Coping With Gender Disappointment

Gender disappointment is a very real and common thing. It is not something to feel guilty about. Here is my story.

I’ve been sitting on this post for about two months now. I couldn’t decide whether to write and publish it or not, as it may be a somewhat controversial/sensitive topic. It is certainly a vulnerable post for me. Over the last couple of months, though, I have come to realize that I am far from the only person who has struggled with this, yet no one seems willing to talk about it. So, I wanted to put my story out there in case any one else could draw some comfort from it. At the moment, I am 25 weeks pregnant, and this is my experience with gender disappointment.

When I got pregnant with my first child 3 years ago, I desperately wanted a little girl. My husband was also hoping for a little girl.  After impatiently counting down the days and weeks, the big appointment had finally arrived.  At my 20 week scan, we were absolutely thrilled to find out that we were, in fact, going to have a little girl.  

After having her, we knew that we wanted one more child to complete our family.  For the past two years, we have both been imagining adding another little girl.

When I found out I was pregnant this past winter, we were both excited and nervous.  As the big gender reveal drew closer, I was anxious, but nowhere near as anxious as I had been the first time around.  I assumed that I would be a bit disappointed if we found out it was a boy.  I also figured, though, that I would get over it quickly, since I already have the little girl I so desperately wanted.

During the ultrasound, with my husband and daughter in the room with me, the ultrasound tech confidently announced that we were going to be having a little boy.  She showed us the screen, and there was no mistaking what we were looking at.  According to her, we were about to become the “all-American family.” While I was able to hold my emotions during the appointment, the minute we hit the parking lot, I started crying.  I was absolutely devastated.  I cried off and on for the rest of the day, as well as the next day.

Truthfully, I was shocked by my own reaction.  I honestly didn’t expect to be quite so upset by the news.  I knew all along that I was hoping for another girl, but I didn’t realize that I felt so strongly about it this time around.

During the first 36-48 hours after finding out, I was struck a number of times with a feeling that I know all too well.  I was having anxiety attacks.  Yes, seriously.  I was having anxiety attacks over the thought of having a little boy.  

It really wasn’t what I was expecting.  Fear?!  We had planned for this, were excited for another baby.  And yes, there was some fear surrounding the idea of adding another member to the family, bringing a new baby into the world, and the chaos that will no doubt ensue.  But I wasn’t expecting a fear so strong that it would cause anxiety attacks over the gender.  

Before we get to the fear part, though, let’s talk about another little word that I just mentioned – expecting, or even better, expectations.  Because expectations played a big role in my reaction.  My husband and I had narrowed our girl name choices down to two that we loved; I had already come up with a color scheme for a baby girl nursery and started to plan decor; and I couldn’t wait to pull all of my daughter’s clothes that I had saved out of the attic to reuse.  And in the blink of an eye, all of that was gone, and we had nothing to fill in the blank space – no name, no decor ideas, no clothes, no clue.

And that is where the fear settled.  It filled up the blank space that was now staring me in the face.  I don’t know the first thing about little boys.  I am a girly-girl through and through.  I love pink, and fashion, and accessories, and flowers, and sparkles.  I love blow drying my daughter’s hair and being able to play with it and style it.  I love the fact that she absolutely insists on having a bow in her hair at all times.  I love having pink shoes and princesses and stuffed animals strewn around the house in her wake.  I’m comfortable there, amongst all of the pink and femininity.  

Most people will tell you that girls are much more difficult than boys when they hit the pre-teen/teenage years, and I believe it.  I really do.  I certainly was not the most pleasant person to be around during my teenage years.  The drama and attitude and emotions and hormones…  But at least I understand that.  It may not be easy, but I’ve been there.  I have some personal and intimate knowledge of the emotions running rampant during those difficult years.  I don’t, however, have any idea whatsoever of what it is like to go be a boy – to go through puberty, to feel the pressure that is placed on men today.  Sure, I learned about all of the physical changes that occur in high school biology, but that doesn’t replace personal experience.  So, how in the world am I going to navigate this new world?  How am I going to teach him all of these things that I don’t necessarily understand myself?

My daughter is very much a mommy’s girl at the moment, and I fear I won’t have that connection with a son.  How can I when I have no personal knowledge of what it’s like to be a boy?  I’m not a huge sports fan, and I don’t know much about race cars, or wrestling.  I don’t particularly care for crude humor, or making fart noises, or belching contests.  Will we be able to find ways to connect?  How will I help him deal with emotions that I know nothing about?  Though we have come a long way as a society over the past century, expectations for boys/men are still quite different than they are for women.  How will I teach him to deal with those expectations when it’s something I have never personally dealt with?  How in the world will I keep up with a little boy’s energy?  And not to mention, how do I take care of little boy parts?

I know that every child is different, and that I can’t place gender stereotypes on him before he has even arrived.  But still, this is a whole new world of parenting that I know nothing about.  It literally feels like I’m a brand new parent again with absolutely no clue as to what I’m doing.  I remember right after my daughter was born thinking, “I can’t believe these people are going to let me leave the hospital with this teeny-tiny helpless creature.  Do they not realize I have no idea what I’m doing here?!”  It’s that feeling all over again.  It strikes fear in my anxiety-prone heart and brings out insecurities that I didn’t even know existed.  I have had more than one person say to me, after finding out that we are expecting a boy this time around, “Oh.  Well, boys are definitely different than girls,” with a look of sympathy (or maybe understanding) in their eyes.  

The worst part is, no one talks about this.  In those first couple of days after finding out, I could think of one person, literally one, who I had heard speak openly about experiencing gender disappointment.  That made the guilt over my feelings even worse.  Thinking that I was the only one who was horrible enough to feel this way.  Over the past two months, though, I have read countless forum posts where women, who are struggling with this very thing, have come looking for support because they, too, feel alone.  

There is a lot of guilt associated with it and statements like “All that matters is that the baby is healthy,” and “You should just be thankful that you can get pregnant at all” are thrown into our faces if we so much as hint at anything other than sheer ecstasy.  But here’s the thing, it doesn’t mean that we don’t want the precious baby’s that we have on the way.  It doesn’t mean we won’t love them, or that we are not happy about their impending arrival.  It simply means that we have to create a new vision for our family.  And sometimes that’s hard.  Much like any dream that doesn’t come to fruition, it just takes a bit of time to create a new one.

At this point, I can truly say that I am over the initial disappointment.  Am I completely past the fear?  No.  But I believe strongly that this child was chosen for me by God himself, and that he is exactly what I, and my family, need.  We have chosen a name for him, and I have come up with a new vision for the nursery that I am very excited about.  I purchased the first couple of pieces of furniture this past week, and we are going to begin painting soon.  All of these things have helped me create and refine this new vision I now have of my family.  And I am both excited and very thankful for the future.

Personally, I think a lot of gender disappointment boils down to insecurity.  I want to be the best parent I can be to this little boy, yet I’m not confident in my ability to do that.  It’s going to require a lot of prayer and letting go on my part.  I’m going to have to step out of my comfort zone…a lot.  But that is where growth, and maturity, happens.  It’s a fundamental part of life, right?  Maybe this is exactly what I need to become the best mom I can be.

Honestly, I’m just ready for him to be here already.  Then, I can stop fretting about all of the what-if’s and how’s and just start living and loving and learning.  In the meantime, though, I’ll  be studying up on soccer, and fishing, and karate…

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  1. I’m so sorry you had to deal with gender disappointment, Amy. Believe it or not, it’s more common than you think. When I was pregnant with my second, I was actually disappointed that it was another girl. I wanted a boy so badly. But, the fear faded, and we embraced it. What else are you going to do, right? And I can’t imagine our family without her.

    Now, our littlest one is all boy. He’s rough and tumble, plays with the dirt in my potted plants, and gets excited about playing with balls and throwing things. BUT he’s more snugly and sweet than either of my girls ever were. Seriously, he’s always asking for kisses and hugs, which is just the best. I totally understand being hesitant to embrace something you never planned for, but I hope you find great joy in your newborn son when he’s around. {{Hugs}}

    1. Thank you, Leslie. I know that you’re right – it is very common. We are definitely embracing it at this point, and I have no doubt that all of my fears will melt away once he arrives. It will certainly be a whole new adventure. 🙂 Thanks so much for the kind reply.

  2. Sometimes you get a girl that is a tomboy so you never know Lisa. I think it is more important to love them for their individual traits and not worry about the outside things. My smallest girl was a princess when she was little then she went through a phase of being a tomboy, complete with rappers clothes and an attitude to rival the worst, and now she has turned into an emo. I feel like I have more than 4 children. It’s really not about the gender but about the personality. And I have connected on a very deep level with my son because he is not a sports obsessed guy. We watch animes together. So you just never know, life is full of fun surprises. And boy do they keep me young.

    1. You’re right. I can’t really assume anything just based on gender. It will definitely be an adventure and full of surprises, I’m sure!

  3. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability in this article. I was honestly disappointed when I found out I was having a boy, but I wouldn’t change it. However, next time if we have a boy I think it will be even harder. This isn’t something people talk about so thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much. I really thought that having a girl the first time would take the pressure off for #2. Maybe it did, to a degree, but it still hit pretty hard. I’m sure once he is here though, I won’t be able to imagine it any other way. Thanks for reading and sharing your own story. It’s not talked about much, so it’s always nice to hear we aren’t alone in our feelings.

  4. Amy, somehow missed this blog months ago. Thank you for being so honest. We actually discussed this at our last book club and several of us have felt this way. I was sad after finding out we were having another boy. I was glad he was healthy but I was so sad at the thought of never having a daughter. I really had to say goodbye to that vision I had for my life. I felt like I had already parented a boy and this was just a repeat of what we had done before. Which, is ridiculous because I am a twin and know how different two siblings can be but it is what I felt at the time. Obviously, I wouldn’t change a thing about our youngest now and can’t imagine my life without him. I’m sure it’s the same for y’all and sweet baby A. Thanks for keeping it real friend.

    1. Thanks, girl. I am so bummed that I missed book club, and it would have been nice to hear everyone else’s thoughts on the subject. It is difficult letting go of specific visions, but fortunately, He knows better than we do. Of course, now that I have my little boy, I am so glad that I do! It seems pretty silly that I was ever concerned about having a boy, as he is such a joy. 🙂 Love you, girl.

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