GENDER DISAPPOINTMENT | THE TABOO TOPIC
BY TANYA HARPER
My whole life I always imagined that I would have two girls. It never once crossed my mind that I would have boys. This wasn’t because I didn’t want boys, or I didn’t think I could raise them, it just never crossed my mind. I am one of two girls myself and I only had a couple of male cousins, so this may have contributed but I guess when you imagine things from a young age it just becomes part of who you are.
When I was pregnant with my first, Noah, I thought he was a girl. My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer prior to me finding out I was pregnant, so as much as I thought he was a girl my primary focus was on my dad. My dad passed away 5 weeks prior to his birth, so when he was born a boy I was elated that I could pass on my father’s name and to me it felt as though a part of my dad can live on through him (yes, I know a huge expectation for any baby but #honesty).
Following the birth of Noah (and even during my pregnancy) my friends all told me that I am a “boys mum”, but this didn’t sit right with me and I strongly disagreed. Noah was the best thing to happen to not only me and my husband but my family. I loved having a son. There is something magical about raising the gender you aren’t.
When I fell a second time, we again made the decision not to find out the gender and again I was convinced I was having a girl. So when Scout was born, I cried. I cried. These weren’t tears of joy but of sadness. I was sad that, to me, this meant that I would never have a mother daughter relationship. I would never talk about girl things, periods, the complications of being a girl and all do the perceived ‘mother of a girl’ things that had been taken from me.
It was safe to say that Daniel was less than appreciative of my moment.
I then felt an overwhelming sense of guilt that I couldn’t just enjoy my happy healthy baby boy. To further add to my guilt Dan also expressed that he too felt a loss of not having a daughter, but was overwhelmed with joy about having two healthy sons, about having brothers.
You see this moment obviously makes me look and sound awful. However, that was my reality at the time. After I had my 15 minutes to grieve it was done and I focused on what there was to love about two boys. The kinship, the bond, the fart jokes and the hand me downs.
It wasn’t long before I started to consider having a third baby. Daniel always wanted three but I was nervous of a third boy. Again, this was ridiculous, but anxiety consumed me.
When I was lucky to fall pregnant a third time, I told Dan that I never wanted to cry following the birth again. He agreed and at 15 weeks we found out the sex, and it turns out number three was a girl. I had always assumed that once Margot was born I would feel that our family was complete. Yet it didn’t happen and to be honest I still don’t feel “done”. Intellectually I know that we are (lets be honest, four is ample).
So, when we had number four it was my most relaxing pregnancy because for once I didn’t care what the gender was.
The point that I am making is that I was open and honest with the gender that I was hoping for in all my pregnancies. It didn’t bother me if someone commented on the genders of my children because I knew what I wanted, and I owned it. Please don’t get me wrong I would never wish for an unhealthy baby just to have the desired gender and I don’t think anyone would but why is it a shameful thing to wish you had a boy or a girl? When did society become so ingrained in telling people what is and is NOT ok to feel guilty about? I feel that if we are open about our feelings won’t this rid a lot of the guilt and shame around it?
Ultimately shame comes from secrecy. So why, not only as women, but human beings, are we making a desire for a certain gender yet another shameful feeling?
Ever since my first pregnancy in 2012 people were surprised how open I was about wanting a girl. This also surprised me. It wasn’t until I was open about how I felt following Scout’s birth that women started confiding in me how they felt the same and asking how I was then able to conceive two girls following my two boys. To be honest I think it came down to timing for us however this is again another topic entirely. Yet it genuinely surprised me how many women have asked for advice in this area and asked me not to tell anyone about their feelings of grief and loss when they found out they were not having the gender that they thought they would.
I also want to make it clear that I am discussing gender disappointment during pregnancy and following the birth. I know that I was consumed by wanting a daughter and went to the extreme of researching gender selection. I know this may sound absurd to a lot of people, it did my husband, however it was what I had to go through and I knew this. However, this didn’t affect the relationship I had with my sons. I knew that I loved them unconditionally and would never wish they were something they weren’t yet I still found myself being surrounded by friends having daughters and wishing that was me. If you find that it is all consuming, affecting the bond with not only your children but also your partner I strongly advise that you seek medical advice.
The point that I am trying to make with this is that we should all support each other. Pregnancy, motherhood and balancing your own hopes and dreams is hard. It is even harder when you add in assuring you have a healthy, happy baby, a healthy relationship with your partner, attempting to maintain careers, managing timetables for you children and ensuring their emotional wellbeing is also being assisted and guided by you. So please before you judge anyone who expresses they wish they had a son or daughter maybe just offer a supportive smile instead of judgement. Maybe that is all they needed in that moment.
*I also understand that there are many women (and men) who are unable to conceive and or have experienced the loss of child/ren and that they would give anything to have a healthy child so please don’t take this in any way to diminish their grief and loss. I would never diminish the loss of a child that is another topic entirely.
Tanya is a mama to four and finds the humour in the everyday. "I figure if I don't laugh I'll cry." You can follow Tanya's family musings over at Fourlittlecreatures.com or on Instagram @fourlittlecreatures