What Is the Gender Reveal Appeal, Anyway?

This article set out to provide planning tips for the best gender reveal party. I’m afraid, though, this is not what you will find here. Instead, you will find someone watching those pink balloons sail high into the sky, hoping this time will be the last time. You will find the sugar-preserved cupcakes optimistically being prodded for blue mould not filling, hopefully from disinterest.

It turns out I am not alone in my aversion. When talking with other new parents and even with a quick scouring of the internet, the verdict is out on whether the gender-reveal party is here to stay or how much of the population cringes when they receive an invite.

YouTube and online Birth groups would have us believe this was a growing cultural phenomenon, while my Facebook alone leaves me in the dark; apparently, my friends are not of the gender-reveal party ilk.

While it is framed as the newest, sweetest, and latest baby-pregnancy related trend, am I the only one finding that it harkens back to a different time? Cupcakes, aprons, coiffed hair, and surprised looks, all captured as a picture-perfect Disney-fied experience. Boy! Girl! It has been decided! Kisses!

Has anyone checked Emily Post’s original Book of Etiquette and Manners to see how exactly we are to engage in this social affair? Unfortunately, even Emily Post can’t help us (gasp!), as it was first published in 1922, prior to advances made in obstetric ultrasounds and retreats in common sense (ouch). Left to our own devices, the main course of action is attending begrudgingly.

So, let’s get this straight.

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7 Inaccurate.

Can we, nay, should we reveal something we are not 100% sure about? Change the gender reveal situation to that of an engagement party. Would you host knowing there is only a strong likelihood of you getting married? There’s that 98% of the time your fiance enjoys your company, but then there is also that 2% of the time spent with someone else, shopping for rings.

Cynical jokes aside, mistakes do happen -- images can be amazingly blurry, babies coy about positions, and technician benefits packages may be lacking in the optometry front (ya never know, right?).

While the percentage is low, around 2%, Little Carly can become Carl when exposed to daylight and atmospheric oxygen. That would be a Gender Reveal Party steal for little Carl. Perhaps, though, because we’re all so into them, we’ll have another reveal party after the actual gender is known upon birth. Viewed that way, this potential inaccuracy is something advantageous – only the luckiest of parents get to celebrate both genders with the same baby!  

6 Early Days Yet

Admittedly, I am a bit of a superstitious type. A don’t-count-your-eggs-until-they-hatch kind of person. A “don’t tell anyone you have a new amazing job until you have been punching the clock for two years” sort of employee.

At week 18-20, there is still a way to go. You are halfway there, if we want to get all mathematical. While I enjoy the strides we have made in being able to talk about baby and pregnancy, keeping things growing, in their seed stage, in the quiet privacy of the womb is what works for me. Close friends, sure, even an announcement of some kind, but a party?

At the risk of sounding like a real downer, a baby at that age would have trouble surviving and would face some very real challenges if born then. Let’s not throw any parties until the baby is able to survive easily.

While it may be tempting with the momentum of the birth announcement weeks prior and the, generally, happy middle months of pregnancy, harness that energy and, with a little imagination, I’m sure you can think of countless things to do that are a lot easier with a baby inside, than in tow. For instance, you might find it fulfilling to catalogue personal pregnancy milestones and humorous happenings rather than cataloguing your pregnancy by parties. 

5 No Gifts

Once, I was invited to a Quitting My Job party as well as a Break-Up Party. These are things I can get behind; having closure, owning our choices. The Gender Reveal Party, I’m afraid, is just another party. Based on no evidence whatsoever, many jump to the conclusion that it is an icing-glazed illusion with one major goal in mind: gifts.

Understandably, new parents do concern themselves with having the right things and wanting to be prepared for every possible outcome in those early days. The thing is, though, most babies don’t need very much at all: a place to sleep, clothes to wear, diapers to catch, and food to eat. Even strollers have been done without by many of the committed babywearers.

The preparation is more a psychological and inner one than is reflected in purchases. Ask yourself, is material insecurity fueling this party? If you are going to go ahead with your party, even after reading my amazing arguments, consider asking people to refrain from giving gifts.  

4 Disappointment

Disappointment is something that is mildly taboo. We are supposed to be overjoyed with a healthy baby, regardless of the sex. While this is ideal, one can understand the feeling a mother might have if, with three sons already and this as her last pregnancy, she finds out she has another boy.

If disappointment does come to visit, let the feelings be what they are. Accept them and they will pass yadiyadiyada. Disappointment is something that happens and I don’t believe something to be ashamed of.

Can I be let down by an ultrasound?

Further, you might not be the only one disappointed. Your partner might already be daydreaming about a rugged young man (just like him, he probably thinks), and when the doctor declares your baby a girl with a routine tone, he’s crushed. Oops, is that allowed?

Yes, it is, and it’s probably more common than any of us wants to claim. So now what? We force our partner to endure with fraudulent smiles a celebration of the gender he wasn’t hoping for and wasn’t ready for? That’ll be fun.

How does this relate to the Gender Reveal Party? If there is any concern that you or your partner or family will break down in tears at the sight of blue balloons, start popping them, or cramming them back into the box, consider a more private venue.

3 Gender vs Sex

This is the Big One. We have somehow, in the hype of planning these parties and in favour of catchier phrases, actually gotten our definitions wrong. How this happened, in a time when gender is more talked about than ever, is beyond me.

In simple terms, sex refers to biological differences; chromosomes, hormonal profiles, internal and external sex organs. Gender describes the characteristics that a society or culture delineates as masculine or feminine.

Gender cannot be determined by bombarding a small being’s body with sound waves and isolating a penis on a projection. Nor can gender be ingested by way of food colouring bled through a cake. Gender is baby’s social role and a fluid one at that.

Birth Sex Assignment Party would be a more appropriate name for the party. And kind of catchy, don’t you think?

“Are you coming to my B-SAP?”

“You’re damn right I am. And don’t worry, I won’t bring any gifts.”

Yes, I love where this is going. 

2 Privacy/Intimacy

Of course, this could be the age-old introvert/extrovert dilemma or, perhaps, the over-30s vs the under-30s. Guess where I fall.

There is something incredibly special about sharing this moment with just your partner. One could argue there will be more honesty as well, as the event does not need to involve poise or too much self-awareness, and the chances of appearing on Instagram in seconds flat is remarkably reduced -- hashtag #genderreveal #whywasiinvited.

Is “I Don’t Care” a legitimate guess for the “Guess What Gender” game?

Another worrying thing to consider: do people really care whether you have a boy or girl? I know I don’t. Most would simply be happy (or not) that you are having a child. Only to you and your family does this likely have any heightened significance.

Likely a very poor example, but would your friends want to come to your “New Car Manufacturer Reveal Party”? I’m sure your friends are thrilled (or not) that you are getting a new car, one you have always hoped for, but likely don’t really care two cupcakes what kind of vehicle you boast...unless it is really fancy, and that is just one way this poor metaphor breaks down.

1 If You Are Going to Do It, Do It Right.

And by right, I mean, make it original. The internet and atmosphere are already clogged with blue balloon plastic that will take millions of years to break down, and guts across North America and beyond are already buckled over from strange food dyes and too much sugar.

If you are going to do the cake, consider smashing it on your sleeping partner's face and then posting it to YouTube before he is aware of what hit him. Public vandalism is a route few have owned up to and might be your way of not only making a lasting impression, but also having your meals provided in jail.

If you’ve been sitting around on Pinterest, gazing eagerly at gender-reveal party food ideas and sample decorations, don’t let this article let the air out of your balloons (see what I did there?). Or, at least not all of it – maybe a little air is good. If the party provides you, your partner, and your family some kind of satisfaction, as if an important box is being checked and you’re really into checking boxes, then do your thing.

Our purpose was and is to offer new perspectives and thoughts regarding this well-liked and well-disdained gender celebration. Be mindful of the possibility that your loved ones love your baby just because it’s your baby and don’t carry a concern for gender – isn’t that the real celebration? That these people already adore and accept your bundle of joy (and specifically arranged chromosomes)? 

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