PARENTING CONFESSION: 'When I saw a penis on my 20-week scan, I wailed.'

When I was growing up, my mother and I shared a very special relationship. I had two younger brothers, but I felt that the relationship that my mum and I shared was particularly special. I also listened to her speak about the bond with her own mother the same way, so I wanted to be another link in the chain.

When it was my turn to have babies, my first was a boy. I wasn’t concerned at all by this – I wanted to have a baby and it had taken my husband and I about a year to conceive despite some fairly enthusiastic trying (think ovulation tracking vs mindless banging). When that baby boy was in my arms, I never wanted to let him go. He’s now almost four, and he is my kindred spirit. He’s like me in so many ways and we fully understand each other.

When I got pregnant again, it was for the ‘last time’. My husband and I had only ever wanted two children. From the start I convinced myself this child was a boy, because I didn’t want to believe it could be a girl. But in the back of my mind, I was hoping to have the nice ‘surprise’ of expecting a female baby. I told everyone (including myself) that it didn’t matter what the baby’s sex was, that I would be thrilled, regardless. I built myself a Donald Trump sized wall to avoid disappointment.

Watch: We asked The Motherish community the time they felt like a bad mother. Post continues after video.

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Yet when I saw that tiny little penis on my 20 week scan, I wailed.

I wrote a letter to the ‘daughter I would never have’, soaking it in floods of tears. When anyone asked me if I had ‘wanted a girl’ (despite being pregnant with a boy), I went on the offensive and became abrasive, asking why on earth I would mind what sex I had, when I was so lucky to have two healthy children. Yet behind closed doors, I fervently researched ‘gender disappointment’ and ‘how do I deal with not having a girl?’ I asked myself why it was that so many people around me seemed to have ‘pigeon pairs’, yet I couldn’t manage it myself.

I’m sure you might be disgusted by this reaction. In truth, I disgusted myself. I felt so much shame about the way that I felt, but I could not shake the feeling that I wanted that girl.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want my boys – I knew I would love this new boy, and now he’s here I adore him with every fibre of my being. I don’t regret him for one second – it was just that I also wanted a girl. And knowing I felt this way, whilst in the midst of people who had tried to fall pregnant for years, and people who were enduring round after round of useless IVF, made me feel like the world’s biggest a**hole.

Gender disappointment is real.

The truth is, I’m not an a**hole. Gender disappointment is real, and there are entire forums and blogs dedicated to women (and men) who feel this way. In fact, as many as one in five women feel gender disappointment when they expect one sex and find out they are having another. Of course, some people will never understand how someone could feel this way when there are so many infertile people and children in poverty, and I completely get why someone would feel that. Truth be told, I thought parents who were desperate for a particular sex were revolting human beings – until it happened to me. But now I am here, and I feel the way I do. And I can’t talk about it with others, because it is such a taboo subject and, of course, a sore spot for those who can’t conceive naturally and just want a child.


Unlike a lot of women, I don’t care about the tutus and ponytails. When I think about why I want a female child, I look into my future and imagine my daughter and I as adults together – deep (often tipsy) discussions, shopping trips and maybe even one day guiding my daughter through her own pregnancy and motherhood.

So now I’ve reached what is the natural conclusion for many women in my situation – I am researching sex selection. It’s not legal in Australia to anyone other than those wanting to decrease the chance of sex-specific genetic conditions, so I have to go overseas, most likely to the US. And it’s not cheap – at least $15,000USD, plus medication, plus flights and accommodation, plus doing it all over again if it doesn’t work. Because it’s such a taboo subject, it’s hard to tell how many Australians are going overseas to choose the sex of their baby, but there are a couple of Aussie outlets sending hundreds of couples over to the US each year, and these numbers have increased since the Australian Health Ethics Committee chose to uphold its 2005 ban on IVF for sex selection back in 2017.


Listen to Mamamia's The Baby Bubble where the hosts talk about gender disappointment and how to deal with it. Post continues after audio.

And I ask myself; how can I put my family through this financial strain for something that only I want so badly? (My husband is happy with the boys we have and is devastated at the thought of spending so much money to choose the baby’s sex.) But with every logical argument or realisation of how crazy this is, my brain bites back with the insatiable desire to have a girl. And I know she might not have a great relationship with me, and it might not be the same as I have with my own mum, but I still feel like I have to try.

Call me a monster, call me selfish. At the end of the day, I’m just a mum with two beautiful (and loved) boys who would also like to have a girl.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons.

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