“I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl.”
I’ve heard it. You’ve heard it. We’ve all heard it. Heck, we might have even said it. Some of us might even believe it.
For some parents-to-be, this is true. Some parents don’t care if they have a boy or girl. They will be perfectly happy with a son or daughter or both. But for some of us, this laissez faire attitude about gender is bullshit.
Before I got pregnant, I told myself I didn’t care if I had a boy or girl. I knew I shouldn’t care, that I should be grateful for a healthy baby. And so, as our 20-week ultrasound appointment rolled around, I told myself that I didn’t care if it was a boy or a girl—except deep down, I did care.
I really wanted a daughter.
When we found out our baby was a he, I felt a strange mix of emotions. I was relieved he was healthy. I was excited to be a mother to this little person, and while I might not have felt the same kind of mama love I feel now, I did have love for this little bean of a child. But I also felt something inexplicable and uncomfortable.
As soon as we left the doctor’s office, alone in the long corridor leading to the elevators, my husband put his arms in the air and did a little happy dance. A boy! A boy! We were having a BOY! My husband’s excitement was palpable, simple and pure.
Why couldn’t I feel like that? Why wasn’t I more excited? Why was I feeling this…disappointment? Let me be clear: Of course I was grateful to be pregnant and relieved that my son was healthy. That goes without saying. Of course, I knew that gender identity is a fluid and individual matter. That goes without saying as well. Of course, I would love a son as a much as a daughter. That should also go without saying.
But what doesn’t go without saying—what I didn’t know at the time and what doesn’t get said enough—is that it is perfectly normal to feel gender disappointment. It is actually OK to specifically want a son or a daughter. You are not a horrible person, but a real human with emotions, many of which are inexplicable and confusing as hell.
I know more than one woman who cried when she learned she was having a boy. I’ve heard fathers-to-be worry about how they would raise a daughter. There are mothers who are scared to death at the prospect of parenting a daughter because of their own complex maternal relationship. There are fathers who are relieved to find out they are having a daughter because of the pressures that come with raising a son. And there are mothers and fathers who, for any number of unknown and individual reasons, have a preference—however small—for one gender or the other.
Do any of these emotions make logical sense? Absolutely not. But emotions don’t always make sense.
Does any of this mean that those who feel gender disappointment don’t love their child as much? Of course not. Love is love is love.
Does this mean someone can be a loving, caring parent who has confusing-as-hell emotions sometimes? You bet.
Every parent brings their own unique hopes and fears along on this parenting journey, which starts as early as we see the double lines on a pregnancy test or maybe even as soon as we decide we want to be parents. These hopes and fears are shaped by our own childhood, societal expectations, individual personality traits, and any number of other circumstances. They are heavy, heavy loads, and we do not shed them lightly. And often times, they don’t make any sense at all.
Personally, I carried the hope that I might one day have a daughter—not just for the imagined tea parties and twirly skirts and braided hair (though those sounded pretty fun too), but for all of the experiences that we might share along the way. Experiences that while they can be shared with a child of either gender are more often shared with a child of the same gender. Whether rational or not, I wanted a daughter to guide through adolescence, to share the joys and challenges of womanhood with, and one day to possibly bond with over the experience of motherhood.
I also carried a whole host of fears. I worried that I might not have anything in common with my son. I worried society would expect my son to be tough and “manly” in a way that felt uncomfortable to me. And I worried I might not bond with a son as easily as I would a daughter.
Did any of this make sense? Nope.
Was it logical? Of course not.
But was it normal? You bet.
It took a few months for me to get used to the idea that I would be having a son. But over time, I have settled quite nicely into my role as a mom to two boys, no daughters.
As they say, there is no one right way to be a perfect parent, but a million ways to be a good one. And there is no right way to feel when you find out you are having a son or a daughter, but there are a million ways to love him or her once they are yours.