Thursday, 19 March 2009

Listen. Do you want to know a secret?

Do you promise not to tell?

In my day, a long time ago, we didn't have ultrasound scans during pregnancy unless there was a very good reason.  There was never any question of knowing in advance whether or not you were going to be having a boy or a girl.  When I first heard of people being told before the birth, I felt it was a shame, somehow lessen excitement, but over the years I've become used to the idea.  The surprise, the excitement, just comes a little earlier.

At the moment in our family, the next generation is busily trying to make sure the bloodline doesn't come to an abrupt halt.  To my surprise, the revelation of the baby's sex is something of an issue.  One couple knows they are expecting a boy, but the grandparents don't want to know.  A second couple don't want to know themselves.  Another set of new parents found out as soon a they possibly could, and the fourth were told that it wasn't the hospital policy to say.

If I were a young mother now, I think I'd want to know as soon as it was certain.  I can't imagine why grandparents would want it to be a surprise if everyone else knew. 

Sadly  though, I can imagine and well understand why a hospital might have a policy of not telling, when you hear reports such as the BBC's entitled "Britain's unwanted girls".  Nevertheless, I'm surprised.  Is it usual for different hospitals to have different policies?  I would have thought they would all have to toe the party line, but it seems not.


  1. A, interesting, I didn't know the gender of my two daughters before they were born. I don't remember being offered the facility to know (1970's).

    Needless to say I was excited at the births and very happy that they were both healthy. I remain very happy to have two intellegent and beautiful daughters.

    I never had a son but am now blessed with a grandson anyway.

    Lucy my youngest daughter is due to give birth in two weeks and they(parents) have chosen not to know the gender until he/she is born.

    I reckon its a boy!

  2. A., I often wonder if I would have wanted to know the sex of either of my children. I know buying clothes for the new baby would have been easier. I have several friends that each wanted something different. One couple let everyone know they were having a girl, but refused to tell anyone the name that was picked out. Silly

  3. In China, due to its one-child policy, every couple want to know the sex of their unborn baby. Once they know it's a girl, they abort it.

    There are many more men than women in China. And many men cannot get wives.

  4. @Mike, you must let us know if you're right or not. Are you taking bets? :)

    @ettarose, I can't decide either, but I think on balance, curiosity would probably have got the better of me.

    @ECL, yes, that's such a tragedy, and now they're left with the unbalanced population. I would have hoped it was getting better, but the link I left is a report about British Indians going back to India to abort female babies. Appalling.

  5. Hello -

    Frankly, females are not as valued anywhere but in the US/Canada, most of Europe and Australia/NZ. Wonder why in 2009? Well, for one reason, in third world and emerging countries like China, children were/are commodities, not the luxury items of the first world. Dowry systems in India still exist (no matter how much the government tries to outlaw them). And government intervention in China (the one child policy), although perhaps well meaning has left the situation you describe above, with an unbalanced population.

    Then there is the prejudice against females that is encoded in religion and culture - as a female in the US, I have an amazing amount of freedom compared to a woman in the middle east, no matter what she might say about it (many women in these systems frequently decry us Western women as immoral, etc. and try and paint their suppression in a positive light). Some of this prejudice is psychological (a way for men to control what they believe is omnipotent female sexuality or power), some is rooted in ignorance, and some is just plain mean. But whatever the root cause, it exists and flourishes.

    I am not trying to be too alarmist, but too many males does not only mean that many men will not find wives - it means that the Chinese government will continue to downgrade males and treat them as cannon fodder - meaning we in the west may be at greater risk of a billion people ready to go to war against us. Not a pretty sight.

    I am all in favor of medical professionals NOT telling parents the gender of their children if it will help restore gender balance in both certain communities and maybe even countries.

    Good post - thought provoking!!

    Warmly -

  6. I had two babies and it's just only in my 2nd pregnancy that i knew it was a boy. The first baby was a girl though i wanted a boy and i really thouht it was a boy because of how pregnancy did some changes on my looks that time.

    This post made me recall that i think it;s because of knowing the gender of the fetus at early months causes many girl fetus deaths because of the "one child policy" in China, almost all couples wanted to have a baby boy. Poor baby girls.

  7. I never knew the sex of my babies back in the 80's and I didn't want to, but I'm sure the hospital knew as when I was in labour with my youngest they set the cot up with pink covers!

  8. I am not planning to have kids soon but I wonder if ultrasound would be needed.. But for girl scouts mom, i think it is really great to be prepared before the baby is born so that after delivery not so much of a hassle can be expected.

    But i don't like the ultrasound images huh, they look scary to me.

  9. When I was born, I think my parent were not even aware Ultrasound existed but all the same, I was all right and since I was the first (and still am) the first born in the family, I still got all the attention. I was born 24 years ago. ^^

  10. Secrecy and confidentiality of information are both very important things these days... but sometimes it's worth breaking the seal. I read a story where the father married the daughter in the future coz he donated some sperm in the sperm bank when he was so young and the age difference was not even distant... I think both him and the daughter deserved to know who is who from the very beginning.

  11. i THINK i HAVE TO AGREE WITH YOU THAT the excitement was just put a little earlier but I think more excitement would be there when the moment you know the sex of the child, you could also touch and caress him/her, right?

  12. I lived in the province when I was young and no ultrasound of course but all the same my parents were aware of the sex or gender of my younger siblings.... i dunno what were the signs but truly no ultrasound was used.

  13. It's funny, but I would want a surprise and prefer not to know.

    On the subject of hospitals, in one area alone, I knew of many that wouldn't tell the parents, and only one or two the did.

  14. I knew the gender of my middle child - just KNEW it with no ultrasound. An ultrasound confirmed it the day before she was born - it was the only ultrasound I had with her. My youngest son is the only one that I found out early through ultrasound. It's sad that girls are still so devalued in the world.

  15. @Laura, I was thinking of a follow up post to address some of your points. There are some interesting efforts to reduce the problem in China, and they do seem to be working. It will take time though, to rebalance the population.

    @Arlene, I think that's why they don't always tell people the sex of the baby, so they don't try to get an abortion if the sex is not what they want.

    @LadyBanana, really? :) :) Too late to be of any use for you.

    @Webbielady, I have never been able to make any sense of ultrasound pics. I think they are considered necessary or advisable to pick up anything that might be wrong with the child.

    @DIIT, I was a first born, but soon followed by a sister, so the attention didn't last so long.

    @My Travels, that's a bit of a scary story.

    @Roj, yes that's very true, the excitement would be greater if you could be holding the baby straight away.

    @Unedited, a lot of people swear they can tell. I've no idea how.

    @Alison, you're not alone in wanting a surprise I believe. Interesting about the hospitals. My niece wasn't told in London, but was told in Tunbridge Wells. Hmm.

    @Chameleon, not just sad, but very wrong and as Lura points out, could be dangerous.

  16. I think it's ok to know about the future baby's gender at least to be ready for preparing his/her room :)

    Nevertheless, it's normal that grandparents don't like the idea because they have their own perspective that we respect, who knows if we became grandparents oneday, what are we going to do?

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