When you're disappointed with your baby's gender

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 Photo: Getty Images

Katherine Asbery did everything she could to have a girl.

She tried the Shettles and Whelan methods, which both involve timing of intercourse; she feasted on fruits and vegetables; she went on a low-salt diet; and she did everything the internet told her to do to get pregnant with the baby girl she had always dreamed of delivering.

But nothing worked for Asbery, already a mother of three little boys.

The Asbery family: Kadin, 17, Cullen, 14, Dave, 47, Liam, 10, Elliana 5, and Katherine, 46.
The Asbery family: Kadin, 17, Cullen, 14, Dave, 47, Liam, 10, Elliana 5, and Katherine, 46.  Photo: Katherine Asbery

"We did it all," said Asbery. "This wasn't how I saw my life."

Her friends would go on shopping sprees for their little ladies, and they'd plan teas for their girls. Slowly, the woman who dreamed only of having girls found herself losing friends one by one simply because she had boys.

Asbery was becoming desperate until the day she logged online to one of her "disappointed gender" community websites and chatted with a web friend who'd found out that she was having a boy when she, too, wanted a girl.

"She was going to abort him," said Asbery, who went on to adopt her fourth child - a girl - and write Altered Dreams, a book about gender disappointment. "I realised how serious this was," Asbery said.

Asbery offered to adopt her new friend's baby, but it was too late.

Gender disappointment is more common than most people think, said Diane Ross-Glazer, author of When Parenting Is a Foreign Language.

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There are active online community boards dedicated to supporting parents and parents-to-be who are disappointed about the gender of their baby and have already connected expectations to their baby's personality.

"The vast majority are benign psychological reasons, which might have to do with your own hopes, feelings of inadequacy, fears about parenting and what you might do well, what you might have been exposed to," said Stephan Quentzel, a New York-based psychiatrist.

Regardless of the reasons for the gender preference, the vast majority of these feelings vanish the moment the baby is born.

After giving birth, in many cases, "it can take seconds, from a psychological and biochemical standpoint, to be head-over-heels in love with the newborn, regardless of gender," said Quentzel.

Even so, if parents have a strong desire to have one gender, it's advised that they find out what they're having ahead of time, so that they can address their emotions.

"Take the time to mourn the loss of what you thought you were going to get," Ross-Glazer said. "We all are disappointed when our idea, when our visual doesn't pan out and become a reality."

Talk about why you're disappointed: Did you picture going to sports games with a son? If so, why can't you do that with a daughter?

If you are able to connect your disappointment to a thought, it's easier to release.

For some, the feeling of disappointment doesn't dissipate when the child is born, and these parents will need to seek help from a therapist.

Asbery loves all of her boys but said she continued to want a special relationship with a daughter, picturing the stereotypical mother-daughter relationship.

"You could do everything with your girl," she said. "They are your mini-me."

She did a gender-specific adoption and brought home Elliana in 2012. So far, she said, having a girl has been healing.

"Having a daughter is what I thought it would be: my boys sitting on the floor having a tea party with her, daddy-daughter dances, girls' day, shopping," she said, picturing the future. "It's that relationship that I was missing that she has filled, not just for me, but for all of us."

Chicago Tribune