Soon after you announce your pregnancy to the world, the first question everyone asks is the baby’s due date and next is whether you want it to be a boy or a girl.
Of course, most parents will coyly say that it doesn’t matter, just as long as the baby is healthy — but we all have a preference, whether or not we are willing to admit it.
So what happens if you find out that your little one is not the gender you were secretly hoping for?
Is it wrong for you to feel sad about it and what exactly can you do to cope with these feelings of disappointment?
Pink or blue?
Once you find out whether you’re having a girl or a boy, you might feel overwhelmed with happiness or a tinge of sadness which you try to keep inside and pretend like nothing’s wrong.
According to Psychologist, Graham W Price, women will generally prefer to have girls, while men’s preferences usually can go either way.
“Gender disappointment can affect fathers just as much as mothers. In fact, it often takes men longer than women to get over their regret, as there is a biological imperative for women to bond with their children”, he says.
Dr Price also adds that people’s relationships with their parents and early experiences of men and women, in general, can also have an impact on the personal preference of their baby’s gender.
Dr Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist at UCSF and author of The Male Brain and The Female Brain, explains that many mothers feel guilt and shame over feeling disappointment about their baby’s gender, so they suppress their sadness and keep it to themselves.
Some parents might feel guilty for being disappointed because they think they should just be grateful no matter what gender the baby is, as long as the baby is healthy — or remind themselves that there are others who are unable to even conceive.
According to Dr Brizendine, around 1 in 5 women express at least some disappointment about the sex of the child they are carrying.
“We assume gender disappointment is quite a hidden experience, yet extremely common especially in certain cultures”, she says.
How to cope
Dr. Brizendine says that usually, any sort of baby gender disappointment will actually disappear once the baby is born.
But if you find the sadness and disappointment is lingering, before or after your little one arrives, there are healthy ways of dealing with your emotions:
1. Don’t feel ashamed
Stephan Quentzel, M.D., a psychiatrist specializing in pregnancy and childbirth issues at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City says that the first step toward moving forward is to recognize your disappointment and be honest with yourself.
“It can sound ugly to say, ‘I wanted a boy and not a girl,’ because you’re expected to love the child no matter what. But it’s normal if you’re not immediately thrilled; soon enough you will be”, he says.
2. Get to the root of it
Try to figure out why the whole issue of gender is particularly important to you.
Dr Price explains that many of us assume we can relate to one sex better than the other, or that we might have a stereotyped view about boys and girls, thus causing us to hope for a particular gender for our baby.
3. Pour your heart out
Talk about your true feelings to a non-judgemental friend or family member so that you can let it all out.
Or if you want anonymity, discuss it on an online forum specifically for baby gender disappointment with others who are in the same boat as you.
But if you continue to struggle with these feelings, then you can speak to a therapist to help you overcome the disappointment.
4. Turn to your partner for support
Be honest with your partner and confide in him or her for support.
Joyce A. Venis, RNC, director of nursing at Princeton Family Care Associates in Princeton, New Jersey, and president of Depression After Delivery Inc. says that keeping these feelings of baby gender disappointment bottled up inside may turn into anger toward the child, lack of interest in the child, or could possibly even lead to postpartum depression.
“Husbands and partners should encourage [the mother] to talk about her feelings and to listen”, she advises.
5. Choose a name you love
Pregnant woman sitting on carpet and writing in a journal
Once you find out whether you’re having a boy or a girl, start picking out baby names and narrow down a list of your top choices.
By confirming a name and referring to your unborn baby by name, this might help to form a bond with your little one.
You can even break rules by picking an unconventional name, like celebrities Jessica Simpson’s choice of “Maxwell” for her daughter, or Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher’s daughter who is named “Wyatt Isabelle”.
6. Buy a gender-specific baby item
Either start by buying a piece of baby clothing, or any traditionally gender-specific item for your bub to get you warmed up to the idea of having a boy or a girl.
Although there’s also nothing wrong with getting a doll for your son, or kicking around a football with your daughter!
Whether you were hoping for a specific gender, once you hold your baby in your arms for the very first time, chances are that it won’t matter any more that it is a boy or a girl, because you will fall in love immediately with your precious little one.
Did you suffer from baby gender disappointment? What helped you overcome those feelings? Tell us in the comments section below.