homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Spoiling the surprise

There are countless decisions in parenting about which people have a tendency to get very judgmental and/or defensive, and I'm about to discuss one of them. Please understand up front that I believe that everyone is entitled to their choices as long as they "do no harm". This wasn't written as a soapbox or a diss or any other blanket statement about what you and yours do. It's just about me.

So. I'm expecting a baby. Between some math calculations, the modern miracle of ultrasound technology, and the unfortunate situation of requiring an undesired but necessary surgical delivery, I not only know roughly when, but specifically when this little one will be emerging into the world. I'm already well-armed with a lot more knowledge than the guesswork afforded my foremothers.

I do not, however, know whether my child has indoor plumbing. An innie or an outie. An X or a Y in that second position. Nor do I want to.

This is my third pregnancy and I have chosen to keep the gender a secret from myself (and therefore everyone) with each one. I'm amused (and sometimes annoyed, as certain people's incredulity can come across as accusatory...why is that?) when people ask why. "Because I like the surprise" doesn't seem to appease some folks. After all, we have the technology to gain this information, so why wouldn't I? It would make planning easier, etc...

With all due respect and a nice pre-emptive "thank you" to those who wonder if they should spend their time making (or their money purchasing) a lovely ruffled dress or an adorable rugged set of mini overalls for my child, it's my choice. Not yours. And it's not my duty or obligation to make decisions based on whether it will please the general public. (Oh yeah, and we will still love gifts after Birth Day, I promise.)

We're so impatient in this society; we want instant gratification at every turn. Between DVRs and microwavable everything and the ubiquitous presence of cellphones (each individual is expected to be reachable at any time--heavens, when we go play outside, or exercise our family rule of not answering phones during dinner, we have gotten some serious backlash from folks who *blame us for worrying them* by not picking up), we seem to be increasingly losing the ability to just WAIT. You'll find out the baby's gender. Just not today. And guess what? The world won't end because there's something that you want that you can't have yet.

Also, I'm pretty sure I won't be color-coding my child. I would have purchased white Onesies and yellow sleepers regardless. And I chose a lovely pale green for the blanket I'm knitting because I like green.

The whole clip is classic; the punchline which applies to this post occurs at 3:55.
And knowing ahead of time really won't affect our decorating (with four children in two rooms already, it's not like there's a nursery to our babies cosleep anyway) or our name choices (despite a "short list", our older children were named well after birth, as many selections that we'd loved in theory just didn't seem to fit that child).

So really, for us, knowing would just be...knowing. And no, there's nothing at all wrong with that. If you want to know the gender of your unborn child, I'm cool with that. And still a little geeked out that it's possible. But not knowing is okay, too.

Let me paint a metaphor for you...if only to amuse myself. I seem to process things best by relating them to other things. I'm not sure what that says about me as a person, but I kick ass at picking apart the symbolism in classic literature (har).

Think of this baby as a Christmas present. I know I'm getting a gift. I can see the wrapping, touch the package, and I know when this gift will be officially presented for me to open and enjoy. So the question is, do I just make guesses about what I think might be inside? Or do I peel back the wrapping and find out?

Although one might naturally presume that the excitement lies in "what you got", I am convinced that what makes the experience so special isn't only the matter of what's inside the package, but the joy which is magnified by delight at the moment of revelation. I had a recent conversation with my sisters-in-law in which two of us admitted to having peeked at hidden Christmas gifts as kids...and both of us had the same reaction. We'd felt terrible. It's not that we disliked the toys or were disappointed, or even that we feared discovery and punishment. It was the fact that when we opened them in front of the family, our surprise was feigned and our delight was diminished. We already knew we were getting the Barbie/bike/ there was no mystery, no moment of fresh surprise to make it even better.

That's kind of how I feel about the baby thing. Yes, I will be super excited to meet this person even if I know more details about what to expect. However, there's something magical about the announcement of "It's a..." that seems to me so much more awe-inspiring and celebratory than simply, "S/he's here".

Interestingly, like the woman in the clip above, I have had to ask for confirmation in each previous delivery, and expect to again. I suspect that doctors are so accustomed to the knowledge being, well, common knowledge, that they don't think to announce the gender at birth anymore.

I know I'm getting a gift. I know on which day it will be "opened". I don't need to know what's inside it. I'm going to save that discovery as a gift to myself. ;)


  1. Mine were surprises, too. I kinda wanted to know, though. But I agree about how special the genuine surprise is. And what you were told your baby was isn't always what actually comes out. I have a friend who 3 months ago had a premature birth. They announced the birth of their daughter, only to later announce that it was actually a boy- the genitals had not been apparent- not during the ultrasound when they told all their friends they were having a girl, and not after he was born. Funny how that can go.

  2. We only found out with only one of our six children, and I have to agree that it's much more fun to wait until birth to find out.

    Side note: I'd never seen that video. Hysterical!!