Congratulations, moms-to-be. A great number of you have managed to take a time in your family’s story that is already very much and very deservedly about YOU – lavish attention, themed showers, adorable gifts, random acts of courtesy and kindness in the form of opened doors, delivered meals, washed and folded laundry and the like – and infuse it with one more event that is – surprise! – all about you. I’m talking about one of the latest hallmarks of our self-obsessed, self-absorbed, self-promoting, self-congratulatory culture.
In my mind, it joins the ranks of the selfie (congratulations on yet again reminding your friends what you look like in your car, gym, or bathroom mirror); the prom-posal (congratulations on being asked to the prom by your boyfriend of two years who I’m sure was very surprised by your acceptance of his elaborate, day-long, expensive exhibition, I mean, invitation); and the [insert grade] promotion/awards ceremony (congratulations on meeting the very minimal standards that every other child in your grade met and on not being a juvenile delinquent). It is the increasingly trendy gender reveal party (congratulations on producing an offspring that is one or the other of two possible genders).
A quick Google search of these pink-and-blue-laden shindigs leads to thousands of sites where expert moms and party planners share the most clever ways to let 60 or so of your nearest and dearest know whether the ingredients of the little bun in your oven are sugar and spice or snips and snails. Now, if you are considering hosting your own it’s-all-about-me-but-let’s-pretend-it’s-all-about-the-baby fiesta, let me give you a little food for thought on this ridiculous fad.
Here’s what will happen at your party: some of you will orchestrate details in such a way that you are surprised right along with your guests, while others will have heard your OB’s verdict and kept the news to yourselves for this very moment’s revelation. At your party, your guests will do the usual party things for a while, during which time you and your significant other will be treated to a delightful blend of interrogation and speculation: What do you think it is? You’re carrying low; it must be a boy. What do you hope it is? If you’re craving spicy, it’s a girl. If it’s a boy, will you try for a girl next time? (What does that even mean?) They’ll eat, drink, socialize, maybe play a few games – pink-and-blue-themed, of course – all amidst the sea of pink and blue that your home or other selected venue has become.
At the designated time, you can dazzle your guests with the big news in a variety of fashions: cut into a white-frosted cake and let the pink or blue insides tell your news (so two years ago, according to one site); open a box full of helium-filled balloons that will rise in all their pink or blue glory; tie a pink or blue ribbon around your belly and lift your shirt at the designated moment (awkward!), pop a balloon filled with pink or blue confetti (you, too, can purchase a mega-sized pre-filled Confetti Balloon Revealer for Gender Reveal Parties®, for $30 plus tax and shipping); or any of a number of other simply adorable ways to answer the burning gender question, thereby evoking an array of meaningful exclamations ranging from “I knew it!” to “I can’t believe it!”
I have a secret for you, mom-to-be. Your family and friends are pretty sure your baby is a boy or a girl. Those who are generally tickled by revelations as to which will be tickled whenever and however you tell them. A giant announcement in the form of a party doesn’t make the news any more exciting to those who actually care. My expectant niece recently texted me a picture of her son holding a sonogram picture and a little hand-made sign reading “It’s a girl!” I called her up, and we had a little party right there on the phone, screeching like maniacs. I never once thought that hearing the news would have been more rewarding had it been delivered via some contrived pink or blue gesture in a room full of people who have to act like the suspense has been killing them.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a greater-than-average adoration of infants, babies, and toddlers. As in, they slay me. In their presence, I am reduced to a blithering fool; a mere look at a miniature person often triggers tears and an indescribable urge to eat him, as in, “You are so cute I want to eat you,” which is an admittedly bizarre but strangely common and in fact scientifically valid reaction to having your senses assaulted with baby cuteness.
I had three babies myself, and I love them – and all babies – so much that I would birth them ad infinitum if I could kiss and snuggle and nurse and rock them for a few years and then pass them along at, say, age four or so. Of note, I refuse to even consider stepping down from my ten-plus-year stint as my church’s nursery director because the role so perfectly satisfies my bona fide need for a regular baby fix.
So, you see, I’m all about the babies. Babies are worth celebrating. New life is magical. There is no love like that of a mom for her child, and a family of any size growing by one always results in a mysteriously exponential multiplication of love. I celebrate all of that.
I will dote on you during your pregnancy, asking how you feel, surprising you with treats to satisfy your cravings, listening to your complaints about aches and pains, your excitement about flutters and kicks, your fears about labor and delivery – all without reciprocating with my own stories because we both know you aren’t listening (and that’s OK!). I will buy your little bundle a sweet outfit, crochet her a silky soft afghan, prepare and deliver a meal for your family, and make offer after offer to babysit because I really do want to help you out (or it may actually be that I really want to get my hands and hugs on your little lamb chop – but no, I really do want to help you out).
Many others will want to do the same, and those closest to you will plan a shower because we want you to have everything you need and even some stuff you don’t. We want you to feel special at this time, and you should because babies are miracles and becoming a parent is 100% transformative; you’ll never be the same.
But mom-to-be, can you let that be enough?
Can you be satisfied with the attention you will naturally receive through the genuine goodwill of those who care about you? With the questions, the gestures, the gifts, the showers, the visits, the delivered meals and babysitting offers? At this special time, while this new little person is growing inside you, you are kind of at the center of the universe in the eyes of many: your husband, your parents, your in-laws, your circle of friends, and probably many others.
Can you let that be enough? Can you not ask for more? Can we shower you with attention because we want to and not because you are asking us to?
I want to know if I should buy pink or blue yarn for your baby’s afghan; I really do. It’s just that I’d rather not find out alongside a host of others at some decked out party venue. Should you become ensnared by the lure of this absurd trend, though, I ask one thing: please don’t invite me to your gender reveal party.
Just call me.