Gender disappointment: When you wish upon a star but you don’t quite get it…
I am a mum to two young boys. Every day I am thankful for them… but also extremely exhausted. When I see them playing together, I think having two kids of the same gender is the best thing that could have happened to us all. I remember my own childhood spent with an older brother, which often meant having to use my ponies as soccer players in a match against his lizard army or succumbing my dolls into becoming opponents against GI Joes in pretend WWF wrestling matches.
When I became pregnant with my second child, in those early weeks of not knowing the gender, I thought of both male and female names. One night I had a brilliant dream in which a girl’s name appeared. I had never even heard of the name. I woke up and immediately reached for my phone to Google the name. I thought it was a glimpse into my future that I would be having a girl! So when the ob/gyn announced that it was a boy, I exclaimed blankly “WHAT?”
In the days following the news, my mind had to get used to a new idea… two BOYS. As time went by, I found that I truly did not mind whether I had a girl or a boy. My mind even began to tick over the many benefits of having two kids of the same gender. And the instant I held my new baby boy in my arms, I knew our family was complete.
Gender disappointment is a real thing that some parents battle with. Historically, no culture perpetuates gender disappointment quite like China where its flipside, gender preference caused lasting ramifications to the fabric of their society. It’s not just the baby girls that were abandoned or killed. In China, till this day, it is illegal to find out the gender of a fetus. The outcome of the strong preference for male descendants has also created a social problem phenomena of gross imbalance of the ratio of the sexes in current day society.
In the media, stories circulate about parents who would go as far as to use the progress in medical science to help them select the gender of their baby. Though it might seem quite a radical (and not to mention expensive) extent to go to, it does show the depth of disappointment some parents have perhaps experienced in the past and are purposefully wanting to avoid in the future. And it comes with a lot of ethical baggage in the form of criticism of “shopping for a baby”.
If gender disappointment is something you have dealt with, or are dealing with, do not be guilty or disheartened. Yes it is a bit of a minefield that you need to be careful to navigate; but it is through being honest with yourself and acknowledging that this is a very real and legitimate thing to feel, that you will be able to move forward with your disappointment. Talk to your spouse about how you are feeling. You might even want to speak to a professional counsellor to work through some of your emotions.
Janice Zheng is a Melbourne-based writer and editor. Born and raised in Singapore, she has also lived in Vietnam, China and Australia. She has written and edited across a variety of genres including hard news, feature articles, technical and specifications writing and press releases. Her coverage of a 2009 Australian oil spill disaster and its impact on the marine environment earned her a nomination to the Professional Online Writers Guild. In 2013, her family moved to China for her husband’s work. She joined the expatriate women’s volunteer-based society and wrote prolifically for its print publications and contributed to other expatriate magazines. Since her return to Australia, Janice has turned to writing and blogging about parenthood.