Finding out the gender of your baby is an exciting milestone during pregnancy. However, if the gender reveal doesn’t align with your hopes and expectations, you may experience feelings of disappointment and sadness. Gender disappointment is more common than you may think. Here are some tips for coping in a healthy way if you find yourself feeling let down about your baby’s sex.
Understanding Gender Disappointment
Gender disappointment refers to feelings of sadness, loss, or regret when learning your baby’s sex isn’t what you anticipated. Many expecting parents have a preference and hopes for either a boy or girl. There are many understandable reasons you may desire one gender over the other:
- Family balancing – You already have all boys or all girls and want to experience raising the other gender.
- Relating to your child – You always envisioned bonding over certain activities or interests more associated with one gender.
- Carrying on traditions – You hoped to pass down heirlooms, customs, or even a family name associated with one sex.
- Pressure from others – External influences, opinions, or expectations made you feel one gender was preferred.
- Assumptions about gender – You associate certain personality traits, behaviors, or parenting experiences with either boys or girls.
If the 20-week ultrasound reveals your baby is not the sex you expected, hoped for, or were convinced it would be, you’ll likely feel let down or disappointed to some degree. This is a very common reaction and nothing to feel guilty about.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
The feelings you experience after finding out your baby’s gender may feel very similar to grief. Give yourself permission to mourn the little boy or girl you had imagined and hoped for. Gender disappointment is not a sign you will not love or bond with your baby. It simply means you had specific expectations that were not realized. Here are some helpful ways to process the grief:
- Allow sadness: Let yourself cry or feel down for a period of time without judgment.
- Share your feelings: Confide in your partner, friend, or support group. Talking it through can help immensely.
- Work through confusion: Journal, pray, or meditate on how to move forward positively. Reframe any irrational thoughts.
- Release regrets: Allow regretful or resentful thoughts to surface, then actively let them go. Forgive yourself.
- Embrace acceptance: Focus on getting to know your baby as a unique individual, not a gender stereotype.
Give yourself time and space to grieve in whatever ways feel natural and helpful to you. The intensity of disappointment often fades as you bond with your baby further along in pregnancy.
Adjust Your Expectations
The hopes, dreams, and expectations you associated with a boy or girl baby aren’t wrong, but they are likely based on gender stereotypes or assumptions. Here are some ways to gradually adjust your thinking:
- Get to know your baby’s unique identity. See your baby as a blank slate full of possibilities, not limited by their anatomy.
- Challenge gender stereotypes. Remind yourself personality traits, interests, and needs are not defined by gender.
- Emphasize shared experiences. Reflect on the ancient universal experiences of pregnancy, birth, and parenting that transcend gender.
- Focus on the positive. Make a list of all the wonderful aspects of experiencing the opposite gender from what you envisioned.
- Look to your other relationships. If you have a living child, appreciate the unique joy they bring, regardless of gender. You’ll have that again with this new addition. If you don’t have living children, focus on all the unexpected delights of parenting that all babies share regardless of sex.
Actively changing the narrative and expectations you had for this child’s gender will help the reality feel more positive. Highlight all that will be a delight about this boy or girl.
Bond with Your Baby
One of the most powerful ways to overcome gender disappointment is to nurture a strong connection with your baby throughout the rest of your pregnancy. Here are some ideas:
- Give your baby a name – Naming your child helps establish their identity beyond their sex. Use a name you love regardless of gender.
- Talk and sing to your baby – Verbally connecting and soothing your baby stimulates prenatal bonding.
- Caress and interact with your bump – Stroke, poke, or comb baby’s body parts and see them respond.
- Share ultrasound images – Seeing your baby’s unique face and features fosters awe and affection.
- Learn baby’s habits – Notice if they are active at certain times or respond to foods, music, etc.
- Plan for their arrival – Preparing your home with treasures and essentials for baby reminds you this unique life is coming.
The more you interact with and relate to your baby as a little person during pregnancy, the less their gender alone will influence how you feel.
Do not isolate yourself if you are feeling intense emotions about your baby’s sex. Find support from others who understand to avoid suppressing or dwelling on your feelings alone.
- Join a gender disappointment online group – Connect with others experiencing the same emotions.
- Confide in trusted friends/family – Choose only supportive loved ones who won’t minimize your feelings.
- Seek professional counseling – If emotions persist or worsen, speak to a therapist for guidance.
- Avoid negative company – Limit time with those who intensify grief over gender by agreeing the “wrong” baby was conceived.
Give yourself permission to feel disappointed for a period, but do not remain isolated. Processing feelings with compassionate listeners helps enormously.
Refocus on the Positive
Once you’ve had time to grieve and adjust expectations, make an active effort to refocus your thoughts and feelings on the positive. Here are some great ways to redirect your mindset:
- Make lists of all the benefits and joys of having a boy or girl based on your personal circumstances.
- Imagine how you will positively nurture your child’s interests regardless of gender norms.
- If you have other children, reflect on how blessed they will be to have a sibling and how it will enrich your family.
- Consider fun ways to incorporate some gender-specific activities you looked forward to into your relationship with baby.
- Plan how you’ll give this same baby just as much love as you would have either gender.
- Remember that gender is just one small aspect of who your child will become. The rest has yet to be discovered!
Actively redirecting your mindset in this way prevents resentment and fosters a positive attitude as you finish pregnancy.
Move Forward with Excitement
As you approach the end of your pregnancy, make a conscious decision to move forward with genuine excitement about meeting your baby. Here are some great ideas:
- Finalize name choices – Decide on a meaningful name that fits your baby perfectly, regardless of gender.
- Prep gear in gender neutral colors – Surround yourself with cream, yellow, green, or rainbow hues instead of traditional pink or blue.
- Plan gender-neutral nursery – Decorate the room with art, nature themes, or colors you find uplifting.
- Cherish first baby outfits – Wash the coming home outfit you’ve chosen with love, envisioning dressing your baby.
- Focus on baby’s health – Redirect any lingering gender thoughts on praying for or visualizing your baby’s health.
- Practice affirmations – Repeat positive phrases like “This is exactly the baby I’m meant to have.”
- Anticipate meeting baby – Replace old visions with simply looking forward to holding the precious life you grew.
Committing fully to excitement about your baby as a whole person allows their gender to take proper perspective.
Love Your Child Unconditionally
Once your baby arrives, embrace them fully for the perfect child they are. Here are important principles for early parenting:
- Make bonding, attachment, and responsiveness your top priorities in the first weeks, not gender impact.
- Celebrate and welcome this baby’s gender after birth. Enjoy any associated traditions.
- Hold, nourish, and nurture this little one with the same tenderness you would give either sex.
- Allow your baby’s emerging personality to show you their unique identity. Let them take the lead in interests.
- Resist overlaying gender expectations. Allow your child to demonstrate their individuality.
- If disappointment or regret arise, revert back to acceptance and bonding practices.
- Raise your child to understand their gender is just one facet of who they are meant to become.
Commit to loving each stage of growth with this baby. Your parental relationship transcends any temporary gender preferences. Enjoy it all!
Experiencing gender disappointment is painful but normal if your baby’s sex is not what you anticipated. Allow yourself to grieve then gradually adjust your expectations. Actively bond with your baby, seek support, and refocus on the positives. Finally, welcome your child with joy, knowing their gender is just one small part of who they will become. With time, patience and unconditional love, your relationship can flourish beautifully.