Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why I'm Not Afraid to Say I Wanted a Girl

I have always wanted daughters. When I was little, I planned on having a brood of my own girls – mostly just because I had so many female names that I loved, but also because I couldn’t wait to put them in frilly clothes and give them my old My Little Pony dolls. Finding out that Thumper was a girl was pure joy; it wasn't just that I got what I wanted, but it felt like a safety net. If all of my other maternal instincts failed, at least the girly-girl in me would know how to dress her.

So how did I react upon finding out that I’m about to have a son?

In the first months of this pregnancy, the possibility of having a boy wasn't as distressing. I knew that having a boy wouldn’t feel like a death sentence and that obviously the baby would be loved no matter what, but I still anticipated a girl. There's already an abundance of pink clothing, toys, and accessories in our house, and Dawson and I had a girl’s name picked out long before conception. In wanting another girl, we came to expect it. So yes, when the ultra sound tech confirmed that there was no fagina this time, I was clearly disappointed. And in a culture where I think most people feel ashamed to say they are hoping for one gender or another, I’m not afraid to say so. Why should I be?

It’s not that different from any other dream we have for ourselves or our children. A father might dream that his son grows up to be a doctor, or an athlete, or take over the family business. If that’s not what ends up happening, the parent is allowed to feel disappointment – not disappointment in the child himself, but in the death of the dream, of what you always assumed or expected or hoped would happen. And as long as the father continues to support whatever career choice the son makes, then he should be entitled to his feelings. Our feelings are our own; we have a right to them, and a right to express them in a healthy way. Sometimes, that just means being able to say, “I wanted (blank) to happen,” and then cry about it for a few days. 

The phrase “as long as the baby is healthy” gets thrown around a lot during the gender debate. I get that some parents genuinely don’t have a gender preference, and that’s cool. I also understand that for those who have had a hard time conceiving, the gender is insignificant compared to the simple miracle of having a baby of either sex, and I certainly respect that. It’s the people who use the “as long as it’s healthy” line to practically scold me for having a preference that make me laugh. Of course I want a healthy baby; isn’t that a given? Nobody wants a new car and hopes it will come with a smashed-up bumper, or goes to the store for carrots and purposefully buys the rotten bag. Everybody wants a healthy baby. It’s just that some people hope, for various reasons, that their healthy baby will be a healthy girl, or perhaps a healthy boy.

It’s okay to want one or the other. There is a big difference between hoping for one gender and regretting having had the opposite of what you wanted. As long as you can get over your upset eventually, and the parent-child relationship isn’t negatively impacted by those feelings, there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself some time to be disappointed.

My initial upset wasn’t over the fact that I don’t want a son. It was merely about mourning the end of the dream I held onto for so long. And if my son reads this one day, that’ll be fine. It won’t matter what I wanted once upon a time, because he will know that I have and will always love him as fiercely as his sister, even if he hates My Little Ponies.


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