Gender disappointment

I would love to have a son. In fact, I was convinced both of my daughters were boys before they were born. I spent many nights looking at the ultrasounds and claiming the umbilical cord or a shadow was in fact evidence I was having a boy.

I was wrong. And I’m so glad I was. My two daughters are exactly right for me, for each other and for our family. I just didn’t know it then.

So I wasn’t exactly jumping out of the ultrasound chair with excitement when Baby No. 2 was pronounced a girl. I just KNEW she was a boy. I was thrilled she was healthy, but I did have a momentary feeling of loss. It was not disappointment but more like I had to put one vision of my life aside before I could start a new one.

I replaced visions of argyle sweater vests and blue nursery walls with dresses and dolls.

I’m not alone, according to an article on TODAY. Many moms go through a period of “active reframing” when they find out their baby is a gender they weren’t expecting. For most moms, any “gender disappointment” goes away once the baby is born.

I can’t imagine life without my daughters. I am also grateful that I had no idea what I was talking about during those late-night ultrasound searches. But I also think there is no shame in wanting a boy or a girl and allowing yourself to mourn the loss of one dream while celebrating the start of a new one.

I still would love to have a son one day. And because of pregnancy-related heart failure, I am once again re-envisioning my family. More than ever I am realizing that it doesn’t matter what I think I want — boy, girl, biological, adopted, black or white — because in the end, all those visions will be replaced by the family I was always meant to have.

How did you react when you found out your baby’s gender?


  1. Momof7

    We waited until birth to find out the sex of the the first six. Because of that, I didn’t really worry too much about whether they were boys or girls. They started a pattern girl, boy, boy, girl, boy, boy so when we were surprised by pregnancy number 7, my husband decided we’d had enough surprises and we found out during the ultrasound. I was sure it was a girl. That was the pattern. I was wrong. It actually surprised me that I was a little disappointed. It didn’t take long to get over this new type of surprise.

  2. Danny Chipman

    My family just doesn’t make boys, so I grew up without brothers. Girls are all I know. I have two, and one more on the way (so the curse continues, lol). And I’m pretty happy about it. I thought for sure, since this pregnancy was so much more different and worse than the other two, that I might be having a boy. I made sure to find out early in case I had to stock up on “boy stuff”.

    I don’t think I was disappointed, necessarily, to find out #3 was a girl. Just sort of surprised. Like, “Oh, okay! Back to business as usual!” I think Grandpa took it hardest. He’s been wanting a boy for so long (there’s even a cash prize out for whichever of us girls has the first boy), but he adores his granddaughters.

    Personally, I think girls are way more fun to play with and dress up. I wouldn’t know what to do with a boy if I had one!

  3. John Charity Spring

    When Mrs Spring was pregnant with our first, she was absolutely convinced that the baby was a boy. She told everyone that it was a boy, and we received only boy-type gifts as a result. However, the baby was a beautiful girl. A beautiful baby girl who brought her parents decades of joy and happiness. There could be no disappointment over this wonderful child.

    Incidentally, it is worth noting that Mom of 7 is correct in her use of the terms “sex” and “gender”. Whether a baby is a boy or a girl is its “sex”, which is a physical characteristic. “Gender” is a role that is associated with the physical characteristic of “sex”, but it is not a physical characteristic itself. The incorrect use of “gender” is a common mistake, brought on by misguided notions of political correctness.

  4. Lagomorph

    I find myself in rare agreement with JC Spring. “Sex” and “gender” are commonly misused. “Sex” is a matter of X and Y chromosomes and anatomy. Gender is entirely a social construct, which Ms. Stewart exemplifies beautifully with, “visions of argyle sweater vests and blue nursery walls with dresses and dolls.” None of these is intrinsicly male or female; they are malleable attributes that our society assigns to the sexes. They are cultural. You can find counterexamples in other societies, cultures, or times where boys wore dresses and played with dolls, for example. Mr. Spring attributes the confusion in usage to political correctness. I would charitably suggest it is more a squeamishness on the part of some writers to avoid the word “sex” at all costs, even when appropriately called for, and find refuge in an innacurate euphemism.

    As for the topic of the column itself, play the hand that you are dealt. Don’t be disappointed that you have a queen when you wanted a jack (unless you’re playing euchre). It seems unfair to project onto a baby the burden of a parent’s expectations.

  5. Lagomorph

    One last thing… Notwithstanding the sex/gender discussion above, the author’s use of “gender disappointment” in the title and again in the article is appropriate. The emotional response described is not about the actual sex of the baby, but about the expectant mother’s preconceptions and expectations (no puns intended) about indulging in fashioning the baby’s gender according to her cultural norms.

    • Lagomorph

      Okay, I wasn’t done after all. I think it is fine to challenge the gender assumptions of society. What’s wrong with raising a girl in a blue nursery or dressing her in argyle? What’s wrong with a boy wearing a dress or liking Hello Kitty? Gender stereotyping is powerful in our culture today. It has been 50 years since The Feminine Mystique was published, and women have made great strides, but step into any toy store and you can tell from fifty feet away which aisle has the “girl” toys (pink- frills and Disney princesses) and which has the “boy” toys (green, brown- military and Star Wars). Gender signalling in marketing and media is pervasive from infancy. Fight back and do some “active reframing” of your own on the gender front. If your daughter climbs trees, embrace it. If your son makes mud pies, enjoy. Be aware that straying from cultural norms is not without its ramifications (society will always try to reel in the free spirits), but it has its rewards as well. Don’t be afraid to leave the comfortable center and stretch the envelope. Create the new norms. Don’t send that pink blanket from the baby shower to DI just because you had a son. Go ahead and keep it.

      • Momof7

        I’m not sure what is wrong with girls wearing pink, boys playing with cars, etc. I dare say that most kids are drawn to ‘gender specific’ toys that relate to their own sex. My oldest is a girl. She loved dolls. She liked cars too but she loved dolls. My youngest is a boy. He had both so called boy and girl toys available to play with. He chose cars. He is rarely without a car, plane or train in his hand (even sleeping). I didn’t care when my boys played with dolls but they really didn’t want to. Why do you think Disney princesses are so popular with girls? It’s because girls like them. Same with boys and guns.

  6. Julie Vanwey

    So I was so certain that my first would be agirl.I had grown up believing this. However from the moment I found out I was pregnant I just new it was a sweet baby boy. About a month before the ultrasound I was talked into thinking it might be a girl again. I can’t say I was really disappointed when we found out it was a boy. He is the light of my life. I was so scared at first thinking I know nothing about boys but now I dont think I would know what to do with a girl. He is fun, sweet, naughty, loving, and funny. I couldnt have asked for a better child.

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