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Dealing with Gender Disappointment

Dianna Graveman |22, May 2012


When an expectant parent is asked if she hopes for a boy or a girl, most of the time, she will simply say it doesn't matter--as long as the baby is healthy. And for the most part, that's true. But secretly, many moms-to-be hope for a baby of one gender or the other. After all, what new mom hasn't fantasized--at least a little--about tea parties, baby dolls, and tiny, ruffled dresses? What dad hasn't hoped, perhaps privately, for a little leaguer with whom to play catch? If you already have one or more children of the same gender, your secret wish may not be so secret--others may assume they already know your preference for this next baby.

In fact, the pressure and disappointment can be so extreme that some mothers report feeling emotionally distressed upon learning their baby's gender, even feeling a sense of loss. If you suspect your partner or parents were hoping for either a girl or a boy, you may even feel as if you have let everyone down. Some experts say those feelings can increase the risk of postpartum depression, once the baby is born.

You can't help how you feel, though, right? So how to cope with the anxiety, if you're secretly wishing for either a girl or a boy?

Admit your feelings to yourself, and if you're comfortable, tell your spouse or family members how you feel. Remind yourself that these feelings are common, and you shouldn't feel guilty for having them. Don't let others make you feel "silly" for the way you feel or minimize your concerns. Even though you will love your baby when he or she arrives, the disappointment you're feeling now (or the anxiety if you don't yet know your baby's gender) is very real.

Remember that these feelings will probably pass. You're dealing with a lot of hormonal changes in pregnancy, and you may not be getting a lot of sleep. Give yourself time after learning the sex of your baby to consider all of the positives.
Admit your feelings to pregnant friends or those who have recently had children. Chances are, at least some of them had similar feelings at one time or another. Ask for suggestions about how they dealt with their feelings. Conversely, share your feelings and ideas for coping with pregnant friends who may be secretly harboring their own disappointment.

Ask friends who have daughters to tell you all the wonderful aspects of raising little girls, if you were hoping for a boy. Invite friends who have sons to tell you all the reasons you are going to love raising a precious little boy, if your secret wish was for a girl. Write them down, and add to the list!

Some doctors and midwives suggest to parents who may have a gender preference that although ultrasound technology will allow them, in most cases, to know their baby's gender before birth, the results do not have to be revealed. Today's parents are used to knowing in advance, and rare is the parent who chooses to wait for the big "surprise." But that doesn't mean it has to be done that way. Chances are, regardless of what you had hoped for or expected, once you've given birth and your new little baby rests peacefully in your arms, you'll fall in love and wonder why it ever mattered.

Note: It is important to remember to seek professional help during pregnancy or after delivery, if your feelings of sadness become extreme. Many new mothers experience moodiness after delivery, but if you feel resentment toward your child or if you experience uncontrolled crying, insomnia, anger, and extreme mood swings, you may be showing signs of postpartum depression, a serious emotional condition that is treatable with intervention.

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Shani May 25, 2012 07:56:07 AM ET

I cried almost disgustingly and wouldnt even look at the screen anymore when i saw what i was having it broke the dad's heart to see me react that way. of course im happy now but i felt someone had taken this child i had dreamed of in my head away from me. it took about three days of crying and coping to accept it. i cant wait to meet my little man now even though sometimes when i see a little pink tutu i go "why God why!?!" then im ok again:)

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