By Lizann Lightfoot
Every new parent knows this question all too well: “Do you want to know the baby’s gender?”
When one parent is deployed, that question becomes complicated. Will a military couple be able to find out together before the deployment begins? (On military bases, the ultrasound to determine gender is performed around week 20 of the pregnancy. It can be done sooner, but then is not always accurate.) If the ultrasound happens during deployment, will they wait until homecoming to announce it?
When I was pregnant with our third baby, my husband and I agreed that we wanted to be surprised and would wait until the birth to learn the gender. After all, we already had a girl and a boy, so we didn’t need to stock up on many clothes or baby supplies. However, when we found out that the baby would be born during a deployment, my husband changed his mind and wanted to know what we were having as soon as possible. He said that being deployed already made him feel disconnected from his baby. Knowing the gender ahead of time was just one more way to keep him connected.
Of course, that’s what we did. Military spouses are masters of creatively handling the curve-balls military life throws their way. Need a way to share your baby’s gender with a deployed spouse who is thousands of miles away? And you don’t have regular communication with them? No problem–these military spouse gender reveal ideas work in all kinds of deployment situations.
1. Care package
During some deployments, you never know when the service member will be able to make a phone call or get internet access. If you have limited communication with your deployed service member, but they want to know the baby’s gender before returning home, this may be your only option. Once you have learned if your baby is a boy or a girl, have fun wrapping up a care package that contains the pink or blue surprise. There are lots of cute ideas on Pinterest. Just. . . don’t use exploding glitter!
If you want to suspend the surprise a few extra moments, make the care package in neutral colors and write “It’s a…” on a card inside the box. This may give him an opportunity to record his reaction when they open it, and they may be able to send you the video later.
2. Share the surprise together
If you and your service member want to share the surprise at the same moment but aren’t able to be in the ultrasound room at the same time, you will need to use Skype (or Facetime or any video messaging app). When you go in for your ultrasound, explain that you would like to share the surprise later with your partner, and ask the ultrasound tech to write the baby’s gender down on a card. Then, without letting you see it, have the tech put the card in a sealed envelope. (You may also want to glance away from the ultrasound screen. Sometimes, even if you are not an ultrasound tech… the gender is pretty obvious!) The secret is now waiting to be opened whenever your service member is next able to make a video call. As long as you can prevent yourself from peeking, you can share this special moment together.
3. Skype during the gender reveal party
If you have always wanted to have a gender reveal party with family or friends, you can still have one during deployment. And, through the wonders of technology, you can include your deployed spouse! This works best when the service member has regular internet access and can call during a somewhat predictable time of day. Try to communicate with them ahead of time and plan it on a day and time when they are typically available. Then invite your friends, plan the reveal cake or the box of balloons or the colored smoke, and hope for the best. Just be aware that they can lose communication for a variety of reasons. Have a back-up plan to share it with them later if they can’t call during the party.
4. Gender reveal at Homecoming?
If you learn the gender near the end of deployment, you may be able to save the surprise for homecoming. Some couples might think this is a fun and exciting moment to share good news. Other people might prefer to keep the gender reveal a little more private, and not share it in the middle of a busy gym, parking lot, pier, or airport. Be sure to talk to your spouse ahead of time and find out what they prefer. It’s fun to watch surprise homecoming videos. It’s less fun to be surprised at homecoming by people throwing confetti into your face. You can decide the best way to share the news with your loved one.
Lizann Lightfoot is an associate editor at Military One Click and a Marine Corps spouse. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.