For those expectant parents not zen enough to wait until delivery to divine their baby’s sex but less than thrilled about learning the news in a darkened ultrasound room, there is another, increasingly popular option: the gender reveal party.
As if having a baby isn’t reason enough to celebrate, some moms- and dads-to-be are hosting elaborate gatherings of family and friends all leading up to the big “ta-da!” moment.
Last month, Bobbie Stroessner, a pregnant Wisconsin mom of a 7-year-old girl, discovered her baby’s gender through cupcakes that she’d ordered after asking an ultrasound tech to tuck a fetal crotch shot into a sealed envelope. Stroessner gave the envelope to a baker with instructions to dye the cupcakes — but not the vanilla icing — pink or blue. The next day, with friends, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents gathered around, Stroessner, her husband and their daughter peeled back the foil on their treats: the cake was tinted the color of a Smurf.
Everyone cheered. It’s not that they were anti-girl, but the suspense — of the thickly swirled white frosting holding the secret of a new life — was too much fun.“Moms have always looked for reasons to celebrate,” says Linda Murray, editor-in-chief of BabyCenter.com, which has noticed a spike in chatter about the parties on its community sites. “There is nervousness in the first trimester, but there is a huge sense of relief after it’s over like, okay, I’ve made it. It’s a chance to celebrate.”
Ultrasounds to determine sex are typically done in the second trimester, as part of a detailed fetal anatomical scan. But hearing the news from a tech while sonogram gel is smeared across your belly does not make for the finest of memories. Perhaps, Murray speculates, some moms find the idea of gender-reveal soirees attractive because it generates fodder for their social media channels — photos, video and other sharable content. On the flip side, other moms may hunger for a real-life party as the antithesis of their social life online. Still others may like that a gender-reveal party involves their husband in a way that baby showers just don’t. “We’ve heard from our moms about the notion that you can do co-ed showers because partners are involved in pregnancy now more than ever,” says Murray. “But at the end of the day, that party is still about gearing up mom. It’s never been that attractive to dads to spend an afternoon opening presents.”
The rules governing gender reveals are still being written. Some parents, like the Stroessners, learn baby’s sex along with their guests; others already know but plan a party to share the news. Cakes appear to be the most common mode of announcement, but some moms and dads have unleashed a bevy of pink or blue balloons or filled a piñata with pink or blue confetti; one couple picked out an outfit for a boy and one for a girl, handed an envelope with their baby’s gender to the store clerk and asked that the appropriate ensemble be wrapped up for them to open at their party.
As more women throw gender-reveal galas, vendors are taking notice. Some are starting to sell themed plates and cups, and bakers are growing accustomed to having to fill rush orders — ultrasound results delivered one day, a completed cake delivered the next. “I felt a little sheepish going in there, but the baker knew exactly what I was talking about,” says Katherine Martin, a Connecticut mom of three boys, whose guests were shocked to learn recently that she’s carrying a girl. Her cake had “boy or girl” written on top; inside lurked pink icing. “There was shouting and jumping and clapping,” says Martin. “There was hugging and crying. No one had ever been to one of these parties before. It was such a great way to find out.”
(For those worried that the whole thing smacks of self-indulgence, Martin has a tip: follow her lead, combining the gender-reveal with a more traditional reason to celebrate. Martin called the party for St. Patrick’s Day, hence the blue and pink shamrocks that adorned the cake.)
Of course, any time you introduce something new, there’s bound to be some confusion. To wit: the very name of the party — “gender reveal” — has thrown some for a loop. The uninitiated have been overheard wondering if someone was celebrating a sex change.
Meanwhile, the festivities can also have a practical purpose. Stroessner’s daughter, Ava, really wanted a sister, and Stroessner figured a party would help defuse the disappointment if a brother was en route. Indeed, Ava was decidedly not pleased when confronted with her blue cupcake. “She definitely had the look of, That wasn’t what I wanted,” says Stroessner.
She’s not the first sibling — or parent — to be disappointed by a baby’s gender. But she gobbled up the Smurf-hued cupcake nevertheless.