Pregnancy Journal: Need to Know

From 5 Minutes for Parenting

By Kelly

I haven’t confirmed this scientifically, but I’m convinced there are two kinds of people in this world: Those who can wait until the birth of their baby to find out the sex, and those who must know the minute it’s physically possible.

I’m squarely in the second group. I have never, not for one nanosecond, had the urge to let it be a surprise. I don’t mind if you want to wait. Many of my good friends have waited, and while I may have threatened to bribe their OB with chocolate until I was given access to the raw ultrasound tape, I certainly respect their choice.

I just don’t relate to it.

Here’s why:

If I know the sex of the baby now, I can plan for the future.
Yes, this pegs me as a planner, but it’s a label I embrace. I love to organize, to research, to strategize. If I know the sex of the baby before birth, I can get gender-specific bedding and blankets. I can paint the nursery. I can also let myself get sucked in by the appropriate side of Carter’s. (When it comes to baby clothes, resistance is futile.)

Knowing if we’re having a boy or girl also allows my husband and I to start playing The Name Game – but with only half the entrants. We are horrible at deciding on names together (usually, my top 5 are his never-in-a-million-years, and vice versa), and narrowing the field and giving us a few months to discuss is hugely helpful.

If I know the sex of the baby now, I can stop torturing myself.
When I was pregnant two years ago, I was slightly obsessed with the gender of the baby. I think it was because I had a miscarriage earlier that same year, so by the time we got around to the ultrasound for Teyla in September, I felt like I had been pregnant since January. (Which I had been, almost. There wasn’t much time between the miscarriage and the next conception.) The internal debate of boy versus girl threatened to take over my life. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the question was finally answered.

Conversely, I’ve watched friends who were determined to wait drive themselves crazy the last four months of the pregnancy as they agonize and cry and fret over the possibilities. Usually, they are secretly longing for one gender over the other, and the weight of knowing their hopes could be crushed in a few short weeks (or granted, depending on the outcome) makes “the surprise” a burden.

If I know the sex of the baby now, I can deal with any emotional fall-out before the birth.
This relates closely to the last point, but let me give a personal example. When I was pregnant with our second baby, the pregnancy was almost identical to my first. This led me to believe I was having another girl. It wasn’t something I admitted openly; it was more of a subconscious belief.

So my soul reverberated with shock when my OB announced, “It’s a boy!” at our 18-week ultrasound. I was ashamed of this at the time, but it took me weeks to come to grips with the boy diagnosis. I actually needed a short window to grieve the girl I thought I was carrying and get excited about the boy who was entering out lives. By the time he was born, I was thrilled to welcome Connor. Finding out his sex early gave me a chance to walk the emotional minefield before his birth, instead of after.

If I know the sex of the baby now, I can bond with the baby.
Maybe this is just me, but I have a hard time bonding with a gender-neutral alien. Once I know the sex of the baby, he or she becomes very real to me. It helps me to get excited and psyched for the last days of pregnancy.

This is also helpful for our older children, who definitely have opinions on what the sex of the next baby should be. If we can tell them now, “It’s a brother (or it’s a sister),” they have a chance to accept our new family dynamics and get excited about reality, instead of counting on something that may not be.

If I know the sex of the baby now, I can focus on the birth of the baby during delivery.
Many of my friends who elect to wait say, “Oh, but I want a surprise on delivery day!” I understand that; I was never tempted to open my Christmas presents early for that very reason.

But childbirth tends to be a surprise in itself. It’s complicated, astonishing and rarely what you expect. My first two deliveries were dramatic, each in their own way. (With Connor, we barely made it to the hospital before I started pushing.) So I’m perfectly happy spreading out my surprises over the course of the pregnancy. Because no matter when you find out if you’re having a girl or a boy, it’s always a surprise – be it at 20 weeks or 40.

So what about you? Are you like me? Or would you rather wait? And if you like to wait, please chime in with your own reasoning behind your decision. This is intensely personal and there’s ample space for both opinions. I’d love to hear your take.

Before she was a SAHM, Kelly was a TV news producer and newspaper editor, which further explains her need-to-know appetite. She currently blogs, without copy editors, at Love Well. And yes, her ultrasound is next week, in case that wasn’t obvious.

36 Responses to Pregnancy Journal: Need to Know
  1. Stephanie
    December 17, 2009 | 1:23 am

    I love surprises and was glad to be surprised with not finding out early the sex of our first, but we found out with the other 3. I could go either way.

    I will never forget when we found out with Carter, Gray, and Ivy. Finding out during the ultrasound is still a surprise in itself. I’m so excited for you, Kelly!


  2. Beck
    December 17, 2009 | 9:55 am

    I NEEDED to know. NEEDED! I had high-risk pregnancies, and being able to bond with my baby really helped me stay the course with months of bedrest and medical stuff.

    And also the whole naming thing. My husband says that we can’t have a fourth baby because he thinks we might get divorced trying to name the poor little thing – each of our kids has a total compromise name, and we think we’ve run out of those. But finding out our baby’s gender, like you said, helps narrow the naming field.

  3. melissa
    December 17, 2009 | 10:31 am

    ok let me give you a question back…what if they make a mistake? I know of people who were told a girl or boy and had it the other way round….me I prefer the surprise for the simple reason that if i am told one thing and it doesnt happen than let loose hell so better keep it neutral 🙂

  4. Babs
    December 17, 2009 | 11:14 am

    I always said I wanted it to be a surprise until I actually got pregnant. Now I can’t wait to find out. I go for my 16 week ultrasound next week and I am praying that I can find out so I can tell our mothers at Christmas.

    And I am hoping it’s a girl!

  5. Melissa
    December 17, 2009 | 11:23 am

    In fact, I’m going in today for my 18 wk scan, and we find out, and I can’t wait! I’ve also got to make an international call to my husband who is away, and then make 20 phone calls, send 100 texts, update my Facebook page, and my blog…all from my iPhone. :o)
    I’m with you all the way.

  6. Kelly
    December 17, 2009 | 11:31 am

    Melissa @ The Lotus Pages makes a good point. We’ve all heard of stories where the ultrasound got it wrong, so I concede that’s a possibility. For us, we’ve always had at least two ultrasounds, which gives us the opportunity to confirm the early announcement. We’ve also had very clear money shots, which left little doubt in our minds. But I totally understand why the error percentage could make people decide to stay out of the game entirely. I wonder if any of our commenters have personal experience with a “whoops” gender call.

  7. Jen
    December 17, 2009 | 11:36 am

    I like to find out. I believe that the gender of the baby should be a surprise…at the 20 week ultrasound! I can’t imagine not being able to pick a name and pick out clothes and be able to call him a him and not an it.

  8. gretchen from lifenut
    December 17, 2009 | 11:51 am

    I like to find out, too. I experienced gender disappointment with a couple of the boys (fervently wanted Aidan to have a sister). I was grateful we had time to work through those emotions—for me AND for her, because she wanted a sister, too.

    With Beatrix, though, we didn’t know! She kept her legs crossed or was curled up during the entire 20 week ultrasound. The tech tried so hard to get her to flash us for a few seconds, but no. I got up and went to the bathroom, the tech shook my belly like a snowglobe. She was infuriatingly modest.

    At the end of the pregnancy, I had a lot of ultrasounds due to a complication and they still couldn’t tell! She had run out of room and she was always in a weird position.

    I hope your baby is more cooperative! I am going on record as predicting another girl for you.

  9. AllisonO
    December 17, 2009 | 12:04 pm

    “I have a hard time bonding with a gender-neutral alien”

    As do I. I loved spending the last 22 weeks of our pregnancy calling Micah by name. That was Micah in my tummy, not unnamed alien.

    Although with your track record on naming, maybe that won’t be a factor anyway.

    I vote BOY, for symmetry’s sake.

  10. Jenny Swan
    December 17, 2009 | 1:09 pm

    I totally and completely cannot live with myself without knowing. We didn’t find out with our first per my husband’s request, and I about went mad. And I thought it was going to be a girl, and it was harder for me when it was a boy, because I was sooooo shocked. And for my second I totally agree for bonding. I knew who he was, and was able to just love him up in utero!

    Plus I was the kid ripping open the christmas presents under the tree weeks before Christmas. I cannot stand to wait 🙂

  11. Anita Jo
    December 17, 2009 | 1:38 pm

    I’m definitely in the need to know camp! And my reasons are very similar to yours. With my first, it was all about being able to know and plan for SOMETHING in this totally new, somewhat scary experience. With my second and third, I’ve really come to appreciate the bonding aspect. I do feel that I bond more with the baby once I know it’s a “he” (always a “he” in my case!), rather than a “gender-neutral alien.” (Love that phrase!) I think I’ve felt that need more keenly after having a miscarriage, because I never got to know the sex of that baby, and that was hard.

    Another reason to know: I hate calling my babies “it,” and it can be really awkward to refer to them any other way before knowing the gender. Small thing, I know, but for me it’s always been such a relief when I know and can start calling the baby “he.”

  12. Amy from Occupation: Mommy
    December 17, 2009 | 2:45 pm

    I totally agree with all of your points. We were fortunately able to find out with all three of our girls. In a few weeks is our big ultrasound for this one, so I am really hoping that the baby doesn’t give us a hard time. I hate calling the poor thing “it”!

  13. Krista
    December 17, 2009 | 5:40 pm

    I’m like you, I want to know what we’re having so we can plan! With this one, knowing it’s a boy (while a little disappointing) means we don’t really have to worry about buying anything other than another dresser since he’ll be born almost on his brother’s 3rd birthday and we have kept everything!

  14. Carrie
    December 17, 2009 | 11:00 pm

    Oh, yeah, I am in the NEED TO KNOW group – I am a planner through & through, and I also think it helps me bond with my baby better. I LOVE knowing, and yeah, delivery day is ALWAYS a surprise, whether you know or not. 🙂

  15. edj
    December 18, 2009 | 8:55 am

    Well I only had two pregnancies. With the first, we decided not to know–but Donn and I were both so convinced by the end that it was a boy that we would have been shocked beyond by something different. And of course we were right.
    When Elliot was 12 months old, we conceived twins. That was a big shock–I was trying NOT to get pregnant at all. (Yes, I know what causes it…you know what I mean) When I realized I was going to have 3 children under the age of 2, I knew I had to find out the sex. I was desperately hoping for b/g twins, and I didn’t want to deal with disappointment at the delivery.
    Wouldn’t you know it, but Ilsa was a modest little creature, crossing her legs, while her brother let it all hang out. We never really did find out that “baby b” was a girl, although the technician said she thought she was, and offered to bet us $10! Still, by the end, I was pretty sure in my own mind that we were having b/g twins. And I was right! 🙂
    Then we had to stop having children. It took us 2 full days to finally compromise on names for the twins! We couldn’t manage any more. Not to mention with 3 under 2, it’s a long while before you can even think babies are cute.

  16. Candi
    December 18, 2009 | 10:17 am

    I am in the NEED TO KNOW camp – no doubt about it. We go in for our ultrasound in 2 more weeks and I am hoping that the baby cooperates! Due to some complications, I have had five ultrasounds already, but of course they have all been too soon to tell.

    We have a boy and a girl already, so I don’t think I have a preference this time around, but as my other kids are 7 and 9 and we no longer have a single scrap of baby anything, I am anxious to start shopping but not until I know if this is a boy or a girl.

  17. Kellyn
    December 18, 2009 | 11:01 am

    I HAD to find out, especially for some reasons that I just can’t share but it made telling certain people a WHOLE lot easier…lol

    Oh, and on Melissa’s point…one of the local weather people had that happen to her. They told her OVER and OVER that it was a girl, and it was a boy. Talk about a freak out!

  18. Kristen
    December 18, 2009 | 2:42 pm

    I am in the MUST KNOW camp! With #1 I was so hoping for a girl that I cried on the ultrasound table… we go in 2 wks to find out what #2 is and I want to know so I can determine what to do with all the boy clothes I have stored…keep or pass along?
    A tiny, tiny piece of me wanted to wait and be suprised with this one…but there is no way I could continue to call the sequel “It” there is no fun in that!

  19. Gina
    December 18, 2009 | 5:54 pm

    With our first 2 (both girls) we found out their sex at the ultra sound. With our next pregnancy (I’m not even pregnant yet lol) we are going to wait until delivery to find out. I know that it will be hard for me to wait until delivery, but it just seems like such an amazing prize after a day (or 6 hours) of really hard work! I’m hoping that the grand surprise will make labor just a teeny bit easier because I know that at the end I get to find out something I’ve been waiting almost 10 months to know. We’ll see!!! :o)

  20. Minnesotamom
    December 18, 2009 | 6:18 pm

    I am a planner. Like, an “if I don’t have my schedule in front of me with all my various lists, I have no idea what is going on in the next 5 minutes much less the rest of my life” type of person. Yet we waited with Anja to find out (and I’m glad we did), and we’re waiting with this one, too.

    Since we waited with her, most of the basic stuff we have for babies is gender-neutral and can be used again (no pink carseats, pink bedding, etc. for us), and I am so thankful for that!

    I honestly don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl this time. I would be blessed to use all of Anja’s clothes again, and I’d be blessed to have a little man in the house who needed a whole different wardrobe.

    I don’t like finding out in advance about friends’ babies, either. When I know that “Sebastian Joel” is set to arrive on March 2nd, I really have nothing to look forward to when they give birth. It’s just like a confirmation of an earlier announcement. Very anti-climatic. I can see I’m in the minority, though!

  21. Jeni
    December 18, 2009 | 6:37 pm

    I definitely need to know!! If there was a way to find out the gender when you first pee on the stick, it would be great.

  22. Heather
    December 18, 2009 | 7:09 pm

    I am sqarely in the middle of the NEED to KNOW camp!! And it worked out perfectly for me, seeing as I worked in the Radiology Dept while pregnant with all 3 of mine. So, not only did I find out I was pregnant by “seeing” it, I got scanned BEFORE the time they say you can tell. Yes, I was that anxious to know. My daughter was the difficult one to see. My boys let it all hang out. And that’s what I’ve heard to be true from lots of people. If you have trouble viewing, you’re having a girl. Boys definitely aren’t modest! 😉
    I, also, agree that it’s easier to overcome any misgivings before hand. My daughter burst into tears when she found out she was going to have another brother. So, finding out early helped her come to terms. 😉
    Best wishes to you.

  23. Mocha with Linda
    December 18, 2009 | 7:59 pm

    I always thought I wanted a surprise, but I’m too much of a planner. And my husband the engineer couldn’t even think about names as long as the baby was an “it”.

  24. Louise
    December 18, 2009 | 8:37 pm

    I’m going to be the lone “don’t need to know” person here! With our first, we wanted to find out, but she didn’t cooperate. AT ALL. And it bothered other people (like my OCD sister) way more than it did me. Our second, we did find out, mostly because we wanted to know if we were going to need to get some non-pink baby things or not. Having done it both ways, I can definitely say that if I ever got pregnant again (which I fervently hope does NOT happen), I wouldn’t really care about finding out. I start thinking about the baby’s name the INSTANT I find out I’m pregnant, and have one of each settled with my husband at least by six weeks, so that’s not an issue, and I found I actually didn’t bond any more with Daughter #2 than I did with #1–for me, if I can see their little faces, it’s hard to bond, regardless of knowing their gender.

    I’ve also decided, having blurted out our every decision to all and sundry the moment we made it, that if I did ever get pregnant again, we wouldn’t tell people our name choices, if we did find out the baby’s gender, etc. In fact, I wouldn’t even want to tell people I was pregnant until it became obvious! Too many opinions that people feel free to share beforehand, not so much afterward. It’s easy to make unpleasant comments about a name choice before it’s actually “on” the baby, but you don’t hear too much of that after the baby is born and named!

  25. Melissa
    December 18, 2009 | 8:51 pm

    By the way, it seems like I’ve somehow passed you on our pregnancy journey! When you started journalling, it seemed like I was a week or two behind you, and then we were the same week, and now I think I’ve passed you by??? When are you due? I’m due with a GIRL on May 16th.
    Hope you have a great weekend!

  26. MacKenzie
    December 18, 2009 | 9:18 pm

    I’m 17 weeks along with my first and we aren’t going to find out. I am normally a big planner so when my husband requested we wait, I wasn’t sure if I could live with it. Now I’m fine with it. I’m actually glad when it comes to shopping since we want to buy mostly gender neutral items (for future kids – we are a frugal couple) and I know that would be so much harder if we knew the gender now. And since it is our first, I really don’t have a preference so that isn’t an issue and we have a fetus name so I do feel like I can talk to our little one easily and bond. But I can’t say how we will feel next time. I guess I should work on having one baby before I ponder number two!

  27. Mary
    December 19, 2009 | 11:28 am

    I’m a planner too 🙂 So that’s probably partly why we decided to find out. We figured we’d be plenty “surprised” enough by the birth itself (and we were right!)

    I really wanted to know who was kicking me all the time. We not only picked a name as soon as we knew, but we also introduced Elizabeth by name to all and sundry. We were told that it was highly likely that I would miscarry and I felt that if the only part of parenthood I ever got to experience was the early stages of pregnancy, I at least wanted to be able to talk to my baby by name.

    I didn’t worry at all at first about making a mistake; girls used to be figured out “by default” but that’s not the case anymore. A competent ultrasound technician should be able to tell with 100% certainty if they get a clear shot, and most will tell if you there is any doubt.

    But then we had seven ultrasounds (including one that was an hour and a half long – yikes!) and Elizabeth was shy during most of the ones at the end. As it became clear that we were heading for a c-section, I started to worry about how silly I’d feel if I had to announce to everyone that she was actually a boy and started hedging my bets when talking to anyone about her.

    I wasn’t entirely rational by then though – so stressed about the upcoming surgery, the resulting needles and all the drama with the baby (I even asked my OB if I could avoid having an IV) that we think I started to fret about the little things to avoid thinking about the bigger worries.

  28. Michelle Burrill
    December 19, 2009 | 3:19 pm

    TOTALLY had to know every time. Yes, there are those who get the wrong results, but those are rare; I don’t know anyone personally who that has happened to, and ultrasound is getting clearer all the time, so it’s less likely to happen.
    I COMPLETELY agree about dealing with the emotional fallout now; of course you will love whoever you get once you birth him or her, see and hold him or her, but while you are pregnant, you still are only just imagining who this little person is, and you really CAN’T imagine who it will be. So I think we need to be honest that yes, there are times you are really gunning for one gender or another, and yes, you can definitely feel disappointed when you find out it’s the opposite of what you had thought, and yes, you do need to grieve this and get over it, and let go of it.
    After a girl and 2 boys, I knew I wanted baby 4 to be a girl. I have 3 brothers, and my only sister died, so I had always wanted 2 girls of my own. So I definitely prayed this through before ever finding out what I was having, just telling God everything I felt, and also praying that I would not be disappointed if I found out it was a boy, that I would be overjoyed to find this out. It was in God’s hands, and I was making peace with my own grief of the past that I didn’t want to be placing on this innocent baby, whether it was a boy OR a girl. Turned out, baby 4 was a girl. But I would not change any of of my children, they are all way more than I could have ever imagined. (And I am so sorry to ramble.)

  29. Happy Geek
    December 19, 2009 | 6:47 pm

    Done both.
    Liked it both ways.
    So many good pros and cons to both.
    Still thankful there will be not a third time to try and figure out a third option:)

  30. Becky
    December 23, 2009 | 2:55 pm

    I’m in the “Need to Know” camp. I completely relate to your “If I know the sex of the baby now, I can deal with any emotional fall-out before the birth.”

    I’ve always wanted to have a girl first. Probably because that’s what I am. It’s what I envisioned. I knew that if I waited I would not handle the “It’s a Boy!” news well. Throw on top of that all the other emotions that we feel (thanks hormones) it would be a disaster.

    So when I got my 20 week ultrasound I was able to shead a few tears and grieve the loss of my “girl” dreams when the tech happily announced “boy!”.

    I needed a few days to get used to the idea that I was having a boy. BOY! What in the world!? And now when I look at Nolan I think he’s just perfect.

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