When I was pregnant with the oldest Son, Interrupted, my insurance covered only one ultrasound examination. Conducted relatively early in the pregnancy, the exam produced the standard 1994 fetal image of what I like to call “Still Life: Doughnut in a Blizzard.”
We peered at the picture, helpfully labeled with notes telling us that the dot we were viewing was a nose, or a hand, or maybe a foot. Proud parents, we shared our picture with my mother, who examined the snowy image for a few minutes and finally concluded, “You’re having a puppy?”
Given what we had to go on, that was as good a guess as any. For parents who had the money or insurance and desire to know, however, the technology of the time was frequently and frustratingly wrong, leading to quick nursery redecorations when the delivery room delivered a surprise.
Technology has improved over the years, to the point where proud parents-to-be are being presented with 3-D holographic imagery that doesn’t just emphatically tell you gender. That’s old news. Now you can see hair color, political persuasion, or whether they’re Team Coke or Team Pepsi.
So of course society has weaponized this knowledge into social obligation. Our ability to know the gender of the baby has produced the burgeoning industry of “gender reveal parties,” which are catered events so the proud parents can tell the world whether to buy a pink or blue Moby Go.
Fun fact: as late as 1927, pink was the boy’s color; girls got blue.
Gender reveal parties are most certainly the misbegotten love child of the Hallmark people and wedding planners who needed to expand their business. Their evil fairy godparents are gift registries and Pinterest, where cute ideas give birth to excuses to use them.
Gender reveal parties have spawned their own etiquette (which no doubt includes “no snarking about gender reveal parties at the party”), their own cakes, their own invitations, and their own news-breaking games: break the piñata to see what color candy comes out; slice into the cake to see the pink or blue icing inside; release a bag of balloons to see if a puppy jumps out.
Just wanted to see if you were still with me.
If you’re keeping score at home, we’re now looking at a dizzying array of engagement parties, one or more bridal showers, bachelorette parties, weddings and receptions, housewarmings, one or more baby showers, gender reveals, and christenings to cover life’s rites of passage.
Back in the days when it required a little more work and a lot more patience to discover gender identity and soda preference, I was given this advice by my mom. She knew a little bit about what to expect when you were expecting, having expected five kids of her own: “Don’t find out. If either parent has their heart set on a boy or a girl, the early news can be disappointing, and you have to wait several months for a cute baby to chase that disappointment away.”
All that being said, if one of my own children throws a party like this during their own pregnancy, Grandma, Interrupted will be there with bells on, smashing the pinata to see if the candy was pink or blue.
Or a puppy. There’s still time to have a puppy.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Elizabeth Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.