I wanted a boy.
Having already revealed on here that Babyface is a little girl, admitting that I wanted a little boy makes my stomach twist with guilt. What kind of mom admits that the blessing she was given wasn’t exactly the blessing she wanted? But gender disappointment is a real part of a lot of pregnancies, and I’ve resolved to be as real as possible on this blog. So, let’s chat about the gender disappointment I had, my journey for getting through that, and advice to other moms who may be going through it or may be psyching themselves up for one gender or another.
Acknowledging Your Gender Expectations
The first step to overcoming gender disappointment–or setting yourself up to overcome it–is acknowledging why you want one gender versus another. That reason is different for everyone, but there always is a reason. And one hint: For almost everyone, that reason is at least a little bit selfish.
For me, I wanted a little boy for two reasons. The first reason was that I imagined a son’s life would be easier. Let’s note: I didn’t think that life with a son would be easier–there are challenges with each gender–but that his life, free from the over-sexualization and harassment that so many women face, would be easier.
The second reason I wanted a little boy was much more selfish, and it was because I wanted the attention. Though for my mother and stepfather, Babyface will be the first grandchild, she won’t be the first for my dad and stepmom or for GS’s parents. Both of those sets of parents already have granddaughters. They don’t have grandsons. And so, the competitive youngest child in me wanted to bring the first grandbaby to my mom’s life, and the first grandson to the other grandparents.
Finding Out Babyface is a Girl
I was convinced, for the first portion of my pregnancy, that Babyface was a boy. I called her “him.” I called her “my little man.” GS, in his infinite wisdom, pointed out that the overwhelming morning sickness I had pointed to Babyface being a girl. I pointed out that we had nothing to compare it to–maybe I’d be even more sick with a girl–and I doubled down on my expectation that she was a he.
Then, the doctors told me that one of my tests came back positive–which, in the medical world, wasn’t a good thing. They told me that they thought my baby might have a neural tube defect. Then they said my fluid levels were too low. The doctor said to me, “I’m not saying you’re going to lose the baby. I’m not saying you’re going to bring the baby to term. I’m saying there’s a giant question mark over your pregnancy.”
Things were touch-and-go for a while. I told people to just pray my little one would make it to 24 weeks–the age of viability. When I talked to friends and family, I tried to be strong and upbeat. I told them my little one was a fighter. At work, I acknowledged the fact that I had to go in for lots of testing, but I didn’t acknowledge the overwhelming fear–and sense of failure–that I felt.
And then one day, I just let myself break down. I curled up on the couch, and I threw some Matthew West on the radio, and I cried. I felt sorry for myself. I asked Babyface if they didn’t want me as a mom anymore, and if they were deciding to leave because of that. And I said, “I swear, I don’t care if you’re a boy or a girl. I don’t care if you’re a pterodactyl. I just want you to be healthy.”
And then, for the first time ever, she kicked.
The next time I went to the doctor’s office, they told me I had a little girl. And they confirmed that there was no neural tube defect and the fluid levels weren’t getting worse. My little girl’s projected outcome was good.
Welcoming the Blessing We’ve Been Given
My mom was with me when the doctor said Babyface was a girl. She asked me if I was okay, and–my earlier conversation with my daughter firmly in my head–I said I was. And I was–I was okay, and I was through the roof excited that she was healthier than she had been the week prior–but even with what I’d been through, it took a little bit for me to really get excited about the prospect of a daughter.
Here’s how I got myself there.
First, I let myself acknowledge the disappointment, and I made myself let go of the guilt associated with it. I read articles online about gender disappointment so that I would remember that I wasn’t alone and that the disappointment I was feeling didn’t mean I was doomed to be a terrible mother.
Next, I made a list of all the reasons have a girl, versus a boy, was a blessing.
- She’d have more in common with her cousins.
- There were tons of hand-me-downs available to us, making the cost of having our first baby a little less expensive.
- Maybe she wasn’t anyone’s first grandson, but she would be my mother’s first granddaughter.
The list was long, and detailed, and in places more sexist than I want to admit, but that was okay. That list wasn’t a political statement of what girls and boys should be, but a dialogue with myself–a way of physically counting my blessings.
Finally, when I’d come to terms with the fact that she was a girl–and identified all the reasons that was a blessing–I allowed my excitement to build through some online window shopping. I located things I’d be able to gift to a little girl that I wouldn’t be able to gift to a little boy–like a purple Batman walker, which I thought was so much cooler than the blue Batman walker offered, and a pink Boba Fett onesie. As I started to collect a list of these items that I loved, I moved past acceptance and into the realm of excited mom-to-be.
Granted, online window shopping might not be the way to build excitement for everyone, but I truly believe that even if shopping isn’t your thing, the steps to overcoming gender disappointment remain the same:
- Acknowledge your disappointment and give it a name
- Let go of your guilt
- Count the blessings you’ve been given
- Find an active way to build your excitement
Best of luck in your journey!