Gender disappointment is more common than we think
Whether we like to admit it or not, most of us have a preference for our unborn child’s gender.
“We don’t mind, as long as it’s healthy,” is the commonly accepted phrase used to mask this.
And when the moment of the big reveal comes along and the physician says you’re having ‘the other gender’ it can often leave you feeling a tinge of sadness.
But why? Why would you be sad about this lovely little human inside of you who you’ve yet to meet? What does that say about you as a mother?
These questions might be bouncing around inside your head if you find yourself in this situation.
You might be experiencing what’s known as gender disappointment.
What is gender disappointment?
Gender disappointment is the sadness some people feel when they find out their child is what they perceive as the ‘wrong’ sex. This is caused because they had a strong desire to have a baby of the other sex.
Gender disappointment can happen during pregnancy or at birth.
Any member of the family can feel upset about the baby being the other gender: the mother, father, grandparents, other relatives.
A desire for a child of a specific sex is often fuelled by the individual’s desire for particular experiences with the child. This desire is influenced by society’s perception of what each gender is interested in.
For example, many mothers suffer gender disappointment when they realise they are having a son, not a daughter, because they believe they’ll be missing out on the supposed mother-daughter bond.
This is largely thanks to society’s belief that daughters are more likely to remain closer to their mothers than sons are.
Parents-to-be suffering from gender disappointment often feel that they need to ‘grieve’ for the child of the other gender they may have had, and all the things they’d pictured themselves doing with that child.
Is gender disappointment normal?
A study has suggested that up to a fifth of women may feel some form of disappointment about their unborn child’s sex.
Another study has shown that a quarter of UK mothers felt very disappointed if their baby wasn’t the sex they’d been hoping for.
So you’re certainly not alone if you’re suffering from gender disappointment.
Can gender disappointment lead to depression?
Mothers can often feel confused and guilty that they are disillusioned about their child’s gender.
It can make them feel as though they are a bad mother incapable of loving their child. And this can lead to them hiding their feelings out of shame.
These feelings can certainly lead to a certain level of anxiety, but psychologists and medics fall short of stating it’s a direct cause of depression.
There are plenty of ways you can deal with your sadness over your child’s gender without turning to medical support.
Perinatal depression does exist though. So if you find your sadness and anxiety are lingering, reach out to a medical professional for help there may be a larger cause.
How to overcome gender disappointment
Acknowledge your feelings
You don’t need to feel embarrassed or ashamed about how you feel. Pregnancy is a difficult time with all the hormonal changes your body is going through.
Take your time to accept your disappointment and process it. You won’t feel like this forever.
If you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed about how you feel, talk to someone: your partner, a parent, a friend, your midwife, your GP.
Simply talking things through can help to lighten the load and get to the root of the issue.
Talking about everything you’ll get to do with the baby you’re carrying can also help to get you feeling more excited about your new arrival’s gender.
What society thinks is not important
Forget about society’s beliefs of gender. You may feel like you’re grieving for the child you won’t have because of a feeling that you’ll be missing out on certain experiences.
But you might not miss out on those after all.
Perhaps you dreamed of having a girl and watching princess movies and doing arts and crafts. Who’s to say your son won’t enjoy a good Disney movie and getting stuck into paints and glitter?
Or maybe you were looking forward to watching a son play football and jump around in the mud? There’s no reason to think that your daughter won’t be a total tomboy with an obsession for trains and kicking a ball around.
You are not a bad mother
Gender disappointment can cause you to feel ashamed and worried that you won’t be a good parent. You shouldn’t: all you need to do is trust in your ability to be a mother.
When your baby comes into the world, you will love them, no matter what gender they are. And you won’t be able to visualise your little family being any different.
This feeling won’t last forever
If you find out your unborn child’s gender during your pregnancy, that’s all you know about them.
But when they’re born, you finally get to meet them as a fully formed person.
And you won’t be able to imagine them or life any other way.
So however you’re feeling now, just remember that it’s temporary.
Ultimately, gender disappointment is something that many mothers, or even other relatives, feel. So you’re not alone.
Just give yourself time to process things. Your little bean will soon be a bawling baby in your arms and you’ll love them endlessly, whether they’re a boy or a girl, and even when they’re waking you up at 4am.
Did you experience gender disappointment? Tell me about your experience in the comments.
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