I received an email recently from one of my new friends from prenatal swim class. She had just found out she was having a boy, and she was feeling disappointed. She was writing to me because she remembered my having admitted to similar feelings.
She asked me if the feeling had gone away yet, asked how I managed, if I knew of any resources. She said she didn't know anyone else who had ever talked about feeling this way.
I emailed her back:
...When I posted about the subject on Parenting.com, I was glad to hear from other women who said they had felt the same way. I agree it seems taboo to admit to being disappointed.
The feeling has gotten lighter, but it honestly took me a couple of weeks to really get over it. The first few days were the hardest.
I think the elements to the sadness could make for a master's thesis — about boys vs. girls in our culture, about mother-daughter dynamics, the desire to re-live (or correct) our own childhoods, to have our child be our best girlfriend. Not to mention all the cute girl clothes. I feel like in my own life a lot of my prejudices about boys that I've never had to face are going to get challenged, and that's a good thing. I think too that my husband is going to get to face and resolve a lot of his own father/son experiences, and that will be very healing for him.
Now, when I think about it, I picture how this little guy is going to come and be my buddy, and how interesting it will be to see elements of my female self translated into a male offspring (egotistical? like I said, master's thesis...). I also imagine that I will have this invitation to explore more boyish activities that I've never tried — my Yang self.
In other cultures, people go so far as to routinely abort girl babies in alarming numbers; or at the very least, revere boys.
I feel like we don't generally celebrate boys here in America. We tend to fear them.
I know I restrained myself somewhat when writing for a public audience about it because I didn't want to seem ungrateful or bad....
After I sent the email, I searched the archives at the Berkeley Parents Network and found a page of posts about gender preference. The moms sounded uniformly happy, of course, with their sons, and many also admitted to feeling just a little twinge sometimes when they see mothers and daughters together, or spy a really adorable dress in a kids' clothing store.
And then an editor at Parenting.com (thanks, Lilan!) sent me links to some articles she had read about gender preference in America.
This one talks about the technology currently available, for a price, that spins sperm to select for x or y; as well as the option of embryo gender selection in the case of IVF. Interestingly, couples who wish to select the gender must already have one child and be seeking to "balance" the family. Other acceptable reasons for gender preference include avoiding having a child with x- or y-chromosome-linked disorders like hemophilia and muscular dystrophy.
The second article claims that my friend and I are practically in the minority regarding having a gender preference. The study looked at whether people would choose to use medical intervention to control gender, and if they had a preference for one sex over another. I don't think I would choose to use medical technology to select gender, even if it just involved a blue vs. pink pill. But I don't know for sure.
If you'd surveyed me before I got pregnant, I too would have answered that I didn't care either way. It's only since I got pregnant, and since I found out I was having a boy, that I really recognized I had these strong feelings. Feelings about the IDEA of having one gender child or another, I might add. The reality will be a totally different experience. For now, this is all mental gymnastics.
I would bet that if you surveyed only pregnant women who don't know the gender yet, the results would be very different. I also bet that men would score very differently from women.
Sure, if we decide to have another child, I might want to try all sorts of non-medical and old wives' tricks to get a girl. Or I might leave it up to chance. But maybe my boy would like a brother...? Oh, let me just get through this pregnancy first!