Baby Blues – Dealing with Gender Disappointment

Dealing with gender disappointmentToday I am 32 weeks and 2 days pregnant. Less than eight weeks away from giving birth to a live human being! Needless to say I am pretty nervous and I admit I don’t feel totally prepared. I am sure all new moms feel the same, but part of me feels a little guilty that over the past few months I have not been as excited about my little bundle of joy as I should be. Since my 19 week ultrasound, I believe I have been suffering from what is called “gender disappointment”: a common yet under discussed issue that some women go through when finding out they won’t be having the baby they had always imagined.

I’ll start from the beginning: The day I found out I was pregnant. It was a hot day in June, so humid that there were torrential downpours outside making it dangerous to drive. But I was desperate to get my home pregnancy test, so I drove over to my local Walmart and sat in my car for 15 minutes until the rain subsided a bit for me to go inside.

When I got home, I peed on the stick, and with a shaky hand left it face down on the bathroom counter and shut the door. Ten minutes later, I begged my husband, Eric, to go and check the results. The test was easy enough to understand: it would either say “Yes” or “No.” I let him go inside the bathroom first and with a shocked look on his face said, “It’s a yes!”

I guess Eric and I were both taken by surprise, but secretly I was super excited, more excited than Eric was. We had been debating for a while on the right time to start a family and with my persistence and persuasion, I convinced him there was no time like the present. I had read several articles about conception and how it sometimes takes a while for couples to actually get pregnant, so I wanted to get a head start, assuming we would be pregnant by Christmas time. They say one in five couples will be successful on the first try, so I guess we beat the odds there or I attribute it to beginner’s luck! Although I was shocked and nervous, I felt it was meant to be and everything was how it should be.

The months preceding the pregnancy, I did a lot of research on conception. Not just on how to conceive successfully, but how to conceive the gender of your choice. From reading about the different sex positions, to the timing of intercourse, and even studying the Chinese gender calendar, I became obsessed with gender conception research, to carefully plan the perfect family I had always imagined. For me, that always meant having a little girl to call my own. She would be my best friend, my confidant, my little princess.

Throughout the summer, I was constantly nauseous and craving pastries and sweets. Even though I felt like crap, I was happy knowing that these two symptoms indicated a little girl was likely in my belly (according to the old wives tales I kept reading about). People would ask me if I had a preference for gender and I would sheepishly reply with the cliché phrase “As long as it’s healthy.”. I couldn’t let people know that I was really hoping for a baby girl, even though I was almost positive it was anyway.

As summer was coming to an end, I became impatient with waiting for my mid-pregnancy ultrasound a.k.a. the gender reveal ultrasound. The mid-pregnancy ultrasound is really to check up on how well the baby is developing and to identify if there are any causes for concern. Of course I was thrilled to learn that the baby was developing normally without any health concerns, but I was most curious about the gender. I was almost positive that we were having a girl, so much so that we already had her name picked out and nursery theme decided. My assumptions were based on multiple factors including the amount of females in both mine and Eric’s families. I have one sister, zero brothers, seven female cousins and one male cousin and Eric has two sisters and no brothers. I was also very confident in my conception planning. I had done everything the websites had said regarding the right positions and timing of intercourse. So on that sunny day in September when the sonographer asked me if I wanted to know the gender, I quickly answered yes with a smile on my face. I couldn’t wait for her to confirm that inside was our sweet baby girl!

So you can just imagine the look on my face when she brought Eric into the room and showed us all the baby’s body parts including its head, its legs, its arms, its stomach and its penis?! “In my opinion, it’s a boy,” the sonographer said in a very serious tone as she pointed to a turtle like image on the screen. I was in so much shock I couldn’t say a word. My mouth was dry and all I wanted to do was go home. In my head I wondered why she said, “In my opinion.” I was hopeful that maybe there was a good chance she was wrong, maybe she was looking at an umbilical cord or a swollen labia? The baby in my belly most certainly could not be a boy.

After we left the hospital, Eric seemed very happy. He was so convinced we were having a girl after all my analysis the months prior about all my confirmed “girl-like” symptoms and old wives tales theories. He seemed to be a bit relieved and more excited than I had seen him before. It was me who was secretly upset, but I couldn’t tell a soul. It sounds so silly and ridiculous, but at that moment, I felt like my baby had died. The baby that I had been dreaming of anyway. There would be no ballet lessons, no hair braiding, no mother-daughter spa days and no Barbie doll collecting. Instead, my life would be filled with cars and trucks, dirt and mud and superheroes and comic books; a world that I was very unfamiliar with. Since I am such a girly-girl type, I feared that I would not be able to connect and have a strong bond with my son.

The weeks following the ultrasound, I noticed a drop in my excitement about the pregnancy. I stopped writing in my pregnancy journal, I stopped taking my weekly belly photos, and I stopped writing in my pregnancy blog. I just felt numb. I was also convinced that the sonographer was wrong in her gender diagnosis. I was determined to go back for a paid 3D ultrasound a bit further along into my pregnancy to confirm the results. “It can’t be true,” I kept thinking to myself.

A boy! What would I do with a boy? I felt terrible. There are many people in the world who are not even capable of having children, or have babies with chronic health problems and here I was with a beautiful, healthy baby boy growing inside of me and I could not be grateful. There was no telling anyone my true feelings of disappointment for fear of looking like a terrible mother who didn’t deserve to have a child.

I went on my days with a smile on my face acting as if a baby boy was what I had wanted the whole time. It was hard to keep a smile on my face, especially when I had many rude and unsolicited comments from people such as “Oh no, a boy? You’re screwed!” or “Aren’t you sad that you aren’t having a girl?” I couldn’t believe some things people had to say, but it made me angry. After all, it’s not like you get to choose, so why would people say such mean things? They made me realize that, maybe a lot of us are living in a superficial world of gender stereotyping. Who says that having a girl will automatically mean they will like the colour pink or princesses? And why can’t boys enjoy tea parties with their mom or dance classes too? If anything, these negative comments gave me ammunition to fight these stereotypes. I was happy to be having a child at all, and I was determined to prove to myself that having a little boy would be just as much fun as having a daughter.

To help deal with my emotions, I researched this phenomena of gender disappointment and was relieved to find that it is more of a common issue than people realize. It just isn’t really talked about because what woman (or man for that matter) would ever want to admit to such shameful feelings? I found comfort in knowing that I was not alone in my messed up feelings of sadness. It was reassuring to read about other women who initially felt the same way as me, but got over it as soon as their sons were born.

I am still a little sad that I am not having a girl, but I have learned to accept what God has given me and I am looking at the positives. Having a boy will also be fun. It will be different than what I had planned or imagined, but I am looking forward to raising a little man. I try not to focus on my stereotypical gender thoughts and think of my baby as just a gender neutral human being. He will be my world. And even though I am entering unfamiliar territory with a boy, I know I will learn how to engage with my son in a special way that I never thought possible.

As I am getting closer to my due date, I am getting more excited to meet my little man. From picking nursery décor and deciding on names, it makes everything seem very real. I’ve learned that you can’t always control things in life, no matter how hard you try, but you can control your behaviour and your attitude and just embrace what God gives you. I know that the day my baby arrives, all my worries and fears will be pushed aside and I will immediately fall in love. My life will change, maybe not in the way I had originally imagined, but in a wonderful, beautiful way nonetheless.

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Stop Complaining About Your Life, Our Little Sisters Need Us

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The system is fucked. I’m not going to dance around this subject or take too much of your time painting some kind of abstract picture to make this easier to read. This is it. The system is fucked. In fact, many, many systems all around the world are fucked. Let us just focus on this one for now. You have a busy life, I have a busy life (not really); everyone wants to care about an issue as long as it involves no real effort or time. If this article is a reasonable length, my message will be heard. If this article is a paragraph or two too long, half the people will stop reading it before the end. Therefore in order to keep your attention, again, I’m getting right to the point which is, we – and the system we have created – are fucked.

Growing up I wasn’t the pretty girl, my older sister was. She got better grades than me, she was thinner than me, she had better hair and she was better at sports. She was the golden child and I was the ugly duckling, always feeling left behind and as if no one had a good reason to care about me, when they could care about her. In high school a boy I grew up with said to me, “Your sister is so hot, what happened to you?” Once, my older brother’s friends called, when I picked up they asked me if I was “The hot sister.” It sucked, for many, obvious reasons. Though I can’t hold it against her, she just got the better genes. It happens. I am happy to report in the past ten years I have been able to get over the fact that she is perfect, and I had to take a longer, harder road than her, but as I sit here writing this, I am a beautiful woman. I figured some stuff out, went on a few adventures and I’m looking pretty good these days. I actually am a smart lady and I’m happy for that longer, harder road because it turned me into a strong, interesting person who has their shit (for the most part) together.

Though this road that I went down had some pretty traitorous times. When I was 15, I thought things would never get better. I hated myself. I hated my life. My social anxiety was so bad that for my sweet 16 I was prescribed Valium just so I could have a conversation without a panic attack. I, on many occasions, had thoughts of suicide and felt completely alone. Sure, those boys in high school might have said some mean things, but I was my own worst enemy. It didn’t help that I had a challenging home situation, one that not many kids face. Having to cook for myself because my Mom was in the hospital, recovering from cancer just after my Dad decided he no longer wanted to live with us. As well, I was attending an unusual amount of funerals. This, along with my self-confidence so non-existent I had to be medicated in order to fake it for the public, it’s easy to see, my teen years sucked.

A few weeks ago a friend of mine lost a young girl she considered to be a sister. This girl was only 15 when she decided to take her own life. She didn’t leave a note, only a video saying sorry to her family. Afterwards my friend went through her diary and found entry after entry explaining her hatred for her body, how ugly she was and hated that she was “chubby.”

When my friend was in her weakened state was able to tell me this story, she opened up to notify me of something she never divulged to me before. My friend explained that she knows a few girls (including the one she just lost), who hated themselves because they thought a few extra pounds were so disgusting that no one would ever find them to be beautiful. When these girls would share their pain with my friend, she would show them my Facebook page. She would go through all my photos with them. Since I’m a size 10 and only 5’4”, I’m not an ideal thin girl either, this is why she used me as an example. She would show them my photos, with my style and love for life and asked them if they thought I was pretty even though I’m not a size two.  When they replied “yes” she would ask, then why can’t you be pretty and curvy? She would explain if they thought I was pretty with a few extra pounds, then they too are pretty.

I had no idea my friend was doing this, and doing this for years. Then I thought about the disturbed girl who felt the need to go to such lengths as to end her own life over this. I thought about all those diary entries my friend read after she had passed and all the writing this girl put her energy into to describe how much she hated herself. Then I thought what she wrote probably isn’t far from what I wrote when I was her age. Even worse, what she wrote probably wasn’t much different from what I wrote a few months ago, a few weeks ago, a few days ago. I mentioned earlier how far I’ve come from my high school years. In reality that’s just what I show the world, but when I’m at home, alone with my thoughts, and I dwell over everything. I dwell over how hard it has been for me to find a job, how I will never be a good writer, how it has been three years since I’ve had a boyfriend and how many men have used me and treated me like shit. I think about all these things and wonder why and my conclusion is I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough and I hate myself. How the fuck, why the fuck have I not been able to grow up and move on from this?  It is because this stage of arrested development in my mid twenties is far too comfortable and the future is too scary. Growing up, settling down, these responsibilities are terrifying, so I stick to what I know.

The system is fucked. These girls who are literally killing themselves over shit we have all gone through don’t need soap ads telling them they’re pretty. Corporations selling self-esteem through their products and disguising it as a revolution is the exact same as the media telling us we’re never going to be perfect, but still we should sink all our money into the hope that we might be the exception. We might be the one ideal woman who if we can pay enough money and if we really, truly believe the revolution is here because a dollar driven devil is telling us so. What these teenage girls need is for us, the women who have been through the battles and have come out alive is to tell them, “yes, what you are going through is real and it sucks, but it’s not forever.”

We need to grow out of our comfort zone and be the role models these struggling young girls are searching for. Show them our bruises and scars, let them know our wounds have healed just like theirs will. We have all felt the fucked up pain and insecurities and it’s not the end. I know I still have my struggles, but I also know if the 15-year-old suicidal girl I was could see me now, she would be over-the-moon, happy and proud.

These girls have a future. We know that and we need to be the ones to show them. Like I said, they don’t need to be told they are beautiful over and over since the media has played that line into a broken record. They will get there, and they will see that, but first they need to see that there is a life after this pain. So, all my fellow twenty something ladies afraid of growing up, this is no longer about you. You have no choice. Grow the fuck up. Our little sisters need us now more than ever.

Shelby Monita is a freelance writer living in Toronto. Her writing mainly focuses on music, more specifically underground and punk rock. She welcomes the travel bug with open arms and loves to share her stories. You can read more of her work on her site casamonita.com.

Photography: By Unnamed photographer for Bain News Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons