The Case for Leaving Gender a Mystery

Jan 7, 2013

My sister is pregnant with her third child. And just as it happened with her first and second pregnancies, I’ll get a call from our mother after she gives birth.

I’ll have been waiting by the phone, and when it rings and I answer it quickly, the conversation will go something like this:

Mom:  “The baby’s here!”

Me: “Ahhhhh!!!!!! What’d she have?!”

Mom:  “A ______.”

Me:  “I knew it! What’d she name it?”

Mom:  “_______ _______. After [insert relative name here].”

Me: “Awww, I love it!!!”

My sister and her husband have a hard and fast rule:  no finding out the gender beforehand, and no spilling the names they’ve picked out. When I first learned of this rule, long before their first pregnancy, I thought it was a little draconian. I mean, come on — it’s 2013! We have technology to determine gender, at the very least… why not use it?

Fast-forward to my own “trying to conceive” experience, which finally culminated over a year ago in our little Peanut. My husband and I decided long before our first positive pregnancy test that we, too, would be doing the same “draconian” thing – not finding out the baby’s gender, and keeping the names a secret (though I was probably going to be less successful at the latter part, since I suck at secrets).

Why the change of heart?

Because I got to experience both these options firsthand – through the births of my niece and nephews – and countless friends’ babies as well. From this, I know one thing beyond a shadow of a doubt:  I prefer suspense. Unequivocally, absolutely, and completely.

Suspense FTW.

Many of my Facebook acquaintances over the past few years have had babies. Most of them find out the gender, and announce it on Facebook. Many of them also share the name. When they finally have these kiddos, my reaction goes something like this:

“Oh, look. Sarah had Rhylee last night. Yup, looks like a baby.”

Yes, there were people in Sarah’s life who were ecstatic. But when you know EXACTLY what’s coming, and a general estimate of when it’s coming, how exciting is it when it actually arrives? Come on people, let’s be honest here.

Not very.

The thrill of learning about my new niece was so much better. The entire day she was in labor, I couldn’t sit still. I was so excited to find out if I had a new niece or nephew, and what his or her name would be… I felt like a little kid on Christmas Eve.

The Case for Suspense

In my opinion, there are two reasons to keep your baby’s gender a secret (even from yourself):

  1. For your friends and family.
  2. For yourself.

I’ll explain – starting with the “friends and family” part.

#1 – For Your Friends and Family

When I think about this, I’m reminded of our wedding. When we made decisions about our wedding, we asked ourselves: What would make a better experience for our friends, family, and guests?

For example, my bridesmaids wore any little ol’ tea-length black dress. No new dresses permitted, and they wore whatever shoes they wanted (two wore flip flops). The ceremony had no special music and was eight minutes long. There was no wait between the ceremony and the reception; we served our guests pizza and then took photos while they ate. We forbid the Dollar Dance. It takes forever and I’m ideologically opposed to it anyway.

We made most of these decisions not for ourselves, but so our friends and family could better enjoy our special day.

Back to the baby gender and name thing — not revealing it is infinitely more exciting and enjoyable for your family, friends, and loved ones. No contest.

Now, you might get some lip from family members by not finding out, but don’t buy into it. Your mother-in-law might grouse about not being able to buy clothes ahead of time, but she can zip it. Onesies come in a lovely gender-neutral white. Otherwise, you don’t need much for the first few weeks except sleepers, so buy a few in yellow and green, and a coming-home outfit for each gender.

Your friends and family will know that you need clothes – and they’ll have fun shopping after baby comes. Let them! (Go easy on newborn sizes. Buy 0-3 months and up. It’s never smart to overload on Newborn clothes; some kids, like my giant nephew, come into the world wearing 0-3 month sizes anyway!)

Now for the #2 reason not to find out the baby’s gender:  for yourself.

This I can speak to firsthand. There are many reasons, so I’ll try to be brief.


When you’ve been pushing for an hour, and the baby’s crowning and you feel like your vag is being ripped to kingdom come, the anticipation of finally knowing who’s been kicking you might just be the thing that gets you to the finish line. It was for me.

Add a Little Mystery to Something Very Un-mysterious.

If you planned your pregnancy – especially if you did IVF or another kind of ART – this baby was no surprise. You know you’re pregnant, you know you’ll give birth, and you even have a pretty good idea when you’ll do it. (In my case, I knew the date Baby was fertilized, the time [down to the second] she entered my uterus, and more.) When you’ve planned everything, why not let nature handle just one part of it? Besides, it’s not like you can change it once you know.

Vintage is Very Stylish.

If not knowing was good enough for my mother, my grandmother, and the many generations of women who came before, it’s good enough for me.

Better Shower Loot.

If you know your gender, at your shower, you’ll get a lot of gender-specific stuff that you can’t reuse with an opposite-gender baby. A gender-neutral shower, on the other hand, will fill your baby room with lots of items you can reuse for all your babies. Plus, without the temptation of cute little pink booties, your friends/family are more likely to buy the more necessary items on your registry: bottles, outlet covers, burp rags… boring stuff, but much more critical than a tractor-themed layette set.

A Reusable Nursery.

If you slather your nursery in pink, you can’t reuse it if Baby 2 is a boy. Yes, you might be able to turn another bedroom in your house into a nursery, but that doesn’t always work (i.e., you may want the newborn in the bedroom closest to the master). Or maybe you plan to redecorate the nursery completely for Baby #2. Easier said than done with a toddler. Besides, won’t it be more fun to decorate for your child when they’re a bit older, and they can tell you what they want? I’d much prefer to decorate my daughter’s room with Hello Kitty or Dora the Explorer when she’s 3 years old and can get really excited about her décor.


My sister, when I talked to her about this topic, said it best: “There’s not much left in life that you can’t Google.”*

She’s right. In this day and age, when anything you want to know can be found with a few keystrokes, we live in a world full of instant gratification. Finding out your baby’s gender is just one example of this.

I implore you, pregnant women (and those who will be soon) – resist temptation. Choose suspense. You’ll be glad you did.





*My sister was careful to say that she didn’t come up with this saying; a friend of hers did. She gets credit for repeating it.

About Me

Hiya! I'm Lydia. I live in Iowa with my husband and two children, both the result of iVF. I started this blog in 2011, so everything here's a wee bit... old. I don't do a ton of writing anymore... but I'm leaving the blog up, in case it's helpful for those who stumble across it.

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If you're going through infertility and want to see our journey, start in June 2011 (first two cycles) or January 2014 (third cycle). Hopefully reading about our rollercoaster with assisted reproduction brings you a little hope, and more than a few giggles. (Keep in mind that this information is over a decade old in most cases; please don't take anything you read here as medical advice. Consult your doctor for facts.)

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1 Comment

  1. We did IVF and decided not to find out for the same reasons. I had an ultrasound on my due date, and the doctor inadvertently let it slip. ON MY DUE DATE. We made it 9 freaking months only to find out a few days before I have birth. Soooooo angry.


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