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The Excessive Burden Of Hiding The Baby’s Gender (or Why Family Needs to Honor Parental Choices)

Hello, I’m hoping you or your readers can give me some advice about how to handle my new problem. My husband and I have recently informed our families that we’re expecting out first child in the summer of next year. Everyone is excited on both sides, but my family has decided that they don’t want to know the baby’s gender until the birth. (We haven’t even decided if we’re going to find out or not.) Now, this seems simple enough, but it’s not. Their request means a great deal of restraint on our part, and my husband’s family as well. It means if we find out, we wouldn’t be able to tell anyone of the baby’s gender. Our families and friends are all on social media to keep in touch with us, and if we inform his family especially, even through personal messages or phone calls, it’ll end up all over the site and my family will see. But it would also extend to our conversations, having to leave out any gender specific words, and also to any potential baby celebrations there may be. We’d have to hide any pictures of any party if it’s gender themed or if anyone brought gender specific gifts. Not to mention if my family attended the celebration and saw everything in person I’m sure I’d hear all about it. Now, remember, we haven’t even decided if WE want to find out which is still a ways away, but it seems like my family has tried to make that decision for us due to the impossibility of their request which they make known every time we talk to them. (And, one person in particular keeps saying, “Don’t do it!, every time we talk.) I’m pretty much at a point to tell them to stuff it and deal with whatever decision we make in regards to our child. Any advise on this situation would be greatly appreciated. 1125-13

I believe personal information is the possession of its original owner to do with as they wish.   That is why I believe it is wrong for people to break other people’s news or share information they have not been released to pass on to others.    The gender of your unborn baby is your news, your information and you decide when that information will be public.   It is your first official decision as parents.   Your family is putting a burden on you to constrain your news announcements and conversations in a selfish desire to fulfill their own expectations.   They have no rights to your news and information unless you grant them that power (which I suggest you don’t).  If you don’t mind knowing the gender of your baby or that this information is known prior to his/her birth, your family has an obligation to honor and respect your parenting decisions.   Cave on this one and you can expect further expectations from your family to modify your life choices and parental decisions to suit themselves.

I have the reverse situation where my pregnant daughter does not want to know the gender of the baby and has no intentions of telling anyone prior to the birth even if she knew.   One has to honor that right for them  to make decisions as parents of their own families.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Karen L November 27, 2013, 2:00 pm

    Put the burden on them. Tell them they better stop reading your Facebook, talking to you or your friends, etc., in fact maybe they should just go live in a cave until the baby is born. You’ll send some kind of homing pigeon to tell them the news.

  • lakey November 27, 2013, 2:02 pm

    In most cases people cannot impose on you unless you allow it. One of the most important things you learn to do as an adult is to say “no”. You don’t have to be abrupt about it, just one nicely worded sentence, perhaps emailed so that you don’t have to repeat it for each person.
    Oh, and congratulations!

  • lakey November 27, 2013, 2:06 pm

    Also, congratulations to the Administrator.

  • Dee November 27, 2013, 2:24 pm

    @Wild Irish Rose – very interesting take on all this! Definitely something parents/extended family should keep in mind beyond the initial declaration of “It’s a boy/girl!”. A child should not be defined/confined by its sex and this is one way of remembering that.

  • Treeang November 27, 2013, 2:45 pm

    I think Library Diva has it right. It is possible that they meant they don’t really want to know, but not that you have to go to all sorts of lengths to hide it from them. It is just one of those things…if they find out, they find out. If you are going to have a gender reveal party, just let them know in advance so they can choose what they would like to do about it. I think you may be overthinking the whole thing and making it a bigger deal than it was intended to be. Getting all harsh and up in their faces might cause more problems than it would solve.

    I would simply say “We won’t tell you directly then, but know that you may accidentally find out” and just let it be at that.

    As a side note, my husband and I did not find out the sex of any of our children before they were born. It was a great honor for my husband to be able to go to the waiting room and announce the birth/sex of our child to the waiting family. It made him feel like he was really a part of the process and not an observer. My BF knew the sex of our children, though, as we had the ultrasound tech write it down, seal it in an envelope and we mailed it to her. She would get the coming home outfit and anything else that might need to be sex specific and it was always fun to have her know but not tell us. It added to the guessing game fun. My response when people asked me what I was having was “Puppies…the way the baby is rolling around it there, I think we are having puppies.”


  • AIP November 27, 2013, 3:19 pm

    Sufferin’ Jaysis! The others and Admin are right, they need to cop onto themselves!

    And congrats to the Admin! 😀

  • Mae November 27, 2013, 3:29 pm

    Reading through the comments, I am thinking back to when I pregnant and having children (1993 & 1996). They hadn’t come up with 4-D ultrasound so telling the babies sex was iffy. Especially if you had a baby that wouldn’t “turn” the right way so the technician could tell and even if the baby did, some would say ” I *think* it’s girl/boy”. They told me my first son was a girl and my second son would not “turn” around for the technician.

  • Kat November 27, 2013, 3:40 pm

    Same rules as when you don’t want to know what happened on TV last night. Your family can ask not to be told directly, and they can choose to avoid places (i.e. facebook) where other people might be discussing it.

  • Glitter November 27, 2013, 3:53 pm

    This whole finding out if the kid is a boy or girl before it’s born thing, is really a hot button issue for people, which seems odd to me. I don’t have kids yet, I’m not pregnant yet, I’m not even trying yet! However the partner and I have discussed things and we both like the idea of finding out when the baby shows up. When it comes up in casual conversation that we don’t plan on finding out the sex of the potential baby…well…the reactions haven’t be positive. Mostly “That’s selfish” (how?) and “But you won’t be able to plan!” (plan what? are baby boys and baby girls all that different?) and my favorite “But what kind of gifts will people buy you!!??” (um, I don’t care, and only if they want too). This is a hypothetical baby.

    OP is it possible your family members haven’t thought this request all the way through? Way back when, just not telling them the gender would’ve been sufficient. Grandma to be doesn’t want to know? Ok, I just won’t phone and tell her. It’s much different now. I’m simply tell them “If we decide to find out the sex of the baby, we won’t tell you directly, however I can’t guarantee you won’t find out indirectly, please understand that” if they stamp their feet and whine just restate “We won’t tell you directly, it’s up to you to prevent finding out indirectly”.

  • kingsrings November 27, 2013, 4:58 pm

    I don’t have any children, but if I was pregnant, I can imagine that I definitely wouldn’t want to find out the baby’s sex before they were born. I just love that wonderful element of surprise and not making gender assumptions about the baby beforehand! That being said, it’s every parent’s right to find out or not find out beforehand as they please, and NOBODY, not even other family members, has any right to dictate to them whether they should or shouldn’t find out and whether they can tell anyone else the sex. And for those that say one must find out ahead of time so that others know what kind of gender-specific clothes/toys to buy baby, I say what in the world did people do before finding out the sex was possible?? Somehow, we all survived and were able to get along just fine not knowing.

  • Spike November 27, 2013, 5:51 pm

    I just find it so bizarre and presumptuous for your family to take the burden of their arbitrary decision and place it on you. How about if THEY don’t want to know until the birth, then THEY should take the necessary steps to isolate themselves from learning said information, rather than asking you to bend over backward and think twice about everything you say and do in case you “spoil the surprise” (like you don’t have enough to think about in the run-up to the birth). If this was my situation I would politely inform them of this. There would probably be some pouting, but you should stick to your guns.

  • Goodness November 27, 2013, 9:29 pm

    You answered your own question: “… tell them to stuff it and deal with whatever decision [you] make in regards to [your] child. ”

    Tell whomever you wish to. Then when (not if) they complain that “You told Aunt Ditzy but didn’t tell us!” remind them that they asked you not to.

  • Georgie November 27, 2013, 10:33 pm

    Congratulations, OP and admin!

    I have nothing to add to the excellent advice already given but I do have a story on a similar theme.

    When a friend of mine was pregnant with their first baby, she and her husband decided that they did not want to know the baby’s sex until he/she was born. They told both sides of the family that and when she went for her untrasound she told the technician too.However, they did get a picture and proudly emailed it to both sets of parents.

    Her mother-in-law then showed the picture to a friend of a colleague who was an ultrasound technichian (ie. she sought some one out who would know) and not only discovered the sex of the baby but THEN, at the next available opportunity, said to the parents to be, “[Tech’s name] says that you’re having a boy”.

    My friend was very upset, her husband was furious but to this day his mother has no problem with what she did.

  • NostalgicGal November 27, 2013, 11:03 pm

    I remember the days before you knew until the child joined the world. Then came the era of ‘good guess’ that could be wrong… then came Yes We Can Tell (and only rarely muff it up). It’s up to the two involved in having the kid whether or not they want to know, and who they tell. If someone doesn’t want to know and the parents DO want to know, then it’s not the parents fault if that person finds out.

    Just be ready in case someone muffs on the call (couple sued because tech read it wrong and told them it was a girl, and they spent $20k on doing the nursery all Barbie including a custom mural; and out popped a boy). Niece was having her first, they could have given her the likely on it during ultrasound, they opted not to have the tech give it the best guess; so we waited until the birth to find out it was a girl. It was up to them how they wanted to handle it, nothing less.

  • Basketcase November 28, 2013, 12:58 am

    We found out. My parents didn’t want to know, my in-laws did. So we pretended that we didn’t know what we were having. My MIL was frustrated and my parents were happy and we were entertained. It was great.
    But, thats not for everyone.

  • Rebecca November 28, 2013, 2:17 am

    They are the ones who don’t want to know; therefore it is their responsibility to stay off social media and so forth in case they find out. Much the same way as if you are catching up on a TV series that everyone else watched months ago, and you don’t want “spoilers.” You don’t Google the show, and you stay off social media threads about the show.

  • ketchup November 28, 2013, 3:10 am

    My first reaction was: huh what now?
    The child’s not even here yet and already there’s such drama!

    So don’t tell them. What happens afterwards is up to them. You have no obligation at all to go along with this madness. Pfft, just enjoy those months of pregnancy, they’re gone before you know it. Don’t waste time with this drama. There will be plenty of crises in times to come (no child goes without I suppose).

    And of course, many congratulations to you and to Admin!

  • Lou November 28, 2013, 5:09 am

    Congratulations on your news, and sorry to hear about your family’s charming little ways! I can’t really add anything to the excellent advice already posted but I think it’s safe to say you have a pretty clear consensus!
    I feel rather sorry for PPs who’ve been accused of selfishness or stupidity for not finding out the sex of their baby before the birth, but I recently encountered a situation which I think may be an exception. A friend of the family was expecting and decided not to find out the sex because she felt the surprise was her pay-off for going through the pregnancy.

    However she already has one of each (Harry and Daisy). Now when she told the children that they were going to have a new sibling, she also told them that there would be some bedroom adjustments when it arrived – at the moment, both kids have their own rooms, decorated in their favourite colours and characters, and Harry’s is bigger than Daisy’s. The plan was that, if the baby was a boy, it would move into Harry’s room; if it was a girl, Harry and Daisy would swap rooms and Daisy would share with her new sister (no extra bedroom available).

    Whilst I can see the logic/necesity of those new sleeping arrangements, I felt it was somewhat selfish for Mum to put her own need for a surprise over her children’s need for certainty and stability. Adjusting to a new sibling can be tricky enough, and they’ve ended up with a situation where both kids are hoping for the outcome which means they don’t have to share a bedroom. Better, surely, to find out and prepare them for the outcome rather than spend months wondering then hit them with it all at once? I know that it’s not an exact science to tell the sex before birth, but I’m fairly sure they’re right most of the time too. And really, when you already have a boy and a girl, and the new baby is only ever going to be one or the other, I just don’t see the need for the whole surprise aspect when there are arguably more important consideration. (obviously I haven’t voiced any of this to her, no desire to anger a pregnant woman!!)

  • Kitten November 28, 2013, 5:20 am

    Having the same debate in our household at the moment. My mother has told me (on several occasions) NOT to find out the gender of the baby as ‘it’s a better surprise if you find out on the day”. Sister pointed out that it’s a surprise whenever you find out.

    So partner and I are now debating whether we find out or not, and if we do if we tell anyone.

  • SV November 28, 2013, 8:09 am

    This is actually pretty simple, OP. A lifetime of making parental decisions that everyone will have an opinion about awaits you, so you might as well start right now with making a decision and sticking to it. If your family does not want to find out the gender of your baby, if and when you decide to find out, fine; simply inform them that you found out, everyone else knows, and it is up to them to refrain from exposing themselves to the information. I’d probably make a little joke…” Better stay off facebook if you don’t want to know! ” Regardless, the fact that they don’t want to know the gender of your baby isn’t your problem. It’s theirs.

  • Hanna November 28, 2013, 10:07 am

    OP, your family’s request is absolutely absurd. ABSURD. That is not their decision to make. They cannot possible make that kind of request of you because you would HAVE to work very hard to try to “hide” the gender from them. Before you tell everyone else, you’d have to preface with “Now don’t tell my family, or anyone who might know my family. And don’t post it on Facebook if you are friends with any of my family. Or have any mutual friends with my family.” Really? This is a ridiculous request and it’s not your job to hide from them a decision you’ve made for your family.

    If you found out the gender, and they were still adamant about not knowing, I would probably tell them “Okay, we won’t tell you guys but we absolutely cannot guarantee that you won’t find it out somehow, from someone. And if you do accidentally find out, don’t blame us. This is the decision we’ve made.”

    That said, we didn’t find out the gender of our baby and it was the BEST decision we made!!

  • Enna November 28, 2013, 1:19 pm

    OP admin is spot on here it is YOUR CHOICE. If your family don’t want to know then you don’t tell them directly but then they should not be upset if you disclose the information to others and it gets back to them. Maybe they should stay off FB and other social media sights or not be invited to any gender-based baby showers.

    Again it is your choice if you find out and who you tell when you find out.

  • Rod November 28, 2013, 4:22 pm

    Meh, screw that. People can have their preference, doesn’t mean the extended family gets what it wants. People rarely do.

    Let me expand: I’m a father of a 2 y old girl, and a 3 month old boy. We didn’t want to know for the first one – actually, my wife didn’t want to know. And I didn’t care enough either way to grant a simple preference to the most important person in my life.

    My family was curious but they understood that it is not their decision. And after my girl was born I realized that you will not be able to do things according to the standard of others: attachment parenting, sleep training. Bottle feeding. Return to work. Early education – no matter what you decide, you will always get an opinion that you’re “wrong”. Find what works for you and don’t feel you need to defend your choices. It’s your baby, and your life.

    When we were expecting our second child we decided to find out the sex – we figured it would be easier to transition our daughter into the baby if we referred to “he or she”. It didn’t make a difference. When asked “what does mama have in her belly?” she would answer “a kitty cat” (she loves felines).

    You’re going to make mistakes, and fix things, and get frustrated, and be irrationally joyous and sad. Parenting is complicated; hopefully try the best for your (nuclear) family. It definitely takes a polite spine to stand your ground with these big changes.

  • Sorka Hanrahan November 30, 2013, 12:26 pm

    I once went to a baby shower where the grandmother didn’t want to know the gender. I felt so bad for the mom. The vast majority of the guests already knew it was a girl, people could barely talk because every one was scared of using the feminine pronoun, the couple of people who didn’t know had to be whispered to…. it was the most awkward and uncomfortable shower I’ve been to. If you had a gender-specific present you had to put it on a separate table to be opened later, which meant there were only a handful of gifts to actually be opened at the shower. The mother-to-be looked sad the whole time as her mother marched around repeating that everyone better keep quiet, she didn’t want to know, don’t ruin this for her! I just kept thinking what a selfish person her mother was to suck the joy out of things and force all of this stupidity, and that MTB had better learn how to stand up to her quickly.

  • OP November 30, 2013, 8:12 pm

    Thank you all for your insight. For those that asked if my family knew the difficulty of their request, yes they did. From phone calls to the internet, they know. Someone asked if I misinterpreted their request by chance as a “we won’t pressure you to find out”, no, it was flat out “You better not tell us! We want it to be a surprise for US!” Which is unusual for them to be like this, they’re usually laid back so it caught me off guard honestly. I’ll have a talk with them about it, as of late I’ve been avoiding talking to any of them simply because I just wasn’t wanting to deal with them yet again. Also, I was afraid I’d start yelling at them instead of talking to them.

    Thank you all again! 🙂

  • Angel November 30, 2013, 9:58 pm

    Forgive me for saying this but this is very silly. Your family is being unreasonable. And if this is really the only thing you have to worry about regarding your pregnancy then you are truly blessed. Be thankful for your pregnancy and hope and pray for the most positive outcome possible. A healthy baby. Regardless of gender–or when that gender is revealed!

  • June First December 2, 2013, 1:21 pm

    Speaking as someone who thinks gender reveal parties are silly and over-the-top: OP, I think your family is reacting in the opposite extreme. I really like the “Well, you better stay off Facebook!” comment mentioned here.

    We’re expecting our first baby. We decided to find out. It’s a boy. I think I offended the ultrasound tech when I asked if she was really sure it was a boy, because so many people told me stories about how the ultrasound tech got it wrong for their niece/neighbor/friend’s granddaughter.

    If you do find out ahead of time, you’ll also hear a lot of, “Whatever happened to surprises?!” type of talk.

    I think the rule for expectant/new parents: you’ll always gets plenty of unsolicited advice telling you you’re making the wrong decision. Expect more of the same re: cloth vs disposable diapers, breastfeeding vs formula, stay-at-home mom vs working mom.

    Feel free to steal my line for why I’ll return to work: “Mom, I am so excited to hear that you and Dad will be giving me a monthly allowance again so I can afford to stay at home with your grandchild!”

  • livvy17 December 2, 2013, 4:57 pm

    It’s not their news to share/surpress/time/etc. If they want to try to avoid finding out, good luck to them, but that’s not on you.
    When I faced those comments, I just said, “The last thing I want on the day of my child’s birth is a surprise. The more I can plan and prepare, the better!”

  • Chicalola December 3, 2013, 9:28 am

    We had the same issue with naming our girls. I wasn’t patient enough to wait to find out the sex, and also not good at keeping it secret. But I was good at keeping potential baby names secret. I didn’t want anyone to “steal” the name, and we weren’t sure if the name we liked most would fit until we saw out baby! People were so agressive with trying to figure out our names list. It was horrible. I will never treat expectant parents that way….