A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

Gender Disappointment


Jack’s wiener was a surprise upon his birth. We decided we didn’t want to know early and wanted to be surprised. We did want a boy, but not so much that I ever thought I’d be disappointed with a girl. When I became pregnant with my second child last year I felt a desire to have a girl. I don’t remember this desire being based in any real logical thinking like “we’d get to go shopping together,” but maybe just simply “we have a boy, let’s give a girl a try.”

My husband and I spoke at length about whether we wanted to find out the sex this time around. We both agreed that upon the birth of the baby we won’t care so why not indulge our curiosity early this time. The ultrasound was scheduled for 20 weeks. As the date grew closer I became more and more nervous. My desire to have a girl had grown stronger and I felt nervous about the results.

When we opened the envelope and saw “It’s a boy!” I giggled and said “yeah, I knew it.” I did feel disappointment, but I expected it. I told myself that it was OK to be disappointed and not to feel guilty about having these feelings. I am a firm believer that any and all true feelings are valid and important to acknowledge to be able to work through them. I had friends tell me that they experienced this so I figured it was all part of the complicated and emotional process of being a Mom.

I was surprised when this deep hole developed in the pit of my stomach and I felt as if I might fall into it. I burst into tears and struggled to regain my composure. Even once I was able to breathe again I could feel the tears welling up again. And again. I decided to spend some time alone. I took a bath. I started to have intrusive thoughts about my future. I pictured wedding dress shopping with my daughter, doing her hair, sitting up late in our jammies and laughing, painting her nails, listening to her tell me about her relationships and asking my advice, getting a call that she is pregnant, helping her through morning sickness, teaching her how to breastfeed, watching someone I mothered mother a baby. The images went on and on. I began to cry again I was sure this time I would never be able to stop.

When I was 5 months pregnant with Jack my Dad called me to tell me that he had cancer. (He is OK now) I felt like my whole world was being ripped apart. My son wasn’t even born yet.  Would they meet? How could I lose my father? How would I be able to go on? I was devastated and cried the deepest cries I had ever cried. That night in the bathtub reminded me of that. I felt so confused how this could be happening. I felt this devastated over something I never had? Over the sex of a fetus? What the hell was going on?

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I had very clear thoughts about my father dying, the fear, the devastation. But this was not logical. These images in my mind were stabbing at my gut. I had no clear thoughts. I began to shake in the bathtub. The way Jack does when his muscles spasm after crying for a long time. I was sad and scared about what was happening to me.

I found out that gender disappointment is common. That the desire to parent both sexes might actually be instinctual. I learned that it can be quite common with women who have a son and desire a girl, but can occur at any time with any mother. Although not all mothers experience this.

I was mourning a loss. I doubt I will have more kids. Making this pretty final. Maybe those intrusive images were us saying goodbye. Maybe I’m a nut job.

Some people might think this is petty. I might have thought that before having Jack. I might have thought that people should be happy with what they get and be thankful for healthy babies. I can say that I am thankful for what appears to be a healthy baby, but this does not and should not dismiss my human feelings. I cannot ignore what feels to be deeper than just “I wanted to buy skirts.” It feels like there was a true need to process and grieve that I will not be parenting a girl.

I wonder if this is all for the best. That I find out now instead of really hoping for a girl and going through this after birth. In reading about gender disappointment I learned that it can contribute to postpartum depression.  At any rate I am not alone. This is rarely talked about because there is so much guilt and shame surrounding these feelings.  This contributes to more feelings of isolation, shame and depression.


The next day I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Just from all the crying. I have not felt the desire to cry since that night. I hope that allowing myself to go through that has led me to the road toward happiness and bonding with the boy in my belly. Jack’s new buddy. My second child. Another light in my life making it so bright I can barely see through these new tears of pure joy.

Abby Theuring, MSW