Gender Bender

I ran into a dad at kindy pick-up today. I knew his wife was due a few weeks before me (like… NOW! Holy shit… I’m next….), so when I saw him I was excitedly rambling and wanting to know how she was. The mum is a lovely lass, and we’d chatted a while back about our bumps. She’d mentioned she was having a girl, and so they’d thrown out all the boy clothes in preparation (they have a boy the same age as Miss SP).


Me: “Oh gosh, has she had the baby yet?”

Him: “Yep! Baby is here!”

Me: Squeee! “Oh that’s fantastic….what’s her….”

Him: “…..another boy”

Me (my face by now is contorted into a ‘do not compute’ look): “Oh wait, what? Huh? I thought you guys were having a girl?”

Him: “Uhhh huh. So did we”


Yikes. Cue me preaching the virtues of having same gender siblings and how awesome it is (because IT TOTALLY IS), and how boys rock pink anyway so it’s all good.  He got it, but I could tell it’s been an adjustment for them. And you know, there’s possibly some disappointment thrown in there.

We hear a lot about gender preferences, and in the media we hear about these ‘outrageous’ controversies of people selecting gender, or even the notion of gender being available to be selected. And many react with outrage. It’s a sensitive subject. And raises all sorts of ideas about morals and values and human life etc.

gender boy girl pic
Both look pretty cute in jelly form, right? Image Source

Why is it such a heinous thing to feel gender disappointment? What strikes at our core that we must completely rage on someone if they express their true feelings?

I think we need to be clear here- no one is disputing for a second that at the end of the day all they want is a healthy baby. That’s a no brainer. And even when people have had a preference for one gender and they end up with another, once that baby is here, they are filled with love and they move on.

We also must be mindful that for some, gender disappointment is a component of something deeper. There may be elements of Post-Natal Depression (or even Peri natal depression) at play. Something else might be driving it. We don’t know another person’s background, or their story. We aren’t here to judge.  I think the biggest thing we need to consider is that our ‘normal’ isn’t everyone’s ‘normal’. We’re all going to have our own struggles and our own vulnerable points. For some, gender is it. There are sites and forums devoted to gender, books and methods all outlining how to ‘sway’ toward a certain gender. The Shettle’s Method is well-known, and the book has sold 1.5 million copies. So for a society so ‘outraged’ with gender preference, there’s a hell of a lot of us all secretly trying for a certain gender.

Does it make a difference if you’re told one gender and end up with another? Does that legitimise disappointment?

gender pregnant belly duck
Maybe she’s hoping for a duck? Image Source

It’s a-ok to have feelings. It’s a-ok to have a vision for your family, or the outcome that you’ve dreamed of. And if you don’t get it- then it’s ok to feel disappointment. It doesn’t mean you will love your child less. But it IS a grief. I think we need to get our heads around the fact that loss and grief isn’t restricted to death. It can result when changes occur in our families, when things happen that we didn’t anticipate, it can happen in our workplaces, with our friends, even with our pets. So why is this any different?

It’s not grief for the baby you have, but grief for the fantasy you had built in your mind, when it comes to gender. We each have dreams, and they play out in different ways. When the reality turns out differently, then naturally we’re going to have feelings about that.

gender meme
Ohhhh yeaaaaaah.

So  let’s maybe just give each other a break on the whole gender thing. If we don’t agree with someone else’s feelings, we can just move past it.

Want to read more? Some great tips here and here on gender disappointment.

What’s your take on the whole gender disappointment? Did you ever experience it?


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  • Oh god I’m scared of this happening to me! It would be so hard to wrap your mind around the fact that the baby you were expecting isn’t coming. The little person you had been getting to know didn’t exist and there’s a new, strange baby here instead.
    I think it has nothing to do with not wanting the baby you’ve got and everything to do with not getting the baby you thought you were getting.

  • I was one of those weirdos that collected baby clothes before I was even close to having a baby. Any time I was in the oppy & seen a cute little vintage dress is grab it. When I found out that our second, & what I truly thought would be our last baby, was another boy I sat down surrounded by these vintage baby dresses I’d been collecting since I was a teenager & cried. Of course I was happy to be having a healthy baby but the dream of a little dark, curly haired pixie child running around in vintage frocks was gone. The fantasy was over & I needed to mourn that.
    When 10 years later we were told we were expecting a girl after three boys neither of us were convinced so we had another ultrasound a few weeks later. It confirmed we were having a girl but there was still a tiny part of me that didn’t believe it so when I had finished pushing her out I still asked the midwives to check she was in fact a girl. She was & it was only then I believed we were now parents of a daughter.

  • Mum Of Five Girls

    I don’t understand why people put 100% trust in what they are told at an ultrasound…..then they rush out and buy clothes and paint the nursery and tell everybody etc… I’ve asked with all my pregnancies, sometimes it was yep definitely a girl, other pregnancies they weren’t sure. To me it’s just info for hubby and I and then when the baby is born we can see if they were right and tell everybody what we’ve had…. I get that you’d be disappointed having been told one gender and popping out another but I still don’t get why people put 100% faith in what they are told….but that’s just me!

  • I think it’s totally OK to be disappointed. I was kind of a different story. After 9 years of infertility, when I finally fell pregnant, and knowing that this would probably be my one and only child, I seriously deep down wanted and dreamed of having a girl. But I convinced myself I was having a boy, even down to having boy names picked, but not names for a girl. I think it was my way of coping with an unkown outcome, and something I had no control over. And also setting myself up to NOT be disappointed. We did try to find out the sex along the way, but bubba was never in the right position…and ultrasound wasn’t so sophisticated back then. When my daughter was born, I was really quite surprised (and physcologically unprepared…LOL)

  • Hugzilla

    Having experienced the very real fear for years that I might never hold my own child I didn’t (and still don’t) really understand gender disappointment. I don’t judge people who feel it, but I don’t get it. A few of my family members had gender disappointment when I had boy #2 (WHAT THE FUCK IS WITH THAT!?) but I didn’t care what was between their legs. I have two little people to love when I feared I would have none. That’s a gift.

  • At the end of the day, like you said it’s going to be different for everyone. I think Lauren totally nails it in her comment below “it has nothing to do with not wanting the baby you’ve got and everything to do with not getting the baby you thought you were getting.”

  • I was just happy to have healthy babies we didn’t find out with the first one (a girl) but my husband was really keen for a boy so we found out for # 2, he doing all sorts of weird things to get a boy but we had a girl, it took him a while to come to terms with it because he was convinced that we were going to have a boy. He wouldn’t have it any other way now but it was all about expectations.

  • I was sure I was having boys both times and both times I had girls! I think it’s okay to be dissapointed- you’re mourning the child you imagined and possibilities that won’t eventuate.

  • We didn’t find out for no. 1 but I absolutely positively just knew it was a girl. And she was. For no. 2 we decided to find out, even though once again I absolutely positively knew it was another girl – so when the sonogram dude (yes dude!) said BOY I didn’t believe him. Even when he pointed out the very obvious PENIS on the screen, I was totally in denial. I’m 1 of 3 girls and just always imagined I’d be a mum of girls too. I wasn’t disappointed, it just had never crossed my mind that I might have a boy!!

  • We never found out the sex of any of our three so we were just happy when they were born healthy. I have never really heard of anyone admitting disappointment when they didn’t know beforehand, but I suspect it would be HUGE if you were anticipating one gender for six months only to have the opposite arrive!! That would feel like a kind of loss. x

  • I absolutely went through gender disappointment. With baby number three I actually got the sonographer to whisper the sex to my other two boys so they could tell me because I was worried I might slap her if she told me I was having another boy. I must admit when I found out we were having boy number three I cried a little – only because I knew he was our last and I had to say goodbye to the vision I had of having a little girl. I wouldnt swap him for anything in the world and I love him to bits but I would be lying if I said I wasnt disappointed for a while and I hated it when people got mad at me for admitting that xx

  • TeganMC

    I think gender disappointment is fine, as long as you don’t make those feelings known to your child. If someone does feel resentment towards a child because of their gender, then I do think that they need to speak to a counsellor about it. They may never outright tell the child that they wished they’d gotten a child of the opposite sex but I think if the feeling of resentment is strong enough, that it may come out subconsciously.