It’s one of life’s most special surprises, so why do so many people choose to find out the gender of their unborn baby? Rhiane Kirkby investigates
Do you know what you’re having?” and “Is it a boy or a girl?” are probably two of the most common questions asked of pregnant mothers. And then there are the people, often complete strangers, who just love to guess. “It’s definitely a girl – look at the way she’s lying!”, “Got to be a boy – you don’t look pregnant from the back” or, my personal favourite (and something that was actually said to my face), “That’s a boy for certain – if it was a girl you’d look much prettier.” And in case you’re wondering, he was right!
It’s a fact that most parents don’t want to play the guessing game and opt to find out the gender at the earliest opportunity, with growing numbers even paying for private tests at just 10 weeks gestation. But it seems that things are changing. Anecdotal evidence from the Royal College of Midwives suggests that more and more parents are deciding to keep the sex of their baby a surprise, with one sonographer at Chelsea and Westminster commenting that it’s now “a 60-40 split in favour of finding out, compared to a 70-30 split a few years ago.” NCT groups are also reporting that, compared to previous years, fewer parents are now finding out the sex.
Expectant mum, Lucy Rigby says she and her husband decided not to find out as they’d heard from friends that not knowing adds to the experience, “especially after going through the hard work of labour.” They’d also heard of people being told the wrong sex and then having to adjust, which put them off. Samantha Walsham, mum to six-month-old Jack, also decided she wanted a surprise, saying, “I didn’t want to attribute a personality to my baby before it was born.”
“When I was pregnant with my first, back in 2010, it seemed like everyone was finding out,” says mum-of-two, Jo Potter. “For us, it felt like it took the magic away, and what does
it matter anyway?”
Of course, not everyone agrees with this sentiment. Many parents admit they simply can’t wait to find out, while others feel they need to know for emotional or practical reasons. Lucy Tipton decided to find out with her first as he was “a big surprise at a very difficult time.” She wanted to know to help her bond. Then, when her second came along, she thought it would really help her little boy to adjust if he knew whether he was getting a brother or a sister. Anna Balding didn’t find out with her first two pregnancies, but did for her third: “It was damage limitation as my husband was desperate for a boy.” And new mum Keely Gilman, “really, really, really wanted a girl. I was convinced I’d have a boy so wanted to prepare myself and get over any disappointment.”
Keely got her wish and had a little girl five months ago. She lives in the States where nearly everyone finds out what they’re having. “Baby showers are common here, and you’re expected to give friends and family a gift list, so knowing the sex really helps with that,” she explains. “Gender-neutral clothes and soft furnishings aren’t that popular and tend to be a bit boring, which just adds to the number of people wanting to find out.”
Knowing the sex of your child in advance definitely has its advantages in terms of dressing and décor, but for many American parents and increasing numbers of British ones, it also gives you the opportunity to throw a gender-reveal party. A quick look on Pinterest shows the extent some parents go to, to make this an event to remember, with many only finding out the gender themselves on the day. Pink or blue balloons hidden in a box, and balloons filled with coloured confetti are popular. There are eggs filled with gender-appropriate glitter, piñatas stuffed full of pink or blue sweets and, for the more adventurous, paint-fight kits in pale pink and baby blue. Parents are also following in papal footsteps and using coloured smoke to reveal the sex of their baby. But by far the most popular way to reveal the sex, and the one taking off over here, is the gender-reveal cake. The Hummingbird Bakery says cupcakes with pink or blue frosting inside are becoming more fashionable, and Nessie Welschinger from the Chelsea Cake Company says she has seen a marked increase in demand for cakes with coloured sponge or pink or blue M&M’s inside.
So, while midwives report that trends are changing, it remains to be seen whether more of us will decide to wait the whole nine months for one of life’s biggest surprises, or be lured by sweet treats and coloured confetti into revealing all!