Many couples choose to find out their baby’s sex before the birth. For some, discovering that they’re expecting a girl when they have their heart set on a boy, or vice versa, may mean a moment of surprise or fleeting regret. This is called gender disappointment.
However, for other parents it can lead to a deep and lasting sense of disappointment that’s coupled with guilt. Why do some parents want their baby to be a particular sex so strongly that it leads to feelings of dismay, sadness and loss?
It can be a very difficult topic to talk about . your friends and family may feel that you should just be happy that you’re having a baby regardless of the sex, so it can be hard to admit that you’re disappointed.
Why do I feel like this?
There are many reasons parents could feel disappointment about the gender of their baby.
- You may have had dreams about the special relationship you would have with a daughter, or you may face cultural or family pressure to have a particular sex.
- If you already have a child, you may feel that a baby of the opposite gender will complete your family.
- Perhaps it’s about your relationship with your parents – you may want to recreate the closeness you have with your mom or dad or, if you’ve had a difficult relationship with your mother, having a boy may seem less daunting than the idea of trying to avoid a challenging or unhappy relationship with your own daughter.
Should I find out the sex of my baby?
“When it comes to finding out the sex of your baby, it’s a personal decision,” comments clinical psychologist Jeanine Lamusse. However, in some situations, it can be a sensible move. “If you or your partner have your heart set on a particular sex, it’s a good idea to find out what it is before your child is born. Once your baby arrives, he or she will need your love and attention from the very first day. It’s better to cope with and process it while you’re pregnant, rather than when you’re sleep deprived and hormonal,” she cautions.
What are the reasons behind gender disappointment?
Clinical psychologist Ruth Ancer believes that we often have unconscious needs and that when we express a preference for one gender over the other, there’s a much deeper reason for that need. If you can understand that, you can avoid projecting your expectations (and disappointment) onto your unborn child.
She also feels that finding out early is key. “It’s important to get used to the idea, so that if it isn’t what you were hoping for, you have time to come to terms with it,” she advises. “For a lot of people, that feeling does change when they see their baby, but not for everybody. For some parents, the feeling of disappointment may linger and they may feel some resentment.
You often hear adults say, ‘My father really wanted a boy’, or ‘My mother really wanted a girl’. Children pick up on their parents’ feelings, but we have an obligation to love and raise our children without having expectations and conditions,” she says. “The most important thing is to recognise why it’s so important to you, what your expectations are, and what needs you are hoping will be met by having a child of a particular gender.”
How to cope with gender disappointment
If you can’t come to terms with your disappointment by discussing it with your partner and close friends, and it’s really upsetting you, Ruth advises seeking professional help. “If it’s very entrenched that you will only feel fulfilled by having a girl, or only having a boy, I would suggest considering therapy to try and understand what your fear is and what your need is,” she recommends.
Pregnancy and birth can be a difficult time hormonally and emotionally, as well as physically, and there’s no shame in seeking help from someone equipped to guide and assist you. “You may have expectations that this baby will meet some kind of need and, even if it does temporarily, it doesn’t in the long term. If you can use what you think you want as a way to deepen your understanding of yourself, it serves a good purpose,” she says.
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.