Dealing with disappointment about your baby’s gender

Feeling disappointed about the sex of your baby is common and it is nothing to feel ashamed about.

Reasons for feeling disappointed

You may feel disappointed upon learning of the sex of your baby for various reasons.  These may include internally longing to have a boy or a girl, having several other children already of the same sex, feeling concerned that you won’t be able to personally relate to a particular sex and/or experiencing pressure from family fulfil their wishes to need for either a boy or a girl.

I was devastated when I found out I was having another boy.  I had always desperately wanted to have a baby girl as I had two boys already.  We hoped so much for a girl this time round.  On finding out we were having a boy, I cried and cried.

It is common to experience feelings of fear at the time of finding out the sex of your baby, as well as feelings of grief, sadness and disappointment if your hopes are not fulfilled on discovering the sex of your baby.

After days of crying, and hoping, desperately hoping, that maybe they had made a mistake… I soon began to accept we were having another boy.

Even when we first got the test results back, we were gutted.

I went home and went to bed and cried for hours.  You feel horrible because you want to be excited, but part of you is SO disappointed.

Managing feelings of gender disappointment

It is important to acknowledge your feelings, reflect upon what the causes of this disappointment may be for you and allow yourself to be experience these natural feelings of grief and disappointment.  Try not to make things worse by being harsh on yourself for feeling the way you do.

It does not mean that you will not love, or be able to love, your baby.  In fact, often these feeling disappear after the baby is born as your mothering instincts kick in.  Your experience with your baby once they are born also can lead parents to come to the realisation that their perceptions of what it would be like having a baby of this sex may not reflect reality and/or you have simply come to accept the gender of your baby.

Remember: Acceptance often involves experiencing grief and disappointment. This is natural and understandable – even if not commonly spoken about.

Sex disappointment and sexual abuse

Women who may have experienced abuse as a child can feel anxiety upon learning that they are having a boy – particularly if the abuser was a male.  Often these feelings only last during pregnancy and subside once the baby is born and the mother realises the innocence and fragility of a newborn baby.

Alternatively, an expectant mother may equally feel anxious about having a girl, for fear of not being able to protect them from a potential abuser.  These feelings may emerge, not so much in pregnancy (when the fetes is protected in the womb), but rather when the child is born and/or in infancy.  Again, the innocence and fragility of a new baby can compound these feelings of the child’s need for protection, causing anxiety about the mother’s ability to provide this.

It is for this reason women are commonly asked about factors known to increase their risk of developing mental health issues and assesses if they are currently experiencing common symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.  This usually includes asking about their previous experiences of abuse so that such issues can be identified and help sought to resolve them.

Getting help and support

Acceptance of your baby’s gender and overcoming the feelings of grief and disappointment usually pass with time and understanding.  Talking with someone you trust and feel will not be judgemental can also help you to gain support and understanding.

If, however, you are finding that you are not coping with these feelings and they are impacting on your feelings towards the baby or your outlook, talking to a health professional can certainly help.

You can find help for gender disappointment on the e-COPE Directory.