Is Pink or Blue in Your Future?

This week, you can

• Think about the practical and emotional considerations that go into finding out your baby’s gender while you’re pregnant
• Research ways to build a nursery and wardrobe that will work for either sex

YOU’RE PROBABLY only a week or two away from your mid-pregnancy ultrasound—the one where you can possibly learn your baby’s gender. Will you find out whether your baby is a “he” or a “she”?

There are those who will passionately argue that it shouldn’t matter to you whether your baby is a boy or a girl. They act as though a mother caring one way or the other whether her baby is a boy or a girl is somehow frivolous or selfish. Of course, a healthy baby is the most important thing to any expecting mom. But I’d argue that gender is important, too! There is a lot wrapped up in the decision of whether—or when—to find out if you’re expecting a boy or a girl, so don’t make that decision lightly.

For example, whether you’re having a boy or a girl could make a big difference in the relationship you have with this child down the road and how you adjust to motherhood. If it’s a girl, you may find that you’re terrified of passing on some of your less-than-perfect qualities or excited about sharing the things that made your girlhood special. If it’s a boy, you may worry about how you’ll relate to him or revel in the chance to bring up a strong, sensitive man. Your background, childhood, relationship with the baby’s father, and even long-standing fantasies about what your first child will look like all come into play as you’re contemplating. And if your husband or partner has a strong preference one way or the other, that will also affect how you react.

Finding out the baby’s sex can also make the whole pregnancy seem a lot more real, and that can be rather mind-blowing. Up until now, the baby has probably seemed more like a vague concept than an actual living person. Knowing that the baby is a boy or a girl suddenly makes him or her so much more human and specific. And it can be jarring to find out that your baby is a different gender from what you had anticipated or fantasized about. Though mothers have no control over who our babies are or who they will become, it’s hard to resist pouring a lot of wishes and hopes into that growing fetus and thinking that you can somehow create it in your image. If you’ve been dreaming about a little Elizabeth, finding out your baby is actually an Ernie may be the first step to crushing that illusion. And that can be painful.

Meagan, who had four sons before giving birth to her only daughter, loves her boys dearly and can’t imagine girls in their places . . . now that they’re actually here and in her life. It was a different story when she was pregnant and didn’t “know” her babies yet. She’d always wanted a daughter, and each pregnancy represented the possibility of a little girl. As she had boy after boy it began to seem less likely that her dream would be fulfilled. Meagan never felt that wishing for a girl was the same as wishing away the boy baby she actually had. But still, she needed a bit of time to mourn the idea of the girl each of those babies turned out not to be. As a side note, by the time she got to her fifth pregnancy Meagan was so comfortable with the idea of having a family full of boys that she didn’t believe the ultrasound technician’s report of “Mom, you got your girl!” So no matter how disappointed you fear you might be if your baby is not the gender you hope for, don’t worry—once you see your actual baby in your arms, you will love him or her just as he or she is.

If you are likely to be disappointed by the news that the baby is a different gender than you’d hoped, consider when you’d like to receive that bit of news. Meagan, who had four boys and then a girl, always felt it was better to know halfway through the pregnancy and get past any pangs of disappointment early on, then go through the rest of the pregnancy embracing the actual baby rather than the dream baby she’d been fantasizing about for the first twenty weeks. Amanda, a first-time mom I know who was hoping for a boy, decided she’d rather find out after the baby was born because in all the excitement of the birth she’d be less likely to feel disappointment if “he” turned out to be a “she.” There is no right or wrong approach, just how you feel and how you are likely to react.


With today’s technology, a technician should be able to tell you your baby’s gender at twenty weeks or later with close to 100 percent reliability. As with anything in life, there are no guarantees. Your baby’s age, her position, and the age and condition of the equipment will factor in, as will the skill and experience of the technician. So keep in mind that even if you’ve been told “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” there is still a slim chance . . . that it’s not!

Of course, some parents truly have no preference for one gender or another, and in that case, it’s just a matter of deciding whether waiting or finding out ahead of time will bring you more joy! Some parents love finding out early on because it allows them to start thinking of their baby as a real, concrete person. They can refer to the baby as “he” or “she” and even start calling the baby by name if they wish. Others find that the surprise of finding out the baby’s gender just after giving birth adds to the happiness of the moment. Karen, a first-time mom I know, asked the doctor and nurses to not announce her baby’s gender after it was born. Instead, the doctor handed Karen the baby immediately after birth, and she and her husband Keith made the discovery together: Their baby was a little girl. Both Karen and Keith say they’ll treasure that moment forever.

Besides the emotional concerns that will help shape your decision, there are some practical questions, too. Lots of women would rather know the baby’s gender because it makes choosing a layette, nursery theme, and baby gear easier. On the other hand, there are ways around the issue. If you aren’t sure whether you want to find out your baby’s gender ahead of time, but are afraid you won’t be able to prepare properly, consider these tricks:


Navy blue, yellow, green, brown, and cream are great colors for either boys or girls. Try tie-dye, rainbow, plaid, or animal prints. Check Target, Pottery Barn Kids, or the Land of Nod (www.landofnod.com) for beautiful unisex bedding and decor.

Alternately, you can only purchase (or register for) items that aren’t usually gender specific (strollers, cribs, etc.) and wait until after Baby’s here to go all-out in decorating the nursery. This is also a smart move if you plan to have more children down the road, since it’s more likely you’ll be able to reuse your gear then. If you can’t bear the thought of a bare nursery, try just investing in small items like lamps, wall hangings, crib or bassinet sheets, and a pretty, light blanket in a color like cream or apple green. Later, you can layer more bedding on top. Since heavy crib bedding isn’t considered safe for young babies, you probably wouldn’t be using a comforter at this point, anyway.
Look for strollers, car seats, and other “on the go” gear in black, gray, brown, or navy blue. These are stylish, gender-neutral options, and they won’t show dirt as readily as pastels.

And chuck the idea that your diaper bag has to “coordinate” with your baby’s gender. You are not an infant, and your baby isn’t going to be carrying the diaper bag. There’s just no reason to accessorize with a bag decked in pink hearts or blue teddy bears (unless that’s what you like, of course). Pick something that appeals to your sense of style—you have to live with it, after all, and the baby won’t care. Due-Maternity. com has a great selection of diaper bags that look like designer purses, not cartoon nightmares. Or you can just carry a purse that has enough room for baby stuff. Believe me, you will not lose any “mom points” if you never buy a diaper bag!

Going Gender-Neutral

Newborn babies really don’t need to be equipped with full four-season wardrobes! In fact, many babies outgrow those newborn outfits within a couple of weeks. Consider waiting until you know how big he or she will be until you invest in much clothing. For now, purchase a very limited layette of gender-neutral colors. You can shop again a month or so after your baby’s born, when you know how big she is or how fast he’s growing.

Whether or not you find out your baby’s sex, raising him or her in a “gender-neutral” manner is another possibility. In fact, there is a growing movement of parents who believe that avoiding “pink for girls, blue for boys” as a general rule helps children discover who they are, rather than who society says they should be based on their gender. Even if you don’t embrace this idea fully, don’t be afraid of buying dolls for your baby boy or trucks for your baby girl. Not only will it broaden his horizons or show her that she can be anything she wants, but it’s practical, too: If you have the opposite-sex child later, you won’t have to worry that you don’t have anything to hand down because all the gear and clothing is too “girly” or “boyish.”

Here are some tips for building a gender-neutral wardrobe that will work now and for future babies to come.

• Gender-neutral clothing is pretty easy to come by for little babies, who mostly live in sleepers and nightgowns. You won’t notice much of a difference between the “girl” and “boy” versions of these items except that some will be blue and some will be pink—but you’ll also find plenty of other colors to choose from.
• Unisex clothing is harder to come by in bigger sizes, where the difference between “girl” and “boy” styles becomes more and more pronounced. T-shirts (long- and short-sleeved), bodysuits, and pants are the staples of a gender-neutral layette. Look for colors like navy blue, brown, purple, gray, light green, and orange, in solids, stripes, or fun prints that don’t scream GIRL or BOY.

• When buying pants, look for a fit that’s not too tight or loose, without details like ruffles or hearts. Little jeans or corduroys are great, if you can find them without “boy” detailing like hammer loops and side pockets, and without “girl” detailing like appliqués and bows. Stay away from bell-bottoms and capris, which look decidedly girly no matter what you pair them with.

• Shirts can be a challenge, too, as “girl” shirts tend to have puffy sleeves, gathers in the neck, and other details that just don’t meld well with a unisex wardrobe. Try the boy’s department instead. You’ll have to flip past a lot of bears playing baseball and driving trucks, but you should be able to find a few plain T’s that will make great layering basics for either a girl or a boy.

• Go online. Do a search for “gender-neutral baby clothing” or “unisex baby clothing” and see what comes up. Many boutiques and specialty stores are now catering to the parent looking for unisex fashions.

• Once you’ve pulled together Baby’s “base” wardrobe of shirts and pants, you can use layers and other accessories to make it more girlish or boyish. Think hoodies, button-down shirts, or cardigans over those T-shirts. Many baby and toddler dresses look adorable worn over a pair of pants. Hair bows, cute socks, or rugged boots go a long way toward adding a “girl” or “boy” vibe to that otherwise neutral outfit.

I didn’t give you much to do this week (after the way I’ve been working you, that should be a relief!) but there is a lot to think about, isn’t there? Don’t worry. If you still can’t make up your mind whether or not to find out at your ultrasound appointment, you have another option. Ask the technician to write down the baby’s gender and fold up the piece of paper. Place it in a sealed envelope (so neither you nor your spouse can peek without getting caught) and put it somewhere safe. The two of you can talk it over at leisure until you’re either comfortable opening the envelope . . . or maybe even throwing it away. After all, sooner or later you’re going to find out for certain whether this baby is a boy or a girl. Maybe you’ll realize that you don’t need to know until he or she is in your arms.
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