Gender reveal parties, while sweet and celebratory, often have the unintended consequence of coming off as self-indulgent.
I’m just not that type of mom. Plus, this sort of festivity goes against values and beliefs I hold dear. So why did I throw a gender reveal party anyway? Well, like many of us out there, I did it to make my mother happy.
I don’t recall ever being invited to a gender reveal party. And if I had been, I would have declined the invitation — especially if I’d already attended that same mom’s baby shower. How many parties does a kid need before they’re born?
Plus, on a more serious note, reveal parties perpetuate the idea of a gender binary. This falsehood has come to harm so many members of our society. Not to mention that a “gender reveal” is a misnomer. What is really being revealed is the sex of the baby — and sex and gender, while often conflated, are not the same.
The thing is, I tend to teeter on my soapbox. So I compromised my values for the sake of sparking a bit of joy in my mother.
Here’s where it all started. Up until I met my husband when I was 33, my family and friends thought I was going to die alone surrounded by books and empty tin cans. I came to accept that future as a fact, too. Then my man came down from the heavens with all the patience in the world, lovingly watching me chew my food like a masticating cow and eating with my hands.
A few times my family members asked him, “Are you sure you want to marry her?” With little heart bubbles emanating from his eyes, he said yes every time.
This made my mother happy — very happy. All she ever wanted for me was companionship and, if the universe willed it, a family of my own. My husband and my mother have a beautiful bond, and it would have been a dream to keep my mother close to me during this special time in my life. But my Prince Charming and I were in a long-distance relationship, and we made the decision to move to his home country, the UK.
I was 37 when I got pregnant, and I was so surprised when I found out that I called my mother and blurted out the big news. But she didn’t appreciate that style of delivery. My mother lives for the drama. She would have preferred to receive the news along with some grand gesture, tears, hugs, glitter falling from the sky.
Then I got pregnant again! There I was in a hospital gown all set to have surgery to repair a hernia when the nurse came in and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, but do you know you’re pregnant? We won’t be able to proceed with the surgery.” I closed the book I had been reading, half laughed, and said, “No, I’m sorry, that’s not possible.” It didn’t seem possible because between my husband working out of town and my daughter bulldozing her way between us, forcing us to co-sleep, it just could not be possible.
I was nervous about canceling the surgery abruptly, so when my husband didn’t pick up the phone, I called my mother. Once again, I blurted it out, “Ma, I’m pregnant!” This one sent her over the edge. She said, “No, you can’t be pregnant, calling me like this. Couldn’t you find some special way to tell me?” It wasn’t the response I needed or expected at that moment.
That’s when I said to myself, “Self, you know what? You owe this woman some joy!” I get it. She wants the experience of being a grandparent in a tangible way. The distance between us is heartbreaking, and my annual visits only remind us of how quickly time passes and all that we’re missing.
I had to find a way to make my mother feel special. She deserved a grandmother’s bragging rights and, of course, self-indulgence. So I gave it to her. From across the ocean, I called up my family and set a date for a surprise gender reveal party.
I Pinterest-ed my little heart out and ordered decorations, a cake, food, and drinks to be delivered to my family’s home.
They video-called me just before my mother arrived. My cousins and aunts passed the phone around and boasted their blue shirts and blue cocktails because, according to them, this time I needed to have a boy. Ever since my daughter was born, my family, including my mother, insisted I work on making a boy — to which I rolled my eyes.
The moment arrived, and there I was, peering out from a small screen held in my sister’s hand. I saw my mother walk into her surprise gender reveal party, and there it was. Her joy. And I mean full-on joy! The woman steadied herself on a chair, gasped, and cried.
It was all good until the actual reveal. A slice of cake disclosed my baby’s sex. It’s a girl! And then absolute silence. The disenchantment was palpable.
They all came around eventually. Ultimately, gratitude for the gift of life came to far exceed the preference for a boy. My mother, who started out on Team Blue, also came to love the idea of my daughter having a sister — a built-in lifelong BFF.
My mother can’t stop talking about how much she loved her party. And sure, there were many eyes rolling at me as I compromised my principles, but making my mother happy was absolutely worth it.