Gender disappointment is a real thing and a very taboo subject. Often people are shamed for feeling it, because we should be grateful for having a child, no matter their sex.
When we’re pregnant we work hard to bond with baby, imagining who they might be, giving them little personality traits depending on their kicks or positioning at scans. The little rascal who’s always in the wrong position for the image the sonographer needs to get. The chaotic one who’s always hiccuping. The feisty one who always kicks back when you press your stomach.
I read somewhere that the sadness you feel when you don’t get the sex of the child, isn’t regret about the child you have. It’s a kind of grief for the child you’ll never get. For the relationship you always pictured having.
That doesn’t make you love the child you do have any less.
There is a lot of shame and guilt tied to these gender disappointment feelings because it can seem silly. And we worry that no one else has ever felt this way. But often our ideals about how many children we’ll have, and their genders are very ingrained in us. It’s often something we have pictured since we were little. So when things turn out differently if can take time to adjust from what we thought life would be like, to the future we now have.
Dr Renée Miller, a Principal Perinatal Clinical Psychologist, pieced together the following narratives when it comes to gender disappointment:
The wish for a girl was associated with the following narratives:
- I grew up with sisters. It’s what I know.
- I never had a sister, and always longed for one.
- From a young child, I imagined having a daughter.
- I had a close relationship with my sister but not my brother.
- I have a close relationship with my mum and want to replicate this.
- I have a poor relationship with my mum and want to repair this.
- My brother has a terrible relationship with my parents.
- I am a feminist and work in a female dominated industry. Being a woman is a strong part of my identity.
- I lost a boy, and I want a girl so that I don’t feel like the next baby replaces the baby who died.
- I’ve seen families where the sons have poor relationships with their parents as adults, and I’m fearful this could happen with boys.
- We only want one child, and I want a girl so we can be close.
- I identified very much as a ‘girlie girl’ when I was growing up, and I want to share this with a daughter.
- I feel like a female will look after me when I’m old, much more so than a male.
- I want to be part of a daughter having her own family (rather than being the mother-in-law who might struggle with a daughter-in-law who prefers her own mum).
The wish for one of each was associated with the following narratives:
- I desperately want the experience of being a parent to both sexes.
- I want my partner to have a boy/girl.
- I have a picture of what each child would share/experience differently with each parent.
- I have a brother, and I loved that.
- I had a competitive relationship with my sister so I want there to be one of each.
The wish for a boy was associated with the following narratives:
- I’d always seen myself as a ‘boy mum’.
- I had an awful relationship with my mum and always hoped for boys because of this.
- I grew up having male friends. I was sporty and not a ‘girlie girl’.
- I didn’t want my child to go through what I went through as a teenager, and I thought a boy would have less social issues.
- Life is simpler with boys. Girls are more complex, especially in the teenage years.
- I had a very close relationship with my brother.
- I am close to my dad, and we are very alike.
- I lost a boy and want another boy.
- I lost a girl and want the opposite sex to the baby I lost.
- I wanted a brother for my son.
- For cultural reasons.
Did you feel disappointed with any of your children’s sex? What did you think you would have? Versus what did you actually have?