Pregnancy is a wild ride. One day you’re up, the next day you’re down. An emotional roller coaster up until the day of childbirth, pregnancy oftentimes leaves women in mood swings that are sometimes downright scary. Spouses and partners are generally advised to help keep their pregnant loved ones fed with healthy snacks, hydrated with 8 glasses of water a day and well-rested with 8 hours of sleep (or more) every night to keep all those ever-changing hormonal and bodily changes in check.
Chief amongst pregnant women’s ever-changing emotions is the heavy weight of expecting. They are, after all, expecting to give birth in nine months. And to pregnant women, those nine months of waiting, anticipating and expecting can feel so long.
And, of course, while pregnant women are awaiting their due dates – there is the question of gender expectations. In a time where creative gender reveal events shared on social media are such a huge trend, there is an added invisible stress to expecting parents. Even celebrities aren’t immune to gender expectation pressures.
Khloe Kardashian, one of world’s biggest reality TV stars of Keeping Up With The Kardashians fame, showed a palpable disappointment when she found out her baby’s gender to her fans during a much-anticipated gender reveal party back in 2018. Khloe had wanted a boy as her eldest. Her clear displeasure was caught on camera the moment she found out that she was, in fact, having a girl. Don’t worry, though. Khloe is now enjoying every bit of motherhood with her beautiful daughter, True.
Still, parents the world over related to Khloe’s disappointment. Some moms even expressed admiration for Khloe’s open and honest reaction. Moms and dads are expected to plaster a delighted smile when learning the gender of their baby. Some might argue (albeit insensitively) that parents shouldn’t care at all about gender as long as the baby is healthy especially parents who have the added challenge of caring for children with special needs. It seems like moms and dads are expected by society to bite their tongue and accept whatever gender their baby is.
But online search results show otherwise.
The internet is simply abuzz with the noise parents are making about gender disappointment. According to George Ritzer, renowned author of the Essentials of Sociology (adapted from Ritzer’s Introduction to Sociology), “A Google search for “gender disappointment” yields 1,650,000 results.” This can only mean then that while most moms and dads may keep silent about being disappointed about the gender of their baby, they might turn to their phones at night, searching for answers that they cannot bring themselves openly admit.
So, mom and dad, you’re not alone. According to Google, there are millions of parents who feel the way you do. At the end of this article, we hope to have eased your mind a little bit and to help reassure you that these feelings are normal and will go away.
We’ll do our best to help you navigate through these feelings of gender disappointment through these talking points:
Point 1: Society’s expectations of motherhood and pregnancy make gender disappointment feel like taboo – but that simply isn’t the case.
Even while still in the womb, most mothers often feel strong, maternal attachments towards the baby they are carrying. These are naturally occurring feelings that are referred to as maternal instincts. A mother’s maternal instincts may allow them to already “feel” the gender of their baby and start giving them names, sing them sweet songs, speak to them or simply hum lullabies while going about daily tasks. This is entirely encouraged by healthcare experts, by the way – studies show that babies who have consistent interaction with their mothers while still in the womb cried less and generally had a better disposition compared with other babies who had little to no interaction with their mothers.
A mother’s natural love, attachment and general acceptance of the baby they are carrying is simply how society expects mothers to behave. It’s possible, then, that any feeling of disappointment that a mom feels for the gender of her baby feels like taboo because it stems from society’s norms and expectations of how expecting parents should react to the child that they will be raising and that they should be happy about the gender of their baby at all times.
So, what can you do? Don’t be afraid to talk it out.
We know that it’s always easier to say “I don’t care what people think” but, at the end of the day, we do care. We certainly don’t want people to think that we are horrible parents; especially when the baby’s not even born yet!
It’s confusing because your strong natural instincts tell you that you should love your baby no matter what, society tells you to be grateful for your child’s gender no matter what… but what about your own wants? Your own dreams? Your own preferences? You couldn’t help it. When you so wanted a boy as your first child but your sonogram results definitely show a girl. You feel shameful for feeling this way, especially since so many parents can’t even conceive; these thoughts come into mind and you feel guilty all over again.
But hold on, Momma. Take a deep breath.
We can assure you that no matter how badly you may feel about it, however unnatural it may seem, your feelings of guilt are perfectly valid simply because, human as we are, we all have our preferences and being disappointed about not getting what you preferred is completely normal. It doesn’t make you a bad parent nor does it make you a bad person.
More importantly, whatever negative feelings you’re harboring, there is nothing shameful about sharing them with your spouse, close family members and friends. Sharing how you feel, talking about it and discussing it with loved ones may be one key to helping you cope with your feelings of gender disappointment. It certainly isn’t taboo. It’s just one of those things that feel like taboo but actually isn’t -much like people’s preference to have pineapple on pizza? Might not be an accurate comparison but we’re just trying to make you smile. Hope it worked. 😊
Also remember that you are not alone. Many mothers feel the way you feel. Aside from friends or family members, you can also try the following ways of expressing your feelings:
- Reach out to other moms via Facebook Groups, websites or online forums. You’ll find so many other parents who feel the same way you do and are expressing their feelings online.
- If you’re disappointed about having a girl, reach out to a mom with a daughter and talk to them about how wonderful it is to raise a daughter.
- If you’re disappointed about having a boy, talk to a boy mom and learn how amazing it is to raise a son.
- Keep a pregnancy journal. We understand that some people simply aren’t comfortable sharing their innermost thoughts to people, whether face-to-face or online. Keeping a pregnancy journal and writing about the highlights of your pregnancy may help put things in perspective. Not to mention, it’s the perfect #throwbackThursday story for your baby years from now.
Point 2: Gender disappointment has nothing to do with your baby but is largely related to your own experiences and expectations.
A famous quote from American author BJ Neblett says:
“We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.”
Every word of this beautiful quote resonates with the truth about the human condition – that everything we are, everything we do, all our decisions and our expectations are shaped by our experiences.
This is true especially in pregnancy. Every mother’s life story is different and your expectations about the child you are carrying is most likely related to the disappointment you are experiencing.
Here are some common life experiences that may lead expecting mothers to become disappointed t in their baby’s gender:
- Traumatic or abusive experiences with their mother or other female members of the family might make a mother afraid to raise a girl. Conversely, abusive experiences with a former husband or boyfriend or sometimes even their own father or any male member of the family might make a mother afraid to raise a boy.
- Joyful experiences also make a mother prefer a certain gender over another. A woman who is close to her mother might want the same type of relationship with a daughter or vice versa – if a woman is close to her dad, then she might want to have that type of closeness with a son.
- Grief and loss for a former child or even a family member might also be one of the reasons for gender disappointment. For moms and dads who have lost a boy, they may want to have another boy, as well. Or, if a mom lost their dad shortly after finding out that she’s pregnant, she might fervently wish for a boy to name after the father she lost.
- Growing up with all girl siblings may make a mom feel like she’d like to have a girl or, may also cause her to prefer a boy or vice versa – growing up with all boy siblings might make a mom want a girl.
- Having 1 or more older children of the same sex e.g. 2 or 3 sons may have the mother hope to finally have a girl or vice versa – 2 or 3 daughters might have a mom want to have a son.
- Family and friends can also contribute to gender disappointment. Let’s say you only have female siblings so your parents are hoping for a boy as their first grandchild. And you know how grandparents sometimes want to be involved in their children’s pregnancies. They’re not afraid to make their gender preferences known and will make sure you know it – sometimes every day. Or, if you grew up with a best friend who is having a boy, maybe you’ll end up disappointed if you find out that you’re having a girl. You might have had childhood dreams where you’ll be raising two boys together and now, these dreams won’t be realized. Your spouse or partner’s gender preferences can also be a factor in gender disappointment.
In the topic of gender preference, results of an interesting survey done by Gallup show that “Americans’ preferences for male or female children have been evident for decades, with slightly more than a third indicating they have no preference, but with those who have a choice preferring boys over girls. This “boy preference” is largely because men would rather have boys.” An extensive survey done by Gallup over the course of 77 years, from 1941 t0 2011, this tells us that having preferences for a child’s gender isn’t uncommon and that if we could simply pick a gender, adult Americans would typically prefer a boy over a girl.
- Old wives’ tales predicting an unborn baby’s gender might make women 100% sure of their baby’s gender. For example, there is a popular belief that if the pregnant mom’s belly is positioned a bit higher, it’s a girl and that if it’s lower, it’s a boy. Some pregnant women might believe in this because of stories from other moms that confirm these beliefs e.g. “I was carrying low so I was sure I had a boy and, OMG, I did have a boy!”. It could have been just a case of luck and timing, though and the pregnant mom hearing this story who is also carrying low will then feel doubly disappointed upon finding out that she is, in fact, carrying a girl.
So, what can you do? Slowly let go of your own expectations and embrace the baby you are carrying – gender and all.
While it’s true that it’s difficult to undo the very fabric that makes us who we are, it’s still possible. After all, babies perfectly symbolize new beginnings.
You can look at it this way: if you grew up with lots of sisters and aunts, and you’re having a boy, and you wanted so badly to have a girl just because you’re more confident in raising girls – then it’s time to look at things at a new perspective: your son will be so loved by doting aunts! Imagine how spoiled he will be with love and affection. He’ll grow up to be both strong and affectionate, and have the amazing support of the women in your family.
Here are some suggestions that may help you easily embrace the gender of the baby you are carrying:
- Go out. Honestly, go out. Take a walk. Call a friend, go for some coffee, go on a date night, take a weekend trip. Go out and see people. Look at families in the park. Spend time at the beach. While the world isn’t all sunshine and roses, it can still be a beautiful place to raise your child in, regardless the gender.
- Read self-help articles or books about gender disappointment. We are not experts on the topic and are writing from research and our staff’s parenting experiences. Learning about gender disappointment from qualified experts can help you gain a new perspective.
- Give it time. If there is one thing in common in most gender disappointment stories from parents, it’s that over time, they are able to accept the gender of their baby. You too will soon enjoy picking out baby girl clothes or baby boy clothes that your little one will look adorable in.
Red Flag: If you are pregnant and need more help in untangling your trauma or healing from any abusive experiences; you might need expert help especially if your disappointment in your baby’s gender is quite severe. While therapy or psychiatric help can be very expensive, you can check your local healthcare center for any support groups or free therapy classes that you can participate in.
Point 3: We are so used to having things in our control that it’s often difficult to accept that we simply cannot pick what the gender of a baby still developing in the womb.
A study spearheaded by research scientist Corry Gellatly of Newcastle University shows that men are more likely to determine a baby’s gender: “A study of hundreds of years of family trees suggests a man’s genes play a role in him having sons or daughters. Men inherit a tendency to have more sons or more daughters from their parents. This means that a man with many brothers is more likely to have sons, while a man with many sisters is more likely to have daughters.”
Other than men being the greatest predicting factor of a baby’s gender, it’s also worthwhile to note that gender selection is possible through an IVF pregnancy. Actress Chrissy Teigen, John Legend’s other half, is known to be vocal about her IVF journey, recently opened up to People Magazine that she was actually given the opportunity to choose the gender of her child – thanks to modern technology and a procedure known as Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) or Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS). While it does sound like it’s straight out of a sci-fi movie, gender selection is something that happens quite often in many fertility clinics across the U.S. However, it’s a hugely expensive process that has strict ethical guidelines to follow – being that this is isn’t made available for parents who simply want to select a boy or a girl as if picking fruit from a grocery store. It has several points to consider and it’s best to learn more about it here.
The above are just two examples which show that, yes, we do have some sort of control over the gender of a child growing in the womb but, for most of the world’s population – we simply don’t have that option.
Even in as early as pregnancy, motherhood is a many-faceted journey that can be largely described as unpredictable. We can choose many things in our lives: schools, careers, spouses, etc. but one of the things we can’t choose is the gender of our babies while still in the womb.
Understanding and accepting that we don’t have any control over our child’s gender and focusing on what’s amazing about your baby will certainly help you learn to enjoy the baby boy or girl you are carrying.
We’ll share here one of our staff writer’s gender disappointment story:
Let’s call her Jo (her middle name). She has three beautiful girls and was about to give up on having any more children after her 3rd girl thinking that “I’m gonna have another girl, anyway.” Her husband, though, didn’t want to give up and was weirdly sure that their 4th (and last – Jo’s since had a ligation procedure done) would be a boy. After waiting about 4 years, they tried for another baby. Jo was apprehensive, constantly stressed and was also working full-time. “My hormones were absolute jerks”, she says, “One day I’m jubilant about being blessed with another baby and the next I’m just torn with guilt and fear.”
She knew having four children won’t be easy but Jo and her husband both wanted and planned (for the most part) to have a big family. Because of many complications, Jo had to take several trips to the hospital and must have taken what felt like thousands of ultrasound tests. On the day that her growing baby was finally developed enough to have the gender determined, she was biting her lips in tears reading ultrasound tests that said “Female”. Disappointment was an understatement. If she was being honest, she wanted to have a wild fit in the clinic. Growing up Catholic, she instead headed straight to church and prayed. But her prayers weren’t happy prayers. They were sad, frustrated cries; not understanding why she can’t ever have a boy.
Jo was dangerously worried about her emotional and mental state but she soldiered on. Still, her baby only lasted 31 weeks in the womb. Jo gave birth prematurely via C-section on August 31, 2019.
As soon as the doctor pulled the baby, she announced, “It’s a boy!”. Drowsy and weak with anesthesia, she managed to cry happy tears. It’s a boy, after all.
Jo’s story is a good lesson for any pregnant mom experiencing gender disappointment – the gender of the baby in our womb isn’t in our control and we have to learn how to accept and understand it. While Jo did get what she wanted in the end, she spent a good 4 months thinking she was going to have a girl. It wasn’t easy to admit that she wasn’t disappointed. At times, she even appeared defensive especially to family members that weren’t afraid to say outright mean things like, “What a waste. Should have been a boy”. But she realigned her values, slowly set aside her fears day by day, let go of her expectations and began to enjoy the thought of having 4 girls.
Dealing with gender disappointment isn’t easy. But so is the rest of motherhood. You and millions of women around the world are naturally strong and resilient. And trust us, majority of the stories we’ve read about gender disappointment ends well. Once your baby is born – you’ll see how amazing they are and there won’t be a day in their wonderful lives that you’ll wish he or she was any different.