“Congratulations! It’s a boy!” Revealed the note in the envelope from our IVF doctor.
We’d gone out for dinner to celebrate the gender reveal of our second baby, but at that moment, it turned into something else …
As the candle flickered, my husband grinned at the news, and I faked a smile. My eyes welling up a little with tears as I tried to conceal my true feelings.
“I know you were hoping for a girl,” he said gently. “It’s OK but we need to talk about it so that when he arrives, you don’t still feel this way. OK?”
My hubby is wise and while I know lots of people reading this will be tsking that all babies are a gift (and they are!) and it doesn’t matter what the sex (and it doesn’t once you bond). But gender disappointment is real. It happens. More often than people admit and as such, we NEED to talk about it, and also not be afraid to.
It allows us to process it
Admitting that we feel some sadness that bub will not be the sex we were hoping for, is the healthy way to start to process it.
But this is also a bit taboo.
It’s frowned upon.
But here’s the thing.
Like everything, it is much healthier to let yourself feel whatever you feel, so you can then acknowledge it, work through it and move on. If you bottle something up, because you fear how others might perceive you, then it will resonate in other unhealthy ways down the track.
It normalises the feeling
All feelings are valid. It’s OK to feel what we feel! And talking openly and honestly about why you think you might be experiencing gender disappointment (and it may not even be disappointment that you feel, so much as feeling a sense of loss at wanting the other) normalises it and helps others who may also be experiencing it.
Gender disappointment doesn’t mean you don’t or won’t love your baby!! It just means that you had some preconceived ideas that you now need to work through.
It helps identify why we might feel this way
For me, my preconceived ideas were around me thinking I’d be better suited to mothering girls than boys. It had nothing to do with NOT wanting a boy, but everything to do with loving the strong female relationships I have in my life. I wanted a daughter because I believed that women relate to each other in a special way because that’s been my personal experience. But you know what? I was wrong about that and SO many other things. Now I know I was gifted two beautiful boys to love and raise because I am MEANT to be a boy mum!
Your gender disappointment, though, may be wrapped up in the idea that having a boy AND a girl is a complete family. A pigeon pair! Maybe someone had said, “Will you try for a girl?” after having two boys, or you watched too many sitcoms growing up where the family has a son and a daughter.
Or you might long for a boy because you had a brother and you want that same awesome sibling relationship for your child. Or likewise you had a sister and so you think sisters are the best sibling (or the worst?!).
Or you might be wishing for a girl because your mum has told you every day of your life that a daughter is the best, simply because she loves you so.
Asking yourself the WHY questions will enable you to identify the cause of your gender disappointment – and maybe realise that a few external influences are to blame.
When my husband said we needed to talk about it, he knew that I needed to work through my feelings about having another boy.
And I did.
By the time I cuddled my little love in my arms for the first time, months after that gender reveal dinner, I felt nothing but pure love and happiness.
Doing this helps us to get over it
See? This is why it’s important to have the conversation, or two. This is why naysayers who dismiss your feelings as ungrateful or silly, need to take a step back and think.
Someone feeling a pang of gender appointment isn’t unhappy to be pregnant or ungrateful for the ultimate gift on the way, they just need a bit of understanding and permission to release their feelings and think about them.
They need to do this so they can be as overjoyed as nature intended.
Sex doesn’t equal gender
The other thing to remember is that sex doesn’t equal gender and while someone has been born a boy, they may choose to identify as a girl and vice versa, or neither.
Our kids are who they are and we love them with every ounce of our beings, regardless of gender or our preconceived notions of the family makeup we had envisioned for ourselves.
But it’s still a good idea to chat about things, so that you too can come to this conclusion. Or your partner, if they are the one who needs a little, ‘let’s chat about it’ nudge.
Gender disappointment is real, but it isn’t something to be ashamed of.