By Christina Capecchi
Blue or pink? That was the secret contained in the cake.
My younger brother and his wife are always looking for an excuse to throw a themed party – a World Series game for the Cardinals, an end-of-the-world prediction, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. They couldn’t resist the opportunity to kick-start the celebration of their firstborn by hosting a gender-reveal party, so we gathered on a chilly Sunday afternoon to learn about the baby due in July.
A gender-reveal party takes the news captured at an ultrasound and announces it in a more dramatic fashion: pulling a sheet out of an envelope, Oscars style; slicing into a blue- or pink-colored cake; opening a box of balloons. The concept took off in 2011, according to BabyCenter.com, which reported an explosion of discussion threads. It is the antithesis of a baby shower, heavy on obligation and estrogen. A gender-reveal party centers on the surprise, delivering a sweet pay-off for a breathless audience – the promise of big news and bakery-made cake.
Its popularity has surged with Pinterest, where pregnant women dream up a million ways to decorate with light pink and powder blue. My brother hung a cascade of pink and blue balloons in the entrance of his home and used his pitcher’s arm to fling crepe paper onto the ceiling fan in his two-story great room.
When Tony and Jodie lifted a slice of blue cake, I felt a flicker of that hospital thrill right there in the dining room. My voice broke when I congratulated him. “You’re going to have a son!”
Later that day, after I’d downloaded my pictures, I found myself thinking about the idea of a big reveal. So few major events can be known in advance through an announcement or alert.
It’s in the looking back, not looking ahead, that we can trace the hand of God. We are guided along in extraordinary ways, through ordinary means. For Sister Mary Madonna Ashton, a 90-year-old Sister of St. Joseph, it was the neighbor girl who happened to attend a Catholic high school and persuaded her to enroll, which led to her conversion to Catholicism and pursuit of religious life. For my husband, the impromptu decision to stop at my college one afternoon – which turned out to be registration day – led our paths to cross.
Disappointments also take on new meaning in retrospect. My friend Natalie’s labor did not go according to her labor plan – which, she later told me, was apt preparation for parenthood.
Learning to deal with the space between fantasy and reality is how we grow up. For one mother of five, praying a daily rosary takes the edge off pinched holiday expectations, helping her keep calm and carry on when her visions of a Victorian Christmas go unfulfilled.
When I review my 20s, I can see how an unwelcome no paved the way to a blessed yes. Doors we never would’ve closed on our own lead to opened windows, once we pick ourselves up and look around. Sorrow softens us, kneading our hearts into doughier, more compassionate organs.
This long winter has reminded me that I can’t mastermind my future with a spreadsheet and a stopwatch. Life doesn’t unfold in even numbers and rhyming couplets. I’m learning what it means to be open to life, the church’s charge to married couples, on a broad level. It can be scary to trust God, to dive headfirst when you can’t see the net beneath you. But I want to operate on grace, not strategy. I’m entering into Easter, the ultimate surprise.
God’s plan for my life is different from mine – and, I have no doubt, better.
(Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn.)