parent opinion

'I didn't realise gender disappointment was a thing in pregnancy, until I admitted I had it.'

Note: I’d like to preface this article by warning anyone who has experienced fertility issues that it may be triggering. I’d also like to apologise to anyone who identifies as non-binary for discussing gender in such a conventional, closed manner; please bear in mind that this is written through the lens of my own lived experience.

Almost a year ago today, on my birthday last year, Luke and I were sitting on the rocks at Gordon’s Bay, watching the sunset over the ocean, while we sipped Bollinger straight from the bottle. I had packed some crystal glasses to make the experience nicer but proceeded to break them straight away. 

It was here that we decided we were ready to start a family.

Not straight away, but we knew it was something that we would aim for in 2022. We discussed our future through rose-tinted glasses and champagne blurred unrealistic notions of parenthood, while we promised each other a few things that we both needed to take this next step.

I knew we’d be having a little girl. 

It’s all I wanted. One baby. One little girl.

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While I’d always loved baby girls, it was the birth and bond with my niece, Evie, that really cemented that it was exactly what I wanted. Despite her being potentially the worst baby in the world (sorry Evelyn if you ever read this, but you really were).

Due to a bunch of different circumstances, I was surprised when I realised I was pregnant. As was almost every single one of my friends and family, which you can see here:

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We hadn’t had sex when I was ovulating? I’d bought the damn sticks that tell you when you are.

But I straight away knew it was a girl, because according to *the internet*, girls 'linger' up in the womb longer and can hang around for an egg, whereas boys give up - the lazy things.

I found out REALLY early and spent the next few months in a haze of vomit and complete clarity I was brewing a baby girl. 

I told everyone (who knew I was pregnant) that I was having a girl. 

I had her name picked out. I felt the feminine energy. 

Plus, I was sick as balls; something else *the internet* says means you’re having a girl. Even a psychic placed her hand on my stomach at a birthday party and told me wisely that it was a girl. 

I knew it.

When I had the NIPT test at 10ish weeks, I gave them permission to tell me the gender of the baby over the phone. I didn’t want a surprise. I didn’t want a piece of paper I could give to someone selling a mystery-filled cake or balloon. I just wanted to know.

I was at my Nanny’s house with my sister, Emma, and her daughter Evie when I got the call. 

It was the last visit I actually had with them until hard lockdown kicked in. The lovely lass on the phone informed me that I was growing a very healthy baby, and the tests showed no abnormalities. 

I breathed a sigh of relief (that everyone feels with each and every test while pregnant), and then nervously waited while she double-checked I was happy to be given the gender over the phone. I confirmed, and she excitedly told me...

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"YOU’RE HAVING A BOY."

...

"WHAT?" I screeched back at her, "ARE YOU SURE?"

"Um... yes," she responded, clearly not getting the abject delight from me that she would be expecting and is used to hearing.

I finished my conversation and went back to sit with Nanny and Emma. 

Emma saw my face and quickly plonked Evie on my lap to cheer me up. I breathed in her scent while all my future plans with my own baby girl were dashed away.

Nanny sternly reminded me that I was lucky to be having a baby boy and that boys are far better than girls anyway. Given she’s a rampant sexist with four boys of her own, this didn’t surprise me and definitely gave me a good giggle.

I didn’t want to tell Luke over the phone, and needed time to digest the information, so I didn’t tell him until the next day once he’d finished work. 

He had the opposite reaction to me, whooping and grinning delightedly from ear to ear.

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That was almost four months ago now, and I’m only just now sharing the gender (or sex organs really) of my baby publicly now.

When I see little boys on the street or on TV, I still don’t get that heart tug that baby girls give me.

Every time I’ve seen a female newborn on Instagram, I’ve felt a pang.

My disappointment has been about the big things, like knowing a son won’t care for me when I’m older the way a daughter would (which is purely from my own family experiences and one I’m now intent on changing). 

The immature things, like me squealing about how I’m growing an icky penis and yelling 'BUT DOES THE POOP GET IN THE FORESKIN' at friends with young lads.

Listen to Mamamia's parenting podcast This Glorious Mess. In this episode, Kelly McCarren shares her burning questions about motherhood. Post continues below.



I’ve also spent a vast amount of the past four months feeling guilty. 

Feeling guilty about being disappointed.

Feeling terrible for my little baby boy because I didn’t want him to feel my disappointment.

Despite how I feel, that doesn’t diminish the love I have for him, and I already want to protect him from everything that could hurt him - including his mother and the stupid and completely unfair way I felt about him.

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It wasn’t until I posted something on Instagram last month, though, that I realised just how common gender disappointment is. 

Even in 2021 - when we all like to think we’re progressive and woke - I was shocked to see when I posted a question box that I recieved endless requests to share the baby’s gender. 

So, I finally just gently disclosed that I was experiencing gender disappointment and wasn’t ready to share.

And holy sh*tballs, the responses were overwhelming. 

I expected, at best, people not to engage/respond and, at worst, vitriol. I was bracing myself ready for it, and now publishing this, I’m aware I could still receive it. (Please don’t BTW, trust me when I tell you that I already feel horrible enough as it is.)

Hundreds of DMs were received thanking me for sharing, and women shared their own experiences with me too. 

I was mostly afraid of upsetting women who had struggled with fertility because I couldn’t imagine how much of a kick in the face it would be to hear someone complaining about gender when they would give anything for a healthy baby. 

But many of the women who messaged me had experienced gender disappointment and had experienced fertility issues. Two women had been going through years of treatment and, despite this, still admitted they had a gender preference and knew they would be disappointed (while still grateful, of course).

Yet again, like with many things in life, that simple Instagram post proved to me that two things really can be true at the same time. 

You can be ecstatic to be pregnant and love your baby more than you knew possible. But at the same time, you can experience disappointment and grieve over the future you had planned.

The best advice came from a dear friend; she told me that the world had enough great women. What the world needs is more great men. And that I could do a bloody good job raising one.

So, I hold that with me, and as every day passes I fall more and more in love with the cheeky little boy growing inside me - who already loves kicking just as his father (a huge sports nut) hoped for. 

Here’s to raising a wonderful man, who is just a damn good human.

For more from Kelly McCarren, you can follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: @kelly_mccarren Instagram.

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