Before I begin, I want to clarify the title of this piece. Search engine optimization and Facebook standards make it impossible for me to include the word “sex” in my chosen title. This rankles me - how are we supposed to have an educated discussion about the difference between sex and gender if we can’t signal the content of the article at hand? I know, I know - gender is a social construct and sex is a biological component of being human. Please keep that in mind before flaming me for not understanding the difference. My hands truly are tied here, and I’m as annoyed as you are. All that being said, let’s go!
You might remember a few weeks back, I wrote about the reasons why people either chose to find out the sex of their baby or chose not to. One of the most interesting things about that discussion was realizing that some people would cite the exact same reason for making the opposite choice of one another!
Some people find it really important to know biological sex of their baby before the baby is born. I'll admit, the thought of someone being disappointed is hard for me personally to wrap my head around. I think part of what gives me pause is knowing that our society is built on a cultural understanding of human beings that don't that doesn't assign equal value to men and women. So when I hear that someone has experienced gender disappointment, I feel bad for them. Not because they aren't getting the their preferred sex in their unborn child. But because they must be torn apart by the dissonance between wanting and loving your unborn child - but not wanting them to be who they are.
While this is not a struggle that I have dealt with first-hand, I can have compassion for someone who does experience sex (or gender) disappointment. To that end, I looked into some of the most accessible ways to process and move beyond your gender disappointment.
First, and this might seem like I'm being facetious: don't find out. It is a lot harder to look your new beautiful baby in the face and be disappointed with them! Perhaps allowing yourself to be surprised might give you something to look forward to, or take away some of the significance that your baby's biological sex carries for you. Of course we can't go back in time, so if you already know the sex of your baby, maybe some of the next tips might be a little bit more helpful!
Seconds, share your frustration with the people closest to you first. Ask them to keep an open mind and help you find ways to reframe this conversation. I'm a firm believer in sharing your story as a form of healing, but if you're already beating yourself up - please don't invite spectators to the fight! Figure out how to deal with your own feelings first before you start inviting criticism from people who either don't - or can't - understand where you're coming from.
Third, seek out people who have experienced the same type of disappointment and ask them how they felt after their baby was born. I don't suggest this because I think that every single person is going to reassure you that they were misguided, or that they don't still feel a bit of disappointment. Instead. I'm hoping that their honesty helps you realize that this is just a feeling. It doesn't have to dictate your behavior and you're not a bad person for feeling the way that you do. Above all, you most certainly are not alone.
Finally, and this is my favorite tip - sit down and make a list list of all of the things you were looking forward to if your baby had been your preferred gender. Now look at that list and ask yourself: is there anything from this list that my baby can't do because they have genitals that I didn't expect? With rare exception, I bet they can do everything on that list! You could also approach it from the other direction; make a list of all of the exciting and wonderful new potential that you can nurture now that you know the sex of your unborn baby. Maybe you weren't looking forward to raising a teenage daughter (and I can't say I blame you), but perhaps you can allow yourself to be excited for the thought that you might be raising our first female president. Or, even better, the woman who cures cancer.
Have you experienced gender disappointment? How did you cope? Were you still disappointed after meeting your new baby? Give me the T on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3.