How To Deal With Gender Disappointment: I Wanted a Girl But Am Having a Boy
People often have a specific idea of what parenthood will look like for them. Perhaps you've imagined they'll have all boys, or one baby boy and one baby girl. Maybe they've hoped for twins for as long as they can remember. Some couples will try to follow old-wives tale practices to conceive a certain gender baby such as eating lots of vegetables and fish to get pregnant with a girl or only having sex on certain days of the month. However, none of these things are proven to influence a baby's gender.
Some couples may also turn to more scientific methods like IVF to improve their odds of having a girl or boy. However, IVF treatments are often very costly and not an option for every family. So, if you do find out that your baby isn't the sex you hoped for, how can you move past these feelings of sadness or disappointment?
Gender disappointment is a normal reaction if your dreams don't match reality. But once your healthy baby is born, you will love them, whether you have a little boy or a little girl.
Boys 4 — Girls 0
Growing up, Laura always figured she’d be a mother to a little girl and a little boy. So much so, that it never even occurred to her that she could end up with either all sons or all daughters.
Having grown up in small, tight-knit families, Laura and her husband knew they wanted four kids. They started off with twin boys, so, naturally, hoped their third would be a baby girl. However, number three also turned out to be a baby boy.
“When he arrived, it was at that juncture we were really hoping the final child would be a girl to balance all that testosterone and because we both wanted a daughter just to have the experience of that,” Laura said.
Laura and her husband hadn’t given up hope. The last child, they figured, would definitely be a girl. But contrary to their expectations, their fourth born, too, was a baby boy.
“When I knew that our fourth and final child was a little boy, I felt crushed, but I want to be crystal clear that this had nothing to do with not wanting my son. I love having sons, it was just knowing we’d never have a daughter that was painful,” Laura said.
Now, Laura couldn’t be more grateful for her sons. Sure, a small piece of her may always want to know what it would have been like to raise a daughter who perhaps could have been her best friend, too, but the mother-son bond has proven to be nothing short of wonderful.
“I assumed they’d be all about dad, but, no, they share a lot with me,” Laura said. “They like to sit, chat, and hang out. We’re extremely close, and that makes me feel good.”
Laura's gender disappointment was not surprising, but it didn't keep her from loving her new baby boy as much as her other sons.
Gender Disappointment is Not Unusual
Linnea Mayrides, a licensed clinical psychologist based in Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY, works with a lot of pregnant women and new parents who are sad or regretful about not having a little boy and a little girl as they had dreamed of for their family.
"Often people find that they had been fantasizing about being a parent to a little girl, or being a parent to a little boy," Mayrides said, "and because our culture operates on a lot of gender stereotypes as shortcuts, it can feel destabilizing and difficult to change your mindset when you now have to incorporate this other factor that, perhaps subconsciously, you were giving so much weight."
If you've always wanted a baby girl but you're having a baby boy, it's natural for pregnant women and their partners to feel some sadness or disappointment about your baby's gender. You can't always control your feelings and emotions. This can be especially true of pregnant women, who have hormone fluctuations, sometimes don't feel well, and can be overwhelmed by what's ahead. Don't get upset about your feelings, because they'll go away as soon as your little one is born.
Even celebrities are guilty of gender disappointment.
"I would really like to have another baby, a baby girl," boy-mom Britney Spears told InStyle in 2013. "I think she would be like a mini-me. I think it's going to be crazy. I'm not going to feel as alone in the world anymore. I'm going to feel like I have a second person, like, that's me."
"I thought I was going to have a baby girl," Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi told InTouch during her first pregnancy. "I was hoping it would be because all girls want girls." She's now the mother of both a boy and a girl.
"I found out I was having a baby boy, and I cried for a week. Or two. Maybe even three," Rachel Zoe admitted on an infamous episode of her reality show.
If you asked each of these women how they feel about their children, it would never occur to them to say "I wish my son was a girl" or "I wish my daughter was a boy." Gender disappointment doesn't mean feeling disappointed in the boy or girl you are raising. You may always wish for a little boy or little girl, whether it's your first pregnancy or your fifth.
More: Gender Differences
Consider Why You Wanted Either a Girl or a Boy
What are your reasons for wanting either a baby boy or a baby girl?
Perhaps you're concerned about being a boy mom if you only had sisters growing up. Or maybe you are concerned if you have a girl, you'll have the same complicated mother-daughter dynamic you had growing up. Whatever your concern is about the sex of your baby, you'll have to let it go if you're expecting what you hadn't hoped for. It's particularly important for moms to manage their gender disappointment before the baby is born in case they experience any postpartum depression that could make the situation worse.
According to Mayrides, new parents should think about why they are so focused on raising a son or a daughter in the first place and identify the specific reasons they have such strong feelings about the gender of their baby when having a healthy baby should be the biggest hope of all. A little introspection and open-mindedness can make a big difference in how parents interact with their little ones.
Take a look at gender stereotypes that may be influencing your feelings and try to understand them better. Even if you've already picked out the most adorable baby girl names or your husband dreamed of naming your first child after his beloved grandfather, doesn't mean your dreams are dashed.
Today, more new parents are choosing unique unisex names for their children and defying traditional gender roles in their parenting styles.
There is no limit to what little boys and little girls can do anymore. You can take your son to cooking classes and learn to make a meal together, or you can take your little girl to a football or baseball game where she can enjoy a hot dog and soda and cheer on the home team. Gender stereotypes should never limit what you and your child do together.
Focus On Moving Past Your Disappointment
Feeling disappointed in your baby's gender is not uncommon, but how you cope with your feelings of regret about having a little boy or little girl is the key to moving past these feelings and enjoying being a parent, no matter what the baby's sex is. By the time your child is a healthy and happy 2-year-old, your gender disappointment will be long forgotten. The sooner you understand that loving your child will have nothing to do with their gender, the better off your mental health and feelings of missing out will be and the more time you'll have to enjoy your baby boy or baby girl.
Many parents find out what they're having at a doctor's visit, often during a 20-week ultrasound or sometimes sooner, so you have time to accept the wonderful, if less-than-ideal, news about their little one before their arrival. You will overcome your gender disappointment when you begin to picture your little one in your arms, taking their first wobbly steps, and hearing them say "Mama" or "Dada" as they give you a big hug.
Once you realize that you will love your child even if it's not the baby boy or baby girl you hoped for, your excitement will start to grow and you'll start to become the eager, excited parents-in-waiting you always thought you'd be. To prepare for your baby's arrival, you can start shopping for baby clothes, picking out baby names, and start planning a gender reveal party to share your wonderful news! Once you see the delight on everyone's faces when they learn if you have a little boy or little girl arriving soon, your gender disappointment will start to go away.
- Kubala, Jillian. What’s the Right Diet to Conceive a Girl? 2020.
- drlinneamavrides.com. Linnea Mavrides, Psy.D. 2023.
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