There's Nothing Wrong with Gender Disappointment

Christie Haskell
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I've always wanted to have a daughter. I just have. I wrote and illustrated little books about my future daughter as a little girl, and named her and my special anatomically-correct newborn doll "Rose." It never really occurred to me that I might have a boy -- but I did.

One thing I quickly realized while pregnant was that it wasn't considered politically-correct in a lot of circles to mention that you prefer one gender to another -- a lot of women, especially those who have experienced loss or fertility struggles, will often attack women, claiming they are selfish and need to just be grateful for having a baby at all.

Which frankly, isn't actually the point.

If you go through the polls on CafeMom about gender preferences, you'll discover that around half of women do have a preference. It's a really common thing. Some women want it more strongly than others, for various reasons.

Every single woman in the world wants her baby to be born healthy, and will be happy with that baby. That's rather a moot point in this discussion, though it is understandable for women who have struggled to feel that any baby is perfect and to be uniquely sensitive to just making sure that a baby, any baby, is just born healthy ... but sometimes women can be incredibly cruel to other women. I've read comments that call women with a gender preference "ungrateful bitches" and "just plain stupid." It's kind of amazing how heated it can get.

Wanting a certain gender is not wrong. It's not something women control -- you don't wake up one day and decide, "This baby needs to be a boy." Generally women have some psychological reason they prefer one gender over another, whether they realize or admit it or not. For example, some women prefer a boy because they grew up in a testosterone-heavy household and are much more comfortable with boys and men than women. Others want a girl because they've had a hard time relating to men growing up, and really aren't sure how to interact with them.

In discussions about gender disappointment, I remember distinctly having one woman lament that she really wished it didn't matter to her so much because it made pregnancy less enjoyable. Frankly, I can relate. I was sad and almost cried when I saw Rowan's obvious sign of being male on the ultrasound, but I got over it quickly. He was my first child, though, and knowing we would only have one more made it that much more important to me that that one was a girl. I just felt that I needed one, that I was supposed to have a daughter, and to this day, still can't quite explain why.

Of course anyone who has a baby is going to be happy and love them. The child is not loved less because they're not male or female. But what it can do is leave a hole, a wanting, leading to things like a mom of three boys adopting a girl because she feels the family isn't complete without that child.

People have lots of feelings they can't explain about their family -- some people feel that their families aren't complete unless they have five or six kids. Others feel fine with one or two, or even feel stronger that they absolutely don't want more after their first. Some people genuinely are happy with whatever happens and go with the flow ... and those people are frankly pretty lucky. Ask anyone who feels like something is missing -- whether it be that fifth child, that boy, those twins they always wanted -- will tell you they love their family just as much as anyone else, but just feel like there was something they were supposed to have as well.

It doesn't make them "stupid" or "ungrateful" or any of the things women get called. It just makes them human.

Do you have some ideal family picture in your head? Was there a certain number, gender or other combination of children you wanted?

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