Bump Squad mama Emily on the roller coaster of gender reveals and disappointments.
“Do you know what you’re having?”
It’s one of the most common questions of the second trimester, and most pregnant women get sick of answering it by the 10th (or 100th) time. I’m expecting my 4th daughter, and when I answer this question with enthusiasm, cheer, and a smiling face, the response never fails: shock, followed by sympathy, ending with glad-it’s-not-me head nodding. (Can you tell I’m rolling my eyes as I write this?)
Gender disappointment is a real thing, a serious emotional roller coaster, and a very common reaction that many parents have as they adjust to the news of the sex of their baby. As a Perinatal Marriage & Family Therapist, I commonly help couples prepare for navigating this milestone.
For several weeks, you hold two dreams in your head: one with a son, one with a daughter. You brainstorm names, imagine outings, plan wardrobes or nursery colors, all while doing your best to balance the idea that either gender will be what’s “right” for your family. But, no matter how much you are convinced you’ll be fine with the answer, you may not anticipate the balance of grief and celebration that comes with the answer. That is, regardless of your inclinations, one of those dreams shatters and you are forced to adjust to reality.
I dealt with some gender disappointment in my last pregnancy. I had really felt different symptoms than with my first two daughters and had convinced myself I must be carrying a son by the time we went to the anatomy ultrasound. I wasn’t sad that we were having a girl, but I was sad that we weren’t having a boy, and that’s vastly different. Letting go of the dream of a son in that moment was difficult, and I know many people who have felt this same sadness and happiness all at once.
For me, it didn’t take long to embrace the familiarity of another daughter, and that same feeling honestly carried over into this pregnancy. (In fact, I think I would have had more grief if it was a boy this time! It’s funny how that goes.) After three girls and a miscarriage, my husband and I had new priorities for our hopes and very reasonable expectations (statistics alone told us to anticipate another girl). I'm so grateful I get to enjoy Earth Mama’s organic herbal teas during my pregnancy. Peaceful Mama Tea has been one of my favorites to go along with that celebratory, pink cupcake!
While we have been thrilled with the news of expecting another girl, the responses from others has been harder to endure. Our society seems set on the “perfect family” requiring at least one of each gender for offspring, and the news of “yet another girl” has triggered many sympathetic jokes for my husband, especially. These jokes are not funny, people.
“That’s gonna be a lot of weddings!”
“You’ll have to buy a boy dog now.”
“Oh, poor dad. No one to play ball with, huh?”
“Gonna go for a fifth so you can try to have a son?”
“Oh, your poor husband!”
And the list goes on.
So, here’s my PSA: If someone tells you the gender of their baby, the correct response is, “Congratulations!” If the person wants to open up to you about how they feel about this news, let them tell you. Please stop assuming we want what you think we should want. It’s not helpful either way. The end.
After being very open about having a miscarriage, it’s been frustrating to be met with sympathy when we tell people we are having a healthy girl. It’s bewildering and even angering at times. My husband has been downright offended when someone we barely knew patted his back with condolences when we told them.
Yes, gender disappointment is real and exists; but, please don’t assume someone has it or doesn’t have it. Just congratulate them and let them know if you’re available to help. Let’s bring less judgment and more casseroles as we help new parents through these emotional milestones! Because, Lord knows, all babies come with plenty of to-dos that require the support of a loving village to help us all thrive through these seasons.