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Don't Feel Guilty About Your Gender Reveal Party

The pushback against gender reveal parties can start valuable conversations about how we're parenting and what we're expecting of our children, but it shouldn't descend into yet another way to make parents feel guilty.
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Mixed race woman with pink balloons in park
Mixed race woman with pink balloons in park

Those first kicks fluttered below my belly button in early January. I'll never forget. My offspring wiggled and squirmed inside me, announcing its vitality with every nudge.

I marveled and wondered, Who are you? Who will you be?

I poured over every detail on week-by-week pregnancy apps: you could hear by Christmas, you were the size of a cabbage by mid-January. I stared at the ultrasound pictures; was that your dad's nose? My chin? Unique little fingers?

I wanted to know everything about you; I waited for moments of bonding. But I still had to call you "baby;" I still didn't know your name. Pronouns were particularly problematic; calling you "it" and "he slash she" made you feel like a stranger instead of a co-inhabitant of my body.

Then at the end of the month, the long-awaited appointment. I knew I'd love you no matter what the white-robed ultrasound tech said; I knew I wouldn't love you less even if they said words like "syndrome" or "defect" or "viability." I knew we'd walk away from that darkened room knowing more about you.

We held our breath and each others' hands and heard the news, summed up in three heavenly words: healthy, growing, girl.

* * *

When I was pregnant with my first in 2014, there were plenty of trends starting to catch on in parenting circles, one of which was the gender reveal party. I was in college, overwhelmed with purchasing a house, and bombarded with daily demands, so I didn't even consider holding one. I was over-committed as it was. But I understood exactly why people threw suspenseful, playful parties with close friends and family; everyone was waiting in anticipation to learn about this child they loved but who was still a mystery -- a grand possibility.

When you're pregnant, you know so little about this tiny human who's about to turn your life upside down. That's why I obsessively checked no fewer than six apps and two websites every week to learn about my baby's development; every detail felt like a jigsaw piece building a picture of my child. Calling my family after that 20-week ultrasound was celebratory: Healthy! Growing! Girl!

Fast forward two years. I was again holding my breath and my husband's hands, waiting to hear those sacred words that tell me my second baby is healthy and growing. The news was the same and oh-so-welcome: healthy, growing, girl.

This time, we decided to tell our family with some whimsy and fun; we threw a gender reveal party. With little fuss, zero Pinterest inspiration, and a quick text message invitation, our closest friends and family gathered to cut a cake and share in our excitement. It's a night I'll always remember; the love from these people for our unborn daughter was palpable.

But recently, I read a few articles challenging and cautioning against gender reveal parties. As a feminist, some of their points resonated with me; I'm also passionate about bucking oppressive gender stereotypes. But an underlying assumption in the pieces I read bothered me: the assumption that gender reveal parties are, by default, celebrating and reinforcing gender stereotypes for an unborn child. Here's the thing: I think that assumption is bogus.

I'm guessing many parents are like me; they wish they could know more about their babies before they're born. Most parents would be thrilled to be able to say, "We're having a child who loves singing, is exceptionally kind, and wants to go to med school." But you don't know anything about your child. Gender reveal parties are in the same vein of those birth announcements with truly mundane information; birth weight, length, and time of arrival are no more indicative of a child's personality than their biological sex. But as a new parent, this prosaic data is precious; it's all they know about this new bundle of potential and promise.

That's why parents celebrate with their family when they learn their child's sex; it's one of the few pieces of information you can know before your child starts revealing and developing their own unique personality. If parents could find out their unborn children's eye color, you'd probably see a rash of eye color reveal parties.

Ultimately, the pushback against gender reveal parties can start valuable conversations about how we're parenting and what we're expecting of our children, but it shouldn't descend into yet another way to make parents feel guilty. So go ahead; get a cake or a box of balloons or a bucket of paint and invite your friends and family over. You can eschew gender stereotypes and reveal your child's sex at a party -- they're not mutually exclusive.

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Emily Fisk swore she'd never be a mommy blogger, so now we all have something to laugh about together. From a cozy valley in Idaho, Emily writes between work deadlines and toddler tantrums. Follow along at emilyfisk.com.