The Boy-Girl Blues: Dealing with Gender Disappointment

You may be secretly sad after finding out your baby's sex. But the feeling is more common than you might think.
woman holding an ultrasound picture of the baby

Around your 20-week appointment, people keep asking: "Are you hoping for a boy or a girl?" You tell them that you simply want a healthy baby, even though you're secretly wishing for a particular sex. When the ultrasound tech reveals the results you pretend to be thrilled, even though you're heartbroken. It's a feeling that Katherine Asbery, author of Altered Dreams: Living With Gender Disappointment, knows well. She had hoped that her second-born child would be a girl but instead she had another boy. Before she got pregnant for the third and final time, she tried tactics that she found on the Internet to help her conceive a girl. She ate yogurt to try to change her pH balance, and she made her husband take hot baths to alter his sperm. When she discovered that she'd be birthing another boy, she "cried and cried and cried," she says. "Then I felt guilty." Asbery isn't alone. Many women have sobbed during their big ultrasound, but there are ways to deal with the disappointment -- and get excited about the sex of the child you're having.

Accept Any Emotions

The first step toward moving forward is to simply recognize your disappointment and be honest with yourself, says Stephan Quentzel, M.D., a psychiatrist specializing in pregnancy and childbirth issues at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City. "It can sound ugly to say, 'I wanted a boy and not a girl,' because you're expected to love the child you're having no matter what," he says. But if you're not immediately thrilled, that's okay; soon enough you will be.

Moreover, you shouldn't feel ashamed if you're upset and it shows. "Many women make sure they dry their eyes, fix their makeup, and plant a smile on their face before they leave the ultrasound room," notes psychiatric nurse Joyce Venis, author of Postpartum Depression Demystified. But if you don't eventually let your feelings show, it'll be a lot harder to keep your negative thoughts under wraps. "Feelings aren't good or bad or right or wrong -- they're just feelings," Venis says. So acknowledge them out loud to yourself and to your partner, and let him do the same if he's disappointed also. Unable to discuss your feelings with your husband? Consult a therapist or confide in a nonjudgmental friend instead.

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