I have always been quite vocal on my blog about how I always wanted boys. And ever since I met my husband 12 years ago and we started talking about our future children, we both desperately wanted at least one little boy. And after we’d got our wish and were expecting our second bundle, we were happy for either gender – but both felt pretty chuffed when we found out he would be getting a little brother.
But after chatting to a friend of mine who didn’t get the balance of genders she had always dreamt about, I became more aware that not every mother felt the same way.
And so I chatted to a few more friends.
And I saw people type things in private online forums.
And as time went on, it became more and more obvious to me that gender disappointment is a very real thing.
Something that so many women have experienced.
Something that so many women don’t want to say out loud.
Of course, we never, ever regret our children. And once we meet our babies, we fall desperately in love. We know we are blessed. We know that we are amongst the lucky ones to have a child to hold in our arms.
We would never, ever wind back the clock and swap them for another child.
But that doesn’t stop the grief for the child we always dreamt we would have.
As I chatted to friends and asked whether they felt this way, their answers always came back in hushed whispers. Afraid that someone would overhear and assume they didn’t love their children.
Because they do love their children. Desperately. Unequivocally. Fiercely.
And gender disappointment takes nothing away from that love.
But still, the conversations kept coming…
One friend said: “I’ve never told anyone else this, but…”
One friend said: “I’m afraid to have another child, as I can’t bear the disappointment if it’s not the gender I want.”
One friend told me that she was bullied online after admitting the disappointment she felt at her 20-week scan on an online forum. She didn’t go back onto the Internet for a long time after that. She felt genuinely depressed and totally judged.
One friend told me that she still feels pangs of sadness when she imagines the face of the daughter she always thought she would have. The daughter she imagined dressing in pink. The daughter she imagined on her wedding day.
One friend told me that tears prick her eyes whenever she thinks about the little boy her husband always wanted. The little boy he imagined taking to Wembley with him to support England. The son he imagined taking to the pub for a beer on his 18th.
The children never existed. But they lived in dreams. So vividly.
Everywhere I turned, people admitted they felt the same.
Not everyone, I will add. Just like me, a lot of friends played the gender lottery and won. Others told me that they really had no preference.
But for those that did have a preference, as much as their head told them “it’s 50/50, try not to get your hopes up!’, their heart panged for a certain gender and kept reminding them when they found out the news.
The conversations I had left me feeling sad. Not for the children that were never born, as those mothers told me that the love they feel for their children eclipses that and reminds them they are lucky every single day.
But for the fact that so many mothers feel they can’t say it out loud.
And I understand that. I really do. Because no-one wants people to think they are disappointed with their children and the life that mother nature chose for them.
So I will say it.
There is no shame in gender disappointment. It exists. It is real.
It is a disappointment in what you don’t have. It is not a disappointment in what you do.
And honestly, you are not alone.