Dad, would you like to do the honors?”
I pivoted and looked directly at our newly born baby’s crotch.
“We have ourselves a Hank!” I shouted.
It was at this very moment that my wife and I not only were introduced to our newborn son, but also to the fact that he was a he. (If it was a girl, I would have declared, “We have ourselves a Gwen!”)
My wife and I embarked on the revolutionary act of keeping the gender of our soon-to-be-newborn a mystery — away from not only the inquiring mind of our family and friends, but ourselves as well.
I actually don’t think the act in itself is revolutionary. But, after a few months into the endeavor, I came to the realization that what we did was extremely rare, people are flummoxed by the act, and it is fun as hell.
I realized that I should just relinquish control of the whole outcome, and just let it be.
Not revealing your child’s gender is a challenge, and it is certainly not for everybody. But if you choose to accept this mission, I have a few tips to help you be successful.
Gender Roles Be Damned
Pick out a boy and a girl name — and just leave it at that.
Don’t do what I did. I found myself imaging what life would be like with a Henry versus life with a Gwendolyn. Would my life entail watching baseball or softball? Will I traverse over and navigate around discarded Barbies or GI Joes spread out on our living room floor? Do I need to prepare to teach my son “how to be a man” or practice polishing my shotgun on the front porch for that moment when my daughter’s first prom date arrives?
Then, I realized that this speculation just reveals how lame and predictable gender roles are.
Maybe your little girl will play in the dirt.
Maybe your little boy will like to dance.
Will either scenario change the way you feel about your child? Hopefully not. Will you be less excited about his or her arrival? I certainly won’t be.
So if my feelings weren’t dependent on some arbitrarily-defined gender stereotype, then it was safe to say that I actually didn’t have a preference in the first place.
Not revealing your child’s gender is a challenge.
Furthermore, it made me realize that I should be prepared for all possibilities. And once I attempted to calculate the maddeningly immeasurable multitude of those possibilities, I realized that I should just relinquish control of the whole outcome, and just let it be.
Very few mental exercises are as liberating as this one.
Rage Against The Ultrasound Machine
The gender mystery game requires vigilance during your checkups. The last thing you’ll want is for your negligence to appear in the form of your child’s genitals flashing you on the sonogram monitor.
Treat each visit as if it is your first by reminding every staff member you encounter that “you don’t want to know.” Even if you are repeating yourself, most of the staff members will appreciate the friendly reminder to circumnavigate your kiddo’s junk or tell you to avert your eyes when said junk will likely pop up on the screen.
Also, assume that doctors, nurses, ultrasound techs, and receptionists don’t talk to each other. Just because you told the receptionist doesn’t mean the doctor knows. Your request might have just been scribbled down on a random medical form that nobody reads, and you run the risk of miscommunication spoiling the whole thing.
Besides, it is becoming more common for the ultrasound to be wrong, where parents are told of one gender, and surprised with another on delivery day. Despite our faith in modern medicine and technology, gender identification isn’t always exact. “It’s not that uncommon to have gender wrong,” said Dr. John Williams III, Director of Reproductive Genetics at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
If I had a choice to do it all over again, I would.
Type-A Personalities Will Fight You
Everybody has a Type-A personality in their lives — a friend or family member who is rigidly organized, unavoidably traditional, obnoxiously status-oriented, and ever-so-concerned about how “you are doing it all wrong.”
Not knowing your baby’s gender is the equivalent of un-alphabetizing their DVD collection or putting a drink down on their Ikea coffee table without a coaster. In their eyes, what you are doing is borderline “rude.”
Guilt is a common tactic of theirs: “If I don’t know what the gender is, how will I know whether to buy blue or pink clothes?” (Again, gender roles are so pedestrian.)
Also, these control freaks enjoy organizing “gender reveal parties” — the obnoxious trend that somehow blends cake and your baby’s genitals into an awkward social event that nobody really enjoys attending.
Abstain from the dangling carrots of gifts and parties. You will get enough baby-related crap when your little one arrives that you will most likely need a storage unit. Also, by the time visiting hours end, and you have been inundated with friends and family, you’ll be ready to be more of a shut-in than Howard Hughes and the Unabomber combined.
Instead, take this opportunity for shenanigans. If you are the opposite of Type-A personalities (such as myself), revel in the conversations with those who lust to control the terms of your pregnancy.
The dialogues usually went as followed:
“So do you know what you are having yet?”
“We are having a baby.”
“Right, I figured that. But are you having a boy or girl?”
“Most likely, yes.”
I lost count on how many times versions of this conversation took place. Regardless of the quantity, I enjoyed every … single … one. Watching them squirm with uncertainty was pure entertainment. If I didn’t make their eyes twitch by the end of the exchange, I considered the whole thing to be a failure.
If I had a choice to do it all over again, I would.
Your request might have just been scribbled down on a random medical form that nobody reads.
In our world of immediacy — where we have to know everything as soon as the information as readily available — it was therapeutic to deprive ourselves of “being in the know.” Delayed gratification is rare virtue these days.
Furthermore, there are so few good surprises nowadays; why not let this miraculous moment keep you in suspense?
Jay Stooksberry is a freelance writer whose work has been published in Newsweek Magazine, Foundation for Economic Education, Independent Voter Network, and many other publications. He writes about his with passions for liberty, skepticism, humor, and parenting. When he’s not writing, he splits his time between marketing consultation, staying active in his community, and spending time with his wife and son. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.