“I don’t care if it’s a boy or girl as long as it’s healthy!” It’s the standard response trotted out by most pregnant women when asked if they have a preference for the sex of their unborn baby.
But turns out some might not be telling the entire truth as a new survey has revealed that a quarter of mums in the UK admit to feeling ‘disappointed’ if their child is the wrong gender ie not the baby girl or boy they wanted.
The survey, of 2,189 British mums by parenting site ChannelMum.com, also found that for 3% of mums this so-called gender disappointment affected their ability to bond with their child long-term. This disappointment means two in five mums (41%) say they tried for second child to get the ‘right’ sex, while just over a fifth (26%) tried for a third and one in ten going for four or more children. A further 6% would even consider flying abroad for gender selection IVF, which is currently illegal in the UK.
When it comes to the gender parents desired it seems there’s a split between the sex mums and dads wanted. While mums are twice as likely to want daughters over sons, dads are three times more likely to want a baby boy.
The survey also gave an insight into the most common reasons parents cited for wanting a child of a certain gender. The top reasons for wanting girls included: girls stay closer to their parents when they grow up (41%); girls are more fun to dress up (40%); and girls are better behaved (7%). While the main reasons for wanting boys were: boys are easier (14%); boys are more fun to play with (9%); or cultural reasons (4%).
Four out of five mums questioned (80%) said they believe it’s normal to have a preference on the gender of your child and only 18% of mums claimed to feel ‘guilty’ for wanting their favoured gender.
Despite that, parents believe it is still taboo to talk about their true feelings about the sex of their baby, with the report revealing over a third (36%) didn’t tell anyone they had a gender preference, and under half (48%) confided in their partner. Only a third (33%) admitted their feelings to their own family.
Speaking of the findings Siobhan Freegard, founder of ChannelMum.com said she believed it was important parents feel able to talk about issues of gender disappointment.
“Boy or girl – every child is a blessing, but the issue of gender disappointment is something we need to talk about and bring into the open,” she said.
“With mums and dads often at odds about the gender they really want, one parent will usually end up disappointed, so we must ensure families have the support they need to bond with their baby.”
So what happens when you don’t get the son or daughter you’ve always dreamed of? This sense of loss is a very real condition that many women experience. So much so, several websites such as InGender (ingender.com) and Gender Dreaming (genderdreaming.com) have sprung up where on forums, women can discuss their feelings – and in some cases, methods (natural and medically-assisted) to conceive the gender they so desire.
But while parenting forums can be a good place to openly discuss feelings of disappointment, Siobhan Freegard believes that understanding a child is not defined by their gender can help parents overcome the sense of loss.
“It’s worth remembering a child isn’t their gender – they are their own people with their own personality. So whatever the gender, let your child be who they are, not what you hoped them to be.”