Healthy Relationships

Gender Disappointment: How Do We Move on?

April 23, 2021

As a parent, you know that the anticipation felt during pregnancy leaves a lot of time for daydreaming. We get ourselves through the tough waiting period by imagining what it will be like to hold our baby, raise our baby, interact with our growing child and show them what this world has to offer. So, what if the images you held in your mind are all of a sudden taken from you because of your baby’s gender? Gender disappointment affects women differently, but it can be a common couple experience during pregnancy.

Boy or girl?

Our culture has become so guilty of gender stereotyping that from the minute our babies are conceived, we think they will conform in one way or another. We “think pink” for girls and “hope for blue” if we want a boy. Some women even go to extra lengths before conceiving, trying out alternative therapies or making use of old wives’ tales to see if they can influence the gender they so desperately want. With gender-reveal parties increasing in popularity, it’s no wonder that parents can feel pressure about getting the gender they want.

Many women, upon feeling even an ounce of disappointment over the gender of their baby, feel an accompanying sense of shame and guilt. They may use active reframing or think to themselves, “Isn’t every mother just supposed to say she wants a healthy baby?” There are varying reasons for gender disappointment, and not all of them have to do with a mother’s desires. Personal history can play a role, though. If a woman had a strained relationship with her mother, for example, she may want to heal that wound by having a daughter to “do right by” or experience fear about having a daughter because she doesn’t want to turn out like her mother. 

Cultural biases and gender stereotypes can also play a role, as can fear. The fear of not knowing how to raise a boy or a girl is something parents often feel, depending on their own experience. Sometimes, it is simply out of convenience that a mother or father would like a particular gender. For example, if they already have tons of girl baby clothes, they may bristle at spending an inordinate money on purchasing gender-neutral items or things that can be worn by a boy. 

Then there’s the family that has six boys and just yearns for a girl because the mother wants another female in the household. Vice versa, a father can have a few girls and really want a boy with which to play catch. What our society misses sometimes because of our gender stereotyping, is that girls can play catch and boys can be effeminate. Just because you have a certain gender doesn’t mean you automatically know what your child will like or how they will behave when they grow older. That being said, it doesn’t mean that gender disappointment should be shamed; it is normal and okay for parents to want something different. What matters most is with how it is dealt.

How do you move past gender disappointment?

If you or your partner are suffering from gender disappointment, work through the following tips to help you navigate these difficult emotions so you can get on with enjoying your expanding family!

Mourn and move on

Allow yourself to mourn the loss of your ideal so that you can move on in a healthy direction. Remember that siblings, as well as extended family, can also suffer from gender disappointment. If you have older children who wished for a little brother instead of a sister, talk them through some of the points above. The key to getting through any gender disappointment lies in trusting in your ability to raise your child, no matter what their gender, as you are the perfect person for the job. If you are feeling disappointed, know that you are not alone and, by accepting the emotions and seeing what lies underneath, you will go on to have a great relationship with your baby!