The Part No One Talks About: Gender Disappointment

I can remember the deep, burning embarrassment and the feeling of shame that came over me when they said, “Congratulations! It’s a boy!”

My face quickly shifted from excitement and wonder to disappointment. I wanted to cry.

Another boy. 

I already had a son. I wanted a girl so bad the second time. Isn’t that how it was supposed to be? One boy, one girl?

All of the plans I had made up to this point were out the window. I had named her. I began picking out nursery decorations and making plans to clear out the spare bedroom. I planned shopping trips and outfits with ridiculous hair bows to go in her curly, red hair. And in the matter of a few seconds, it was all gone.

I left the office and tried to get used to the idea of another boy. I did my best to look for the positives.

I didn’t quite know how to handle this feeling. I was still trying to wrap my head around it all. To be honest, the pregnancy itself was a complete surprise and it was hard to get excited about it. Now, this. It became hard to fully embrace the pregnancy and the new life joining our family.

I tried to open up about the feelings I had. No one seemed to understand. I was met with backlash. How dare I be disappointed? I had a healthy baby, which is more than some can say, and I should be thankful for it. I didn’t quite understand why I felt the way I did. I tried to justify it. I grew up in the middle of two brothers. I was normally the only girl around when they had friends over. My husband had two brothers. Even our dog was a boy. I did not know exactly why gender mattered so much, but it did.

Because I didn’t have anyone to confide these feelings in, I learned to keep them to myself and just hope that if we had another baby, it would be a girl. I was extremely thankful for a healthy, happy baby. I learned to embrace the boymom life, and in the end that surprise of a baby boy taught me that things are never going to go as I planned. EVER.

It wasn’t until we were expecting again, that these feelings resurfaced. With babies three and four, we opted to keep gender a surprise. It was my way of handling the possible disappointment. It would be easier to be caught up in the triumph and emotion of birth and learn it was a boy, rather than at an ultrasound where I still had months to stew over negative emotions. I still couldn’t get over the stinging feeling of shame due to a personal preference. I would joke with well-meaning strangers that asked if we were having a girl. I would say, “Well, if this one is a boy we are going to adopt to get a girl because I’m not brave enough to try again!” It was easy to laugh off in the moment, but deep down my heart ached as I walked away. People don’t always realize how much their innocent comments can weigh on a mother. Too many times  I would be seen out and about with the two boys and someone would ask when we were adding a girl to the mix. Little did they know it was what my heart ached for.

I am extremely glad that at this point in life I had a friend who had experienced the same thing. Knowing that I wasn’t crazy or ungrateful for having these feelings made me feel so much better. It was so nice to have someone validate those emotions. Someone who had been where I was and didn’t make me feel like a horrible person for a feeling I couldn’t necessarily control. I was able to talk about the options and deal with the unknown without fear.

You know, when I sat down to write today I didn’t intend on adding the personal story with this. You see, when I had those initial feelings more than seven years ago, I didn’t know it was normal. I had no idea that there were many other mothers just like me that felt the same way. I’m thankful that through the years I met people who allowed me to give a voice to the unpopular feelings and opinions without judging.

It is absolutely okay to have all the feelings and to talk about them. Do not let anyone make you feel silly. We all have fears as mothers. We are allowed to talk about the what-ifs and ask questions about the unknown, especially when we are lucky enough to have access to mothers who have been there, done that. Normally, once your baby is in your arms you tend to forget about the sadness that comes along with having the “wrong” baby, at least for a little while. The sting may come back, some days more than others. You may always wonder what your little girl would look like and how her personality would mesh with the others. You will wonder if your son would be built like his father, or if he would have had your sense of humor. And sometimes it can feel like a deep hole. I don’t know how it is possible to mourn the loss of something that never was, but I’ve felt it. It can get easier as time goes on, just like with anything. But it isn’t a guarantee.  However, if you feel that these feelings are getting in the way of how you are bonding with your baby or leading to feelings of resentment towards your baby, it may be time to call in a professional.

As a doula I am here to help you recognize what is within the scope of normal. We can talk about those feelings and how to cope in a nonjudgmental environment. I can also refer you out if things are more than we can handle together. There are groups on Facebook that are geared specifically toward parents with gender disappointment. These groups can be helpful in finding your voice and not being ashamed of the feelings.

As your friend, I am here to let you know that I hear you! You are not alone. Everyone handles gender disappointment in their own way, and it can affect you in a way that is unique to you. Honestly, every day can be a different combination of emotions. Some days it can be hard to scroll through social media and see pictures of a friend’s baby; having all those thoughts come flooding back. Accepting invitations to baby showers and gender reveals becomes a dreaded chore. It is incredibly tough to be envious of people you care for, and these feelings can cause you to pull away. They are all valid, real emotions and it is okay to have them.

You are not alone.