Coming to Terms with the Daughter I’ll Never Have

8

gender disappointment

There I was, 14 weeks pregnant, on my knees on my bedroom floor just praying, praying for a healthy baby — and for the utmost acceptance over any possible outcome. (I don’t always pray on my knees, but when I do, it’s my way of showing the Man Upstairs — or Woman if you’re Ariana Grande — that I mean business.) I didn’t dare ask God for a daughter, because who prays for a certain gender? I just wanted the anxious knot in my stomach to loosen.

When the email popped up with the results of my NIPS screening — a suggested test when you’re “geriatric” in pregnancy terms — my hand was shaking. I quickly skimmed, trying to make sense of the medical terminology. Healthy, the baby is healthy! Then my eyes darted over to the “Fetal Sex Result,” and I was greeted with a circle-arrow symbol, one I recognized but couldn’t quite place. “Y chromosome detected, consistent with a male fetus,” it read. I quickly Googled to make sure boys have the Y chromosome and not girls, as biology was never my strong suit. Indeed. “I’m a… boy mom,” I thought, as I spent the majority of the next 24 hours sobbing.

As I grappled with my emotions, I tried to introduce The Little Mermaid to my almost-2-year-old son when he woke up from his nap, as I had little energy for anything other than the forbidden screentime. No dice, he just asked for Cars — his favorite. When my husband came home that evening, he tried to be supportive but couldn’t understand why I was that upset. Sure, I’d hoped for a girl, but I knew it wasn’t a guarantee. We wanted a second child, period, no matter what. I just didn’t know the “gender disappointment” (a term I discovered that day) would hit me that hard.

Truth be told, I was grieving the loss of a life I’d dreamt of for years. Believe me, I was and am eternally thankful — grateful that I was able to conceive a second time, grateful that my baby appears healthy thus far and grateful that I’m a mother, a role that is really friggin’ awesome. And I know that many women long to become mothers period — and they can’t. That’s a loss of epic proportions on a different level entirely. But this is my truth, and writing is a form of therapy for me.

You see, my mother died when I was 16, and as an only child, I’ve since ached for that adult mother-daughter relationship — and that unconditional love and understanding that can come from another female family member. Of course, this is in addition to the mommy-and-me pedicures, the matching outfits, the shopping excursions, the oversized hair bows, the dance recitals and all the other things I’d hoped to share with my unborn daughter. I’d also saved my wedding dress — not to force it upon her on her special day, but perhaps something she could wear for dress-up — along with a beloved prom dress my mom bought for me two months before she passed. My sobbing only intensified when I realized I may as well donate those items to someone else.* Not only that, but the son I already had was perfection in my eyes! I couldn’t imagine loving another boy in the same way I loved him.

Left: My mom and I at my Rainbow Brite-themed surprise birthday party. Center: I never liked dance recitals, anyway. But that other kid sure did! Right: My dream prom dress I saw in Seventeen magazine! My dad refused to buy it, but my mom insisted. I still have it to this day.

After a couple of days to process, I knew I had to change my mindset — I purchased some blue cupcakes in celebration. I was feeling intense guilt over my feelings of disappointment and read numerous articles about longing for a certain gender, along with the joy of raising all boys. I reached out to several friends and acquaintances who had boys, many of whom not only expressed their own initial sadness over their lost girl dreams (validation, hallelujah!) but also outlined the joys of being a “boy mom” and wholeheartedly welcomed me into their elusive club.

One girlfriend, in particular, helped put it all in perspective for me. “I realized I was never having a second child for me,” she shared of her own experience with having two boys. “I was having a second child for my son. I’m an only child. We’re giving our son A BROTHER!! The greatest gift we could ever give him. It is a blessing watching their relationship grow.” BOOM. I’m an only child, too. I realized I was literally never having this kiddo for myself. We chose to have him for our son so he could experience the joy of a sibling. I, too, want to give our son something that I never had.

My son and I, sharing in the joy of a good pumpkin spice latte. Photo by Corinna Hoffman Photography.

A couple of weeks have since passed, and I’m learning to embrace my impending role as the quintessential “boy mom.” That’s not to say I don’t still have my moments, like while strolling wistfully past the Barbie aisle at Target when birthday shopping for my now-2-year-old. Heck, I’ve never loved the term “boy mom” anyway — we’re all just moms, gender aside, with children who go ape when you say they can’t have fruit snacks right before dinner or who try to flush your mascara down the toilet. And while I realize I could always try for a third baby, I don’t believe in “trying” for a particular sex — and frankly, I personally couldn’t handle more than two precious mini-mes (boys or not) at the ripe, advanced maternal age of 38.

*Let the record state that these were always fantasies; my hypothetical daughter very well could have scoffed at American Girl dolls and my sons may beg to take dance classes someday, which would be nothing short of amazing.

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Originally from Kansas City, Tina relocated to Jacksonville, FL with her dear husband, feisty cat and sweet-natured corgi mix in 2016. After eight years working various gigs in New York City from magazine publishing to digital marketing, Tina joined the world of freelance, writing and reporting for a variety of publications and websites including MTV News, ET Online, Glamour, Us Weekly and more. Tina has also assisted with social media, editorial and content strategy for brands and personalities such as Britney Spears, Jordin Sparks, Beauty Brands, truTV and WE tv. When she’s not plugging away on her laptop, she can be found exploring the Jacksonville beaches, reading a good book or enjoying a local coffee shop with her cherub-cheeked toddler, Archer.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for this! I just found out I am having boy #3 and my husband and I couldn’t help but feeling upset. I know my boys will be forever greatful to have each other, but it is hard when you first hear the news.

  2. I can relate to you so much. I’ve always wanted at two kids because I grew up kind of like an only child (parents split when I was 3 and brother lived with dad). And, I’ve wanted at least one girl so I could do the bows and dress up and pedicure thing. When I was pregnant tyw first time, I prayed for a healthy baby, and was happy with my boy but the gnawing for a girl was immediate. I love my super boyish son though. I love doing the boy mom things with him and getting to experience that. I can’t think of many things cuter than a super-serious 2-year-old using a toy drill on his work bench.
    When I got pregnant again, I didn’t mince words with God. I prayed for a healthy baby girl. Daily. Sometimes more than once a day. At 18 weeks, the unthinkable happened though. I sneezed in the shower and felt something pop out of me. It turns out my cervix dilated 5 cm and my baby had come partially out. In the hospital, doctors told me there was nothing they could do and I’d likely go into labor very soon. I never cried so hard in my life. I thought God was punishing me for wanting a girl instead of being grateful I got pregnant when so many women can’t. I thought for sure this is a boy and he was being taken away and that’s when I knew I would have loved a second boy because I already fiercely loved this baby I was about to lose. I prayed for God to save my baby no matter if it was a girl or a boy and by some miracle, doctors performed surgery on me two days later when I still hadn’t gone into labor. I got to 30 weeks and gave birth to – suririse – a girl! But going through that experience made me realize it wouldn’t have mattered. It’s a bonus she’s a girl but I would have loved my baby even if I had boy #2. I have no doubt you will too. Sometimes it just takes those scary things to help us realize that. Or time. I hope it’s the latter for you haha.
    Enjoy being the only Queen in your home but never say never to baby #3!

  3. Nancy Grace had twins at 50. 3rd times the charm. My uncle tried for a boy 5 times, he has 5 daughters! I am looking forward to meeting Archer’s little brother ❣️

  4. Hi Tina! Thank you for sharing. Gender disappointment is really hard to explain because it makes me seems like a ungreatful brat. I have two very healthy boys and yet I will always be sad that there isn’t a daughter in my life. I was so sure this feeling will go away after having my second son, but it hasn’t and I’ve now realized it won’t.

    My friends (all of whom somehow had one of each) recently had a Hors d’oeuvres and Ornaments party for just mothers and daughters. It’s an adorable Christmas party idea…very girly, sweet, and crafty. The pictures cut me. It hurt all the way down to my soul. Not that I was missing a party (ok, maybe a little fomo), but it was a slap – you do not have a daughter and you never will.

    And don’t get me started on all the Father/Daughter dances coming up.

  5. My mother in law raised 3 sons. Now she’s got granddaughters to enjoy all the girly things she missed. I’m a boy mom too and who knows, my sons may one day bless me with a granddaughter. For now, I’m happy to enjoy my nieces.

  6. We’ll written story and understandable that you would want that baby girl after losing your Mom at a young and impressionable age, I can’t imagine what that must have felt like. I lost my baby girl, Olivia when she was 5 months old due to her daycare provider neglecting her. I had my rainbow baby, a beautiful boy, a few years after her death. I’m certainly happy after reading this story that you didn’t experience the loss of a child in reality, that causes a never ending heartache that won’t ever go away. It’s been almost 6 years since she passed away and at the hands of someone else. I will always be grateful for having a boy after Olivia, I feel if I were to have had a girl it would have felt too much, in my mind as a replacement. My sweet Justin will be 4 this June and he is my everything. Thank you for sharing your story.

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