How to Make Peace With Gender Disappointment
Totally innocent and totally dependent on me — my baby had no say in being there, and yet I felt upset about it. Hopeless, even, over the gift of a baby! It took me awhile and a lot of work to let go of feelings of gender disappointment. The last article in this series covered what gender disappointment is and some of the reasons it may happen. This article will cover how to deal with it.
Realize Why You're Mourning
I'm not a fan of the deep analysis of depression. It tends to leave you feeling even worse to think about why you feel so horrible! But sometimes it's good to understand some of the root causes, and I think this is important with gender disappointment.
In general, moms are not directly upset about the gender of the baby they're getting. They're more upset about letting go of the dream of the gender that they wanted. Sometimes moms are scared of a certain gender (of instance if an abuse situation occurred with a person of one gender, they may be worried about having a baby of that gender). But much of the time, your desire is for a baby of the opposite gender.
It's okay to mourn a dream that's not going to happen (or that's being put on hold). You'll make yourself feel worse if you get too guilty about it. Just accept the feelings — don't beat yourself up.
There are practical things you can do. First, when you're depressed about anything during pregnancy, it's much harder to take care of yourself. Since pregnancy presents amazing nutritional stress even when life is good, it's easy to fall behind when things are challenging.
This has even deeper consequences as you start to feel guilty for not taking care of your baby as you feel you should.
So the first step to take is to pick a prenatal diet plan and stick to it. Eat what and when it says to eat. It may help to use a checklist or chart to keep track of your diet.
When you're eating right you have a lot more energy to cope with hard days and hard feelings — plus you know you're giving your baby what he or she needs.
You may have already told people what your baby's gender is, but if it will help you not to, you don't have to tell anybody. I know that it has helped me in a couple of pregnancies to keep my baby's gender a secret, even though I knew it.
Just like names, your baby's gender is nobody's business but yours, so keep it to yourself if you need to.
This is usually because you don't want to hear comments. Comments can be cruel: “Oh, you're having another…” or “aren't you so thrilled you're having a…” (when you're really not). People say and assume things without thinking. Sometimes keeping baby gender to yourself helps ease these comments.
And if you do tell, or get the comments regardless, just remember that you can smile and say you're thankful for a healthy baby. Then change the subject to something else.
You're far less likely to get comments after your baby is born… and at that point you'll feel better because you're holding your sweet baby, anyways.
Pick a Name You Love
Picking a name can be depressing when you're dealing with gender disappointment, especially if you feel like you've used all the “good names” you had for that gender.
Don't despair! Go through baby names and pick a name you truly love. I think this is one thing that really helped me. We picked a name and I really, really loved it! Even when I was struggling, I could think of this name and it helped.
If you can, talk to somebody in real life. My midwife was great to talk to. She's seen gender disappointment of all shapes, colors, and sizes and was able to listen with no judgment — just acceptance and solid suggestions for my fears.
If you don't have anyone close by that will listen with compassion (and it can be hard to find), there are still places you can get support online. There are forums where you can find moms who have experienced and overcome gender disappointment. It's very helpful to have somewhere to share openly and honestly.
Pick What You Like
When shopping you don't have to go with pink or blue! Choose gender neutral shades if it helps you. Pick a baby carrier in your favorite color.
Don't worry about going into the stores to shop if seeing the baby boy and baby girl sections hurts. Order baby things via catalog or online.
If you're having a shower, again, you can ask for neutral things. You dress your baby and decorate for your baby with what you like. You don't have to go by the stereotypes if you don't want to!
Again, Take Care
I think one of the best ways to help with gender disappointment is to take care of yourself. Then you're also nurturing your baby and can feel good about that. I found that eating well, as well as taking some time for prenatal yoga, helped me a lot. Even though I felt I had a hard time bonding with my baby during pregnancy, prenatal yoga was a time for me to focus on and pray for my baby, which helped me a lot — and helped me feel more connected.
If possible, plan a birth experience that will be natural and nurturing. This will let all the “mothering hormones” flow as they should, which will give your bonding a kick-start as soon as your baby is in arms.
Or, if you know you'll need a lot of medical management for birth, opt to have help when you come home with your baby — this will give you a chance to relax and get to know your little one while somebody else takes care of the house and meals.
Regardless of how you feel now, remember you will love your baby. Sometimes love isn't instantaneous, even for babies we desperately want. Pregnancy and parenting can be challenging. Know that you can always find support (hey, write me if you need to!), and know that can take care of your baby, even if sometimes things feel really tough.
Photo by Michael Melchiorre