You hear it all the time: "As long as my baby's healthy, I don't care if it's a boy or a girl." But many moms do care. Take Stephanie Lewis, a mom of six from San Diego. After giving birth to a boy, she tried several noninvasive gender selection methods (a fancy way of saying that she tried to choose the sex of her baby). She ate a diet rich in calcium and tried ovulation timing and even a few unsuccessful bouts of "sperm spinning." Eventually she became pregnant again -- with twins! Lewis was thrilled when multiple sonograms predicted a girl-boy pair.
Fast-forward through boy-girl showers, nurseries and coordinating outfits, to the day of delivery. "After the doctor delivered baby number one [a boy], the room fell silent, and I saw my husband's head bow down. Then a nurse said cheerfully, 'And ... it's another boy!'"
Lewis laughs now, but she remembers feeling extreme confusion and disappointment at the time. "What happened to the baby girl who was so real in my head and heart?" she says. (These emotions inspired Lewis to write a novel about gender disappointment called Lullabies & Alibis.)
Women like Lewis need to know they're not alone, says New Jersey-based therapist Joyce Venis, author of Postpartum Depression Demystified. "I'd say eight times out of 10, women who say, 'As long as it's healthy,' are not happy about having that sex." Accepting your emotions is the next step. "You're allowed to have those feelings. It doesn''t mean you're not going to love your child." In fact, bottling up disappointment can lead to postpartum depression and even resentment toward your husband, warns Venis. Friends, online support groups, your doctor or even a therapist can be objective and point out the positives.
For Lewis, it was her husband who immediately offered solace. "He said, 'If you still feel this strongly when the twins are 5 years old, I promise we'll adopt a baby girl,'" says Lewis, whose maternal instincts eventually took over. "I started to breastfeed, cuddle and love, and [thus] I began to bond with my babies."
A few years later, the family adopted a baby girl from Korea. It was a turning point for Lewis. "I love my eldest daughter more than I can express in words," she says. Although her first marriage dissolved shortly thereafter, Lewis and her new husband welcomed a second baby girl and another boy into their family.
A blood test confirmed Lewis' new point of view regarding gender selection. When she became pregnant with her fifth child, a daughter, "some blood work came back elevated, and Down syndrome was mentioned. I rushed for an amniocentesis. I cried when the results showed that everything was fine. For the first time, I understood the phrase, 'It doesn't matter what the baby is, as long as it's healthy.'"