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