It's 2019 and parents everywhere are diving headfirst into all of the gender reveal traditions. They're throwing parties and sending out announcements. Some are even getting early genetic testing so they have even more time to plan before the baby is born. Parents are under a lot of pressure to not only find out the biological sex of their unborn child, but to announce it to the whole world in a very public fashion. The only problem with this level of anticipation is that it can really backfire if you're not careful. We've all seen the videos of kids who got a baby sister when they wanted a baby brother. Those Tantrums might seem silly and even a little bit endearing coming from a child. But what about when we see a parent visibly disappointed learn the sex of their baby? Is that endearing? Gender disappointment is a real phenomenon, but experiencing it doesn’t mean you are a bad mom.
This is why you're not a bad mom you just like every other parent have built up a mental image visualization of what your future with your baby might look like. Come on people it's even in the slang terms we use around pregnancy; you're expecting a baby. Everyone has expectations for the new life about child. and we start building those expectations early! Pop culture tells us that pregnant women look a certain way and that women in labor behave a specific way. They also rarely show us examples of non-standard birds or children who have greater medical needs or developmental delays. So pop culture is working against us by setting us up to visualize our children before we even conceive them.
In addition to pop culture, we're also fighting against societal gender norms. We've been led to believe people who have penises act a certain way, and people who have vaginas act a certain way. What's the saying? "Boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails, girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice." Of course, our family and friends don't really help. Usually, they're telling us that a boy is going to make us go gray by being Daredevil and a climber, that a daughter will take care of us in our old age but a son won’t. It’s no surprise that we’ve been set up to have very specific expectations around gender and biological sex.
There's a cruel trick that no one tells you about until you're already pregnant. No matter how hard you try or how perfect you are as a pregnant person you cannot control the outcomes of basically anything that has to do with your kids. You can't control your labor, you can't control if they have health issues, you can't control who they date. So your kid not complying with your wishes for their gender - well that's just your kid preparing you for a life of not abiding by your wishes. It might seem like common sense, to expect the unexpected, but when your expectations and reality don't match can be shocking. You might feel any number of emotions. You might be disappointed this baby isn't what you would hoped it would be; you might also be disappointed in yourself for being disappointed. Welcome to motherhood.
There's a phrase in film I love to reference. When a director has a movie that she has poured herself into, it can be hard to edit. Sometimes, a movie is better when you remove certain parts, even if those parts are the director's favorite. It's called "killing your darlings". The best directors aren't afraid to kill their darlings. Embracing your child as they are and letting go of the expectations you had can be difficult - but it’s worth it! Focus on the bigger picture; on your blessings. Look at this as an opportunity to plan a new future for your family. Dr. Louann Brizendine, author of The Female Brain, calls this creation of a new vision for the family "active reframing".
“When a mom finds out she’s having the opposite gender desired, she starts telling herself little stories about why this gender is going to be a good thing. Like how, if they’re having a boy and they wanted a girl, they get to avoid the dreaded teenage years. It’s called active reframing and it starts immediately. If there is any real disappointment, it often barely rises to the surface and the woman doesn’t even realize it’s there."
I'm not telling you this because I think it's wrong to have gender disappointment. On the contrary, it’s quite typical! I only offer this perspective in the hopes that it will help you process the news and embrace your new reality. Your feelings are totally valid! Luckily, they don’t have to dictate your actions. That son you’re carrying doesn’t even need to know that you had once wished he were your daughter. It’s okay to feel disappointed - so long as it doesn't translate into your parenting.
I've talked to so many mothers who have experienced gender disappointment. Some found out at birth, others asked for genetic testing because they were so eager. I really only noticed one common thread between these mothers: they all loved their children. They loved their children so deeply, they had been dreaming about meeting them sometimes before they were even conceived. In my eyes, that loving vision for the future of your family that is what makes you a good mother. Even when reality doesn't match up.