Dealing with Gender Disappointment in Pregnancy

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.

Baby Girl

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!

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6 Replies to “Dealing with Gender Disappointment in Pregnancy”

  1. My friend had similar feelings for similar reasons (minus some of the grandbaby stuff) when she learned she would birth a girl.

    As for me my first was a boy, which was good as I was terrified about raising a girl…would I be strong enough…a good enough example, stuff like that. But, I didn’t really have to progress because the issues became moot. My second, however, is a girl. She’s two now, and while I didn’t have a preference per se…unimportant pros and cons to both genders, I was still terrified about my ability to raise a strong girl that could weather…life. It ended up a silly worry; the girl is pretty feisty…and SO brave. I just need to remember to get out of her way.

    My friend ended up with the same realization, I think, but we hadn’t really talked about it. For whatever reason she came to terms and it became a non issue. SOOO many other issues to discuss now… 😉

    I think when you haven’t met your child in the flesh, these notions are all you have…fantasy…non specific freak outs because you can’t know their personalities in much detail quite yet. That said, my kids’ personalities began in the womb. I could tell Warrior Queen was a fierce thing from the get-go. But, even still she was still an unknown and they are just kicks after all…

    Eventually, they are born and just grow. They turn into people, especially once they turn a year. Maybe you don’t take to your kid right away, but over time you just kind of fall in love with THEM, and it isn’t so much a gender thing. You just know them, and raise them…and flip them off behind their backs when they are behaving like a douchenozzle that won’t stop kicking you in the face during a diaper change. When you are pregnant, though, all you have is what’s in your head. Eventually the reality will weigh more and you will wonder how she could be anyone else.

    1. I definitely understand the fear of not being able to raise a girl who is “strong enough.” I’ve got a post coming out this afternoon Re: dealing with depression, and with that in the back of my mind, I constantly fear any daughter of mine will be weak and soft and easily taken advantage of. So far, Babyface seems stubborn–loves to kick, unless Daddy puts his hand on her, and won’t stop moving unless the ultrasound techs are trying to get her into a certain position–and I like to believe that means she’ll be able to withstand peer pressure in ways I never could and that she’ll worry less than I do about what people think of her… But as you said, they ARE just kicks, and she’s not here yet.

      The other bit of guilt I’ve dealt with regards judging her by her gender at all. I’ve read extensively on gender fluid parenting practices and have a vested interest in helping the next generation push through some of the social ideas behind gender. While we’re definitely gendering our children, we said from the beginning that we wouldn’t expect a boy would necessarily be strong or into sports, etc, or that a girl would necessarily love dolls and pink. So why should I worry that a little girl will be prone to depression, sadness, and susceptibilities if I wasn’t worried about that with a little boy? Clearly, that hang-up has more to do with how I perceive gender than the actuality of gender–i.e., I need to work on myself and overcoming my own gender expectations more than I need to worry over Babyface.

      1. Rest assured you are overthinking it. 🙂 It’s unavoidable. In terms of depression, I understand the compulsion to equate it with weakness. But, the reality is you are a warrior and a survivor! Not everyone has those struggles, so to keep going takes tremendous courage and strength, even if you don’t see it. There is so much you can’t control, so don’t try to. Focus on just responding to her and being present…seriously. It’s less maddening when you do. Warrior Queen loves pink, trucks and cars…wants nothing to do with dolls…family keeps buying her dolls. My son like them okay…sort of. He prefers dolls to trucks, but mostly just like building things from random shit. The world is the world, and you can’t change it. Early on I started having honest conversations with my kids, mostly my son. When things aren’t fair or right in the world, I’m honest. It’s amazing what he gets. It takes the pressure off. I’ve had some hard times, and cry in front of my kids. They don’t seem bothered. Sometimes they ask, and I tell them Mommy is unhappy or sad, but I’m okay. We all are unhappy and sad sometimes…we are all scared. We have very open conversations about emotions and such, and it’s worked quite well. When something is scary for my son (my daughter is a bit young), we talk about being brave, and what that means. Now at four years he asks me about what makes me scared and what I do about it. I tell him. I didn’t know that going in. I only knew I’m a bad liar, and it’s worked out well. Like I said, you are overthinking it. Just that you are aware pretty much guarantees you are an ace at this parenting thing. You will certainly make mistakes. I definitely do. I own it and apologize, and we move on…that’s life. Your daughter will see that you are strong and a fighter…with depression how can you be anything else? She will see you are imperfect, and it will be wonderful. And, when she is imperfect, she will know she is okay too.

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