Mom Confession: “I Wanted a Girl!”

By Amy Levin-Epstein, Babytalk

You hear it all the time: “As long as my baby’s healthy, I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl.” But many moms do care. Take Stephanie Lewis, a mom of six from San Diego. After giving birth to a boy, she tried several noninvasive gender selection methods (a fancy way of saying that she tried to choose the sex of her baby). She ate a diet rich in calcium and tried ovulation timing and even a few unsuccessful bouts of “sperm spinning.” Eventually she became pregnant again — with twins! Lewis was thrilled when multiple sonograms predicted a girl-boy pair.

Fast-forward through boy-girl showers, nurseries and coordinating outfits, to the day of delivery. “After the doctor delivered baby number one [a boy], the room fell silent, and I saw my husband’s head bow down. Then a nurse said cheerfully, ‘And … it’s another boy!'”

Lewis laughs now, but she remembers feeling extreme confusion and disappointment at the time. “What happened to the baby girl who was so real in my head and heart?” she says. (These emotions inspired Lewis to write a novel about gender disappointment called Lullabies & Alibis.)

Women like Lewis need to know they’re not alone, says New Jersey-based therapist Joyce Venis, author of Postpartum Depression Demystified. “I’d say eight times out of 10, women who say, ‘As long as it’s healthy,’ are not happy about having that sex.” Accepting your emotions is the next step. “You’re allowed to have those feelings. It doesn”t mean you’re not going to love your child.” In fact, bottling up disappointment can lead to postpartum depression and even resentment toward your husband, warns Venis. Friends, online support groups, your doctor or even a therapist can be objective and point out the positives.

For Lewis, it was her husband who immediately offered solace. “He said, ‘If you still feel this strongly when the twins are 5 years old, I promise we’ll adopt a baby girl,'” says Lewis, whose maternal instincts eventually took over. “I started to breastfeed, cuddle and love, and [thus] I began to bond with my babies.”

A few years later, the family adopted a baby girl from Korea. It was a turning point for Lewis. “I love my eldest daughter more than I can express in words,” she says. Although her first marriage dissolved shortly thereafter, Lewis and her new husband welcomed a second baby girl and another boy into their family.

A blood test confirmed Lewis’ new point of view regarding gender selection. When she became pregnant with her fifth child, a daughter, “some blood work came back elevated, and Down syndrome was mentioned. I rushed for an amniocentesis. I cried when the results showed that everything was fine. For the first time, I understood the phrase, ‘It doesn’t matter what the baby is, as long as it’s healthy.'”

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  2. Elizabeth 05/04/2011 at 5:47 am

    I just laugh when my friends moan about how hard their boys are (as young ones) compared to their girls. I think you begged and prayed for this boy, quit complaining about it! I’ve actually said that to a few people. Really, he is hard. Well you prayed and prayed for this boy, so guess you have to deal with it. 😉

  3. Tess Adams 01/01/2011 at 3:26 pm

    I have 2 girls and even though we had hoped for a boy both times, I couldn’t be happier. On the as long as it’s healthy note though. Don’t let the idea of a birth defect destroy you either. When I was 15 weeks in we did an ultrasound, the tech must have printed 150 pictures and ran out of the room with them. After waiting for over an hour she finally came back she told me she “couldn’t properly read” the ultrasound and I would have to come back to meet with the head of the dept. When I did come back who I met was not the head of ultrasound but the head of Genetics. He did an ultrasound and then asked the nurse to take my oldest daughter (at the time 5 yrs old) out of the room. I was in a complete meltdown at that point. It turned out my daughter had Spina Bifida. Over then next 5 months I was preparing for the worst. They told me she had a very high level opening (all the way from the bottom of her spine (s-12) to mid-upper back (t-12), I was told this meant she would definetely be paralyzed from the waist down, and most likely have some loss in her upper body as well (plus loads of other stuff). I studied up on it all to be prepared as best I could. Well you know what? She is a paraplegic, and has a shunt in her brain and has had some various kidney and bladder issues, but I can tell you now, I am far luckier to be her mommy than anyone else. She is smart, funny and has the sunniest dispossition in the world. We may have to look for specialty toys at times (just bought her a plasma car for Christmas – hand driven bike type toy – it is amazing and affordable), and spend a bit of our time every year up at Doernbecher for surgeries and visits, but every day with her is the most amazing blessing anyone could ask for. For all that was withheld from her having a “normal” childhood, you would never know it from being around her. If you ever make it to Lincoln City, OR I can guarantee you she will greet you with a huge smile and immediately want a hug. She is the bright spot in everyone’s day she comes in contact with. So don’t even let the idea of “unhealthy” get to you, because when it comes to the joy and love of our kids, healthy is a very relative term.

    • Valerie 12/05/2011 at 3:55 pm

      Tess, your post is very touching.
      Best wishes for the holidays,

  4. Casey-moosh in indy. 09/03/2010 at 8:39 am

    I keep going on the word of others that if a boy comes out I won't be disappointed. Don't let me down ladies.

  5. Carly 09/01/2010 at 1:21 pm

    I have 3 girls and definitely would love to have a boy some day. I can’t picture myself doing anything particular to get a boy. But I can see how moms can get a little emotional about genders. At what times are our hormones as crazy as pregnancy? Such an emotional time.

  6. Shari 09/01/2010 at 12:14 pm

    We had a son, and desperately wanted a girl, so we did a bunch of those gender selection things too. I felt in my heart it was a girl, I got the u/s and it said boy. I bawled. I was so disappointed. After a few days I got excited about it, but there was still a little disappointed.

    When that son was just over 1, we found out we were pregnant again, which in itself was a shock! But I seriously didn’t mind if it was a boy or a girl, as I would love to have a girl, but already knew what to do with boys. We have 3 boys and I couldn’t be happier. I have been pretty open about my experience, some people are horrified that i would say that, but I’ve had women “confess” to me they are going through it. They know they can talk to me b/c I have experienced it. I just tell them to understand that it is ok, and that if they are going to hurt themselves or the baby get help. But other than that it’s ok to feel that way, and tell them what helped me feel better about it, and that I had my good days and bad days. I love each one of my boys so much.

  7. Lesley 09/01/2010 at 12:10 pm

    When my friend with 2 boys, gave birth to her 3rd son – she had a good cry, then never looked back

    .. especially now when all of us with Tween girls are getting the MAJOR attitute, while the boy are sweet.

  8. erica_f 09/01/2010 at 7:28 am

    I think gender disappointment happens more after ultrasound “confirmations.” Moms spend 20 weeks imagining their boy or girl, and then have a let-down if the ultrasound reading was incorrect. My cousin was told she'd have a girl. Following all-pink showers, pink room paint and a custom-made girly crib, she had a boy. She was majorly depressed for a week and then snapped out of it. She now has 2 boys who she loves madly.