Dealing with Gender Disappointment
Perhaps you wanted a boy but you’re having a girl; or maybe you’ve always dreamed of a girl but you’re having a boy… Either way, if your baby is not what you had expected and you’re feeling a little disappointed, you’re not alone. Gender disappointment is surprisingly common and yet is often considered a taboo topic of conversation.
Why do people sometimes feel disappointed about their baby’s gender? Some moms have always dreamed of the relationship they will have with a daughter, or perhaps grew up surrounded by girls and can’t even imagine what it would be like to raise a boy. Other moms might have plenty of girls in the family and want to have the first boy, or look forward to the special joys of having a boy in the house and have their heart set on blue. Still other moms feel pressure from other family members about having a girl to add to the family, or having a boy to carry down the family name.
If you find that you’re not having exactly what you had expected or hoped for, the first thing to do is acknowledge your disappointment. Once you get it out in the open, it will be easier to deal with, especially if you can share those feelings with your partner. There is a certain extent to which you may be suffering grief for the loss of how you thought things would be. You may also feel let down if you have been holding on to a specific fantasy of how things would turn out; or you may feel you let others down if certain family members had expectations or hopes for what you would have.
But once you acknowledge your disappointment, from that point on you need to focus not on “boy or girl” but on the individual that your little baby will become. If you are having a little girl, you can’t just assume that she will become exactly what you think of when you imagine a girl. She might be into princesses and tutus, or she might be a hard-charging football fan (or both!). Or you may be having your fifth boy, and he may even be the fifteenth boy in your extended family, but he will still be different from any other boy who was ever born.
Many parents who feel disappointment when they first learn their baby’s gender are happy to have that disappointment wash away once they first set eyes on their new baby. In fact, many experts advise against learning your baby’s gender for this reason. If you wait until your baby is born before finding out if it is a boy or a girl, the theory goes, you will be more likely to focus on your baby as an individual than on whether you got the gender you “wanted.” Plus, remember that parenting throws you all kinds of curve balls, and the better you are at adjusting to the unexpected, the better you will deal with the challenges ahead.
If it has been weeks or months – or if your baby has already been born – and you are still feeling disappointed, you may need to seek professional help and guidance. Remember that there is no stigma to getting help if you need it. Pregnancy and childbirth is a difficult time for moms physically, emotionally, and hormonally, and it isn’t easy to manage all of the new demands on your time as well as your conflicting emotions. Ask your health care provider for a referral to a good therapist, preferably one with experience helping new mothers, and make a commitment to yourself to get the help you need. As your baby gets a little older and you start getting more sleep, you will increasingly learn to love your new little baby for being the unique individual that he or she is bound to be.