Preconceived Notions of Gender
Preconceived notions about males and females can exacerbate disappointment over having a child of a particular sex. These ideas can come from a variety of sources, including one's family, personal experience, and stereotypical depictions of men and women in the media.
For Gail, having a son meant being forgotten on Mother's Day and cut off from grandchildren by some future daughter-in-law. For Celia, it meant being excluded from her son's life due to her lack of interest in sports. And for me? Let's just say that the steady stream of male serial killers and emotionally crippled corporate go-getters in the media have done little to quell my fears about my son's future.
How to Avoid Disappointment
Considering the innumerable societal, familial, and personal issues surrounding children, it is no wonder many women suffer varying degrees of sadness, isolation, and depression over the sex of their baby.
So what can women do to avoid, or at least ameliorate, these feelings?
Dr. Ruth Wilf, CNM, PhD, a certified nurse midwife at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, suggests that expectant parents reconsider finding out a baby's sex through an ultrasound or amniocentesis.
"I think one of the problems is that it puts too much stress on gender," Dr. Wilf says. "You get told this one isolated fact and it gets blown out of proportion. Once the child is born, you will fall in love with the individual baby and then the sex doesn't matter as much because little boys and little girls all have varying attributes. After a while, you can't imagine that you could have any other baby than this baby."
If you have opted to find out the sex of your baby during pregnancy, don't despair. According to Venis, now can be a good time to work through these emotions before the added stresses of new motherhood set in. Doing so can clear the way for a healthier postpartum period for both parents and baby.
But whether you choose to find out the sex of your baby before or after birth, don't be surprised if the news fills you with something other than unadulterated joy.
"I tell patients that feelings are not right or wrong, good or bad, they are just feelings," Venis says. "And you are entitled to those feelings. It's what you do with them that really counts."
"What's helped me more than anything is realizing that it is not the actual baby that I am disappointed in," says Gail. "It's about letting go of my own dreams and fantasies. That doesn't stop me from feeling bad every now and again, but it brings me back and helps me feel better."
Both Celia and Ali found that the trepidation they felt during their pregnancies quickly subsided after the birth of their babies. Getting to know their newborn's individual personalities—while gaining confidence in their abilities as first-time mothers—transformed their initial negativity into satisfying and loving relationships with their children.