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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to comment without giving your name.