Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Non-simple simple decisions: When you don't find out the sex of your unborn child

When my wife and I found we were pregnant we decided we would not learn the sex of our baby until he or she emerged at birth. It wasn't that we wished to rebuke what modern medicine allows; we merely wanted to have that opportunity to be surprised. It seemed like a simple enough thing.

Now that we are halfway through the pregnancy, with several visits to the obstetrician and having announced the impending birth to family and friends, I realize that decision was anything but simple.

When we had the most recent ultrasound we had to make explicit mention that we did not wish to know the sex—which we reiterated not only to the technician but also to the doctor when each came in. During the procedure (where we could see the image on a screen on the wall) the technician told us when to close our eyes or look away to avoid potentially seeing something that would give it away.

I don't know whether he would have paused to ask if we wanted to know had we not said anything, but clearly we felt the onus lied with us to not assume he would.

But more than dealing with the actual medical professionals the aspect of the decision we underestimated was the incredulity we'd face when telling people—from family to mere acquaintances—that we were actively choosing not to find out the sex. Many people expressed a sort of admiration of that, noting that they would have to know, but still overwhelmingly people were not expecting it. The conclusion was clear: These days it is easier to just find out; that obviously requires no explanation.

At the end of the aforementioned visit (where everything showed as looking good) I asked the doctor if we were really that unusual in choosing not to find out. She replied that about 15 percent of people make that decision these days, but she said it as though that were still a significant number. Sure, statistically it's above being rare, but I still took away that the overwhelming majority of people are in the other camp—and it was their impatience that put us in the position of recurrent explanation!

I would not be devastated if we find out during these next four months—I do grasp how that sort of news would be difficult to essentially sit on for these professionals who have it—but the reality (as clich├ęd as it is) about this baby is that we'll love it whether it's a he or a she. We concede this may make it more difficult as the birth gets closer and people who may wish to give us gifts that may be gender-specific, but I like to think we will be able to give everyone interested something that apparently 85 percent of new parents cannot: the option of coming out of the delivery room and making that announcement of "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!"

We won't know until just before everyone else will.


I'm led to believe parenthood is pretty much the process of making seemingly innocuous decisions that will prove far more critical down the road, so it looks like we are already well prepared.


  1. Hey!

    Congratulations! I've been out of the loop.

    Best wishes to you and your family.


  2. As I try to catch up with your blog...

    Congrats. But if I may comment, I was puzzled by this: "When my wife and I found we were pregnant..." I've heard of sympathetic pregnancy (‎) so maybe that's what you meant by "we." Or are both of you expecting twins and you're carrying one of them? [G] OK, I'm parsing your thoughts too closely. I'm one of those grammar Nazis who gets upset when someone doesn't know the difference between "it's" (contraction) and "its" (possessive). Anyway, congrats!

    1. Thanks, Ray. To explain the choice of plural pronoun I will note: a pregnancy is not merely the biological act of carrying an embryo to term. I'm not doing the "heavy-lifting" but I am not merely one who fertilized the egg and had no further involvement.

      So, "we" are.


So, what do you think?