An excerpt from Motherhood Without Guild
by Debra Gilbert Rosenberg
Question and Answer from the section
How Mothers Feel
Is it awful of me that I was disappointed in the sex of my child?
The truth is that many prospective parents, when totally honest with themselves, long for one sex or the other for a variety of reasons. Some want to have the same sex they are, feeling parent and child will understand each other better or be closer. People who hated their sisters may want boys, or those who felt particularly warmly toward one sibling or another may want a child just like them. Parents who already have children of one sex often wish for the other. They may tell you that they’ll be happy as long as the baby is healthy, and they probably will, but that doesn’t eliminate the desire for whichever gender they secretly want.
People often find it hard to acknowledge any disappointment in their children; they feel guilty for having wished for a boy and gotten a girl (or the reverse), and worry that their disappointment could make their child feel rejected and unloved. Although many new parents are secretly upset at the sex of their baby, what’s important here is that you can get past that disappointment. Face your disappointment and then set about to discover what’s wonderful about the child you have.
Whether your child is a boy or a girl, there will be things about him or her that are not what you might have expected. Try to remember that your child is an individual with strengths and weaknesses that are totally his or her own. You will be amazed at some of your child’s accomplishments and stymied by others. If you are too invested in your child being a particular way, whether you care too much about attitude, looks, or gender, you will either disappoint yourself further or cause the child to be disappointed in him or herself for not being what you had in mind. Love the true person your child is. You don’t want your child to feel that he or she should be something or someone other than that.
Pay attention to the interests, skills, and personality of the child you have. Learn to appreciate what is unique about him. Find enjoyment in the discovery of who he is and wants to become, rather than trying to mold or direct him in the direction of your fantasy child. Once most parents admit to themselves that they’d really wanted the other sex child, they can usually let go of that initial discontent and allow themselves to love the child they have. Then any early disappointment almost automatically turns to delight and you’ll all do just fine.
If your disappointment prevents you from enjoying your child, then that can be a problem and you should ask for professional help to understand why you seem unable to bond with your child. You and your child will feel infinitely better when you can wholeheartedly love him or her, regardless of whether he or she was what you expected or wanted. If you can’t come to accept and love your child on your own, find a responsible psychotherapist who can help you.
Although in general I think it’s good to share lots of your memories with your children about their births, I don’t recommend that you tell your daughter that you’d really rather have had a boy, even if you stress to her how much you love her anyway. Many children will then always worry that you are still distressed about their sex. If you were disappointed in the sex of your child but can now fully appreciate what a spectacular and interesting human he or she is, don’t worry about having wished for the opposite gender. Just enjoy the child you have and move forward.