Feeling negative about the sex of my baby? Keep it to yourself

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock 

I didn't mince my words when I wrote that headline and there's a good reason for it. The way people feel about the sex of other people's babies is irrelevant, and expressing disappointment is potentially hurtful and damaging.

I should know; I went through it myself and am now watching a dear friend suffer through other people's reactions while dealing with a baby, a toddler and intense morning sickness.

The fact that people think it's ideal to have both sexes of children is a weird one. And the fact that they feel free to express that to a parent who is pregnant with her third or fourth boy or girl is frankly, repugnant.

It felt like a rocky road to my third son. There was the devastating miscarriage then six months of trying with no success. Finally, 19 months after we first started trying to conceive, our beautiful third son arrived. Perfection to us, but seen as a failure by others who couldn't comprehend that there is any quality of life for a mother of three sons.

We knew he was a boy from the time I was 14 weeks pregnant and the worst thing about knowing so early and telling people, were the reactions.

The crestfallen faces, the aversion of the eyes as they truly took in how horrible it was, then the smug comments. Even from the closest of family members.

"I'm so glad I got my girl."

"Surely you'll go again, you know, to try for a girl?"

"I must admit, I always knew I'd have a girl."

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"You must be soooo devastated."

And from the nurse who booked me into the hospital, "Oh well, sons are good for one thing... daughters-in-law."

Quite astonishing.

Aside from the fact that one or more of my sons could be gay, that's a hell of a thing to say about the value of my children.

For one, the 'disappointing' life we carry inside us means every bit as much as any child anyone has ever carried and loved.

And aside from how inappropriate it is to respond with disappointment, is the effect it had on me. For a time I became depressed and wondered if I even should be happy about this baby.

That was the depression speaking of course, but the effect on me was profound while I was dealing with being so ill and trying to keep up with my two young sons, as well as working.

And before you say, "Well don't tell people then," the exact same thing happened to my friend upon the birth of her 'gender surprise' third daughter, pity for her husband flowing in via phone calls and texts.

The absolute worst says my friend Hannah* - who is expecting her third boy, just as I did - is the pity.

"It's more what is unsaid, especially when I remember how those same people reacted when I announced boys one and two. The pity. Oh the pitying eyes. It's the lack of excitement and congratulations this time that really saddens me. People just seem so disappointed!"

She adds, "It's horrible to not feel excitement about a baby you're growing. Especially when I'm so bloody sick all the time. I know that's wearing me down now too."

I do know, sadly. The rigours of third-time pregnancy are more than enough, without dealing with this kind of attitude towards a child you've sacrificed so much to have. I still remember every single person in my life who had that mortified or pitying reaction. And I also remember the ones who were excited for us, even nearly six years down the track.

"I have seriously had next to no genuine congratulations and happiness," says Hannah. "The disappointment and pity is brutal."

The feeling that a mum or dad should have a child of the same sex in order to be complete and balanced is false. 

The smugness that you got the 'right' mix of children is completely irrelevant to how someone else feels about their own family.

You don't need to point out the charming dress your daughter is wearing and say, "Oh you'll never have the problem of picking out clothes for girls." I'm not jealous.

You also don't need to buy your own beliefs about the 'differences' between boys and girls, because most of that is the result of social conditioning.

If you know you have done this yourself, I'm going to be blunt and say keep your feelings about the sex of other people's babies to yourself.

Offer nothing but smiles and heartfelt congratulations because truly, that's all a sick mum dragging herself around wants to hear.

*name changed