How to Cope with Gender Disappointment
By: Niyatee Sukumaran, Ph.D. | November 10, 2023
If you are an expectant parent, you’ve undoubtedly been asked: “Do you want a boy or a girl?” All expectant parents have their own ideas and expectations about the biological sex of their future child and create fantasies around what an ideal family looks like. The anticipation of a child’s gender can lead to a range of emotions, including disappointment when reality doesn’t align with your expectations. This disappointment, commonly known as gender disappointment, is a natural and valid emotional response that many parents experience.
Understanding Gender Disappointment
At the 20th-week ultrasound, parents learn about their baby’s biological sex. It’s crucial to recognize that biological sex and gender are distinct concepts. While biological sex is determined by chromosomes, hormones and physical attributes, gender is a multifaceted experience shaped by societal, cultural, and personal factors. The complexity of gender means that parents’ initial emotions might not fully encapsulate their future relationship with their child.
If you are an expectant parent who experiences gender disappointment, you likely feel guilt and shame for your lack of excitement about the baby’s sex. You may also grieve for the vision of your future with your child and feel afraid and anxious about your ability to connect with your baby at birth, and your role as a parent.
Coping with Gender Disappointment
If you’re struggling to accept the sex of your baby, you’re not alone. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings and not ignore them or try to stuff them away. The following strategies will help you actively cope with gender disappointment.
It’s essential for expectant parents to explore and try to understand your emotions. You can journal about your thoughts and feelings related to your baby’s sex to provide insight into the underlying reasons for disappointment. You might identify with sadness or feel an array of complex emotions. This self-reflection activity can help you challenge societal norms and your personal expectations, allowing you to embrace your emotions without judgment.
- Open Communication
Talking openly with a partner, family, or with friends can be profoundly cathartic. When you share your feelings of sadness or disappointment in a safe and loving relationship, you will feel understood and supported, and become closer with the other person.
- Seek Professional Help
Seek help from a San Diego Psychologist who offers a safe, nonjudgmental space to process complex emotions (i.e., disappointment, sadness, grief, guilt, shame, fear, anger) that influence and accompany gender disappointment. Your therapist will guide you in the process of addressing unresolved issues and can help reframe your identity as a parent, shape your perspective on parenting, and ultimately help you foster loving acceptance.
- Practice Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
It is important to embrace the myriad of emotions that come with parenthood. Parents who practice mindfulness and self-compassion can begin to acknowledge their feelings without self-criticism and judgment. This acceptance paves the way for a stronger emotional connection with your child. For example, identify your emotions without judgment and remind yourself It’s Okay Not to Be Okay. When you learn How to Cultivate Self-Compassion you can gently remind yourself that “this feeling shall pass.”
Gender disappointment is a natural part of the parenting journey.
When you acknowledge, understand, and learn how to cope with gender disappointment you are taking a vital step toward building a healthy parent-child relationship. When you foster open dialogue, seek professional support, and practice self-compassion, new, and expectant parents can navigate through these challenges with resilience and love.
If you, or someone you know is struggling with gender disappointment, a perinatal health specialist at Therapy Changes is here to help. Our team of dedicated professionals provides compassionate and expert guidance to support you on your parenting journey. Contact us today and take the first step towards your emotional well-being.