Boy or girl? Rise of gender reveal parties

Gender reveal party

The two main colours used in gender reveal parties are pink for a baby girl and blue for a baby boy.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

To some, it is not a big deal. To stay guessing for nine months, until D-day, is good enough. To others, it is private information meant only for close family members or friends. In-between are those who prefer to share the news freely and widely.

Whatever the preference, revealing the gender of an unborn baby is often an exciting and sometimes anxious thing to do. But, it is also increasingly becoming an extravagant undertaking fuelled in no small part by celebrity couples.

Some parents go to great lengths to set up events popularly known as “gender reveal parties” shortly before the birth of a newborn. Even though it is not a new trend across the world, recent high-profile events have captured the attention of Kenyans.

The most important players in planning for this precious surprise would be the obstetrician the couple regularly visits. They are tasked with keeping the secret, and to tell only a close friend or family member. This is to ensure no one knows the baby’s gender until the big reveal.

Ann Wambui, a professional photographer, says the adrenaline rush as you wait to pick a name depending on the baby’s gender is just breathtaking.

“The journey begins when you visit the doctor for your first scan. The doctors usually understand the game, and they only reveal the gender to your chosen friend or family — not to you. But in some instances the parents are also told but are required to keep it a secret. This friend or family member then organises a party a few days before your delivery. Typically, the gender is revealed using colours that are known universally to represent each gender. For instance, in my case, my friends stashed small ribbons in a balloon then I was given a needle to prick it. Immediately it burst, I saw pink ribbons and that meant it was a girl,” says Ann.

The two main colours used in gender reveal parties are pink for a baby girl and blue for a baby boy. Since the trend started, people have found more expensive and innovative ways of finding out the gender of their unborn children.

Some are using fireworks while others use their cars by stuffing the gender’s secret colour in the exhaust or tyres and revving the car to create a huge cloud of the colour that gets the family and friends excited. However, some of these parties end up in disaster.

Last year, in Brazil, a family chose to colour a waterfall blue for their gender reveal, which led to an investigation by their environment department.

In 2021, a couple in the US was criminally charged for causing the El Dorado wildfires which burned 9,300 hectares, destroyed five homes and 15 other buildings, and claimed the life of a firefighter. The fire that started on September 5, 2020 was finally put out 23 days later.

The couple used a smoke bomb for the gender reveal party, a move that saw them face almost 20 years in prison if found guilty. There have been more cases of wildfires caused by these excessive displays which are usually fueled by influencers and popularity on social media.

But some see the exercise as unnecessary.

“All these celebrations we have introduced before a baby is born are just ungodly. A pregnancy used to be held in high regard, preserved and protected unlike nowadays when baby bumps are being paraded everywhere on social media,” says Jacinta Maingi, a retired clinical psychologist.

Nonetheless, Jacinta believes it is important to find out the baby’s gender before they are born for better preparation.

“I may be old fashioned but why would I want my child’s sex hidden from me throughout a pregnancy? I would hate the confusion of not knowing what clothes to buy or what to shop for. “

She cautions that because the current society has different views on whether gender is assigned at birth or should be left for the child to choose, they should be called sex reveals.

American Jenna Karvunidis, who some consider to have popularised the trend, also now considers the parties problematic and regrets her part in creating them. She asked on a Facebook post in 2019, “Who cares what gender the baby is?”

She then posted a photo of her family with her daughter wearing a pale blue blazer and pants. The caption read, “Plot twist! The world’s first gender-reveal party baby is a girl who wears masculine suits!”

Jenna, who says she started the trend in 2008, went viral after blogging about her gender reveal idea of cutting into a cake filled with pink icing to reveal that she was having a baby girl. This is one of the common methods used in gender reveals.

Kenyan celebrities Vera Sidika and Amber Ray recently took to social media to show off their luxurious gender reveal parties that later became an argument about one copying the other’s idea. Vera used a helicopter to reveal their unborn baby’s gender by releasing blue coloured smoke in the air to make the announcement that she was having a boy.

Amber Ray arrived at her gender reveal party with her fiancee Kennedy Rapudo in a helicopter at a restaurant along Nairobi’s Waiyaki Way. It was only after the party that it was later revealed that she will be having a baby girl. Apart from the helicopter ride, the socialite also had a billboard to announce her gender reveal party. On average, billboards cost between Sh100,000 and Sh600,000 depending on location and other factors while helicopter charter services in Nairobi range between Sh100,000 and Sh200,000 per hour.

Jenna Karvundis surprisingly found her name being dragged into the fight between the two Kenyans and posted screenshots of articles about them on Instagram on March 19 after she suddenly had a number of new followers on her social media.

The caption read: “I had an influx of followers and I was like ‘time to google myself’. Welp! Apparently, these two influencers (in Kenya) are beefing about their gender reveal parties and one of them claimed she invented it. Then the other one was like ‘it was Jenna anyway!’ I love the world. Stay safe, ladies. Welcome, my new friends in Kenya.”

The good news is that there are gender-reveal ideas that do not involve burning down acres of land or being called a copycat. Just like Ann, you can opt to pop an opaque balloon that has pink or blue confetti inside. You can seal a box with pink or blue balloons that will rise when you open it. You can also hang a dummy doll with pink or blue treats and let guests take turns trying to break it open. You can also choose to fill balloons with pink or blue paint, attach them to a canvas, and then throw darts to pop them and release the paint.

Another cost-effective method is using a scratch card that has the right gender already ingrained - all you have to do is scratch to reveal.

Gender reveal parties can also be playful, like a couple who allowed their friends and family to pour blue liquid on them to show that they were expecting a baby boy. Another example is having a water fight with balloons filled with blue or pink coloured water made from food colouring, which can be made at home.

“A gender reveal is the new style of doing baby showers, only that this time friends are allowed in. It has become the ‘in-thing’ for young mothers and I am for it.

“I attended my friend’s gender reveal party and it cost her about Sh50,000 to set it all up. We then came in with gifts and money to celebrate the new mom-to-be,” said Ruth Kioko, an event organiser. She says that the reason she prefers gender reveal parties to baby showers is that, in most cases, you get to plan it yourself giving you the power to go with your preferences as opposed to a baby shower where your friends plan secretly.

“A gender reveal doesn’t even need too many people. Even your immediate family is enough. By far, the most common way people reveal the sex of their baby seems to be with food. Often, this involves a cake that has neutral decorations on the outside and coloured frosting on the inside - pink for a girl and blue for a boy. When it’s time for the big reveal, someone cuts into the cake to expose the inside to guests. You also could pass out individual cupcakes with coloured frosting inside and have guests bite into their cupcakes at the same time for the big reveal,” Ruth says.

Fathers-to-be do not have to be left out of the gender reveal. Some people have come up with sports options such as dunking a basketball into a net filled with gender-reveal powder. Football fans would also enjoy kicking a ball filled with either blue or pink powder to find out if they would get a chance to have their son or daughter support their favourite team.

Gender reveals can also be funny and creative. In 2021, a gender reveal video went viral when the expectant mother popped the white balloon to find out the baby’s gender only to find there was nothing inside. As the crowd stood in confusion, a woman (presumably her mother) took off her black wig to reveal a blue wig underneath.


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