Wishing for a Girl, Expecting a Boy

On  Christmas day a decade ago, my husband and I told our family we were pregnant, 11 weeks so and due in July. Upon hearing the news, my husband’s younger brother, who was sitting across the room from me, pointed at my stomach and loudly declared, “You’re having a boy.” Then he added, “You are. I’m never wrong.”I felt as if he had put a curse on me. Impending motherhood was still a hard-to-grasp concept for me. My husband’s emotional biological clock had been ticking much louder than mine, but at age 32 I knew that my physical biological clock was winding down. Baby X, the hypothetical child Brian and I cautiously spoke about during our 13 years together, was soon to be a reality. But the baby I had pictured myself with was always a girl. If I was going to be a mother, I wanted to be the mother of a girl.

Soon after our pregnancy announcement my mother, overjoyed about becoming a grandmother, went to a Tarot card reader. Afterward, she excitedly called to tell me that this woman not only knew that I was pregnant, but she knew that I was pregnant with a boy.

This second prediction rattled me even more than the first. Now, every time I tried to imagine myself with a baby girl, my mother and brother-in-law’s predictions muddied the picture. It was as if they had robbed me of my ability to dream about a daughter. But I felt I was meant to have a daughter. We had agreed on a girl name, not a boy name. I grew up in a female-oriented family. I don’t like sports and roughhousing. I was clueless about, and terrified of, raising a boy.

At first, Brian didn’t want to know the baby’s gender, but by the night of our 20-week sonogram he had decided that it would be too hard for him to not know if I knew. And I had to know. As the technician worked, she pointed out hands and feet and the chambers of the heart. “Everything looks absolutely perfect,” she said. I asked her if she could tell the gender. “Oh yes,” she answered, zooming in for a close-up.

“Do you want to know?” We said yes. “Well, congratulations,” she cheered. “It’s a boy!”

We were silent. So silent we scared the technician. “Is everything all right?” she asked. Brian told her everything was fine. “OK,” she said, relieved. “It’s just that I’ve never seen a couple have no reaction like that.”

Brian later confessed that he was thrilled by the news. He didn’t show it at the sonogram, he said, because he didn’t want to gloat. Although he would have been quite happy to have a girl, he was extra pleased to be having a boy. The baby would be the first male grandchild to have his family’s last name. I, meanwhile, felt defeated.

On the way home I tried to think of couples who had had a boy first and then a girl. I couldn’t think of one. My parents had me, and then my brother. Brian’s parents had four boys before a girl arrived. I challenged Brian to think of a single couple — be they celebrities or our friends — who had a boy first and then a girl. He thought for a while. “Ah, Lucy and Ricky,” he said. “No,” I shot back. “First of all, Lucy and Ricky are TV characters, so they don’t count. And, in real life, Desi Jr. came after little Lucie.” The next morning I did think of some couples, many in my own family. Still, I wasn’t reassured.

Over the next few weeks I broke the news to friends. Most of my female friends with children had girls, and if they also had a son, their daughter had come first. They all seemed quite pleased that their firsts were girls. Their girls were fun to dress-up, fun to hang out with, fun to empower. I sometimes felt that they pitied me having a boy. One friend with two girls, the eldest at the time a surly 13-year-old, tried to be reassuring: “I hear that boys absolutely adore their mothers, and they’re nicer as teenagers than girls.”            

While I was feeling sad, and scared about being a mother to a boy, I was also feeling guilty. Here I had been told that I would almost certainly have a normal, healthy baby. I should have been thrilled. Brian was growing impatient with my mourning over not having a girl. “You’re being sick and pathetic,” he told me. He was right.

So I decided that for the rest of my pregnancy I needed to work on bonding with my baby boy. My first step was to buy him something. I went to a children’s clothing store, fought my way through racks of adorable dresses and bought him two blue onesies. I sought out mothers of sons and was reassured to learn that, like me, many had longed for a daughter, but that they immediately fell in love with their sons. Nevertheless, when people asked if I knew what I was having, I would answer, “The sonogram says it’s a boy.” By my logic that answer left some room for the sonogram to be wrong.

The sonogram wasn’t wrong. That July my son arrived by C-section, after 14 hours of labor. While I lay in my hospital bed after the surgery, in more pain than I had ever experienced, I watched my husband holding our new baby and I realized that even though these two people had caused me this terrible pain, I loved them both more than anyone else in the world. And once I got my hands on my son, I realized how wonderful he was. He quickly grew into a beautiful, personable, smart, funny little boy who adores me — and I him. I now think it’s amazing to be the mother of a son, and that in raising him I have the opportunity to create a good man.

A friend once told me that you get the child you need to have, in order to make you grow. Nine years ago I needed to have a boy. Four years later the powers that be decided I needed twin girls.

A Doctor’s Perspective

William J. Sweeney M.D. is a maternal-fetal medicine specialist with the Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis. On a near-daily basis, he and his partner analyze 50 to 100 ultrasounds. He’s seen thousands of parents-to-be who are overjoyed that they’re having healthy babies. That is undoubtedly, according to Sweeney, the number one concern his patients express.


Almost as common, though, are the parents who have their hearts set on having a little girl or a little boy. When he or a technician discloses the baby’s gender and it’s not what the parents have hoped for, the disappointment can be palpable, he says.

“You can see the shoulders sag,” says Sweeney.

In many cases, expectant parents try to keep their disappointment to themselves. “They don’t want to be unseemly,” he speculates. But the doctor has also witnessed a good deal of “crying and carrying on” by parents whose hopes were not realized.

“We see it more often from me when they find out they’re not having a boy,” he says. “And especially in a family that already has two or three or four children of one gender.”  


By Melissa Stanton

Melissa Stanton of Davidsonville is the author of  The Stay-at-Home Survival Guide to be published next year by
Seal Press.

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