Gender Reveal – Desi Style

This week I am talking about our decision to not find out the gender of the baby.  The most interesting, and possibly stereotypical, reaction I received was from the fearless, opinion sharing, knower of all things- the Indian Aunties .  Top to bottom, when an Indian Aunty  who saw me heard that I was having a baby they would take one look at me and say “I think it’s a boy.”

Boys were the cherished gender in traditional Indian culture (and in many other cultures across the world).  The desire for a boy came from a very practical place.  In many countries, the transfer of land could only go to a son.  Before the era of the retirement homes (which were virtually unheard of in India until recently), it was a son and his new family who would care for parents into their old age.  Girls, while loved, were considered burdensome because someday they would need to be married and would move far away from the family.  Not to mention that in many parts of India to marry a daughter required a substantial dowry.

While Indian culture has come a very long way and many of the boy/girl stereotypes have largely disappeared, there is still something lingering in the culture that wants or esteems boys.  It is deeply rooted and it comes from an honestly good place.

So when I hear the Indian Aunties tell me it will be a boy, I just take it as a pre-arrival blessing for a healthy, happy baby that will be a wonderful addition to our family (even though I am secretly rooting for a girl).

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Gender Reveal Backlash

My Leading Man and I thought our decision to not find out the gender of our baby would just be our mystery to deal with.  Boy, where we WRONG.

EVERYONE and I mean EVERYONE had an opinion to give us on why we should be finding out.  By EVERYONE I mean not only future Grandparents – they were down right angry at us and to this day think we know and are just not telling them – but friends, co-workers, and most baffling of them all, down right strangers.

As most pregnant women know, strangers have no problem coming up to you at a restaurant, in a store, at the mall, at the movies and virtually any other place where your ballooning belly is visible to them and wanting to ask you about your pregnancy.

Question #1 – When are you due? 

Question #2- What are you having?

For me, the positive inquiry ended with question #2.

The look of horror and disbelief when you reveal that you are choosing not to find out if it is a boy or a girl was shocking the first handful of times it happened.  Eventually I got used to it.  The most popular follow on questions people would ask me were:

Well how will you buy it clothes? 

“How will you decorate the nursery?”

“How will you decide on a shower theme?”

“So you want to be unprepared for baby?”

And so on and so forth. Some days I found it beyond irritating to deal with these inquisitions (and trust me they happened almost every time I was in public).  Other days, I found it amusing because I knew what slew of questions were about to come my way.

The baby will have tiny little outfits and they will be adorable (they will just be neutral in color).  The nursery is in progress and in my opinion looks fabulous (yes, there will be a future post on this soon).  We had two baby showers and both went off without a hitch (more on that soon too).  And as for being unprepared, knowing the gender would not help me be a more prepared parent. For me, it would lead to more confusion, stress and obsession about how to raise a Little Miss or a Little Mister.

While there are times when I want to know and I am beyond curious to find out, keeping it a mystery has been a wonderful part of our personal journey.

Gender Reveal? Not For Us, Thanks.

When you are about 20 weeks pregnant you can find out the gender of your baby.  This is a milestone in the pregnancy as many expectant parents cannot handle the suspense of not knowing if it is a boy or a girl brewing in the belly.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, one of my first thoughts was that I did not want to know the gender of the baby.  I wanted to not only keep it a surprise from other people but I also wanted to keep it a surprise from ourselves.  My overall philosophy around baby was to not over think the stage of pregnancy I was in and not to contemplate the stages of pregnancy that were to come. I needed to know the basics but I didn’t want to wind myself up with so much information that I became obsessive or over worried about any step in the process.

To that end, I didn’t know what knowing the gender would do for me.  Yes, perhaps I could buy more gender specific clothing.  Perhaps I could paint the baby’s room various shades of pink or blue.  But something deep down inside of me just did not want to know.  Rather, I preferred to be subject to what once was life’s biggest mystery.

My Leading Man on the other hand was keen to find out.  The day of our 20 week appointment, where the Doctor does a full look at the anatomy and reveals the gender, he says to me “Just think about it.”  Well I had already thought about it and had a strong feeling that I did not want to know. Luckily he went along with it.

Fortunately, the baby also cooperated.  It was tumbling around in the belly during the entire appointment.  So much so, we couldn’t even get a good picture of our bundle of joy.  The Doctor said “good thing you don’t want to know the gender because I wouldn’t be able to tell you with how much this baby is moving.”

Good work baby!  Now we will all find out together when you pop into this world.

The First Trimester

Almost the same day that I found out we were expecting our first child, I begin to experience the dreaded morning sickness.  However, in my case, it wasn’t morning sickness but late afternoon/early evening sickness.  I cannot say how my sickness compares to other pregnant women.  All I know is that for me it was overwhelming and exhausting.

I was one of those people who prior to becoming pregnant can count on one hand the number of times I had a cough or a cold.  I enjoyed good health my entire life.  So imagine my shock and complete inability to cope once baby started to make its presence known in my body.  The nauseous feeling was overwhelming and made the afternoons and early evenings adventurous to say the least.  I never knew how bad it would be but most days were pretty darn bad.

In the first trimester I lost seven pounds as I simply couldn’t keep anything down.  While feeling so sick, I was working full-time and trying to disguise my pregnancy from colleagues. No easy feat when I had to run out of  afternoon meetings to the restroom to deal with my severe nausea or had to pull over the car on the drive home to vomit.

During one particularly rough weekend, I started crying and told My Leading Man that his child was trying to kill me.  “Now what kind of mother says that?”  he retorted.  “Many probably think it but probably don’t say it out loud” I shouted back.

And so it went for twelve long weeks.

Cultural Perceptions on Managing Post-Baby

There were many things about being pregnant that were completely expected – the nausea, the fatigue, the emotions, the weight gain.

What was completely unexpected was the reaction by women who grew up in India on how I planned to manage post baby.

I tried very hard to not over think my pregnancy.  I focused on the basics but I tried not to get ahead of myself. I tried to focus on the current moment and deal with each step of pregnancy as it came.  My overarching pregnancy philosophy was and still is that everyone does it. I am not the first person to go through this.  Homeless people do it.  Stupid people do it. Short people do it.  Crazy people do it.  No matter what, I will be able to do this.

That includes dealing with the ups and downs of pregnancy as well as figuring out how to manage post-baby.

However, I was in for a quite a shock by the reaction of Indian women to my post-baby plans.

I plan to manage the way so many people the world over manage.  My mom will come for two weeks post-baby but then I am on my own.  Maybe my aunt or my sister will come for another week but essentially after my mom leads me in a two week motherhood boot camp, I will be managing on my own for the rest of my maternity leave.  My mom works and lives 500 miles away.  This is the best arrangement we have and I intend to make the most of it.  Never for a moment as my mom and I discussed our plans early on did I worry about this.  So many women manage with far less assistance that I am confident this will work.  It has too.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I fully anticipate all the difficulties associated with bringing home a newborn and managing alone.  I am not naïve. I know it will be difficult but I have no other option.

However, I do not think it will be as dramatic or difficult as the India-born women in my social circle make it out to be.

“You will never be able to manage, you know.”

“That will just never work.  My mom was with me for two months and I still found it soooo hard.”

“My mummy and papa stayed for six months and that was the only waaaayyy I could imagine handling this.”

I can understand the cultural perspective these women are coming from.  In India it is not uncommon to go to your parent’s home and stay there for a few months following the birth of a newborn.  For the Grandparents sitting in India who are able to come and revel in the joy of a grandchild while providing extra caring arms and legs to their daughters or daughters-in-law, I salute you.  That level of support is wonderful to have.  But the fact that your parents can sweep in from India and stay for months on end is simply not an option that most women have. My non-Indian friends often bring baby home with no help at all.  I am sure having a support network like this would make things easier but this isn’t reality for so many women and it certainly isn’t reality for me either.

There are many different ways to handle a pregnancy and raise a child, including how much help is available or not available to you during those early days of a baby’s existence.  Instead of judging one another, women should support each other and their choices.  Not all family situations are created equal and different approaches are workable.

How my situation will work when baby arrives is yet to be seen.  But I know I am not alone and my situation is not unique.  As much as my family loves me, they are doing everything they can to support me and for that I am truly grateful.

No you didn’t? Oh yes, we did!

There are literally hundreds of ways to go about telling people you are expecting a baby.  You can pick up the phone and call someone.  You can go the social media route and blast a post to all of your friends and followers.  You can throw a  party and make an announcement in front of a crowd. You can send announcements in the mail with a creatively orchestrated picture.

The options are limitless.

For us, none of these options seemed quite right.  As a couple in our mid-thirties expecting a baby for the first time we are surrounding by friends and family with their own conception struggles and triumphs. It seemed insensitive to our friends who were struggling to engage in any kind of public announcement. It also didn’t feel comfortable to call each person and give them our news.  I wasn’t sure what type of reaction I would receive over the phone, especially from the friends who were working on their own fertility issues.

So what was the solution?

Text message of course.  Now it may seem cold or even dry to some of you to send a text message but it was the only creative way I could figure out how to tell people without creating any artificial or immediate reaction.  The text messages were extremely well received and I believe for those who were struggling with conception, a more sensitive way to tell them.  The texts went something like this:

Hello Aunty & Uncle. This is Baby Sharma and I arrive in August.  Super excited to meet you. 

It was sweet, simple and to the point.  The responses back were simply wonderful.

How would/did you announce a pregnancy to others?  Would you ever go the text message route?