For many people, as soon as the second line appears on the pregnancy test, they start thinking about what their child will be like. Often, that starts with wondering if they’ll be having a boy or a girl. While we may not want to admit it, most parents have a preference one way or another. What happens when that preference turns out to be the opposite of what you’re having? It’s a phenomenon called “gender disappointment” – it’s a common feeling, it’s totally normal, and it’s something you can work through. I experienced gender disappointment recently in my second pregnancy, so I wanted to talk you through how I worked through it myself.
How to Handle Gender Disappointment as a Parent
When I envisioned myself having kids, I knew I was meant to be a “girl mom.” It was partly because I had grown up with three sisters – I knew how to raise girls. And it was just something that felt right. No one was surprised when my first baby was a girl. My best friend and sister both made comments about how I was “a total girl mom.”
Then I got pregnant with my second baby, and once again, I felt like this was a girl. But I purchased the Sneak Peek blood test and as soon as I sent the sample off, the stress hit me. The night before I was supposed to get the results, I laid awake, unable to sleep.
What if it’s a boy?
God, please let this be a girl.
I know that even if it’s a boy, this is who You want us to have in our family. But please let it be a girl.
And then, I got the email with the test results – opened it up, and in large, clear, letters, it said – BOY.
I felt like I had been punched. I started crying. I have a stepson and nephews but that didn’t mean I knew anything about raising a boy.
However – being an introspective person, I decided the best thing I could do is work through my feelings. Why did I want a girl? Why was I so scared of having a boy?
You are not a monster for having gender disappointment
First, I want to get something out in the open immediately – if you are feeling gender disappointment, you are not a monster. It doesn’t mean you’re any less of a parent. And it doesn’t mean you will love your child less.
Your feelings are valid. They do not need to be dismissed or minimized. You are allowed to feel your feelings, and no one is allowed to tell you they are wrong.
Finding the reason for your gender disappointment
It’s time to look within yourself and figure out why you’re disappointed. There are several common themes that seem to come up with gender disappointment.
Wanting a better version of a poor relationship
This is a common issue. Perhaps you had a poor relationship with your mother and you wanted a daughter – is this because you really want a daughter, or because you wanted a chance to not repeat the same mistakes?
In my case, I realized this played a part in my own gender disappointment. I have three younger sisters – but the middle two are twins, and they always had each other. I felt like I was unnecessary most of the time. My youngest sister is nearly eleven years younger than I am, so I was more like her second mother when she was growing up. I never had that stereotypical “sister” relationship, and I really wish I had. But – I can’t relive my life. My daughter and son will have their own relationship – and even if I had two girls, I couldn’t guarantee they would wind up close to each other.
If you realize that part of why you want a particular gender is due to a relationship issue, I highly suggest you journal it out – and if writing isn’t your thing, it’s okay to find some quiet time and talk it out to yourself. Work through your feelings about your relationship, and let yourself establish goals for how your relationship with your child will go.
Holding on to a “plan”
Maybe you envisioned your family looking a particular way. Maybe you have a boy name picked out but don’t have a clue what you would name a girl. It’s hard to realize that a particular dream you’ve had won’t be coming true. However – realize that this new person coming to join your family is going to bring their own unique aspect. Your family may not look the way you originally pictured it, but you’re going to love it anyway.
It’s okay to mourn the way things were, and the way things aren’t going to be. In fact, it’s totally normal to grieve the loss of a dream. But there were times in your life where you lost out on something you wanted. Maybe it was a person you wanted to date, a college you wanted to get into, a job you were hoping for. You can probably point to a time in your life when you were chasing a dream and it didn’t work out, and in all likelihood, it’s a good thing, right? If I had gotten jobs I wanted in the past, I wouldn’t have been in the position to meet my husband, or stay at home with my daughter. This is another example of something you might dream about, but you’re going to be so happy it didn’t work out.
Allowing stereotypes to have a hold
Are you scared of having a boy because you don’t know the first thing about baseball or football? Are you worried about having a girl because frilly dresses have never been your thing?
Your child is going to be their own person. Allow them to be. They may end up loving sports – in which case, you’ll learn what you need to know. They may decide they love to dress up, and you’ll get used to it. You will figure it out. But don’t worry about your child having particular traits or not – my husband is a self-professed “redneck” who likes to hunt and loves football, but he’s also a kind, nurturing dad, and maybe even a better cook than I am (don’t tell him I said that). My daughter is a daredevil who will give me many future heart attacks and will only give me a kiss about once a week – but she’s also turning into a kind person who enjoys being helpful. If she wants to dress up in princess costumes or scale trees (or both), it’s fine with me. My son will be his own person as well – and I will deal with it, no matter what person that ends up being.
Comfort with a particular gender
Maybe you had siblings that were all the same gender. I grew up with all sisters – even our pets were predominantly female! It’s totally okay to be more comfortable with one or another. If you’re worried because you simply don’t know what to do with a child of a particular gender – it’s okay. Just like so many other things with parenting, you’ll figure it out. Just remember, if it’s a boy, undoing their diapers makes them pee, so don’t be too quick to uncover things.
There may be other reasons you are feeling gender disappointment – keep exploring your feelings and root them out.
For myself, I realized there were two big things that were popping up for me – when I was pregnant with my daughter, before we knew it was a girl, we had the name Andrew picked out for a boy. As soon as I found out I was pregnant again, my husband began referring to this baby as Andy. And I realized I absolutely hated that.
So – I told my husband we weren’t naming the baby Andrew. It felt like a massive burden off of my back. Realizing that I actually hated the name we picked out (or at least, what my husband insisted on calling him) was a huge relief!
The other thing I was upset about – my daughter had an adorable sweater. It was technically 3-6 months but it was so oversized she wore it until she was nine months. It was a knitted pink sweater with bear ears on the hood. I bundled her up in that all the time – since it wasn’t fluffy and didn’t smush down (technical term) she could wear it in her car seat. She wore it to go play at the park, as she got to try a swing and a slide for the first time. And I hadn’t realized how much I was looking forward to using it again.
Realistically though – even if my second baby was a girl, I was due in January. By the time this baby was big enough to fit in the sweater, it would be spring. By the time the sweater fit well, it would be the middle of summer. If I was lucky, I might get a month of use in the fall. So it wouldn’t have worked anyway. Instead, I got on Poshmark and looked for things from the same brand in a 0-3 month size. I found an adorable little coat, brand new with tags. It’s also got a hood with little bear ears. Buying my son his own version of the clothing item I loved on my daughter actually helped a lot.
What not to do with gender disappointment
Now, a word of warning – if you are dealing with gender disappointment, don’t broadcast it. There’s a couple reasons for this, and they basically come back to – people can be cruel, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation of your feelings.
I made the mistake of posting in a parenting group I’m in on Facebook, asking if anyone had dealt with gender disappointment and how they got through it. And while I got some responses that were genuinely kind and helpful – the vast majority were not.
“Don’t worry about it, your child will pick what gender they want to present as in the future!”
“You should just be grateful for a healthy child.”
“Do you realize how lucky you are to be pregnant at all? I had so many losses, I was willing to take whatever I got!”
Guess how these made me feel when I was already struggling with my feelings? If you guessed “lower than dirt,” ding ding ding, we have a winner!
While I get where those people were coming from, what they were all doing in the process was invalidating my feelings – and I am allowed to feel the way I feel.
There’s also the fact that you want to be careful in how you phrase things – would you want your child to find this in the future? Anything that goes on the internet is around forever (which is why I waited until I worked through a lot of my own feelings before I wrote this post!).
At the same time, don’t feel like you have to completely hide your feelings. It’s okay to express them – just use your discretion about who you express them to.
Does gender disappointment go away?
While I haven’t made it to the end of the process (delivering my baby), I got to talk with several people who had gone through gender disappointment – and they all universally said that once their baby arrived, they couldn’t imagine having anyone else.
While you’re pregnant, you know so little about your baby. You know if they’re a boy or girl, if they’re active or calm (when I was pregnant with my daughter, I knew when she was awake because she wouldn’t stop wiggling!). Maybe you’re able to get a 3D ultrasound and see if they have your nose or your partner’s chin. But until the baby is out and in your arms, you won’t get to know them as a person – and for me, as much love as I feel for my children while pregnant, I know it’s nothing compared to holding them, seeing their tiny yawn or hearing them squeak as they cry.
Don’t expect to get over your gender disappointment immediately. It may flare up throughout your pregnancy – when you’re shopping for baby clothes, or trying to figure out a name. But eventually, you will be able to come to terms with this, and you will love your child as much as you would have loved your preferred gender.
And now – confession time. I documented in my experience with the SneakPeek At-Home Test that I had received a “boy” result and then found out eleven weeks later at my anatomy scan that our baby boy was, in fact, a girl.
I debated posting this because talking about gender disappointment when I wound up with exactly what I was hoping for seems a little out-of-place – but I wrote this post when I genuinely thought I was having a boy. I looked into the causes of gender disappointment and did the research. I had actually made it to a really good place mentally because of it. In the end, I decided to share this, because if the information it contains can help anyone, I want it out there.