Lucy is a newish friend of mine. (Side note: I LOVE discovering new friends in my thirties.) She is funny, thoughtful and fiercely bright. She makes an excellent curry. Brings flowers when she comes for tea. Gives great email. Her little boy Logan is a Proper Boy who does forward rolls and can penguin jump like a demon. She also writes – honestly, unflinchingly – about things that some people Don’t Like To Talk About at her blog, Ill All the Time.
One of those things is gender disappointment. Lucy has one boy and was – at the time of writing this – pregnant with a second son. She wrote the below after the 20 week scan. When I read it, I thought it was fascinating, brave and completely gripping (oh, and witty). You might not agree with it. It might even make you angry. But we are hugely proud to reproduce it here.
It’s a boy.
We thought it was a girl.
But it’s another boy.
If you are having problems getting pregnant at all, or have a seriously ill child, then don’t read on. (This wipes out about half of my readership.) You are right, I am wrong. All that matters is that the baby is healthy and happy.
But I wasn’t prepared to feel like this. Shocked. Upset. Unable to think about anything else. Like I’ve lost something. And terribly ashamed of feeling like this.
Here are some of the reasons for my boo-hooing:
1) Because now we can’t call it Daphne*
2) Ballet outfits, velvet shorts and tights, shopping for things I could never pull off as a teenager, wedding dresses. (This is bollocks actually. I hate shopping and am really bad at clothes.)
3) Long phone conversations when nobody else wants to listen to me witter on – or even better, being on the receiving end of irrational wittering for a change. When a love life is going wrong, or university is too hard and home suddenly seems comforting. I want those witters.
4) Because I was all set to pitch some smug magazine articles about the Shettles method, which we used to try and make it a girl. (It’s to do with timing around ovulation and girl sperm living longer than boy sperm.) And this pregnancy feels so different to the last one – I’ve had horrible morning sickness, bleeding gums, hair falling out, spots, mood changes that seem to be about hormones rather than depression. So I had a stupid basis for my stupid hopes. And everybody kept saying they thought it was a girl because of that too.
5) I won’t ever be Number 1 Granny.
I know that most of this isn’t necessarily true. That every child, and every relationship with a parent, is different. And that everybody knows example of pairs of brothers who are legendary friends and close-knit families. I know some too. I know some who aren’t. Who knows how they will turn out?
And of course this isn’t about boys per se – after all, Logie is quite clearly the best child that ever lived. And another Logie would be amazing. Hilarious, stunningly beautiful, so full of joy. And when this new little boy arrives I will love him with my whole heart and wouldn’t swap him for the world.
But this feeling of loss is something separate from that. Can you try to understand that? Because we are stopping at two, that means our family is going to be one thing, rather than something else. I have to readjust my set. Yes, we could have a third, but we’re pretty sure that would stretch us too far in every way, and we haven’t even lived with two yet. Anyway, we wouldn’t be trying for a third baby, we’d be specifically trying for a girl, and that doesn’t seem right: what if it was another boy?
It’s something you can’t control (although I can’t help feeling like it’s partly the sonographer’s fault – why couldn’t she just have said the other word?) and perhaps a little more religion would help me too. Oops, there go a few more readers.
The practical benefits are of course substantial – all the same clobber, less to pay for weddings and you can practise things on the first in the hope of getting it right with the second. Like the ‘why it’s not okay to snog a girl then ignore her’ chat.
While I was secretly snivelling on the sofa in the middle of the night last night, I looked this situation up online. Turns out there are six billion threads on mumsnet about ‘gender disappointment’. The general consensus is that it passes – it’s a very specific feeling, at a specific time. That helps. Haters who say that’s why you shouldn’t find out don’t. The advice is to find a name that you really love, and buy (the baby) a new outfit.
That’s a tough one, because I’ve been lusting after a colour palette of dove grey and soft pink for ages, and we can’t think of a single boy’s name that we really like. Not one. Loads of girl’s names though. Here, you might as well have them now: Daphne (Daffy Duck and Logie Bear you see – I know, a narrow escape), Phoebe (how cool is Phoebe French?), Celeste, Jemima (Mima), Cordelia (Cordy – she’s an actress I think).
They also say it’s often about recreating a relationship in your life. I can see that. Maybe it’s about repairing one too. The granny thing, which is really top of my poor-me list at the moment, is certainly to do with how utterly brilliant a granny my mum is. And how close I was to my granny when I was little.
But I also adore my dad, who can do no wrong in my eyes. And I was utterly vile to my brother when we were growing up – honestly, I can still feel and hear the hollowness as I punched his skinny back as hard as I could. My next-door neighbours’ two boys are some of the coolest and friendliest teenagers I know. They’re in a band together, for God’s sake. And maybe one of mine will be gay. Or at least a world-famous fashion designer.
Watching Logie and his little brother play together will surely dissolve all my prejudices about a decade of washing semen-stiffened sheets, grunts instead of conversations, computer games instead of Strictly and diary battles with daughters-in-law.
These are random what-ifs, and none of them help.
I just thought that writing them all down might make me feel better, because that’s what I do. I’m sorry if it offends. Like I said, these selfish, indulgent sadnesses aren’t something I’m proud of. Am I going to find it hard in future when friends have girls, especially if it gives them dual-sex offspring? I guess that’s just a tiny flavour of what it must be like when friends get pregnant, and you can’t. I am hugely lucky.
I just need a bit of time to get used to the idea.
If I was Henry VIII’s wife, I would be getting a f***-off bit of jewellery right now. Perhaps a county of my own too. Instead, I am Jon’s wife. Jon, who is just about the loveliest husband and father in the entire species. He thought it was a girl too, but is over the moon that it’s a healthy boy, and getting all excited and saying all the right things. Not things like ‘My kind is going to be outnumbered three to one’. He even took me into Tiffany’s on the way to the cinema last night, to try on eternity rings. Turns out he’d have actually bought one there and then! But I think it should be for my birthday, if at all, after I’ve delivered the goods, and have stopped being so ungrateful.
Wow, that last bit really sounded bad. Let me leave you with a different image instead. Logie has learnt how to put on his coat ‘the montessori way’ at nursery. It’s a little bit like President Barlet’s jacket technique in the West Wing. Or a trainee superhero getting tangled up in his cape. But it’s so unbearably sweet, and proud-making. I can’t wait for him to teach his little brother.
Since writing this, Lucy has had her second son. I have yet to meet him, but he looks beautiful – and she is totally in love with him already. Keep up with her blog here.
For more on gender selection, check out Alex’s recent article
for The Daily Telegraph. Would you
choose the sex of your child if you could?
Picture: Vintage Confections at Etsy