Rainbow baby, gender disappointment.

Friday, 2 June 2017

How ungrateful you are! I know I'm not alone in these thoughts or feelings. That's something that is dawning on me more these days. I'm not alone, and it's nice knowing that, in a way. It's nice knowing that the way I think is entirely normal and perfectly fine – some will disagree with that, obviously. People will never unanimously agree, but they're welcome to their opinions, and welcome to keep those opinions to themselves.

I had so many things listed to write about and post before this, but I realised that this was one thing I couldn't not say, and soon. Gender disappointment is something that women experience all the time, and are made to feel guilty about if they mention. (They already feel guilty about it, by the way, and nobody needs you making them feel worse.) But then I thought, how does one deal with those feelings when they're so glad to be pregnant at all? When there's a true need for that pregnancy? Dealing with the idea of disappointment when it is something so desperately wanted? The act of having wanted does not negate the "other".  This is a long one.

I wasn't as disappointed as I knew I could have been because I'd been gearing myself up for the reality that this baby could be a girl. The first time round I'd known it was a possibility, but as it was my my first pregnancy I had no real preference as I was just curious to know. I'd wanted a boy first, just because I thought it'd be fun, I thought it'd be nice. My dad wanted a granddaughter, he was convinced that it would be a girl, and I wanted him to be wrong. As you do. It was all fun. This time, however, more was riding on the reveal.

I'd had a boy, a son, and I'd lost him. I had spent nearly twelve months with a son, and with the idea of a son. Those twelve months, obviously, were not just that, they were the thoughts of a long future with a son. They were how will I teach my son to respect women in the way I want him to? How will I teach my son right from wrong? How will I protect my son from toxic masculinity? Will my son be receptive to these things? Will I be able to let him be himself in this world that tells him to be a certain way? It was a lot of future thinking. But this future was taken away from me all too quickly, and instead it became a question of whether I would ever have another child again, and when. My previous health, combined with my singlehood made it questionable, and more difficult.

So when I conceived again I knew that there was a possibility, 50:50 chance, of it being a girl, so I began looking it up. Girl clothes. I didn't want Ezra to be wearing lots of baby blue clothes (navy was acceptable), so I didn't want a future daughter to be wearing lots of pink clothes either. I looked for ideas. I looked at photos of mothers with their daughters. A lot of the time they were matching, matching hair colours and clothes, doing lovely things together. A post also came upon Mummy's Gin Fund about the disappointment of someone not having a daughter. She mentioned the things she had been hoping to experience, things that added up to "stereotypical" relationship between a mother and daughter – naturally there were some who thought it their place to complain about that, but many agreed, sharing their own sadness at not having had a child of the other gender. Some people claim they just "want a healthy baby! I don't understand!" how people can think that (/this) way, and to them I say that nobody's asking you to understand, so you're welcome to keep your shitty judgements to yourself, Brenda. It was all based on the stereotypical idea, of course, but that's only natural. This was something I thought about, too. Anybody who knows me knows that my mother exasperates and frustrates me more than any other person on the planet could ever come near to doing – but I still go to her for things before I go to most others. So I reckoned if my relationship with my future daughter (that I didn't even know I was having yet) was even a fraction better than my mothers and mine it would be okay.

As I said, I wasn't as disappointed as I could have been when the news came that it was a girl. I'd thought about following in the footsteps of a dear friend of mine and keeping the gender a surprise, but then I began to question myself. Would the gender disappointment at the birth overshadow the happiness of the birth? Would I be purposely making it more difficult for myself? Should I find out now and give myself time to adjust? That's exactly what I did in the end. I figured having enough time to get myself used to the idea of a daughter would be better. I'd be able to think about it, about her, and bond, and choose a name.

"It's really clear, look she's showing us!" the ultrasound technician said (at 15 weeks and 3 days). And she was right. As she pointed it out, I saw and I thought of all the things I'd looked up and I supposed it wouldn't be that bad. A part of me had convinced myself that all my gearing up would be wasted and I would be having another boy anyway, and all of this would have been wasted time. I think I was more convinced that that would be the case than that it would be a girl, so there was an element of shock involved at this reveal.

It's not that I didn't, or don't, want a daughter at all. Because I did and I do. Just not now. I wanted Ezra now. Part of me thought that if I were having a boy I could pretend for a little while that I was pregnant with him again, and that I could imagine the same future and that I'd be back on that same path again. I could live in denial and it would be as if nothing had ever gone wrong. In my heart, of course, I knew that once this hypothetical-boy was born it would be different, because they have different fathers, this baby would not look like Ezra. But that was a bridge to cross when the time came – I would have twenty-five weeks to live in a purposeful ignorance. It'd be different, but maybe not that different, I thought. The future would look the same because really I hadn't seen what Ezra would grow up to look like. I could pretend.

But "it's a little girl". I felt, for a little while, as if that future had been taken away from me again, as if this day had been the fork in the road and I'd been turned towards the left, the boy path, and ready to go, only I was forced the other way. In hindsight, the paths looked the same, but slightly off, as paths in woods tend to, markers that differentiate but all in all easily confused. I had known that even if I had a boy it would be a bit different, and that eventually that would be something I would have to come to terms with – but could I really be blamed for wanting to put that off? I don't think so. But this? This was beyond a bit different. This was all kinds of different and this was forcing me to deal with it now. I couldn't just pretend that it was him and that everything would be the same for a while. It was going to be different from day one. I'm worried for how different it will be, with how I'll deal with it. Will her looking different make it easier or harder? Would it be more difficult if she looked like Ezra? How will it be for those that are married and whose babies have the same genetics through and through?

In simple terms the difference is that we'd be wiping front to back. Pee wouldn't be shooting upwards anymore, instead rather less of a right angle. There would be different expectations placed upon her by others, and different qualities focused on. She would be pretty, and she would be sweet. I am facing the fact that I am going to be fighting different and more difficult battles in her best interests. Having a boy was easier. A boy, a white boy, would get by in the world without much trouble, a girl had to be careful, a girl had to be steely. How would I teach my daughter to keep herself safe while not making her fear the world around her? How would I teach my daughter that things happen that are not our fault, but that we will be blamed for? How would I teach her that people will think less of her no matter what she does simply because she is a woman? How will I explain that anything she has interest in will be mocked because she is female? How do I deal with the pink and the princesses? With the attitude she'll have if she's anything like I was? (All under the assumption, of course, that she chooses to be and remain a girl. And yes, all things a stereotype, sue me.)

I tell people I want to have lots of children, and I do, and I would keep going until I got the boy that I wanted – even with knowing he could be born looking entirely difference, acting entirely different in those early weeks – but I know it's just not doable in a three-bed semi in London. I'd not have enough space, or enough money. While I've come to a point of acceptance, I can't help but mourn what could have been, twice over. Even though I am looking forward to the birth of my daughter, and looking forward to meeting her, to hopefully watching her grow and learn and thrive, I can't help but think of the life I should be leading now. The life I should be looking forward to. I can't help but think of my next child and if I will ever be given a chance at that life again.

And, you know, sorry in advance to my daughter(s), but missing my son, and that life, isn't ever going to go away. That doesn't mean I don't love them. So I suppose maybe disappointment isn't the right word for it? I don't know what else I'd call it though. The forceful closing of a chapter in life that I am not ready to be done with? If you happen to know a better way to describe it, feel free to let me know.

5 comments :

  1. Lovely post!! I experienced Gender disappointment with NY first for absolutely no reason. Going into the scan I had no preference, we'd picked a girls name and a boys name and we were just happy to be pregnant as it had taken us a while to conceive. We hadn't decided if we would find out the gender, hubby was pushing to find out but I wasn't sure and made a snap decision - maybe it was that I regretted at the time, I don't know, but it took me a while to come to terms with having a boy. Who knows if I'd have been the same if we had had a girl? My husband thinks I was upset because until we knew, there was a possibility of having both a boy and a girl and once we knew it was certainly a boy, the possibility had gone.

    This time round I was quite happy it is a girl. But had it been a boy, would I have been upset again? Maybe. We aren't having any more children, especially with the hyperemesis, so we would have been a 2 boy family...

    I wouldn't chance Hamish for the world though!!

    I find your blog really lovely and cry a little bit when you talk about Ezra. I never knew him, but he'll always hold a special place in my heart!! X

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    1. Some people have a hard time understanding the fact that your want of a child of the opposite sex is no reflection on the ones you already have. Frankly I actually think that everyone wants, or is curious, about the "other", even if they don't admit it.

      And thanks Charli. Were he were still here I'm not sure I'd not be upset for having a second boy, nor would I be really gunning for a girl, but I'd definitely be curious, maybe lean a little more towards a girl just for that different relationship between them.

      <3

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  2. This is exactly what I'm worrying about at the moment. I have 2 girls age 3 & 6.
    4 months ago my little boy was stillborn at 34 weeks he was perfect in everyway and was everything and more I could ever imagine, but I've had it snatched away from me. I felt so so lucky for my 3rd to be a boy... I'm currently pregnant again and the thought of this one been a girl just brings a while new wave of grief for him.
    I'm not finding out until baby is born for the simple fact I no it will drag up feelings I can't cope with.

    I know for a fact if this baby is a girl I will love it just the same as if she was a boy.

    Then again, I think if it was a girl I lost id probably want another girl.

    Xx

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    1. I'm so sorry for your loss, and congratulations on being pregnant again! You absolutely will love her (if it's a girl) just as much, I certainly do with my daughter, but there still seems to be something missing. Not her fault though, she's pretty fantastic!

      I'm sure you'll get through perfectly fine! Here's to a happy, healthy baby! 🥂

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  3. Hi, I’ve just found your blog from the Instagram of a fellow member of our unfortunate club. We lost our first born May 29th of this year. She was 3 months old. Her name was Brynn. Earth shattering pain does not come close to what I live with each day, as you know very well, even with the hope of another child in our future. We just found out we are having a boy. I didn’t think I’d care at all one way or the other as long as they lived, after all, when we were pregnant with Brynn we were actually hoping for a boy! But when we were told definitively, I found myself completely shocked, honestly devastated and crushed with guilt. I read all my own thoughts in this post you wrote, except in the opposite order. I’ve never seen anyone else in this community speak of this, so thank you. I am thrilled to have a son, I just wasnt expecting it to cause me to grieve the future I’d dreamed of with my daughter even more than I already had. I guess I’m learning that the waves of this grief never stop, they’ll continue as long as we live, every stage bringing new waves we didn’t see coming. I think it’s wonderful that spaces like this are created to validate each other’s emotions. Carrying so much pain in the midst of other’s “normal” lives, it’s so easy to feel alone and a little insane. We musn’t be so hard on ourselves.
    -Kara
    karalyncamp on Instagram

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