Birth · Human Dignity · Motherhood · Pro-Life

Please Don’t Regret My Children’s Gender

Children's Gender

“I bet you’re getting a lot of comments about hoping that it’s a girl, huh?”

I nodded.

“I’m so sorry.  I get it.”

I wanted to hug her right then and there as the tears filled my eyes.  She did get it.  The woman at church who always checks in with how I’m doing as my belly grows and, God willing, we get to meet this little person growing within me.  She understood how much it cuts this mother’s heart to hear everyone’s preferences for the gender of this baby.  She’d lost a baby before, too.

This is my sixth pregnancy, my fifth full term pregnancy.  We have a saint in heaven, lost before we knew whether that little person is a boy or a girl and four healthy and amazing sons with us on earth.  Sometimes I can’t fathom how blessed we’ve been.  How undeserving we are.  For several reasons, we’ve never found out the gender of our babies before birth and this time has been no different.  Funny enough, the unknowing seems to bother other people more than us.

I’ve never been one to let most comments get to me.  The “you have your hands full” that bothers other people has never bothered me.  (Yes, yes I do.  Who decided that was a bad thing?)  I expect in this culture to get the inquisitive looks or even the snap judgements.  After all, being open to more than the standard amount of children is an anomaly in our culture so it’s not a surprise when people find us a curiosity.  I try to always assume the best and really do see it as a mode of evangelization and an opportunity to share.

But that one.  The one about my children’s gender.  The one that is less about ideology and seems a more personal critique of my children.  The “so, are you hoping for a girl?” that I hear over and over almost every time I leave the house.  That one cuts right to the heart especially since it’s often said by people who share our Faith.

We have four boys.  Never in my entire life or imagination would I ever wish that one of them were a girl.  I can’t even fathom wanting to change something like that.  This newest child who is already present and growing and who God has already ordained male or female is no different.  Who they are has already been determined by God and that is exactly who we want him or her to be.  Really.  No, we are not “hoping for a girl.”  We are so grateful and thrilled that the Lord saw fit to bless us, as sinful and fumbling as we are, with the gift of another child.  A child we in no way deserve or can claim right to.  We are hoping this child is whoever God already designed them to be – male or female.

I know many people are not intending to hurt, of course, and I try to graciously point out that we have zero preference for this child’s gender.  I know many people think it is oversensitive or silly to be hurt by such comments (while, of course, never having been on the receiving end of them).  But even so, the comments reek of the idea that one sort of child is preferable to another.  That there is an ideal family makeup and that if a family is “unbalanced” then clearly, the parents must harbor some sort of disappointment.  I’d even go so far as to say the comments can promote a spirit of the child as commodity – something we can order up as wished, in the flavor we desire.  One observation I’ve noted is that the people I know who have experienced burying a child or who have held the negative pregnancy tests in their hands month after excruciating month – they get it.  They seem to understand more that any child is a gift and that we want them exactly as they come.  That a child is nothing we deserve and that each life is a unique, unrepeatable gift, one that we cannot earn, deserve, or should want to manufacture to our personal specifications.

Perhaps part of my sensitivity is because almost always it is said directly in front of my boys or asked directly to them.  I cringe at the implications that seem so obvious to a mother’s heart.  Clearly your parents don’t want another of your type.  Clearly a girl would “fit” better.  Clearly your mother somehow feels lacking with “just” boys.  Clearly another boy would just be disappointing.  And I can see it in their eyes that they don’t know how to answer.  Sure, that might just roll off the back of some children but for some, the wound cuts deep and the words sink in.

How do I know?  Because I’m one of six girls and a boy.  And we heard the opposite type of comments routinely.  The shocked looks.  The “Oh, your poor father!” or “Your dad must really want another boy!”  True or not, when you hear a comment like that over and over again, you begin to believe it may be true.  Those comments ingrained themselves deep, leading me to believe my femininity really was a drawback and that surely it would have been better had I been a boy.  For many years I regretted my God-given femininity and truly believed it to be a burden.  It took a lot of time and healing to overcome those thoughtless comments that we heard so very very often about our gender.

I try my best now to make sure that my sons know that we would be absolutely thrilled with another boy…just as thrilled as if this baby is a girl.  I tell them how glad I am that God made them the way they are and that I would never change a thing.  I tell them that other people don’t understand sometimes that boys and girls are equal and that every baby is gift from God and is exactly who he or she is supposed to be in that family.  I hope it helps.   I hope they know how precious they are, just as they were created, and that they never ever wish they were different.  And I hope when this new little one is born that, boy or girl, he or she will be just as celebrated by the people around us.  My prayer is that someday we can build a culture of life that sees each child as an undeserved gift – unique, unrepeatable, precious – and that their God-given gender is celebrated and accepted with equal amounts of joy.  I pray that we realize with our assent and with our spoken words that when a family and the children given it are designed by God Himself they are exactly as they should be.

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20 thoughts on “Please Don’t Regret My Children’s Gender

  1. I am the 7th child and 6th girl in my family. My mother saved letters that were written to her while she was in the hospital. My siblings, my mom’s friends, relatives, they all mentioned how sorry they were that I was not a boy. Apparently they had good reason because my father had a temper and had made it clear that he wanted boys from now on. I’m an adult. I got over it. But it did hurt that people’s first response to healthy baby girl was sorrow and perhaps fear of my father’s reaction. I guess that’s my way of saying I appreciate your post and I am with you 100%.

  2. This is beautiful, Mary. I am one of 11 kids. I had an older brother and then 6 more brothers before I ‘got my sisters.’ As a child I really did long for a sister, but I’m sure it was hard on my parents to hear that from me and from the outside world. Praying for you these last days of your pregnancy. May God continue to bless you abundantly.

  3. My grandmother told me once after my father’s death that she knew he would have preferred either my sister or me to be a boy. Those words cut, even though I knew they were untrue. God does not love boys more than girls, or vice versa. Thank you for writing this and sharing it.

  4. Hi Mary! Thanks for your response about my family’s trip to the Falls this month. Anyway, I am the youngest of three girls. My father is Filipino, and their culture praises first born sons. When my sister was born, he was disgraced. He named my sister, Arlene, but nicknamed her Ditas, which means tear in his language. To this day, we call her Dita. Needless to say, she has a very trying relationship with my father. I didn’t know this story until a few years ago, but everyone still calls her Dita. 😦

  5. We didn’t find out the gender of our kids either. We had a girl and then a boy and then people assumed we were done because we had one of each. I guess it gives people something to talk about, but I wish we could stop reducing kids to just a gender and be grateful for them as the perfectly created beings that God created! Best wishes on the remainder of your pregnancy!

  6. We have ONE girl and every is already saying that we must really want a boy. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve had so many miscarriages but those questions and comments REALLY bother me. I want a living child. Period. I am perfectly happy to have whatever child God has given us, I just want the chance to get to know that child!

  7. This is so beautiful! Would that the whole world could read it and understand. The sad truth is that there are people who ARE disappointed by their child’s gender. I see their sad faces even in the hospital when the child is born and I pray for them and their child all the more fervently. The world would tell us that there does exist a “perfect” family, job, marriage, lifestyle, hairstyle etc, etc, and that we should strive for it. Our Lord tells us (today): “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33b. Thanks for your sharing and continued prayers for you!

  8. When people talk about “family balance” they seem to forget that two boys may be just as different from one another as a boy is different from a girl! Whatever baby God sends will of course be the perfect baby!

  9. Well said. I am sure a lot of people don’t realize how hurtful their comments are- they are just trying to make conversation, but it good to talk about it. We had 4 girls and then a boy- the comments when our 4th girl was born were mind blowing. Often perfect strangers would feel free to let loose and, like you mention, right in front of all of my girls. At one point, my girls made their dad a t-shirt with a picture of all 4 of them on it saying “yes, they are all mine; yes, they are all girls; no, we are not trying for a boy!”. They thought that explained it but it every time he wore it, it was completely misunderstood and the comments got even worse! We now have 4 girls followed by 3 boys. I LOVED having girls and would have been happy to have 7 of them. I am also happy with what God gave us- each special and unique in their own way whether a boy or a girl.

  10. I had 4 boys, followed by 2 miscarriages, and a 5th boy. He is my rainbow baby in every sense. Thank you for this piece.

  11. Yes, it’s hard when you know that you were a disappointment because of your gender. My father always wanted a boy. He got two girls AND a grandDAUGHTER. I remember him making a comment once after my daughter was born that this family seems to produce all girls only. There are pictures of me as a baby with all the little boy toys that were bought for my arrival – I evidently played with them anyway. I tried to “be his son”, but of course never really could be. I naturally was a tomboy growing up, loved sports, playing outside doing “boy stuff” and didn’t like dolls much or “princess girly”. So, that helped, but I was never REALLY what he probably wanted. I wonder what life WOULD’VE been like if I WERE a boy… God bless your baby and healthy delivery!

    1. …and I, too, have had two miscarriages and my daughter – that grandDAUGHTER, is a miracle baby because I nearly lost HER a couple of times before birth. ANY LIVING BABY was “good enough for me”! 🙂

  12. I was hurrying my nine-months-pregnant self down the street towards the subway one day when a random stranger yelled out, “Hope it’s a boy!” I actually turned around and yelled, “I don’t!”

    I have nothing against boys. This was our second birth, and our first was a boy. (We’ll never know what our first baby was, but I have a feeling that he was a boy.) We didn’t know what our second-born was, boy or girl. I just resent anybody assuming that I wanted a boy—or a girl, for that matter. Whose business is it? Heck, I don’t think it’s even the parents’ business. The baby is what he or she is, and that’s the end of it.

    That baby was a girl, by the way, which was perfectly fine. Then people began to assume, as they did with Rabia above, that we’d had a boy and a girl and that that was it. One person freaked out when I said I wanted more, because I wanted to be sure we had grandchildren. “You’re 27 years old and you’re thinking about grandchildren?” Why, yes. Yes, I was. Because I love children.

    And it’s a good thing we had two more kids. If we hadn’t had #3, we would have missed out on five (so far) grandchildren. Wouldn’t that have been awful? (And yes, we love all our children, regardless of whether they have kids or not!)

  13. I love that God has taken the choice of gender out of our hands and places the children HE wants into our families. I love that my husband has six sisters and that we have two daughters. I also love that you speak so eloquently about this, giving us all more to think about so that we can speak to others in a way that glorifies Him.

  14. I was in exactly the same place as you are 22 years ago. I had 4 sons and was expecting my 5th. I did not find out the gender ahead of time as there are so few awesome surprises in life and like you I didn’t have a preference of boy or girl so whatever gender it was it was a welcome surprise. I am happy to say we had a daughter but I would have been just as happy with a son. I had only picked a boys name (Michael) as that is what I expected but I now have my beautiful Michelle. 🙂

  15. Thank you for writing this. I can totally relate. I had my fourth baby last year. We have three boys and a girl. We didn’t find out the gender ahead of time and we didn’t care at all if we had another boy or a girl. But the comments were outrageous!!! People were astounded that we didn’t learn the gender and then commented constantly that we must be dying for a girl or that they hoped for our sake that it was a girl. WTH???!!!! And yes, always in front of my boys! By the halfway point of the pregnancy I was borderline rude in my responses and loudly announced that we had zero preference and that 4 boys would be fabulous etc etc and I pretty much bellowed `nope we aren`t trying for a girl“ in response. It made for some awkward moments and long pauses in conversation but I really didn’t care. A couple weeks after our daughters birth I was holding her at the back of the church and a lady I barely knew came up to me and said `that better be a girl!“ I asked her back if that was a threat of some sort…… Seriously people don`t think before they open their mouths. I was outraged at the rudeness and pretty much let people know what I thought of their comments. I would like to blame the pregnancy hormones but I think it is just my personality. 🙂 Good luck with the last stage of pregnancy and your birth. Prayers to you and your family.

  16. Yes, I think it is a conversation thing. We aren’t finding out either. I am expecting our 2nd child. This child was hoped for but never expected. We currently have a 10 year old boy. I’ve heard lots of things — “Was it an oops?” “I’ll bet you are hoping for a girl.” “Just as long as it’s healthy…….”

    We never dreamed we’d have another child. Ten years is a long time between children. I’d love to have a daughter, but I’d love another son, too. I hope and pray for the baby’s health, but I’ll love it just the same if it’s not healthy.

    My biggest gripe with Catholics (and I am one) is the way family is reduced to numbers. I was perfectly content with one child. That is what God gave us. I got so tired of hearing the “When are you having another?” and then after a while the subtle digs about having just one.

    I think it all boils down to people not really knowing or having anything to say, so they grope for cliche, etc. The people who really care for me at church (not just faces in the crowd at Mass every Sunday), never ask those things. I guess our conversations just go deeper than surface level.

    1. Yes, we only have one child and SHE is a miracle baby, as we lost two before her and I’m now in my 40’s. Being a “good” Catholic married couple shouldn’t be based on how many children we have – i.e. that LARGE family. Just because we only have one does NOT automatically mean we use contraception or are selfish in some way regarding children. It just means that God has different plans for US as Catholics…

  17. I had a daughter first and then a son, 22 months apart. People often said, “Well, now you have one of each, so you can be done!” What’s up with that comment?? I’ve heard other moms say how relieved they were that they had “one of each” so they could be “done after 2.”

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