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Keeping gender a secret brings set of challenges

– While parents-to-be always hope for a healthy baby, finding out the gender of a little bundle ahead of time makes it so much more personal and fun. Or does it?

Prince William and his wife, the former Kate Middleton, had some non-royal company in choosing not to learn whether their first child was to be a boy or girl.

Heather Crothall finds herself happily in that camp, too, and there’s even a name for it at the mom site BabyCenter.com: Team Green.

“We would rather be surprised,” said Crothall. Due Oct. 1 with her first child, she said her husband’s into the mystery, too, though his resolve is cracking just a bit.

“For my part, I think it’s a fantastic motivation for getting through delivery,” she said by telephone from Windsor, Ontario, just across the border from Detroit.

While mega-fanfare awaited the gender reveal of the latest British royal, a boy who was born Monday, Crothall is looking forward to her obstetrician’s traditional poem when he delivers her good news at birth.

Meantime, she and her husband are dealing with some serious pushback.

“I wasn’t expecting nearly as many people to be polarized as much as they are by it. Why are you being selfish is really the biggest question. It’s seen as a decision that somehow we’re withholding critical information. They’ve made it that we’re being difficult,” Crothall said.

Not everybody, mind you, but even strangers haven’t been shy about expressing their puzzlement.

Christine Ward in Sacramento, Calif., landed in an unusual pickle when she wanted to know the gender of her first but her husband preferred to remain in the dark.

“He wanted the traditional experience of finding out what the sex was at the birth,” she said. “I’m good at keeping secrets.”

Ward and Crothall agreed that those looking for gender-neutral clothing and other baby gear need to dig a little deeper, especially if they’re not fond of animal or jungle themes – or brown.

“We’re not pink-equals-girl and blue-equals-boy people, anyway. Fortunately, the colors we chose for the nursery – white, yellow and gray – are among the more popular gender-neutral choices,” Ward said.

At first, she said, friends and family were confused over their split predicament. Among the challenges: remembering to refer to the baby as “kid, kiddo or, if kicking especially hard, ‘spawn,’ ” she says jokingly.

While expectant parents who want to be surprised feel in the minority, a 2007 Gallup Poll showed them slightly on top. Gallup asked 1,014 adults in the U.S. ages 18 and older where they hypothetically stood on the gender secret if they had “just found out” they were having a baby.

According to the poll, a rare look at who wants to know and who doesn’t, 51 percent said they would wait until the baby is born, while 47 percent said they would like to know ahead of time.

The reasons for keeping the secret can vary, but the headaches are more universal.

“When it comes to clothes we’ve pretty much got both of our parents on speed dial to go out and buy something the minute we find out,” said Crothall, who shops British websites for a wider range of colors and patterns to get beyond soft pastels and boyish primary colors.

Color schemes aside, Jennifer Roman in Bellingham, Mass., let the comments slide from those resistant to the idea of deciding not to learn their baby’s gender.

“There are people who responded, ‘Are you crazy?’ I don’t really take it to heart,” she said.

Jillian Duquette, who lives near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and is due Sept. 5 with her first, said she and her husband are dealing with “a lot of annoying green or yellow” while shopping for clothes for their mystery baby.

“I feel like there are no surprises in life anymore,” she said. “We wanted something that was a good surprise.”

Her mom got her a set of onesies but didn’t look thoroughly through the pack. “Most of them were like, ‘Daddy’s Little Boy’ or something like that,” Duquette said. “We have a lot of jungle stuff and we do like jungle stuff, but imagine if you didn’t? It would be difficult.”

In Atlanta, Monique Dromgoole and her husband also don’t know the gender of their first child. She’s due Sept. 25.

“I want that whole thing when the doctor calls out, it’s a boy or a girl!”

But she gets a little melancholy when shopping.

“It’s hard when you go in a store and see cute little dresses and outfits,” she said. “Probably 90 percent of the stuff is geared toward boy or girl. All my onesies are white or gray or yellow.”

Her nursery is also gray, but that’s OK. “I like the gray. Pink matches and blue matches,” she said. “It’s going to be an awesome surprise.”

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