"Are you going to find out the sex?" Once people learn you're pregnant, that's often the next question you get. For me it was an easy one: "Yes. And in fact, I already know. It's a girl."
By the time I started telling people I was pregnant around 12 weeks, I knew my baby's sex. My husband and I had decided to opt for the new genetic blood test called NIPT, which you can take as early as 10 weeks. We liked it for various reasons, including the high accuracy for assessing Down syndrome risk and the fact that it would tell you the baby's sex long before the traditional ultrasound done between 16 and 20 weeks. It cost us about $400 out of pocket, but for me the peace of mind was worth it — as was knowing the sex of the fetus growing inside of me.
It was a relief to take a test that didn't have a good or bad result.
Yes, finding out the sex of my baby was really important to me — but not because I wanted to buy a bunch of gender-specific clothes, hold an elaborate gender reveal party, or paint a nursery blue or pink. (For what it's worth, my second bedroom is mint green and will stay that way.) Rather, it was a way for me to break up early pregnancy. I found the first trimester to be a pretty tough slog of nausea, lifestyle changes, and anxiety about genetic testing or the risk of miscarriage. It was a relief to take a test that didn't have a good or bad result. It felt like a way to treat myself and get a little excitement before the birth. Pregnancy is already such a waiting game, so I didn't see the point of hoarding all the discovery about my future baby until the day of the birth.
Learning the sex also helped me "bond" with my baby. Pregnancy seems almost theoretical early on: there's no bump, just symptoms. The whole thing felt much more real once I started referring to my future baby as "her" instead of "it." Carista Luminare is an expert in prenatal bonding and author of Parenting Begins Before Conception: A Guide to Preparing Body, Mind, and Spirit for You and Your Future Child. Along with journaling, talking to your belly regularly, or singing to the baby, she agrees that finding out the sex can build a connection and affection. It also offers a chance to settle on a name early. "For many, putting a personal name to the baby makes it less abstract," Luminare says. Of course, she also stresses that there are no rules about bonding, just "whatever opens the heart of each parent." For me, that was finding out the sex.
It gave us a chance to talk through our own gender biases.
The choice to find out the sex helped my husband and me connect, too, which I wasn't expecting. Right before we got the call with the results, "My Girl" came on at the restaurant we were at. I told him it was a sign, and five minutes later we found out we were having girl. As silly as it was, I know we'll never forget that moment. The news also encouraged us to start narrowing down baby names, a fun pregnancy project. And it gave us a chance to talk through our own gender biases and plans. We talked about how to help our future daughter be driven by her interests, not society's confining gender norms. We promised to share my husband's passion for technology and coding with her, while I would be sure to expose her to my love of sports. And if she loved princesses or anything overtly girlie, we'd embrace it, since femininity and feminism are not mutually exclusive.
If you believe men and women are equal, finding out the sex of your future baby may seem arbitrary. But even as a feminist, I discovered it did matter. I also realized that saving it until the end as some big surprise might have made the sex a bigger deal than I wanted it to be. Finding out as soon as I could came with many benefits for me, including bonding with the baby and my husband. And it didn't require that I fall into a sea of pink.