I never had a baby shower. Sure, there was the obligatory surprise lunch-time shower my colleagues threw for me, where I got to bask in my own glow for a 45-minute power session of crock-pot mac ‘n cheese and a marathon opening of a dozen onesies my students had all sponge-painted for me.
That was pretty awesome. But I was never surrounded by friends cooing over miniature shoes, eating Noah’s Ark-themed goodies, and playing stupid party games with chocolate bars in Pampers and blindfolded baby food taste-testing.
Whenever I’m asked why I didn’t have a shower, I simply reply, “Jews don’t do that kind of thing. It tempts the evil eye.”
This is easier than explaining that after we miscarried our first pregnancy at 10 weeks, and had to painfully “untell” a handful of close friends and family, the importance of secrecy provided a layer of insulation against disappointments, awkward conversations, and jealous gazes at coworkers’ growing bellies.
So when we found out–at 6 weeks gestation–that I was carrying twins, we adhered to tradition and kept our news a secret. Over the next seven weeks, this secret threatened to explode out of my every orifice. But even at the 20-week ultrasound, when we found out it was likely we were having boy-girl twins, we kept our traps shut, our fingers off of social media.
The desire to keep the gender(s) hidden was a bit different, however, than our fear of somehow “jinxing” the pregnancy by seeming too happy or planning too much. I wanted to hold the secret for myself, and prevent my children from being assigned to their little gender boxes any earlier than they had to be.
I’ve written at length about how frustrating it is to find baby clothes that don’t adhere to a very narrow construct of defined gender roles, like the navy blue onesie that proclaims, “Mommy’s Little Hero,” complete with the appliquéd fire trucks, or “Daddy’s Little Princess,” surrounded by sparkles and ruffles. I don’t like ascribing intentions or thoughts to pre-verbal children anyway, and the idea of giving them labels that confirm their stereotyped gender roles when they don’t even know they have hands yet makes me vaguely ill. Selfishly, I didn’t want to receive piles of pink and blue clothes to fill their closet, or boxes of pink and blue toys.
And so, we decorated the nursery in the gender-neutral hues of my early 1980s childhood–red, orange, and green. Not a pastel tone to be found.
But in spite of how progressive people purport to be, how they take to Facebook to promote gender equality in sports, write blogs about how they hate LEGO Friends, and sign petitions to get sexist clothing taken out of JC Penney (“I’m too pretty to do homework”), there is a rise in a new type of pregnancy ritual–the gender reveal party and accompanying cake.
In a move seemingly designed for visual impact (hello, Instagram!), parents slip a piece of paper from their doctor’s office to a baker who will serve as the confederate, and bake a cake dyed with enough food coloring to make lab mice shake in their boots to match the assigned gender color of their fetus. You throw a party, and slice open the “bows or bow ties,” “tie or tutu,” or, in supreme tackiness, a pregnant torso-shaped cake (mmm… I got a piece of placenta), to see what is inside your belly. I mean, besides a baby, of course.
Kitsch and red dye #40 aside, I can easily guess why a gender reveal party never even entered into my mind when I was pregnant. For a culture that won’t even speak the name of a child until it has had an official naming, a culture that won’t celebrate a child until we’ve seen it with our own eyes–ultrasound be damned–I’m sure Jews the world over are already mounting their defenses.
That’s not our way, that’s not our tradition. Can you hear the yentas?
“Oy, celebrating future offspring having a vagina or penis by eating cake! Can you imagine such a thing?”
Actually, come to think of it, it kind of sounds like a bris.