Experiencing Gender Disappointment
A sealed white envelope sat tucked away in the nursery dresser. From the very beginning, Claudia had her sights on finding out the sex of her baby. She was a planner. Knowing whether her little jelly bean was pink or blue was a part of her pregnancy that she could plan going forward. What Claudia hadn’t thought about was whether she was crossing her fingers for a girl or a boy. Claudia simply wanted a healthy baby. What if she was disappointed with what she found out?
She was an only child. Siblings weren’t a discussion her mother Ruth ever cared to entertain. Her mother had shared with her on more than occasion how she was certain that Claudia was going to be a boy. Throughout Ruth’s entire pregnancy, from how she was carrying to what she craved, and from her vivid dreams to what her family predicted; Ruth was convinced she was having a boy. Heck, she wanted a son! But when Ruth delivered her bundle of joy 38 years ago, “Claude” became “Claudia”. Ruth had gender disappointment.
What Is Gender Disappointment
There’s a part of pregnancy that many families excitedly await for…the GENDER REVEAL. With tools, technology, and science the sex of an unborn baby can be determined as early as 8 weeks gestation. In general, this reveal is conducted around 20 weeks by the ultrasound anatomy scan. What happens when the “reveal” discloses the opposite of what one wished for? Gender disappointment is feelings of sadness, anger, or frustration when the hope and desire for a particular sex of a baby is not met. Gender disappointment IS a real emotion; and this emotion can be a big emotional roller coaster.
The idea of “never”* experiencing what society labels as masculine and feminine roles in life may leave some parents feeling unfulfilled. From that wedding dress passed down from a great-grandmother to a grandfather’s family name, there are some things that feel like they will never be carried on. Here’s the wonderful thing about life. Our expectations and life’s realities DO come together, and not always in the most traditional of ways. Take that family heirloom and see it get passed down to one’s own great-grandchildren. Names are beautiful to give tribute to past generations, especially with a touch of personalization gearing into a new generation.
While no one truly knows how the family life structure will ultimately unfold, finding ways to bring joy into the new found information of raising a son or daughter or non-binary child, can be a healing process for gender disappointment. Beyond to goo-goos of over pinks and blues, mentallly preparing for a sex that you have no idea “how to raise” or “what to do with” (phrases often used after reveals), hits a panic button in the pregnancy. Finding out the sex of the baby at the 20-week ultrasound gives 20 more weeks for coping or coming around to or accepting the information.
Being Disappointed is a Variation Normal
Guess what…”you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit” need not apply here. Feeling a “loss” of sorts is a normal emotion for gender disappointment. You don’t have to explain or diminish your reactions. None of this means that one will love their child any less because the baby is not the gender they suspected, pooled, dreamt about or wished for. What this means, is that this is a time to grieve and grow. Grieve the loss of what “could have been”, then embrace the opportunity to grow into the role of parenting that child. Everyone’s gauge of disappointment is different in levels and in time. From moments to hours, days to weeks to months leading up to or after birth. What matters is that the child is cared for and loved thoroughly and unconditionally.
The Grieving Period of Gender Disappointment
Let’s talk about the grieving process. It’s just that, a process. There’s no one size fits all for how one chooses to share, showcase, shy away from their grieving the loss of their desired gender. Finding ways to process these emotions, and funnel them in a healthy way allows for acceptance. Journaling is one cathartic way to express oneself. Journaling allows for the outpouring of emotions, without narrative. Write a letter. Writing a letter to oneself or even the baby can create a healing path to grieving. You don’t need to show this letter to anyone, or you may choose to reread the letter throughout the remaining weeks of pregnancy. Remember to be open, be honest, and write from the heart.
Embrace the news. Sometimes all we need to accept disappointing news is to embrace it as our own. Look at the gender reveal as a new opportunity to change the narrative of your family’s dynamic in a positive light. Have a goooooooood cry. People often forget that crying is an emotion of healing. Think about how you felt after the last time you had a good hearty crying session. Maybe your body slept very well. Perhaps your body felt lighter. Maybe you had a revelation through the session. Whatever form crying takes shape for you, let it out and let it goooo. Therapy and counseling is another resourceful option. Talk it out with a trusted individual. Doing so can help cut down on the development of perinatal mood disorders, such as: antepartum and postpartum depression and anxiety.
“I felt guilty for not feeling guilty about openly having gender disappointment with my daughter.”
This is one of the many many parenting perils that may be experienced. Experiencing ender disappointment is not something to feel guilty or ashamed about.It’s okay not to be okay with the revelation. Think about how these emotions will affect the pregnancy moving forward. Think about ways to help alleviate that disappointment, and channel it in ways that make sense for you. Talk about your feelings and express them to those that won’t make you feel more guilty or selfish for what you are feeling. Someone that will truly listen without judgement.
Claudia sat with the envelope inches from her hand. Should she or shouldn’t she? “WHY was this SUCH a big decision?!” She spoke. She was home surrounded and supported by her best friend. Claudia made the ultimate decision to wait until birth to find out her baby’s sex. The pressure to know, the old-wives tales, the online gender guesses, and the “way she was carrying” was too much for her to care about. Right then she decided to be Team Green! A little envelope with a secret only one person knew stayed in the nursery dresser.