I always pictured myself a mom to all boys. I grew up in a house with three brothers and just happened to babysit mostly boys. I was used to rough-housing, poop jokes, and can still have a full conversation in movie quotes. My husband, on the other hand, grew up with three sisters — even his family cat was a girl. His formative years included dance recitals, dress-up, and surviving a household of four synchronized cycles. Surely he was due for a little guy time.
With my first pregnancy, we decided not to find out our baby’s gender. This was surprising to nearly everyone we knew, including the staff of doctors and nurses surrounding me as I had an unexpected C-section at 35 weeks. After we heard our baby’s first cry, my husband had to yell over the curtain, “is it a boy or a girl?!” We barely had time to process “it’s a girl!” as we were launched headfirst into our new parenting adventure.
A few years later I was pregnant again. I thought I wanted to wait to find out the gender, but two days before my 20-week ultrasound, I suddenly had this strong urge to find out the sex. So we asked the technician to put the photos in a sealed envelope, which we planned to open on an upcoming babymoon. It was so hard to wait, but after a mid-summer al fresco dinner, we strolled down to a lapping lakeshore, sat down in two Adirondack chairs, and opened the envelope.
We were having another girl. I cried. I’m not proud of it. I immediately regretted that we’d opened that damn envelope.
Once I pulled myself together, we walked back to town and into a noisy bar called the Pink Pony (the pink irony was not lost on us). With a cocktail in my husband’s hand, and an alcohol-free Beck’s beer in mine, we sat down and started to talk about our new little girl. We named her sitting on those Pink Pony bar stools as a live band was playing oldies in the background. We started to imagine our family with her in it. But when we came home, neither of us could shake a feeling of mourning over the son we’d never meet.
At work, I found myself secretly and shamefully Googling “gender disappointment.” What was my problem? I wondered. The baby is healthy, I have friends suffering through IVF and miscarriages — why can’t I just be grateful?
As I found myself about eighteen clicks deep, I came across a list of celebs with only daughters. George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Matt Damon and Bruce Willis, Jason Bourne and John McClane — not to mention my girl crushes, Kristen Bell and Drew Barrymore. I immediately texted my husband my findings and started to picture mom and daughter outings with my new celeb besties.
In my Googling, I also found some helpful articles validating our feelings — someone even wrote a whole book about it. I learned that — like most of our emotions — we can’t necessarily help what we feel, but we can try to understand why we feel the way we do. For me, I think I wanted to give my husband what he’d always wanted. I had pictured our gender reveal as a moment akin to a magical Christmas morning when you unwrap the toy from the top of your list. And I had to give up how I thought our life together would look.
But I soon learned another thing about gender disappointment: it fades (especially once you see that brand new babe for the first time). For me, it was love at first sight when I saw my second daughter come out (and perhaps a solid case for not finding out your baby’s gender). And “girl” or “boy” printed on a black and white ultrasound photo hardly captures the whole person your baby will turn out to be.
I’ll admit sometimes it still stings a little when we hear “it’s a boy” for someone else, but I’m sure that will fade too. We’ve been blessed with two daughters and I’m posting this anonymously because I’d never want either of them to think any “disappointment” has lingered. They are the two loves of our lives and our family is what it was meant to be. A childhood surrounded by sisters paired with a sensitive soul has made my husband a perfect dad to daughters. And absent any sisters of my own, I now get to do the girly things I never experienced growing up.
And that magical Christmas morning moment I dreamed about? That came when I surprised my husband with a note and a positive pregnancy test after 10 months of secondary infertility. We’d held each other in our kitchen and cried the happiest of tears. I had the moment I had pictured all along.