Washington - Jenny Metellus Pierre, 31, and her husband thought they had plenty of time to get pregnant.
However, unforeseen medical problems made it more difficult than they anticipated. Two years of testing, surgery and fertility treatments led them to attempt in vitro fertilization, which ultimately led to a successful pregnancy.
When given the chance to learn the sex of her baby in April last year, Metellus Pierre said the answer was a "no-brainer."
"For us, it just was another milestone; it was a reason to celebrate," Metellus Pierre said. "I was looking for a way to bring our family and friends in and add an element of surprise."
She decided to have what's commonly known as a "gender-reveal party." It's an event where parents discover the sex of their baby. These parties take many different forms, but most include an element of surprise for the parents as well as close family and friends in attendance.
According to Stephanie Shih on the public affairs team at YouTube, the first gender-reveal videos were uploaded to the platform in 2009.
"The trend of gender reveal videos began to emerge on YouTube in mid-2011 and continued to grow in terms of uploads and views from then on," Shih wrote in an email. "In 2017, YouTube saw a 60 percent increase in US views for gender reveal videos compared to 2016."
BabyCenter, a website that serves expecting parents in the US, has seen signs of the phenomenon growing.
Linda J. Murray, senior vice president of consumer experience and global editor in chief at BabyCenter, reflected on the rise of social media as a potential impetus.
"The early parties were very simple, cutting into a cake, opening a box and it's blue or pink balloons. Today these are really choreographed events. Couples are trying to reflect something about themselves, their interests and their points of view," Murray said.
Johnna and Cameron French arranged for the Ferris wheel at the National Harbor in Maryland to light up the colour of their baby's sex.
When asked before the reveal if they were rooting for a boy or girl, Cameron said, "I think healthy for sure. I mean, I know that's the standard cliche answer, but it is so true because there are just so many things and complications that can happen. Overall I think we want someone that's a little bit of the best of both worlds."
Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Scott Osmun hypothesized that gender-reveal parties have increased in popularity because of new medical technology.
"In the past several years, most patients are doing a first-trimester blood test that screens for things like Down syndrome, in which you can also find out the baby's sex," Osmun said. "The concept of finding out baby's gender has moved up a lot earlier in pregnancy."
Osmun said he often gives the parents a sealed envelope with the baby's sex inside. The parents then hand over the results to the person planning the reveal. Additionally, Osmun has sent the baby's sex directly to a bakery or friend organising the party.
Event planners have noticed an uptick in gender-reveal parties as well.
"About two years ago is when I saw these events transforming themselves from little intimate gatherings to full-blown parties," Nar Hovnanian, planning director at Taylor and Hov in Washington, recalled.
Not all reveals require an event planner. Common parties include a simple cake or balloon. Parents will cut into a cake that shows a colour inside, often pink or blue, to identify the baby's sex. Or couples will pop a balloon filled with coloured confetti.The Washington Post