On Earthquakes and Babies

“My friend is having a ‘Reveal’ party” said my daughter.

“A what?”

“A reveal party – gender reveal – where you invite people over and you have cake and you ‘reveal’ the sex of your baby”.

I laughed. “Oh” Pause “Well – we had five of those!”

Five reveal parties. One took place in Illinois,one in Pakistan, one in Florida and two in Egypt. Five reveal parties on three continents! That has to be some kind of record. The difference was this – there weren’t a lot of people invited to our ‘parties’. Just my husband, a doctor or midwife, a nurse, a friend or mom, and me. And we didn’t call them “Reveal Parties” – we called them deliveries.

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...

But oh how we rejoiced when we heard those words “It’s a Girl!” and a lusty cry from a newborn infant. Or “It’s a Boy!” and in our situations, even lustier cries.

Call me old. Call me unable to keep up with the times. I don’t really care. I think reveal parties are ridiculous. I think they’re over the top, I think they’re not at all about the baby, and I think they’re about Big Business. Big Baby Business.

If you want to know the sex of your baby before birth – that’s great. Have at it. I won’t judge. But if you want to do little cake thingies and party favors and Big Reveals – I think it’s crazy.

Because there’s a natural reveal party waiting right around the corner. It comes after hard work and tears and real labor – but no reveal party is like the natural reveal.

No amount of work, fun, cake, and punch can ever top the Great Reveal

The Great Reveal – when you’re holding a six pound plus infant in your arms, your throat is catching as you say ‘hi baby!’ and you see the man in your life, who never cries, with tears coming down his cheeks looking down at your tiny daughter or son in complete awe.

As a wise friend once told us, there are only two real surprises left in life – And those are Earthquakes and Babies. 

25 thoughts on “On Earthquakes and Babies

  1. I’m so glad my kids were born when they were! They are only 3 and 5 years old, but it seems that just in the last three years, things have gotten so over the top when it comes to pregnancy and babies! No one that I knew had reveal parties three years ago. Maternity pictures were also not a “must have” – and people didn’t spend a small fortune to have their newborn photographed by a professional photographer.

    Have you heard of push presents? It’s the generic term for the gift that the new dad gives the new mom for “pushing” the baby out. As if the miracle of like wasn’t a gift in itself!

    I’m currently reading “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.” There is a chapter on how statisticians for Target can determine which shoppers are pregnant and then market appropriate products to them through customized mailings. Babies are big business. If Target locks soon to be parents as regular customers early on, they can make millions as they target (no pun intended!) their mailings to the parents as the child grows.

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    1. It sounds like a really interesting read. And you say exactly what I feel. My cynical side says – this is about big business and manipulation, not celebration of birth. It’s so good to get your perspective. My kids are older – the youngest is now 17 so it was awhile ago and I know in some people’s minds it disqualifies me from having a voice. I know parents in this part of the world have always had pressure to buy, conform, give our kids things – I just don’t think it always started so soon and the pressure to do big parties to ‘reveal’ the sex was unheard of. In one article a woman said that everyone who came mistook the blue for purple, thought it was a girl, and the pregnant mom spent the whole party crying…yay for pregnancy hormones, right?! Thanks for your perspective.

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  2. Our son & daughter-in-law did plan to find out the gender accompanied by family and close friends. It was a sweet preliminary to their midwife delivery at a birthing center. Knowing they were having a boy gave them time to prepare and pick a name. So it isn’t always about consumerism. Was a sweet time….and now we have a wiggling 6-month-old named Kai we love so much!

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    1. Congratulations! So exciting and I’ve been challenged through this post by people who have pointed out that it’s not all about consumerism – so thank you! I love you words “It was a sweet preliminary….” Beautiful.

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  3. Marilyn, this is the first time I’ve heard of a Reveal Celebration. I remember in a former church when a young couple were told they were having a girl, they began preparing for a girl. I guess it was sort of celebration as they already had a boy. Buying all that pink was fun. Low and behold when the baby was born it was a BOY.
    Can you imagine the shock?

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    1. hahahha! I’ve heard several of these stories and I have to laugh. We try soooo hard to be in control….and then we realize we just aren’t that great at it!

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  4. As a pastor’s wife who had her babies before the pastor became the pastor (ha!), I have lived through the change in the past 15 years. “Back in my day,” things were different – everything from weddings (which now cost an average of $25K or more) to 3D ultrasounds. The miraculous and mysterious have been pushed aside, and I do think we have lost the true celebration in all of this. But – I do love that we celebrate pregnant mommies with their maternity photos…I would have DIED if I had too many of those around. Now I see them almost every day on FB, and I am so happy that our culture has started to celebrate the roundness that comes from that time. I guess I am not sure what I’m trying to say, but I thank you for saying something….well, this. :)

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    1. “The Miraculous and Mysterious have been pushed aside….” I love that – so beautifully articulated and worthy of a post of its own. But you’re right about the celebrating birth. That – especially those of us that call ourselves by that loaded political term ‘pro-life’ should be celebrated.

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  5. Delightfully (and surprisingly) I was the one to ‘reveal’ Zachary’s sex when he was born : ) It just happened that my husband and midwife were so occupied with catching/putting him on my chest that I was the first to peek down and announce “we have a son!” what a joy-filled moment! Thanks for this post, Aunt Marilyn!

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    1. I LOVE this Christi-Lynn! And feel so honored that you are commenting so soon after giving birth. Love you and cannot wait to meet the little guy! And see Thomas again. Are you going to plan a family gathering in Rockport?!

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  6. Yeah for mystery! We have seven children and eighteen grandchildren and each was a surprise…real celebration and joy.

    One of our concerns is the number of ultrasounds performed on moms-to-be. It certainly has turned into a big business.

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    1. Yes to the concern on ultrasounds. You are so right. How many does a normal pregnancy need?! Also congratulations on the lovely children and grandchildren. What an amazing family you have!

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  7. Ah, here’s a different perspective. Like you did during the childrearing years, we move a lot. First baby was born in Germany. Second in California. Third will be born on the east coast of the U.S. We didn’t find out the gender of either of ours until daddy caught them coming out and got to be the first to see. This time we are having a gender reveal “party.” We will be moving when I am six months pregnant and this is how we can celebrate and share the joy with our friends here, most of whom will never meet the baby. We’re going to have a simple backyard bbq, like most Americans do in the summer anyway, and at some point pop a balloon that contains either blue or pink confetti (only the balloon person and the doctor will know the gender). No presents. No decorations. Just close friends and family. We were not the norm when we chose to not find out genders. We loved it that way. But I also understand that whether you find out when the doctor tells you, from confetti in a balloon or when the baby is delivered, it’s a wonderful surprise. I’m glad we’re finding out with this one so I can experience both perspectives. And a note on baby showers. For our first baby in Germany, we had a zero birthday party a week after the baby was born, much like in other countries where gifts are given after the baby is born, in case it didn’t survive delivery. In Germany, people are expected to throw their own birthday parties, so this was very culturally appropriate, in a sense. It was also a chance for friends and family to meet the baby and, since by then we knew the gender, all the people dying to give gender specific cute outfits could do so. How often I hear from people “If we don’t know the gender, how can we get you clothes?!” I always tell them they can wait until after the baby is born. I’m not going to find out for their sake:-) Newborns wear mostly diapers and white onesies anyway. . .

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    1. LOVE that you shared this story and how you are doing this one differently based on your travel. And obviously many of us respond based on the various cultures that we have been a part of. In Egypt and Pakistan there are no such things as baby showers before the birth. In fact – I think showers are specific to North America. One of the things I do understand is how a shower could maybe help when there is a pregnancy loss – I’ve had people say that at least there was an acknowledgement of their loss because they already had the baby shower….That’s a whole other thing. As I said to my nephew – part of me wants to be charitable to these celebrations while another part of me feels the cynicism that this never was designed to be about the baby but about consumerism and one more way to get us to spend money…..

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  8. I agree with your assessment of “big business”. Consumerism gets into every little corner. It pervades so much of our lives we take it as what life is supposed to be. However, to share an amazing moment with friends and family – to have so many surrounding you at such a time, honors the moment. We found out in a doctors office that we were having a boy, and then a few years later a girl, but the moments when we told others were joyful. Is the gathering a “party” or a ceremony? Is it an opportunity to spend money, or an opportunity to rejoice in a new life that will soon be part of a community? Love your blog!

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    1. I like your take – a few other people have voiced the same – if we allow it to be, it can be a rejoicing at an early stage of our baby’s life – one to be celebrated. It’s been great getting these differing responses and having to take a step back and say okay – let me rethink this!! Thanks so much for your words on my blog! So kind.

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  9. Just re-read my comment – don’t want to offend anyone, if you want reveal parties and showers go ahead (and have fun!). They’re just not for me and in combination, the Americanisation of my culture annoys me (which ofcouse doesn’t mean I don’t like Americans). Hope I haven’t just dug the hole deeper here…. :-)

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  10. Brilliant post Marilyn! I heard of the first reveal party here a few weeks ago and was shocked. Am also struggling with the – imported – phenomenon of baby showers. Tradtionally here we give gifts after the birth. It supposedly brings bad luck beforehand. I don’t believe in bad luck, but I do see that every birth is a miracle. That sometimes doesn’t happen the way you want it to.. Reveal parties and for me also baby showers as they’re foreign to my culture, undermine that miracle. They make life feasible.

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    1. Oh my gosh – I can’t believe you felt you had to write an apology for this comment! I LOVED your comment. My heart always falls when I find we’ve exported these sorts of things – the need for uber showers and perfect houses and more – It’s so wrong. I actually love the system in the Netherlands where most babies are born at home and birth is considered a natural process of the life circle. Here our C-section rate is at 30% – 30% do you believe it??? That’s like developing world rates and it’s because babies are Big Business. Living in both Pakistan and Cairo – the gifts came at and after the birth itself. This to me is an interesting cultural distinction. In the west, where we believe we can control most of life – we panic if we don’t have everything in place before the baby is born. We have to have enough clothes for a year, baby gear to fill up our houses, and more. It’s part of a much larger conversation. But let me repeat! This is Communicating Across Boundaries – I know you love Americans (heehee) they just puzzle you greatly at times. So please – continue expressing yourself.

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      1. While I don’t need everything to be perfect, I do need everything to be planned and had everything ready for my first child. While some of it is personality, much of it has to do with being American. This is how many of us deal with stress. We plan. We need to have as much information as possible even though we can’t change anything. Then I lived in countries where women do almost no planning other than putting on henna in order to ward off the evil eye before delivery. I didn’t understand how they could manage a new baby with no planning until I realized they were surrounded by an army of loving, competent female relatives who do everything for the new mother and baby for a couple of months. Their way is nicer, but since my mother lived thousands of miles away, I had to stick with being a plan-obsessed American.

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      2. I planned, I made lists and bought supplies. When you want to deliver at home in the Netherlands like I did, the planning becomes more important. And the agency that sends you a post natal carer, actually checks if you’ve got everything on the list. The planning for me is not the issue, it’s the celebration that takes place at the wrong time.

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