The Secret of Gender Disappointment: Feeling all the Feels

The(3)Many times here on Mamatoga I've tackled the sometimes funny, sometimes infuriating topic of things people say to pregnant women, and one of the most common ones is "Do you know what you're having?". This question can be a tricky for some people, but it's not something we all talk about, the idea that someone might actually be disappointed when they find out their baby's gender.

Now, before we get into it, I have a bunch of each: two boys and two girls and one more girl on the way. When people asked me if I wanted another boy or another girl, I was honest (with some people), I wanted another girl. Why? Well, again, to be completely honest, three boys sounded like a lot. THREE BOYS. That's so much boy. I already have a couple of very rambunctious boys (not that girls can't be rambunctious, I get that) but my initial reaction when I found out I was pregnant again was "I hope it's another girl". For whatever reason, that's how I felt, and I had to acknowledge it. I love being a mom to girls and I love being a mom to boys, but I sorta really wanted one more girl this time around. Would I have been disappointed if baby #5 was a boy instead of a girl? I can't honestly answer that because she is a girl, but if forced to give an answer, I would say I probably would've been a little disappointed at least at first, but acknowledging my feelings about it right away helped me prepare for whatever the outcome was, regardless.

It feels so weird to say that. Because what EVERYONE says is "As long as it's a healthy baby I don't care" and while many of you probably do feel that way and I have felt that way in the past, it really isn't always the case, but it's a little spoken about taboo to admit you are disappointed when it comes to finding out your baby's gender.

There are a lot of scenarios you can imagine (or maybe have experienced yourself already): maybe you've set a limit to how many kids you are going to have and you wind up having all one gender. Beyond everyone asking you if you are still "going to try for" the other gender, maybe you'll always wonder if you'd like to have at least one of each. I remember after having my first two (boy then girl) people would say "Well you're all set then" and that it "didn't matter" what baby #3 was (a boy).

Maybe the disappointment creeps up on you, maybe when you find out what you're having you experience a twinge of disappointment you weren't expecting. No one wants to sound, or feel, ungrateful, especially when they are having a healthy baby and that is what matters, but add in all those lovely pregnancy hormones raging, and these feelings sometimes can't be ignored, and shouldn't be ignored.

Some doctors will recommend to expecting parents not to wait until delivery to find out the gender, especially if they have a strong preference. Some women feel like they just "know" the gender and will spend the entire nine months thinking and expecting one thing, and it can be upsetting and unsettling to find out the opposite for some moms (and dads), and knowing ahead of time can help you tackle those feelings head on and get past some of the stronger emotions before the baby arrives.

Sometimes the pressure for either a boy or a girl is coming from someone else, maybe your husband really has his heart set on a boy, or all the grandchildren on your husband's side of the family so far are boys and your mother in law really wants a granddaughter. It isn't hard to feel this pressure and internalize it even though you have zero control over the outcome.

The most important thing though is to talk to someone about it, someone you trust, your spouse, a friend, your doctor, a family member. Keeping these feelings a secret can manifest themselves as anger or disappointment toward the child, lack of interest in the child, or can exacerbate feelings of postpartum depression, but being open with what you are feeling can take away some of the intensity of the emotion and help you find ways to get past it in a healthy way.

Most of the time, these feelings of disappointment evaporate once you meet your child, but never, ever feel ungrateful or guilty for having had a preference and feeling some disappointment. Your feelings are valid, and it doesn't make you a bad mom or a bad person to feel one way or the other.

1 in 7 women suffer from postpartum depression and you are not alone, to find support for feelings of postpartum depression or anxiety, click here