Gender Disappointment?


I have decided to talk about something that I doubt many people will understand.  I would never have understood it before, but then we lost Madelyn and everything changed.  When people look at me with my children, they see a mother of boys.  I could not love my boys any more than I do, they are my world and they have pulled me through the toughest of times.  I’m proud to be their Mum and I love the rough and tumble and the cuddles that come with it, but I am not only a mother of boys.  I had a daughter, not for very long but I had her.  I grew her, I gave birth to her and I held her as life left her tiny body.  She was here and I am still her Mum too.

When I was pregnant with Madelyn I did not mind whether she was going to be a boy or a girl.  Having had a son already, part of me thought it would be nice to buy girly things this time around but that had never been something I’d been particularly bothered about.  It certainly wasn’t something that I felt I had missed out on when I’d had Noah.  I remember seeing a couple of young brothers one day wearing matching clothes, I thought they looked so cute and imagined myself dressing two boys.  I also thought that two brothers would be closer as they grew up than two children of different sexes would be. 

As we arrived for our 20 week scan, I was excited to find out the baby’s gender but had convinced myself that we would have another boy.  It was a huge shock when the sonographer told us we were going to have a daughter.  I made a joke to Adam about having us bankrupt by the time the baby would be born and later that week I went out to buy her first little girly outfit.  I always loved shopping for baby clothes, but shopping for baby girl things was definitely more fun than I thought it would be.  I got completely sucked in to the excitement of shopping for a girl.

All of the clothes, shoes, hats and bows that I bought now sit in a big storage bag in the garage.  All those memories, cooing over the most pretty little outfits that Madelyn would never get to wear.

I had never felt that need for a little girl before we had Madelyn.  I’d see other mums-to-be saying that they were hoping for a baby girl and I’d think: how will you feel for that baby if it’s a boy?  I never understood it.  That was before.

I fell pregnant with Ellis very quickly after we lost Madelyn.  We had a scare at our 12 week scan with him and found he was at a higher risk of having one of a range of syndromes.  We opted to have a procedure done called CVS, where a needle was put through my tummy into my womb to take a sample of the placenta to be tested.  Thankfully the test showed that the baby was healthy and had no genetic syndromes or abnormalities.  I was over the moon that our baby was healthy; we had had a difficult few days trying to get our heads around the other possible outcomes.  We were given the option to find out the gender and when the midwife told me it was a boy I was shocked.  At first I thought: but I was supposed to have a boy and a girl, Noah was supposed to have a sister.  It was hard to take in.  Obviously the most important thing was that the tests were clear so when I shared the news with family and told them that we were having another boy everybody said how amazing it was.  I knew I would be happy having two boys, but it wasn’t until my Gran said “that’s great, a completely different baby”, that I thought about it in a different way.  It was better that this baby was a boy.  I wouldn’t have the agony of deciding whether or not to use the clothes that I’d bought for Madelyn, I wouldn’t be expecting a little dark haired Madelyn to be born and it would be less confusing for Noah as he wouldn’t think it was the same baby, it’d be a brother rather than the sister he’d lost.  I knew we’d probably be adding to our family eventually, too, so I hoped that we’d have a little girl next time.

When Ellis was around four or five months old we had already started talking about when we might think about having another baby.  His birth had gone so well, I’d recovered quickly and felt on cloud nine with my children but dreamt of having one more baby.  I found out I was pregnant again when Ellis was ten months old.  I had pretty much convinced myself from the beginning that this baby was a girl.  All the old wives tales pointed towards it being a girl and my nausea was worse than I’d had with the boys, similar to the way that it had been with Madelyn.  We were anxious to get through the 12 week scan after our scare with Ellis, but when we were told everything looked normal we were delighted.  I booked an early gender scan as it was all I could think about.  When people asked what I was hoping for, I’d just say I didn’t mind.  I’d never say that I wanted a girl.  I told myself that if it was a boy, it would just mean that Madelyn was that extra bit special as she would be our only girl and I'd cope with that.  But I longed so much for a baby girl in my arms.

On our way to the clinic for the ultrasound, I visualised our journey home when I’d be excitedly sharing our news that we were having a girl.  I didn’t allow the thought of another boy to cross my mind.  Noah had come with us for the scan and when the sonographer asked him if he’d like a brother or sister he said he wanted a sister.  She asked if we had any other children and when we told her we had two boys but had lost our daughter, she said “so you’re hoping for a girl then?”.  I just shrugged it off.  I couldn’t even admit it to her.  She began the scan and I frantically searched the screen to see if I could see anything before she told us the gender.  She said “I’m just going to double check as baby isn’t in a great position, but I think it’s a boy”.  My heart sank.  She checked again and confirmed that it was a boy.  She sounded disappointed for us.  I lay there looking at the screen trying to be excited about what she was showing us but I could feel the tears building.  The sonographer held my hand and said “I know you wanted a girl” and I just nodded.  I couldn’t let Noah see me cry, he was delighted either way and was so excited to be watching his new baby brother on the screen.  I didn’t want to ruin this experience for him.

I cried the whole way home after the scan, staring out of the car window so that Noah wouldn’t see.  When we were almost home, Adam asked if I’d text anybody to let them know that we were having another boy, but I hadn’t.  I felt like I didn’t want to say it out loud.  I just wanted to hide away and pretend it hadn’t happened.  I spent the whole weekend after the scan crying.  It wasn’t fair, why hadn’t this happened for us?  Our daughter was taken from us; I thought that the world would make it right by giving us another. 

In the weeks that followed I really struggled to pull myself together.  There were days that I’d had to ask Adam to come home from work as I just couldn’t function.  I’d find myself just standing in the kitchen unable to move, tears pouring down my face.  It was the worst I’d felt since the first few months after Madelyn had died.  I didn’t think it would be possible to feel that low again, but here I was.

After weeks of feeling low, I reached out to my friends.  I wrote out a message and deleted it a few times before I sent it.  I still didn’t say why I felt so down but was glad that I had told them that I was struggling.  After speaking to them, I made an appointment with a counsellor through Sands.  By the time the appointment came round, I was utterly exhausted.  I had been fighting to hold back tears every day for weeks now, and I was completely worn out from it.  As soon as the counsellor asked what I wanted to talk about I just burst in to tears.  After chatting about my grief in the build up to Madelyn’s second birthday, I plucked up the courage to tell her about my disappointment at expecting another baby boy.  It felt so good to say it out loud after weeks of trying to cover it up with a brave face.  She told me that she’d heard of bereaved mothers feeling this way before and that it was quite common.  I instantly felt less isolated and it did me the world of good just to talk through it.  I left there that day feeling so much lighter having got everything off of my chest.  I needed to try and find a way to move forward, and I suddenly felt more positive that I could do that.

As my pregnancy progressed, I started to feel better about preparing to welcome another baby boy in to our family.  I re-discovered my love for shopping for baby clothes, something I had avoided doing for a while.  Sometimes I would look at my bump in the mirror and wish that it was a little girl growing and kicking in there but it didn’t consume my every thought like it had done before.  I did start to worry about bonding with the baby; I had spent so much time during my pregnancy feeling upset and disappointed, was I going to be able to love him as much as the others?

Then Oscar was born.  He was absolutely perfect and I instantly fell in love with him.  Our new little bundle just fit into our family perfectly, like he was always supposed to be part of it.  I felt such an amazing bond with him as soon as I held him for the first time, but felt such guilt about the way I’d felt after our gender scan.  I still feel very guilty about it when I look at his little face but I know now that the way I felt was never about him.  It was another layer of my grief for Madelyn.

I haven’t held a baby girl since the last time I held Madelyn the day after she died.  All of the babies born in our immediate family since have been boys, so before we found out that Oscar was a boy I started to think that someone somewhere was protecting us and that the next baby girl I would hold would be Madelyn's little sister.  I've never been much of a believer in fate or things that are 'meant to be', especially after losing a child, but I desperately hoped that I would be proved wrong and that everyone else was having boys because a girl was being reserved for us.

When I was pregnant with Oscar, I read an article about gender disappointment.  I was desperate to find people that may have experienced what I was feeling.  I understood everything that the author said, but I realised that what I was feeling was not the same.  Yes I was disappointed not to be having a girl, but in normal circumstances I know that I wouldn’t have felt the same.  I wasn’t disappointed because I wanted a little girl to spoil and dress in pink, or because I wanted to balance my family.  I ache for a baby girl because I was supposed to have one.  She was taken from us, snatched away along with all of our hopes and dreams for her.  I had planned things that I’d do with my daughter, I’d imagined doing her hair and painting our nails together, and going for girly days while Adam and Noah had their boys’ days.  I had imagined Adam with her; I couldn’t wait to see him with our little girl.  I had imagined her as an adult, watching her get married and helping her through pregnancies.  Then she was gone.  And because she was here and then gone so quickly, I grieve for all of the things that should have been.  I know that another baby girl wouldn't have taken Madelyn's place and that I will grieve for her every day as long as I live, but I think it may have eased the pain of missing out on the experience of raising a daughter.

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