Expecting? Gender Expectations, Much?

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I’m the mom to these two cuties.  A boy mom.  And while there is strong desire somewhere deep within me to have three children, I also know that it’s not what’s in the cards for us.  And, if I’m honest my gut tells me I’d have boy after boy no matter how many kiddos I birth.  And besides, the point of this post…though others might will address judgment around the number of children folks have, this one is not about whether you’ve got a singleton or a family size that requires a Prevost for vacation.

When I became pregnant the first time, which was a complete surprise, I immediately knew I was carrying a boy.  I have no earthly idea how I knew he was a he.  I just did.  I bought and registered for gender neutral items throughout my pregnancy, but in my secret closet stash, items like blue gowns embroidered with “baby boy” hung neatly in a row.  I wasn’t disappointed by any means, and it didn’t even occur to me at that time that since I obviously wasn’t as infertile as my OB had predicted that I wouldn’t have more kids or would be limited in the number of them.  I guess I just assumed that my next child would be a girl in the deep recesses of my subconscious.  I also convinced my husband to “be surprised”, meaning I asked the ultrasound tech not to reveal the gender to us at the 20 week sonogram.  The penis was hard to miss, at least for me, and so my gut instinct was basically confirmed and I moved on to have quiet little pow-wows with the boy child in my belly occasionally while I typed away at the desk in my office as I waited, err…waddled, through the second half of my pregnancy .

If you know anything about me at all, you know I got into this blogging and advocacy game thanks to one really freakin’ horrid case of PPD/PPA, which hit me like a sledgehammer as I was being rolled into the operating room for a c-section after a 46 hour labor, and then just continued to flatten me and my mental health into a lifeless pancake.  It took many months for me to be functional and “normal”, and a couple of years for me to fully recover and be well.  The experience made it clear that a Duggar mom I would not be.  My dreams of a big family weren’t even dashed at this realization.  I’d been so close to an emotional death of myself that “little things” like family size paled in comparison to the importance of mental health.  Still, once I was well I realized that all that begging for a tubal ligation had been a mistake and that indeed I felt brave enough to give a second pregnancy, birth, and postpartum a chance.  Armed with lots of tools and people resources, as well as the fact that’d I’d recovered from a very severe case once already, I dove in.

Just a few months after I had my IUD removed I became pregnant.  This time, my gut again implied that I was carrying a little blob of XY, but I was so nauseous and busy taking care of a toddler that I barely had time to consider gender.  I needed to purchase or prepare very little the second time, since all my newborn stuff had been gender neutral AND I had tried to cope with my PPD initially through some serious retail therapy of baby items like useless gadgets and books on sleep.  The attic and basement where chock full of any item this kid would need for a year or more, and I had finally accepted a planned c-section after much consideration prior to pregnancy, so that Hypnobirthing practice that kept me occupied two hours per day round one wasn’t necessary this time.  Basically, I was incubating a sibling for my older son.

Knowing that I was highly unlikely at nearly 35, as a PPD and traumatic c-section survivor, to have more kids, once the nausea and vomiting passed, I did begin to consider the baby’s gender and my feelings around it.  I realized that I had much stronger emotions than I anticipated, and that it was even harder than I knew it would be to decide if I actually even “wanted” a girl.  My childhood had been traumatic and I don’t have a good relationship with my mom (though it’s improved exponentially over the years).  I didn’t have an everyday example of great mothering or mother/daughter dynamics to look back on as an example, and if I’m honest, while I love shopping and hosting a good cocktail party, I’m not a “girly” girl emotionally.  The thought of arguments over hairstyles, boy-drama, puberty, and revealing clothing intimidated me, to say the least.

Yet, because I had already had a boy, society (and my family & some friends, if I’m honest) kept telling me I was *supposed* to want a girl.  I mean, even my three year old son kept talking about the “baby sister” that I was fairly certain didn’t exist.  That’s the picture perfect family, right? Mom, Dad, boy, girl.  Hrumph.  So for nearly three months, most of the vibes, if not direct comments, indicated “oh, wouldn’t it be so nice to have a girl?”.  And what I thought each time I heard that was, “I’m really not sure.”

Fast forward to the 20 week sonogram with number two…
Since I was clearly unable to even determine what I wanted or was supposed to want, like that really makes a difference in your kids private parts anyway?, we were definitely finding out this time.  There I was, my belly covered in goop and my husband squinting to see something he wouldn’t have seen with a magnifying glass, when the same ultrasound tech announced plainly, “Well, it’s a guy. Definitely a boy.”  It took everything I had to simultaneously hold in all that pee in my bladder and hold back the tears.  I made it to the bathroom just in time…the tears rained down as soon as my bottom hit the toilet.  “What in the world is wrong with me?”, I wondered.  I had thought I hadn’t even wanted a girl, and now both my baby’s manhood and health had been confirmed, and yet I was feeling devastated.  What sense did this make?

I spent the next three weeks in a strange sort of mourning.  I barely talked and I would not even acknowledge my pregnancy.  I refused my husband’s offer to shop for baby things we didn’t need- it was that bad.  I didn’t tell anyone but my best friend the results of the ultrasound.  And no one asked.  It was as if it didn’t matter since they obviously assumed it wasn’t a girl or I would have been shouting from the rooftops.  And then, at 23 weeks, I slowly, but somewhat suddenly, came out of the fog of what I guess was “gender disappointment”.  I began talking to my older son about being a big brother.  And I finally realized, that my supposed little breakdown had nothing to my own feelings about my second child’s gender, and everything to do with the pressure that I had been putting on myself to come through with the perceived or real desired gender for other people.  I wasn’t upset that I was going to be a “mom to boys”.  I was anxious about telling everyone else that.

The truth is, looking back, I can’t say whether I would’ve screamed it from the rooftops even if I hadn’t seen a little penis on that screen.  My disappointment very well could have been replaced with XX panic.  Now that I’ve known my son for two years, I can’t imagine life without his quirky little self completing our family.  And as much as I yearn to buy pint sized tutus for my friends who are currently pregnant with girls, I don’t think I would be the best mom to a girl.  I think God does know about such things and gives us what we are best suited for when it comes to family dynamics.  Indeed, YOU are the best mom for your child.

~Amber

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2 comments

  1. Supermouse · · Reply

    I have twin boys, and pretty much as soon as they were born, people were asking if we were going to try for a girl. My husband and I looked at them funny, then told them “No. We wanted 2 children, we got 2 children, we can’t afford any more children and there’s no guarantee we’d get a girl anyway. Why don’t you try for a girl?” We weren’t really offended, just confused as to why people, especially people who knew us well, didn’t seem to believe us when we said we were good with two. I have only one sister, no brothers. My husband has 2 sisters, but he came about by accident, not because his parents were trying for a boy. Why should anyone care how many children we have or what sexes they are?

  2. Fantastic! Like you, I ‘knew’ all along that my first was a boy. I thought I wanted a girl, but I am soooo not girly. The second baby we found out the gender, and it was a boy too. I also barely made it to the bathroom at the U/S clinic before the tear and my bladder burst. But now that I have 2 little boys, I have NO IDEA what to do with a girl! I have come to accept, and embrace my house full of boys, and I am truly a mom of boys too!

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