Thursday, 29 August 2013

A Personal Post: Gender Disappointment

EDIT: To read my thoughts 1 year on please click HERE

This is a topic I've wanted to blog about for a while now - infact it's a topic that I've just wanted to talk about for a while.

But something has always stopped me.

I have always had a niggling feeling, warning me that these kinds of things are not discussed for a reason....but I feel that it's something I need to get off my chest, and I wonder how many people out there may - at some point - find themselves with feelings similar to my own, who this post may just be able to help.

So I have decided to talk about it - but I hope that I do not offend anybody in doing so. Please remember that these are my thoughts and feelings, and I am not sharing them lightly.....

I am very aware that most people will read this and be completely unable to relate to it - and I'm pleased about that! I wouldn't want people to share my feelings because this was not an enjoyable experience.

I am also aware that most people who read this will immediately think me shallow or think that I should be grateful to have been able to carry a healthy baby because so many people are unable to - believe me, I was and am very grateful as I had a difficult TTC journey myself.

When you are pregnant, it goes without saying that the main concern that you have is for your baby - your only true want is that the baby is healthy.

I understand this completely.

And so, when you are asked - as all expectant mothers inevitably are - "Would you prefer a boy or a girl?" you are supposed to answer "I don't mind, as long as its healthy".

Of course this is the answer that I always gave too - in fact in the beginning, I believed that to be true myself.

I remember from the moment I found out that I was pregnant, I was SO consumed with wondering what sex the baby would be - I was always doing all kinds of silly old-wives tale tests - I peed into cups of bicarbonate of soda to see if it fizzed up, I dangled dowsers over my bump, I looked for veins in my eyeballs - I was forever googling "Ways to determine babies gender" and trying out everything I could find!

I even considered buying a home gender test kit from ebay - though my partner talked me out of that one!

When I got to around 14 weeks, the waiting was too much and I started looking into early private scans - I found a local BabyBond scanning centre who would do a gender scan at 16 weeks.

It cost £80.00 and after chatting with my mum about it, she offered to pay some of the cost and so my mind was made up - we booked it and I was so excited for the day to come!

At 16 weeks and 5 days, I went along with Jon to the scan centre.

I laid on the bed, and I listened as the lady told us what they were looking out for - 3 little lines that look like a hamburger for a girl (her words, not mine!) or ....actually I can't even remember how she described what we were looking for if it was a boy because I wasn't expecting to need to recall....

Let me explain a little more - on my side of the family, everybody has girls. My sister has two girls. I am one of two girls. I have 20 cousins on my Mums side of the family - and only 7 of them are boys. Of the 9 children that my cousins collectively have, only ONE of them is a boy.

The last boy on my side of the family is my now 29 year old cousin, Peter.

And so, in my mind and in the mind of my family, there wasn't really much doubt that I would be having another girl - as everybody had been telling me throughout the pregnancy "Our family don't carry boys" - it just doesn't happen, at least not very often at all.

And so - back to the day of the scan - there I laid, looking at the amazing 3D images of my baby - amazed at how clear it was, excited at what I was seeing - and then the lady said she was about to zoom in on the "parts" we were curious about.

Everything looked so blurry to me, I couldn't make anything out....

Then Jon spoke.
He said "I think I just saw dangly bits!"

My stomach did a little flip, and I felt myself suddenly become angry with him - I had to stop myself from shouting at him to shut up incase he influenced the sonographers train of thought.

But then she spoke - "Yep, I can see them too".

Jon & the sonographer kept talking about what they could see, as she happily snapped away taking photos of my baby proudly displaying these "dangly bits" for all to see.

I remember that I kept laughing along with them, but I felt so confused - nobody had yet actually said the words to confirm it - everything felt bizzare and dreamlike.

Then the sonographer typed three words onto the screen, to be printed on an image she had just taken - "I'm....A.....Boy".

The rest of the session is all a bit of a blur, but I clearly remember asking her "How sure are you? Percentage wise I mean?"
When the words "Oh, 100%!" came out of her mouth was when I first felt my throat start to sting.

When she reached for a coloured BabyBond bag to put our scan images in, and said "You're Team you go!" and handed the blue bag to me I felt the tears start to come - I looked over at the bags and stared at the pink ones. I should be taking one of those bags. There MUST be some mistake.

Our family don't carry boys.

We walked out to the car, I thanked the receptionist, I smiled at the people in the waiting room so excited to go in and take their turn - I tried to look how I SHOULD be feeling - happy and excited.

I got into the car and listened to Jon excitedly chatting away - saying things like "See! I KNEW it was a boy! I told you, didn't I?!" - talking about how happy he was, and how he couldn't wait to tell everybody.

We hadn't got very far - only about five minutes down the road - when I couldn't hold it in anymore.

I started to cry. And I mean PROPERLY sob.

I was sobbing so much that I couldn't even speak. All I could think was "Oh my god, its a BOY."

Jon didn't really know what to say or do  - we were on our way to meet my family at my sisters house, to announce the news to them.

The journey took around half an hour - I told myself it was just a shock, I hadn't expected it - I'd be fine by the time we got there.

When we pulled into my sisters estate I was still sobbing.
I just couldn't stop.

I told Jon to pull up and give me five minutes to get myself together.
He asked me why I was so upset - it all came spilling out of me.

Words I felt SO guilty about saying but that I couldn't help but feel .... "I don't want a boy....I've never wanted a boy...."

After a while, I managed to calm myself down and we headed off to my sisters house.

They were all waiting in the living room, excited to hear our news - I decided to make it easier on myself by having my five year old niece announce it for me - I whispered to her "its a boy" and she announced it to the room.

There were gasps. My sister thought I was bluffing  - "NO! Really its a boy? SERIOUSLY, its a BOY?!" she said.
I smiled and listened to them all talk about how exciting it was.

My sister complained at it being unfair that I got to have the first boy. My mum talked about all the girls in our family who had been so desperate to have boys and how jealous they would all be.

I nodded along but all I could think about was how unfair it was - so many people in my family who WANTED to have a boy, yet me....the girliest person I know.....I'm the one who gets one.
I cried all the way home.

All the while feeling guilty about how I felt, wanting it to stop - but not being able to help it.

I refused to talk to Jon that night about the baby. He was excited and he wanted to chat about names and what he might be like, but I couldn't - all I could think about was all the things I had looked forward to about being a mummy - and every single one of them related to having a daughter.

I wanted to take my child to ballet. I wanted to go out and buy pretty dresses. I wanted to give her my old dolls. I wanted to take her to brownies. I wanted to go and buy a sea of pretty pink things.

Pink had always been my favourite colour - everybody I know would always comment on how much I loved pink - my bedrooms had always been pink. My nickname was "Barbie". I have always been the ultimate girly-girl.

I have no interest in anything boyish at all. I hate the outdoors. I hate sports. I hate insects and bugs. I hate mess.

I had a million girls names picked out. I didn't like one single boys name.

The more people found out about the gender, the worse it made me feel - they all kept telling me how great boys are - saying things like "Oh boys are so much more fun! Girls never want to get dirty, boys get stuck right in!" - Great, I'd think to myself, exactly what I want to hear.

I'd see things everywhere that just seemed to rub salt in the wound - I was looking around online for nursery art and I came across a poster for a girls room - "Sugar and Spice and all things nice, that's what little girls are made of".
And so I finished it off in my head...."Slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails, that's what little boys are made of".
Even old fashioned rhymes told me that having a boy would be a mucky job.

I worried for days and days about how I felt, I couldn't feel any excitement - I just felt so so sad.

I couldn't understand what was wrong with me - Ok, it was a shock. I hadn't expected to have a boy. But I was having a healthy lovely little baby - I should still be excited!!! Why wasn't I feeling excited? What was wrong with me?! Where was my maternal instinct? Surely it should have kicked in by now, surely that unconditional love you hear about all the time should have taken over and stopped me from feeling sad about something as superficial as the babies gender.

But it didn't.

Then one day, my friend text me - she was pregnant too. Today was her scan day. I opened the message, excited to see what she was having -  and there the words were before me on the screen - "Its a girl!"

And then the tears came again. And they didn't stop.

I was so jealous.

Jon lost his patience with me - telling me I should be happy that our baby was healthy and if I had only ever wanted a girl, I shouldn't have taken the chance on having a baby at all as it was always a 50/50 chance of having a boy.

I'd tried to talk to other people too but nobody understood - everybody thought I was being shallow or childish. Nobody seemed to understand that I couldn't help how I was feeling - I certainly didn't want to feel that way - I wanted to feel happy and excited.

Jon went out in a bad mood - and I went online, desperate to find some way to help myself and to stop myself from feeling so sad and lost.

I felt so sorry for this poor little baby inside me, I wanted to feel happy about his gender but I just couldn't make it happen.

I googled "Disappointed after gender scan" - not really knowing what I'd find.

I was surprised to see hundreds of articles appear, with titles such as "How to handle Gender Disappointment"....

Just seeing those words made me feel a little better.
There was a term for what I was feeling.

Then I discovered a forum dedicated solely to gender disappointment.
I read through the posts, and suddenly felt so much relief - knowing that I wasn't the only one, that other people felt the same way I did was so reassuring.

Then I read something that really helped me to acknowledge the problem and move on.
I read an article which stated that gender disappointment is not so much that you are not happy with what you have, but rather that you are grieving for something that you thought you had but don't.
I'm not sure if that sounds stupid now, but it made so much sense to me at the time....

I was pregnant and hormonal, and feeling so emotional - and to me at that time, I felt that the past 17 weeks of thinking about the baby growing inside of me and imaging it to be a little baby girl had all been for nothing.
I felt as though that baby that I had thought about - the little girl who would grow up to be my friend, who I would have hours of fun dressing up in frilly pink outfits- I felt like she'd been taken away from me.

I couldn't even think about the baby boy that was actually there - all I could think about was the baby girl who WASN'T.

The one I had always assumed, ever since childhood, that I would have.

I was very much a child that played for years with dolls and I can tell you - in every single one of those games I played over the years, never once did I play Mummy to a baby boy - every single time my dollies were my baby girls!

Once I had read that article and taken on board its advice to allow myself a bit of time to feel sad about the baby that I wasn't going to have - I suddenly started to feel a lot better.

Throughout the pregnancy I still worried about how I would manage a boy, considering that I had no experience of being around one at all.

And certain people even made me feel quite down about it sometimes - there were some people around me who KNEW I would have wanted a girl, and seemed to enjoy making constant comments about how horrible boys are and how glad they were that they'd always had girls.....

I found people's attitudes to boys on the whole to be unhelpful. I always seemed to be hearing comments about how dirty boys are, "smelly boys", etc etc.

I heard a lot of talk of how girls were what women always want to have because they grow up to become your friend.

But the more time went on, the more I realised that these are just generalisations.

I know plenty of girls who gave their mothers very hard times - I know plenty of girls who were anything but friends with their mothers!

I also know plenty of little girls who are a FAR cry from the stereotypical "little Princess" - who are just as "gross and smelly" as boys, are not the "pink and dainty" kind I imagine at all - so who's to say that even had I had a girl, she would have been the little girly girl I imagined?

But on the whole, I forgot about my initial feelings of disappointment and I just started to feel excited. At last!!!!

Now Tyne, my beautiful son, is almost 5 months old.

I still feel SO guilty about how I felt when I found out that he was a boy.

When I fill in his baby record books and I come to questions like "How we felt when we found out you were a boy...." I feel so angry with myself for ever feeling the way that I did.

I have cried thinking about the time I said that I didn't want a boy, and how I wished he had been a girl....
I think I'll always feel guilty about it.

But I can honestly say that since he was born I have never ever wished that he was anything other than him.

Of course I am now glad that I didn't get the girl I thought I wanted, because if I had - the baby wouldn't have been my perfect Tyne and I would NEVER want anything else.

Having Tyne has completely changed my feelings about gender - infact if I was to have another baby, I actually think I'd prefer to have a boy because I have loved having a baby son so much that I now realise that another would be an absolute blessing - of course a daughter would be too, but I think once you've had a baby its natural to feel an affinity with the gender you first have.

Of course I know that some people reading this will think me shallow for ever feeling upset and having such a strong gender preference, and there will be people who find it angering and feel that I should have been grateful to have been having a healthy baby when so many people are unable to...

I know some people will find it completely impossible to relate to because they genuinely never had any pre-conceptions or preference, and that's good for them - I wish NOBODY ever felt the way I did, because I can assure you that there was nothing pleasant about it and if I could have clicked my fingers and snapped myself out of it, I would have.

It's very difficult to explain these feelings to people who have never experienced them. I don't know if I'd understand it myself if it hadn't happened to me.

I always did feel happy to be having a baby, and grateful that it was a healthy one - but I simply couldn't help my feelings. I can only liken it to a kind of depression. It was consuming for a while, and I felt completely unable to lift myself out of it - no matter how much I tried to tell myself how I SHOULD be feeling.

The only way to deal with it in the end was to allow myself to have the feelings, to acknowledge them and then move on.

Have you or anybody you know ever experienced similar feelings? Or do you find this subject impossible to understand? As always, I'd love to hear from you.

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