Byrony Gordon: Will it be a boy or a girl? Well, find out an throw a gender-reveal party ...
WE have our friends in America to thank for delivering us the latest fad doing the rounds of polite society: the gender-reveal party. If you haven’t yet received a candy-coloured invitation to one, then let me explain – these are celebrations at which friends and family gather around an expectant mother to find out the sex of her child, through the cutting of a cake that contains pink sponge for a girl, and blue for a boy.
Typically, the parents will find out at exactly the same time as everyone else in the room, having asked their sonographer to seal the news in an envelope, which they will then hand straight to a baker who can get to work on a gender-reveal cake.
The canapés on offer at the party are often based on the woman’s pregnancy cravings (not so good if you are craving coal; great if all you want is mini hamburgers). Inevitably, there are elaborate colour-coded decorations. And, like at most other parties, hosts sometimes encourage a dress code: come in “team” colours, so you can root for a boy or a girl and even cast votes on the matter. Yes, really.
Always thought it wasn’t possible to throw a surprise party for yourself? Think again! Type “gender reveal party” into YouTube and you will find hundreds of videos of these gatherings, watched by tens of thousands of people. They feature a lot of shrieking, jumping up and down, many tears and even one disappointment, when a couple cut into their cake only to discover that the baker had mistakenly made a common-or-garden white sponge. Oops.
These parties make the baby shower – another American import in which mothers-to-be are “showered” with gifts ahead of their infant’s birth – look restrained. They make the people who live-tweet their pregnancies and upload their baby’s scan as their Facebook profile picture look positively private. But the gender-reveal party is just one of the many ways in which surely the most private of processes – making a baby – can now be made public.
Of course, it is wonderful when someone gets pregnant but (and you have to whisper this, because it is not very popular) it is also the most normal thing in the world, given that our basic evolutionary function is to reproduce. There is one born every minute, as they say. Does it really need to be celebrated with expensive parties? Do we all need to be there as the couple discover the sex of their first born? Whatever happened to not finding out until the birth anyway? How terribly old-fashioned that seems now, when an estimated 60 per cent of parents choose to be told in the course of the pregnancy.
As little as a decade ago, people got pregnant and had babies without making much of a fuss about it. Now, you can call up such companies as Windows to the Womb – a non-diagnostic ultrasound baby-bonding studio based in Nottingham – and, for a not insubstantial price, purchase 4D scans of your unborn child, in key ring, DVD and CD-ROM form.
Or you can host a grim-sounding “foetus” party, where you invite all your mates around to see footage of your baby in your womb. Coleen Rooney had one, paying a sonographer to come to her mansion to do a live scan of her son Kai, now aged two, in front of her assembled guests.
But all this early celebration has met with some criticism. Prof Cathy Warwick, head of the Royal College of Midwives, worries that it gives women false hopes – because, naturally, things can still go awry after that first 12-week scan.
“What happens if a woman is celebrating a normal-looking baby and then it is discovered further down the line that something is wrong?’’ said Prof Warwick. “Does it make it harder for women to accept the problem? It’s a bit like being given lots of wedding presents and then suddenly being jilted.
“If a woman is celebrating much more overtly than she might normally do at an early stage during the pregnancy, and then, at a later stage, a serious problem emerges, a mother may need increased counselling after raising everyone’s expectations.”
Prof Warwick added that the purpose of a scan is to check for potential problems during pregnancy, and that to “use it as a consumer tool raises ethical questions”.
One imagines she wouldn’t look too fondly on an invitation to a gender-reveal party. Indeed, shouldn’t the focus of pregnancy be the health of the baby, rather than a desire to show it off, before it has even been born, with a flashy cake, a party and a YouTube video?