Chances are high that you’ve seen an Instagram post in which blue confetti rains down on a happy couple as their family and friends cheer on the upcoming birth of their baby boy.
The ability to know and celebrate the sex of a baby before birth through early testing and gender reveal parties has offered many parents a lot of excitement and happiness.
At the same time, these same activities have led to sadness, disappointment, and even depression when the results were not what was dreamed of.
Social media frequently makes it appear that all parents-to-be are thrilled with the sex of their expected child, but the truth doesn’t always match the tears of joy as blue streamers float to the ground.
Is it OK to feel disappointed with your baby’s sex? What steps can you take if you feel this way? If you or a friend are experiencing gender disappointment or worried that you might in the future, keep reading, because we’ve got the scoop on this often unspoken experience.
It can feel like a social taboo to admit that you’re less than thrilled with the sex of your baby. After all, as long as the baby is healthy, that’s all that should matter, right?
While many people won’t admit to feelings of disappointment, it can be a perfectly normal reaction that’s much more common than you’ve been led to believe. (If a Google search brought you to this article, you’re far from alone!)
Gender disappointment can take many forms, including tears, anger, and feeling disconnected from a pregnancy. Though many people feel some level of disappointment about their baby’s sex, there can be a great deal of shame associated with these feelings.
You may feel pressure to say the “right” things and hide how you’re really feeling. This is particularly true if you have friends who have struggled to conceive, lost a child, or have a child that suffers from health complications, as it can feel wrong to feel disappointed about the sex of your baby.
It’s not uncommon to feel guilty about your disappointment and question your ability to parent or love this child. You may even feel regret. You’re not alone in any of this!
It’s not only the person giving birth who can experience gender disappointment either. Partners, grandparents, extended family, and caregivers can all find themselves feeling less than positive emotions.
It’s normal to have hopes and dreams for a child from the moment you learn someone you’re close to is pregnant, and it can take time for these to adjust to a different reality.
There are many reasons why you may feel disappointed about the sex of your baby. These can include:
Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of a little boy you could play baseball with or getting to braid your daughter’s hair. Maybe you already have a little boy or girl and dream of having one of each.
If you have reached the number of children you wish to have, it can be hard to accept that you’re done having children and will only have children of one sex. Whatever the reason for your personal preference, you’re not alone.
Some cultures place additional value on one sex over another. Additionally, certain cultures limit the number of children that it is socially acceptable to have. This can create added pressure to produce a child of a certain sex. Not doing so can feel like a failure even when you have no control over this.
A desire to live the American dream (2.5 children, including a little girl and boy) can definitely cause pressure to have a child of a certain sex.
Friends can also put pressure on parents to want/expect a certain sex. Perhaps all of your female friends are shopping for pink ruffled outfits, or your guy friends are suggesting which sport to introduce your unborn son to first. It can feel like you’re letting down those closest to you when you find out your child will be a different sex.
Fear of the unknown
It can be intimidating to think about raising a child of the opposite sex. Perhaps you fear having nothing in common or being unable to relate to their needs.
For same-sex couples or single parents that will be raising a child of the opposite sex, there can also be fears around raising a child without a parental role model of their same sex.
If you’re feeling disappointed with the sex of your future child, it’s important to address these feelings. It may feel like something you have to keep a secret, but if the disappointment persists:
Find a safe person to talk to
You may find it easiest to speak to your partner, particularly if they’re also experiencing gender disappointment. Alternatively, it may be easiest to speak to someone unrelated to get an unbiased, emotionally detached sounding board.
You may also want to join a parent support group and talk to other parents (many of whom may be feeling the same way you are!) Talking to someone can help you realize you’re not alone in how you’re feeling.
Evaluate your feelings
Are you dealing with a healthy amount of disappointment or is it starting to impede your daily living?
Given that at least one study has linked gender disappointment to depression, it’s important to make sure that disappointment isn’t impeding your life and that you seek medical help if necessary.
Allow yourself to work through the feelings
Remember that expectations won’t necessarily match reality.
Biological sex does not always align with certain interests or life experiences. Your little boy may hate sports and your little girl may prefer dirt bikes over dolls. Every child is unique, and once you meet your child, you may quickly forget that you ever dreamed of a family that looked different.
For many people, the birth of your child will help alleviate any feelings of disappointment. (This may happen immediately upon meeting your child or after a short period of time as your newborn becomes a part of your daily life.)
If you find that your feelings of disappointment are preventing you from bonding with your baby, it can be useful to speak to a therapist or counselor. They can help you process your feelings and realize that this does happen.
With today’s technology, it’s possible to know your baby’s sex well before they’re born. While this can provide extra time to choose the perfect name, create your dream nursery, or even a little incentive to get through the final months of pregnancy, it can also result in less positive feelings.
If you’re experiencing gender disappointment, you’re not alone. It’s important to be gentle with yourself as you work through the complex emotions involved in grieving the loss of a dream and finding joy in your soon-to-be-born child.
Give yourself time to process and seek counseling if you feel unable to bond with your baby. Although your future family might look a little different than originally planned, there’s no reason that joy and love can’t still be a part of it!