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I Admit It, I Was Disappointed About Baby's Sex

Photograph by Twenty20

Pressing the ultrasound wand to my gooped-up belly, the technician asked, "Do you want to know the baby's sex?"

"Yes," my husband and I both said. My heart sprinted as the tech examined my baby's ribs and toes and blood flow. Yeah, yeah, I thought. That's all great, but is it a girl or a boy?

Finally, she made the big reveal.

"It's a boy."

As my husband's face stretched into a smile, I felt a sinking sensation in the center of my chest.

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I had felt it was a boy from early on, long before the ultrasound confirmed the presence of his boy parts. And yet, even as I saw my husband's happiness, I felt an ache.

When we find out we aren't having the daughter or son we've dreamt of, it hurts.

It feels irreverent, taboo even, to say we're disappointed with our baby's sex. We're not supposed to dare wish for more than a healthy child. We're supposed to feel fortunate to be having a child at all, when so many people deal with infertility.

But the grief is real. It's the death of the dream of the family we'd imagined. It's important to feel it, and to know we're not the only one who has ever felt this way.

Expressing our sadness can help make room for what usually happens next.

Recently, I chatted with some other moms about the disappointment—and even fear—that can arrive when we find out the sex of the baby we're expecting.

Katherine, a mom of three told me, "We had two girls and both desperately wanted a boy. We didn't learn the gender until the baby was born. My husband videotaped in the delivery room and the disappointment on my face and in my voice is so obvious."

Another mom, Brooke, shared, "When we found out that we were having a boy, both of us had to work through some major shifts in attitude. I think being lesbian moms provided some added baggage. I had never SEEN a penis in real life before—how would I help another human take care of one?"

A third mom, who had a toddler son and desperately hoped for a daughter during her second pregnancy, got the news of her baby's sex while sitting in an airport alone on the way to a friend's wedding. Her doctor called and asked if she wanted to know. "I said 'sure,' and she said, 'The baby is male. It's a boy.' I got off the phone and buckets of tears poured down my face as I sat facing the window looking at the planes taking off."

While sometimes very difficult, expressing our sadness can help make room for what usually happens next:

We fall in love with the baby we get.

Katherine, whose third daughter is now 22, told me, "That girl number three? She brings so much laughter and positive energy to our family, and I can't imagine life without her."

Brooke shared, "For me, once I made an emotional connection with the fact that he would be MY SON, that helped ease the fear and disappointment."

As for me? That little bundle of bones and blood I glimpsed on the ultrasound is now 6. He's funny and creative and stubborn. He loves music, Tae Kwon Do and dancing, he and is ridiculously handsome.

I am fully in love with him.

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If I could've seen that boy that September morning on the ultrasound, I would've felt differently. (I also would've been outrageously uncomfortable as he now weighs over 50 pounds.)

The truth is, we don't get to choose our children. The sex of a baby in utero is no guarantee of the gender they'll identify with nor anything else about their personality. They arrive fully themselves, separate from whatever our own dreams for them are. We fall in love with them anyways.

But before we do? It's OK to make space by shedding a few tears.

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