Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood
Let me tell you a story. I had already picked out outfits for her first Christ- mas, beach day, and birthday in my head. We had made a long list of girl names, and no boy names because we didn’t have to — we were sure we were having a girl. But no. At the twenty-week ultrasound the tech smiled and pointed, “Oh look, there’s his little turtle head!” No joke. There was a turtlehead inside of me. I bit down on the inside of my cheek, but the tears still came. Eric was shocked. I immediately felt detached from my baby. I had been connecting to the idea of a girl. I had been thinking about how I would parent a girl. I had been wanting a girl.
Eric had to go to work, so I was left alone to sob in bed. To mourn the baby girl I wasn’t having. Waves of disbelief washed over me. And then it happened. The guilt struck. I still had a healthy baby inside me. A sweet little boy whose parents were devastated he was not a she. I started crying again, apologizing over and over again to my boy.
When the tears stopped and rational thinking returned, I realized the sex of my child wouldn’t change the way I connect to them. It wouldn’t change the way I parent them. It wouldn’t change the fact that I was going to put them in ridiculous outfits. And heck, I didn’t know how I would connect with or parent them, regardless of their sex, because I hadn’t met them. I didn’t even know what the baby’s gender would actually be. If it had been a girl, maybe she would have identified as a boy, or as neither. Same for my boy. I just didn’t know. The only thing I did know was that I would love them completely. Whatever the sex, whatever the gender, whatever the personality, they were my child and I was beyond blessed they had chosen me.
But even after my realizations, it took a few days before we were ready to share the news. I didn’t want there to be even a tinge of disappointment in our voices when we said, “We’re having a boy!” (We practiced saying it at the same time but could never get in sync.)
So I feel you, mama. It throws us for a loop when we find out we’re having a baby who doesn’t have the sex we’d hoped for. And I don’t buy it when people say, “I don’t care what the sex is, I just want a healthy baby.” I believe every person expecting a baby has a sex they’re rooting for, even if it’s just a tiny bit and at a subconscious level. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe you have two boys and desperately want a girl. Or maybe you grew up in a household of only women and want the experience of raising a boy. Whatever your reasoning, it’s totally understandable. You get to wish for a certain sex. And when it doesn’t come true, you get to mourn. You get to freak out. You get to wish the ultrasound tech got it wrong. And then you get to move past the regret and find peace.
What to do
Be upset. Get to a private place and cry. Or scream, “What the [bleep]!” Don’t hold back; let your honest emotions and thoughts flow. Write a letter about how friggin’ upset you are and rip it up. Then, begin stepping toward acceptance, and even joy, by trying the following:
- Remember that you’re growing a unique human. As I mentioned before, no mother has any idea who her baby will be, or what gender they’ll identify as. Even if the sex had been the one you hoped for, your baby probably wouldn’t have perfectly fit into the visions you had of raising a boy or girl. Begin connecting to baby as the wholly unique person they’ll be- come by listening to the meditation at this link: yourserenelife.word- press.com/babys-gender/.
- Explore the reasons you wanted a certain sex. As you envisioned your life with a boy or girl pre-ultrasound, you likely had fantasies of going on certain outings with your girl or boy, maybe guiding them through milestones or connecting over a shared love of literature, pop culture, or whatever your thing is. Write it all down. Then look over those dreams with a new lens — a lens that will help you realize that just because you’re having a child that isn’t the sex you had hoped for, doesn’t mean you can’t do the same things with them. The only exceptions I can think of are teaching a boy to not get urine everywhere and to put the seat down, and guiding a girl through her first menstrual cycles. Beyond that, there’s really no bonding experience you can have only with a boy, or a girl.
- Write a letter to the baby. If guilt over your disappointment hits, write a letter to your baby explaining how much you love them. Gush over how excited you are. Do whatever you need to do to fill your womb with love as you explore your feelings on the page.
Know that your disappointment will fade, but it may take a while. For many, the disappointment after That Ultrasound will dissolve in a few days, after you get used to your new reality. However, some mothers may feel lingering regret until they deliver their baby. But when you’re finally holding your baby in your arms, you’ll be shocked you ever wanted anyone who wasn’t that exact child.