Dealing with gender disappointment

Gender disappointment is common and it is nothing to feel ashamed about.

You may feel disappointed upon learning of the sex of your baby for various reasons.  These may include internally longing to have a boy or a girl, having several other children already of the same gender, feeling concerned that you won’t be able to personally relate to a particular gender, and/or experiencing pressure from family fulfil their wishes to need for either a boy or a girl.

I was devastated when I found out I was having another boy. I had always desperately wanted to have a baby girl, and had two boys already. We hoped so much for a girl this time round. On finding out we were having a girl I cried and cried. 

It is common to experience feelings of fear at the time of finding out the gender of your baby, as well as feelings of grief, sadness and disappointment if your hopes are not fulfilled on discovering the gender of your baby.

After days of crying, and  hoping, desperately hoping that maybe they had made a mistake… I soon began to accept we were having another boy. 

 

Even when we first got the test results back, we were gutted.

 

I went home and went to bed and cried for hours. You feel horrible because you want to be excited, but part of you is SO disappointed.

It is important to acknowledge your feelings, reflect upon what the causes of this disappointment may be for you and allow yourself to be experience these natural feelings of grief and disappointment. Try not to make things worse by being harsh on yourself for feeling the way you do.

It does not mean that you will not love, or be able to love your baby. In fact often these feeling disappear after the baby is born as your mothering instincts kick in.  Your experience with your baby once they are born also can lead parents to come to the realisation that their perceptions of what it would be like having a baby of this gender may not reflect reality, and/or you have simply come to accept the gender of your baby.

Remember: Acceptance often involves experiencing grief and disappointment.  This is natural and understandable – even if not commonly spoken about.

Gender disappointment and sexual abuse

For women you may have experienced abuse as a child can feel anxiety upon learning that they are having a boy – particularly if the abuser was a male. Often these feelings only last during pregnancy and subside once the baby is born and the mother realises the innocence and fragility of a newborn baby.

Alternatively an expectant mother  may equally feel anxious about having a girl – for fear of not being able to protect them from a potential abuser. These feelings may emerge not so much in pregnancy (when the fetes is protected in the womb) but rather when the child is born and/or in infancy. Again the innocence and fragility of a new baby can compound these feelings of the child’s need for protection – causing anxiety about the mothers ability to provide this.

It is for this reason women are commonly asked about factors known to increase their risk of developing mental health issues and assesses if they are currently experiencing common symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.  This usually includes asking about their previous experiences of abuse – so that such issues can be identified and help sought to resolve them.

Getting help and support

Acceptance of your baby’s gender and overcoming the feelings of grief and disappointment usually pass with time and understanding.  Talking with someone you trust and feel will not be judgemental can also help you to gain support and understanding.

If however you are finding that you are not coping with these feelings, and they are impacting on your feelings towards the baby or your outlook, talking to a health professional can certainly help.

 

See also…

Pregnancy support counselling

What puts me at risk of mental health problems in pregnancy

What puts me at risk of postnatal mental health problems