Gender disappointment: when you have same sex children
I hadn’t realised that gender disappointment or gender preferences existed until I announced I was pregnant with Léna, our eldest. Almost immediately people asked me whether we wanted a boy or a girl. This question about our unborn baby’s gender really shocked me. We don’t live in a country, age or society where one gender is more important than the other, so why the big deal?
Ben and I really weren’t bothered about the sex of our first child – after having a previous miscarriage I was just hoping for a healthy child. End of.
Fast forward 6 years and it was time for parenting round 2 as we announced that I was pregnant again.
But the comments this time were even intense. “Are you hoping for a boy this time?” and “I bet Ben would really like this one to be a son.”
Er, no, we’re good, thanks. Again, we were hoping for a healthy baby; its gender was irrelevant.
We didn’t want to know the sex of either of our babies beforehand and it was so exciting having that surprise to keep me going through labour each time 🙂
Whilst I was pregnant with Clémence, our youngest, Ben and I talked about whether we would have a third or not, and I asked him, “if it’s another girl would you want to try for a boy?” It didn’t bother me but everyone talks about dads wanting sons. But as far as he was concerned gender was just not an issue.
Maybe it’s because Léna was such a mix of both sexes, at that time she would spend all her time tree-climbing (well anything-climbing really) but in pink princess dresses, so we didn’t feel like we were missing a boy in our family. (The only thing that has changed now is that she has left the princess dresses behind!)
Towards the end of my pregnancy with Clémence everyone was convinced, me included, that I was carrying a boy so it was a bit of a surprise when the midwife announced that we had a healthy baby girl.
I do remember in my post-labour craziness saying to Ben, “I hope you don’t want a son because I’m not doing that again!” But there was no gender disappointment on either side.
I hadn’t been out of the hospital for 5 minutes before the gender questions started again, “are you going to try again, for a boy this time?”, and “is Ben disappointed its not a boy?”. However the hardest to hear was “oh what a shame it’s another girl in the end,” as if Clémence didn’t count for anything as she was “just” a second daughter.
As the third daughter myself (before 2 boys) I’m delighted that my parents never made me feel like some kind of a stop-gap before the boys came along. I can’t imagine how it must feel growing up knowing you caused your parents gender disappointment, but at a guess I’d say that it is something that must shape you for the rest of your life.
I’m shocked by how prevalent gender disappointment and gender preference is. I have friends with 2 or more girls, and others with 2 or more boys (and no child of the other sex) and I have heard mutual friends say things like “it’s such a shame she had another girl/boy this time, I’m not sure they’d want to take the risk of having another one, could you imagine if they got another girl/boy?!?”
Now it’s one thing other people saying this about your kids, as people will always gossip and talk, but I’ve got mum friends who have openly expressed their gender disappointment to me. One friend who has 3 boys said to me “if I could be guaranteed a daughter I’d get pregnant again in a shot, but there’s no way I’m taking the risk of having another one of them!” as she gestured to her sons playing nearby.
Another mum friend of all boys said to me, after we’d brought our second daughter home, “you’re so lucky having two girls, what I wouldn’t give for that!”.
A couple of years ago I was wondering whether my mind was 100% made up about having no more children, and I remember whenever I mentioned it absolutely everyone said to me “is it because you want to try for a boy this time?”
I do find this very sad. I would hate my girls to grow up thinking they were not wanted or loved. We love them whoever or whatever they are.
I’d love to hear from you on this sensitive subject – were you “the wrong gender” and how has it affected you as you’ve gone through life? Do you suffer from gender disappointment as you are a parent to just boys / just girls? Or maybe you have only same sex children and people have made similar comments to you that I had. Do share below to help other readers with something that can be very hard to deal with. Don’t hesitate to put your name as anonymous and email@example.com if you’d like to comment without giving your name.
It might be because I have a son… I don’t know… but I’ve never had to face any comments about gender while being pregnant or at birth. I do think that society is biased towards boys somehow and more often than not the comments are geared with disappointment of having girls.
Personally, when I got pregnant, I wanted a girl, clear and loud in my mind. Thinking back I think it was mainly because girls was known territory to me (I have one sister & plenty of girl cousins. Grew up around girls mainly) Boys were a complete mystery to me!
However the minute the doctor told me it was a boy, very early in my pregnancy, it sat well with me. I never felt any disappointment then and haven’t since. I think mother’s (and dad’s) hearts are huge this way that they can – they don’t always but they have the capacity to – adapt to their children no matter what!
I wonder if it’s a society thing then, and that in Mauritius there is not such an issue? I do agree though that often it’s girls who are a “disappointment”. Thanks for sharing your experience here 🙂
We had the same, specially second time round. Lots of hassle, mainly from relatives “this one must be a boy, you’ve got a girl already” (like we can control the sex of a baby we conceive) and they don’t get why we want 3 because “you’ve got your boy & girl, why have another?” (Because we want a 3rd child, sex of said child is irrelevant!)
It’s very silly and annoying.
I have so many friends who have one boy and one girl and decided to have a third, only to be told by many “why bother, you’ve already got one of each?” like that is the aim for all of us! Crazy!
I have 2 girls and I can say that you are very right about the comments. However, I am very different to you in the way that I really really really wanted girls. I remember for my first child how relieved I was at the gender scan when the midwife announced it was a girl. I can’t explain why I had this burning desire for a girl. It is sad but I genuinely think that I would have had some sort of depression if it had been a boy. But don’t assume that I would not have loved him as much. It’s more that I would have had to grieve for something i really wanted but never got. You might think this is insane and with time I think you’re right but it was one of those feelings I couldn’t shake out. For my second child, I also wanted a girl but the feeling was not so strong, perhaps because I knew I would not have had to “grieve” for a girl since I already had one. Having said that, I was really happy when it was confirmed at the scan that it was another girl. We even went for a private 3D scan to confirm the gender. If it was a boy, I just needed to know so I could get ready, but this time I knew I would have coped psychologically much better. I couldn’t understand friends and family looking at me sadly as if saying “oh never mind it’s not a boy” (and some actually said it out loud). In this way I agree with the previous comment that our society is more turned towards boys.
I have never hidden my feelings to friends and family. It’s just something I could not control and for this reason I don’t feel I should be shamed for it. I do not know what the underlying reasons are but I know the feeling can be there in people (as strong as the urge of wanting a baby). If I get judged for it then be it. If I had boys I know I would have had to grieve for a girl but I also know that I would have loved my boys as much as I love my girls. There’s no question about that. And no way would I had make them feel they were not wanted. My grief would have been personal and something I would have had to work on myself and not take onto others.
Wow! I can’t imagine having this burning desire for one or the other – I wonder where it comes from. I’m so glad that you got your girls in that case, how awful it would have been otherwise!
We didn’t find out the sex of our first but we did with our second and when we found out we were having another girl, I actually asked my husband if he was OK with that! He looked at me as if I was daft! He said it didn’t matter as long as it’s healthy and, given the close relationship he already had with our first, gender just didn’t matter.
We don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything by not having boys and we both have a wonderful relationship with both our girls (I’m not saying it’s perfect all the time as that just doesn’t exist !)
I have friends with 2 or more boys and they seem to get more comments about not having girls, maybe because people tend to think women are “missing out” not having a girl! I don’t think I’ve ever had comments about how it’s “a shame” about having 2 girls but I have been asked in the past if we will try for a boy next! The answer was always and still is “NO”. We always wanted 2 children and we are already lucky enough to have them and, more importantly, their health.
It’s funny as people often say to me “mummy’s boy / daddy’s girl” and ask me where I fit in here with our two girls. But as I explain – they are daddy’s girls or mummy’s girls depending on who told them off last, or what they’re trying to get out of us 😉 Funny that you heard more comments about not having girls, I wonder if that’s cultural – I heard more about people wanting girls in France than in the UK, which was more boy orientated…
Gosh so saddening that people put so much value on gender. I adore having sons, don’t feel I’m missing out and like you, simply wanted children. X
It is very sad, but I think for some people one gender or the other is a big deal x
I do think this is a very emotive topic and I’m actually saddened that people are judgemental of others being honest about how they feel about having boys and girls. If you’ve always dreamed of having girls and you get only boys there will always feel something is missing. As much as you love your children, often the bonds attached to gender are there and you do miss out on this if you have one without the other. I didn’t personally experience this but after IVF I was thankful for a baby. My 1st was a girl too – so any deep harbouring of wishes didn’t need to be expressed. I fear I would have wanted a girl if I’d dared to dream. A boy as my 2nd too. I just think we need to be open minded about people’s visions of parenthood and not judge too harshly on their dreams.
I understand that people have their own hopes and dreams for their children, but what hurts is when they project that onto others with their comments – just because one person desperately wants sons doesn’t mean that their friend who only has daughters is disappointed, so there is no need to make a comment on that subject. Equally if you are upset because you don’t have the gender you wanted, stating that in front of your child could be incredibly damaging to that child – I would have been hurt to the core if I’d ever heard my parents say things like “well at least we got our boys after 3 attempts” or anything like that. I don’t want to judge people on their dreams – just when and how they express them (i.e. not in front of their children of the other gender).
I don’t know how much it has to do with your own circumstances? My sister and I were/are very close and I wanted my kids to have that. So I thought I wanted two of the same and didn’t care which sex! Of course I ended up with one of each and have watched them develop a different close relationship, but one of which I had no experience of. And I loved my second child totally as soon as she was born and there was no disapointment!
Maybe. As I mentioned I have two brothers and two sisters, and I am close to all of them in different ways, and growing up I was close to each of them differently and at different times. To the extent that until I was about 20 or more I wanted 4 kids as I wanted to replicate the big, fun family I grew up in! I think gender never came into it for me as we were all treated the same way, and played with toys we were interested in, as against gender-specific toys, so it never crossed my mind that different sex children couldn’t be close / play together. I’m so glad you had no disappointment with your second child, even if it wasn’t what you were hoping for 🙂
There was an incredibly sad programme on channel 4 a few years ago about families in the UK who were desperate for a girl after having 2-3 or more boys. The women chosen in the programme were rather well off and a few tried some latest techniques to get the gender they wanted. One woman cried after finding out she was having yet another boy. She could be seen walking in the toy aisle of a shop with one of her boys complaining how she would have loved to buy pink frilly things. The one thing that struck me was how miserable they made family life for everyone as you could see the sad faces of their sons. One woman almost exclusively spent her time with the daughters she so desperately wanted, not hiding the fact that she clearly favours them over her sons. I don’t know if some of it is due to the new type of relationship (a lot of) parents have with their children nowadays which consists of being essentially “friends” with them as opposed to educators. The women were saying how they wanted to have a shopping buddy and someone they could talk to and relate with. It’s a type of “infantilisation” as the French would say of society where one moans if he/she doesn’t get what they want. I’m sure in other cases the issue is much deeper and possibly cultural as well but as you rightly said the children should not suffer the consequences and the parent concerned should undergo a therapy to sort out the underlying issue and work on it.
Wow! That’s just so sad. I would have been devastated if my parents had shown favour to my brothers over me. I can understand that some people (both women and men) desperately want one gender more than the other, but I think if this is going to affect your relationship with your child/children then you should probably go and talk to someone about it, so it doesn’t affect that child/those children.
I recently found out we are having another girl. Both my husband and I are very happy. But my mother told me she was disappointed, I am really at loss here. I’m feel very very sad to have my own mom tell me this..
That’s such a hard thing to go through. I really hope your mum comes to terms with this by the time your little girl arrives, but if she doesn’t, remember it is her issue not yours, and try not to let any negativity become clear to your daughters, either/any of them. Also as a mum to two girls I can tell you it’s great 🙂 Sending you big hugs, Sophie xx