Would you want to know the gender of your baby before (s)he was born?
January 29, 2006 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Would you want to know the gender of your baby before (s)he was born? Why or why not? Help my friends decide.
posted by heatherann to Human Relations (48 answers total)
They need to get the amnio done anyway, to screen for congenital disorders.

By knowing the baby's sex prior to delivery, they can better plan and prepare before all their time is taken up by caring for the baby after its birth.
posted by orthogonality at 3:11 PM on January 29, 2006

The only good reason I could thing of to have a child at this point in my life would be to dress it up cute. Seriously. I'm that shallow. For this reason, I would want to know in advance, so I could be prepared the appropriately gendered cute little outfits. Otherwise baby showers are a sea of yellow and teal creepers, and that's just boring. Not to mention unfashionable.

If I actually wanted a baby because I wanted to be a parent, I couldn't imagine a cooler moment following labor than the "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!" surprise that can only come with not knowing.

I think, in general, it would be a lot easier to know, for preparations and such. But your friends pretty much need to decide how important that one birth-time sentence is, because other than that it doesn't really when you find out, I don't think.
posted by ferociouskitty at 3:13 PM on January 29, 2006

We decided not to, basically just because we wanted to be surprised.
posted by jasper411 at 3:13 PM on January 29, 2006

I wouldn't - with knowing the gender comes picking out names - what if you decided on the name, told everyone etc. and then when the baby was born realised it was totally wrong for them?
posted by Lotto at 3:17 PM on January 29, 2006

We insisted on not knowing gender. Friends and family thought we were nuts, but there is something in all the planning around child rearing that seems so unnatural. It's been my experience, the more you plan for, the more you'll be disappointed when your plans fall though. Interestingly the three delivery room RN's we dealt with, loooong delivery, all agreed. The surprise is beyond anything you could imagine and you don't have to worry about getting hung up on the perfectly designed nursery.
posted by paxton at 3:20 PM on January 29, 2006

No way. There are very few genuine surprises in life. And it's not like I'd be decorating a nursery in all pink or all blue, or buying similarly color-coded clothes. So, although there are probably a few instances in which knowing the baby's gender would help you to prepare, for the most part it's not necessary.
posted by amro at 3:22 PM on January 29, 2006

I actively did not want to know the gender of my children before they were born. The whole pregnancy/birth process is so mechanized any more that the child's gender is just about the only surprise left.

To my wife's credit, she kept it under her hat(?) both times having learned herself during ultra-sounds.
posted by hwestiii at 3:22 PM on January 29, 2006

someone told me that they wanted to know the sex before so that they could really start connecting with the child as a person and part of that, for them, was knowing the gender.
posted by k8t at 3:27 PM on January 29, 2006

We asked, because it seemed unnatural not to know something that the nurses and the doctor all knew. Also, friends told that it almost impossible not to find out. Even if you ask the doctor not to tell you, someone blurts out a gender-specific word and you end up all pissed off that someone spoiled your surprise.
posted by LarryC at 3:31 PM on January 29, 2006

LarryC: if you request that the gender not be told to you no record of sex goes into the chart. So until the delivery the only person with that knowledge is the sonogram tech. That includes your Doctor. At least this is the way our OB/Gyn runs their office, they don't consider themselves to be in the business of ruining a parents day.
posted by paxton at 3:36 PM on January 29, 2006

I would definitely want to know, if not for any great reason. It might make zeroing in on a short-list of names easier. I suppose it might enter into purchase decisions, though I'd hope that most of those really wouldn't be horribly sex-biased (ie, a bright pink nursery filled with GIRLY GIRL stuff, or a baby blue one filled with tiny sports crap, would make me puke).

I guess I look at it as: Why choose to be ignorant of something that's right there for the knowing?

I don't see the preserve-the-surprise as being anything vital, though obviously mileage varies. It's a child, not a birthday present. There will still be lots of surprises -- the way it has Daddy's eyes and Mommy's dimple and great-aunt-Edna's left kneecap and Great-Grandpa's red hair, the way it laughs like whoever it laughs like, its ability to choose the most inopportune and inconvenient moments to demand feeding or changing, etc.

In a similar vein, I have neither been there nor done that, but I am certain that I would spend the entire labor and delivery so utterly worried that my wife might bleed out or that she might seize or that she might die in some other painful, horrific way, or that the baby might be strangled and brain-damaged, or stillborn, or have nine heads, that I really wouldn't care much about having one more thing to be uncertain about.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:42 PM on January 29, 2006

Why is finding out the gender when the baby pops out any more of a surprise than finding out the gender during a sonogram? (As you can tell, I haven't had any kids.)
posted by epimorph at 3:43 PM on January 29, 2006

With #1, we didn't find out before she was born. We had boy and girl names, a gender-neutral room decor and not too many clothes. We really enjoyed speculating, and people love to guess what kind of baby you're having, so it gives you something to talk about with the people in the office. With #2, we did find out, mainly for practical reasons - could they share a room, did we need to buy clothes, etc. I have to say that I missed the anticipation a bit, although we didn't name him until he was born and we could see him. It creeps me out a little when people name their baby before it's born and refer to it by name. That just arouses all kinds of superstition in me.
posted by SashaPT at 4:10 PM on January 29, 2006

I absolutely had to know. As soon as possible. Of course, I can't wait for anything.

Mostly I wanted to know so that I would have plenty of time to reflect on a name. I think it's important to focus on and pick the right name for a child, and I just couldn't narrow it down if I was thinking of boys and girls names. And I couldn't make friends with the idea of a unisex name. So yeah. I found out.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:12 PM on January 29, 2006

For me, the coolest part of knowing the gender before birth is that we could call her by name in utero.
posted by sexymofo at 4:19 PM on January 29, 2006

We knew with our first two, mainly because we're poor and get everything at yardsales. This way we had plenty of time to buy clothes. Since we had 1 girl and 1 boy, we decided to remain in the dark for number 3 (plenty of hand-me-downs for either). Of course, since we had a long list of girl names and none for boys, it was a boy (who ended up with a strange name about 6 hours after he was born).
posted by 445supermag at 4:31 PM on January 29, 2006

We've known the gender of both of our kids prior to the delivery, but we have a friend that has deliberately chosen not to do the same with their two kids. I can't figure it out. All they say is that they want to be surprised. I think my friends are secretly anxious and somewhat ignorant about the entire process and somehow they think things will go wrong with the ultrasound. Or perhaps they don't know the difference between an ultrasound and an amnio and think knowing the gender means a semi-surgical procedure with attendant risks.
posted by frogan at 4:34 PM on January 29, 2006

I wanted the element of surprise - which turned out to be a good thing. After 45 hours of labor and an emergency c-section, it was wonderful hearing when I woke up 10 hours later, "You have a healthy baby girl!"
posted by Space Kitty at 4:34 PM on January 29, 2006

Oh, and the coolest part about knowing the gender is being able to name the kid, with lots of time to mull over options.
posted by frogan at 4:35 PM on January 29, 2006

I did not want to know. Like amro mentioned, I didn't plan to do anything differently for a girl or boy. Which was for the best. My dinosaur-loving little tomboy would have seemed out of place in a frilly, girly room. They live in sleepers for the first few months anyway, so it's not like you need to stock up on tutus or anything.

I don't even like to know what other people are having. It just seems so anticlimactic. It's much more fun to pick up the phone and hear, "We have a son and his name is Tommy!" than just "Yeah, you know that Tommy we've been talking about for months? He's here now."

A few summer's ago, three women I know who were told they were definitely having girls ended up having boys. One of them was my best friend. We spent many hours at the mall returning tiny dresses and she was pretty upset. She had spent all this time preparing for a daughter who never came. She was grieving for someone who never existed, which is a strange and difficult position to be in.
posted by jrossi4r at 4:37 PM on January 29, 2006

We wanted to know more than we wanted a surprise, though not for any particular reason we could put a finger on. K8t brought up a good point, too. Everything we saw and learned during that ultrasound served to make things much more real to us rather than staying some abstract concept of possibility.

There is always that chance that the sex determination was wrong, and we are prepared for that possibility.
posted by moira at 4:45 PM on January 29, 2006

I wanted to know, here are the reasons.

1.) I wanted one gender more than the other (shallow now, looking back). I wanted to deal with any disappointment / strange feelings before the baby was actually born, not during a time that I should be bonding with the baby.

2.) I got sick of calling the baby an "it," which you do until you know the gender, even if you try not to.

3.) I liked talking to the baby by name, and really seriously deciding on names.

4.) I liked knowing what cloths to buy, etc.

5.) For me, the time when you know the baby's gender is when the pregnancy really becomes real and you start taking it seriously. Until then it's kind of theoretical or something.

6.) about surprises. The day of birth is so magical and insane and miraculous and exhausting and the look and feel and essence of this new baby is so surprising and new in and of itself, I found that it wasn't a time that needed any additional surprises.
posted by visual mechanic at 5:01 PM on January 29, 2006

It never occurred to either of us to not find out, really.
Picking a name is sufficiently arduous that I didn't want to do it twice, and especially, didn't want to become emotionally invested in a name that wouldn't be used.
posted by Aknaton at 5:16 PM on January 29, 2006

I didn't want to know, because I love surprises. I figured the clothes and stuff would sort itself out, it was fun coming up with names for either gender and I enjoyed not being able to tell people when they asked (usually question number two, right after "when are you due?")

Then that the person who called with the results of our amnio told my partner that "everything was normal with the baby boy". So the surprise came about 5 months earlier than expected. Oh well.
posted by Cuke at 5:30 PM on January 29, 2006

Naturally I wanted to know as soon as possible, and I admit I don't understand those that wait. It is a surprise either way when you find out, just a matter of time.
Just as I want the usual/reasonable tests done to know it is probably a healthy child as soon as possible too.
posted by lundman at 5:34 PM on January 29, 2006

I thought I didn't want to know. Then when it was time for the 20-week sono, I wanted to know. I had waited years to find out if I was going to have a boy or a girl - I didn't want to wait any longer than I had to!
If they do decide to find out and tell everyone, some friends of mine had a great way of doing it. They wrote down the sex of their baby in a sealed envelope and had a party that weekend to tell everyone at the same time.
posted by Iamtherealme at 5:36 PM on January 29, 2006

not knowing ahead of time was great; finding out while watching it live was awesome!

unless they have a serious aversion to yellow and green shower gifts, there is no compelling reason to know in advance; your friends will have many years to get used to it, whatever it is.
posted by RockyChrysler at 6:32 PM on January 29, 2006

Ditto what ROU_Xenophobe said and then some, except for the part about freaking out about birth. I'm too much of a control freak not to want to know what can be known; definitely needed a headstart namewise (my second, a boy, was referred to as Sally right up until that ultrasound/amnio); and then the tech doing the amnio was rolling that scope over my belly and went, "Whoa! Look at that!" then "Wait, did you want to know what sex it was?" so it wouldn't have been a surprise at birth anyway. We did keep the babies' names to ourselves until they were out and dried off because THAT seemed like tempting fate.
posted by eve harrington at 6:36 PM on January 29, 2006

Unless your friends are planning doing a nursery in pink or blue, or need to make a decision about circumcision, there isn't much that's different between newborn boys or newborn girls -- so planning and preparing doesn't come into it.

I'm currently pregnant and don't know the sex of my lil' parasite. This way we'll be able to call people and say "it's a boy!" or "it's a girl!" in the traditional manner. Nobody knows -- the sonogram technician didn't look. So I suppose there's a chance that the lil' parasite is intersex. Ah well, it's always something with kids today.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:02 PM on January 29, 2006

For us, it came down to the fact that with current technology you have to actually go out of your way to avoid knowing. That sort of willful ignorance about something that all the doctors and medical staff knew just didn't sit well with me. If everyone else knows, why would I intentionally remain in the dark about it?

If you had to go out of your way in order to find out, like performing an extra test or something, I'm not sure I would have cared enough to do it and find out. As it is, though, I just felt like I'd be really dumb to turn my head away from the ultrasound screen whenever it looked like I might accidentally find out.
posted by JekPorkins at 7:24 PM on January 29, 2006

This way we'll be able to call people and say "it's a boy!" or "it's a girl!" in the traditional manner.

Um. You can do this even if you already know your kid's sex, you know. By the simple expedient of not telling other people.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:27 PM on January 29, 2006

I *had* to know. My reasoning was that our lives were going to be turned 180 degrees anyway, it would be nice to have one thing that was sure.

(Well, that and I am horrifically impatient and if I'd had to wait nine months to find out, I would've gone crazy.)

We kept our son's name a secret, so that was the surprise we sprung on everyone.
posted by Lucinda at 7:48 PM on January 29, 2006

Where I live, the hospitals (and u/s techs) refuse to release information on the sex of the baby before 26 weeks, at which point voluntary termination is no longer an option. We support this but we didn't know the rule at the time and asked the tech what the sex was. She explained why she couldn't tell us...and then zoomed in on the groin and pointed out the legs. We left thinking we were having a girl.

Well, I was none too surprised when my husband announced I had just had a boy. But I was pleasantly surprised and just thrilled to have a health baby.

We had only told a few people the baby's supposed sex. We only bought gender neutral clothing and we used gender neutral decorations. Even if we'd been certain of the sex, we would have done this. We don't want to have to paint and buy everything new when we have a second baby. :) And there still seems to be a constant flow of gender-specific clothes now that the baby has been born. We're not really into gender stereotyping, although I'm sure it occurs in ways that escape us.
posted by acoutu at 7:58 PM on January 29, 2006

I say let the child decide.

Monty Python's The Meaning of life:

Is it a boy or a girl?
Now, I think it's a little early to start imposing roles on it, don't you?
posted by Zendogg at 7:58 PM on January 29, 2006

orthogonality: They need to get the amnio done anyway, to screen for congenital disorders.

You make it sound like the amnio is required for all births, which is just not true. In fact, it's not even recommended unless there is an issue that may be discovered. Usually what happens (here in Canada) is that a "triple-screen" blood test for chromosonal disorders is done. Unfortunately, it has a 40% false positive rate...though it has a very low false negative rate. In the case of a positive result, they will often suggest an amnio to verify whether the condition exists or not. In the case of a negative result, they will very rarely do an amnio. Amnios have a small but measurable risk of rupturing the sac and causing miscarriages or infection.

Anyway, my wife is pregnant now and will will absolutely find out the gender. They wouldn't tell us at the 18-week ultrasound, and if the doc won't tell us at out next appointment we will be going to a "4D ultrasound" to find out. We want to make the 'name connect' between us and the baby as mentioned earlier in the thread.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:24 PM on January 29, 2006

We have a 12 week old and didn't find out. nobody blurted out anything, we were just sure to tell the ultrasound nurses right when we walked in and such, and it was great.

The way I see it...big surprises don't come along often when you are into your 20, 30, 40's (whenever you are having this kid)...except pink slips and diseases. So why not have a great surprise at the most beautiful moment in your life?

Let me tell you, wondering so much about what the baby would look like, etc is so much fun...and seeing his head come out I just lost it...bawling like a freak, and then he was born and I screamed Its A Boy!... there was so much joy and surprise and amazement. Totally worth not finding out.

Not finding out was easy, actually. As long as you can stand it at your 20 week ultrasound, thats the last chance you have to find out, then you are stuck (barring paying for your own ultrasound or ultrasounds for other reasons).

The biggest thing is to not try and convence them one way or the other. Its their decision and no one else's input matters. As well with names. That's why we told NO ONE the names we chose. We didn't care for anyone else's input.
posted by Chuck Cheeze at 9:06 PM on January 29, 2006

We asked the ultrasound technician to tell us if they could figure it out, with both of ours. And they did - however I was prepared up to the birth for each baby not to be the gender I was told, since I had heard of that happening to other people a few times.

It wasn't for the names; we gave both babies gender-neutral nicknames in utero anyway (I didn't like calling the baby "it"), and had both boy and girl names ready well before the births. I think I just like knowing - I'm not too fond of surprises, at least, surprises that I know will be happening (rather than surprises I didn't know about - those are fine). Although if the tech hadn't been able to tell us, that would've been okay. I guess I should say I wouldn't've liked not knowing if other people (the tech, the midwife, etc.) knew!
posted by Melinika at 9:28 PM on January 29, 2006

>It's much more fun to pick up the phone and hear, "We have a son and his name is Tommy!" than just "Yeah, you know that Tommy we've been talking about for months? He's here now."

Hee! Having a baby should be a celebrated time full of wonder and new beginnings. Knowing the sex removes some major part of that "newness".

As for the "wanting to decorate the nursery" crowd, sonogram techs and OBs don't ALWAYS get it right, and think how frustrating it would be to have to return/throw out 9 months of "wrong sex" clothes/items.

We didn't find out, and even though my wife was sure it was a boy, our daughter was a wonderful surprise. Her first words after "It's a girl" were "Are you sure?" The maternity ward had a good laugh about that, but she was pretty out of it at that point.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:49 PM on January 29, 2006

Oh, as for the name connection, my wife and I picked a gender-neutral nickname ("Lump") for the duration of the pregnancy (also helps to avoid the "it" situation). We still occasionally refer to our five-year-old by it, and it is nice to be able to summon up memories of that time with a little nickname.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:53 PM on January 29, 2006

We found out -- we're with the "hate waiting camp." Pregancy is 40 (or so) weeks of waiting and waiting and waiting anyway, so it was nice to not have to wait for at least one aspect of it.

Also, I originally wanted a girl (I'm more familiar with how to raise a girl). Finding out the baby was a boy let me prepare for him instead. Now that he's here, I can't imagine him as a girl at all!

We were glad to be able to give him his name early on; we were also glad that we didn't have to come up with a girl's name. Decorating wasn't a factor -- his room and clothes are pretty gender neutral.
posted by debgpi at 4:14 AM on January 30, 2006

We tried to not know with our first-born, but the sono-tech gave it away. I've heard that this is pretty common. It's really hard for them to avoid pronouns while you're in there.

It wasn't a big deal for us, because neither my wife nor I had a lot of emotion invested in hoping for a specific gender. I've never understood those people who get all torqued up about rooting for a specific sex. How on earth could that possibly matter? The baby is not an accessory, nor a sane place to focus your gender-role control-freak super-powers ("my boy is going to be a Special Forces Super Bowl Quarterback Indy Car Drivin' Badass with a 10-inch dick!").

Knowing the gender ahead of time helps with all kinds of "getting ready" stuff (that previous posters have pointed out), and I think it speeds up all the cool bonding that needs to happen, too.

the "pink jammies" thing is not a big deal. they're going to grow out of that stuff so fast that you won't even remember it.
posted by popechunk at 5:40 AM on January 30, 2006

I'm at 15 weeks right now, and we have no desire to know at all.

I can't figure it out. All they say is that they want to be surprised. I think my friends are secretly anxious and somewhat ignorant about the entire process and somehow they think things will go wrong with the ultrasound.

Or, maybe, just maybe, they just want to be surprised at the birth. I get that some people are serious planners, and want to know the gender so they can do as much planning and such as possible, but we're not those people. My desire to "not know" certainly has nothing to do with fear or ignorance about the processes involved. I just, frankly, don't see the point in knowing beforehand. People had to wait to know the gender of their baby for thousands of years ... they survived. So will we.

All I want is a healthy baby. The gender is what it is -- I can't change it or influence it, so why know? Part of what we're looking forward to is the "Its a ...." moment in the delivery room. Part of the fun for us is running through lists of names for girls and for boys. I am completely looking forward to the surprise.
posted by anastasiav at 6:12 AM on January 30, 2006

I have one kid, and I found out. Why? Well, my husband was really excited about having a son and I was worried that if it turned out to be a girl he'd be disappointed and it would ruin some of the excitement in the first day or two. Also, he had a few ideas for boys names that I found absolutely unacceptable, and I wanted to know how hard I had to fight them.

We found out we were having a girl, so I didn't have to worry about the stupid boy names (until next time) and he had time to get excited about having a daughter.
posted by raedyn at 7:24 AM on January 30, 2006

I wanted to know the sex of my baby before it was born. I really, really, really wanted a girl. And, it was a girl. I did not call her by name, though, until AFTER she was born. This was mostly due to the fact that when my my sister-in-law was expecting her first child, she referred to her by name once they found out the sex. Then, when the baby was born, she changed the name she had planned to name her. It was confusing for everyone. I knew that my baby was a girl, but I did not want to call her by name in case the sonograms were wrong.
posted by cass at 10:29 AM on January 30, 2006

Afterthought re: naming.

Although we knew we were going to have a girl, we didn't name her until she was born. We kind of made a short list to choose from and the day after she was born we were finally alone together for a while so we could choose her name.
posted by raedyn at 11:29 AM on January 30, 2006

I would not want to know. I like the thought of there being a few months in a person's life when they are completely free from other people's gender-related expections.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:44 AM on January 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

I also think it's kind of weird to name somebody before you've even met them.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:45 AM on January 30, 2006

I like that way of putting it, otter.

Parenting a baby (then toddler, now preschooler) has given me a chance to see how we contruct "boys" and "girls" and how we treat them so differently. It's givern me lots to think about re: gender and sexuality. I feel like I've got lots I'm not comfortable with, and no good answers.
posted by raedyn at 11:55 AM on January 30, 2006

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