Chloe Pregnancy

Saying goodbye to the idea of a girl

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On the way to the private gender scan for our third baby, I felt that I wouldn’t be in the slightest bit surprised if this little person growing inside me was a boy.

I felt like I knew they were going to tell us he was a boy, and if they said girl it would be a HUGE surprise.

Despite not finding out until they were born for my first two boys, we were finding out at 16 weeks this time. This was our last baby, and I knew I wanted time to process what our family’s final line up would be before our baby arrived. I knew I didn’t want those feelings crowding the early days with my new baby.

We were all there for the scan when the sonographer announced that he was indeed, a boy. It’s a lovely memory to have, the moment we were told, all together as a family, that our new member was a boy.

Our third boy.

Before we started out on this whole baby-making journey, I knew I wanted a large family, and I always imagined I’d have a mix of both boys and girls in there. Because I knew we wanted three, I just assumed and imagined that mix would happen one way or another. I’ve never had any strong feelings as to whether I’m carrying girls or boys, apart from the very first few weeks with my eldest two boys, when I just had an inkling that they were girls. Especially Arlo, I knew he was a girl when I found out about being pregnant with him. With Rory, I think it’s more because people were telling me “It’ll be a girl this time, I just know it!”

And yes, I would love / would have loved to have a girl. Not because I want to buy girly clothes or any smaller reason like that. I am not a girly girl. It’s a more primal reason than that – the desire and intrigue to see a part of yourself reflected in the same gender as yourself.

Our girl has had a name since my pregnancy with Arlo. She isn’t an abstract concept. She is a very real idea. Someone Sam and I had both been imagining for over five years now.

I had a feeling that I would have to process some things if our final family line up was all-boy, but truthfully, I wasn’t quite prepared for the torrent of emotion that followed, in phases, over the next few months.

And so began this strange process of, well, processing.

For the first day I was just excited to know.

And then I kept getting hit by silly realisations. Like “I’ll never get to see Sam do a father of the bride speech!” (the groom’s family traditionally don’t really have a role in the speeches do they?) And I really mean silly, because who knows what’s going to happen in the future – daughters can decide not to get married, or not to have wedding speeches.

Feeling guilty that I shouldn’t be feeling this way, when all that matters is a healthy baby, when some people can’t have children, when some people would love to have three or more children. But knowing that all of that doesn’t actually change the thoughts I’ve had. And so the guilt continues.

When asked, saying that we haven’t found out yet, because I was still processing. Not being ready to tell acquaintances until I can do it with a genuine excited smile on my face.

Looking at large families with all the same sex children and wondering “Did you too go through this process?”

Feeling a sad reminder of the pregnancies we’ve lost whenever I hear a comment that we “keep making boys”. Because this isn’t three boys in a row, this is three boys and three unknowns in between.

I wasn’t able to shake the feeling that we are disappointing all the people who had already commented that they would like to see us have a girl.

Feeling, irrationally or not, that people wouldn’t be as excited about a third boy announcement.

Even typically stoic Sam felt this to some extent, but a positive side effect was that it actually made us pretty protective and bonded with our little guy – how could anyone think his news wasn’t just as special?

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The comments were one of the worst aspects. OH MY GOD the comments.

There is really no other response other than “congratulations!” Or “how exciting!” That is appropriate. Because anything else implies that you think my family isn’t perfect.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been told that we are “one member away from having a five-a-side team”.

Consolidatory comments from parents of both: “Boys are easier, anyway, trust me”, or “It’s all the same, really”. Well, that just reminds me that I can’t qualify that opinion from my own personal experience, so it’s a bit of a conversation dead-end.

Then there are the comments where it seems the person is desperate for you to admit some kind of deep disappointment that this baby is not a girl. “Oh, I bet you wanted a girl?” Perhaps if we were two glasses down at the pub, I might happily chat about some of the feelings going through my head at the time of writing this. But not during a passing moment at the supermarket. Not in front of my children.

“Three boys?? Don’t look too sad about it! You can always keep trying”.

When the response to the eager “Did you find out??” is just “…Oh”.

These comments, especially when your emotions are still raw, or perhaps there’s been a rift (for a short while, Sam couldn’t understand that I really was looking forward to our baby, the different set of emotions I was processing was running alongside all that stuff, not competing with it) these comments can be really cutting.

I think the term gender disappointment is a really misleading term for the feelings I experienced, and the horrible wording is just another excuse to pile more guilt on yourself. I want to make very clear that there was never any disappointment at all.

Before you find out whether you have a girl or a boy at birth or at a scan, you are imagining two options, running side by side. When you find out, you are saying goodbye to the other option. The option that never was, but still felt like it almost could have been. For 20 (or 16 in our case) weeks. Saying goodbye can be something that happens in the blink of an eye, or it can be a process. For me, having children of all the same sex, that process has become a little longer each time.

It’s come as a surprise to have these feelings, however fleeting some of them have been. I wasn’t expecting my stronger reaction this time round, to say the least. It’s something that I think only parents of three or more all boy or all girl families might understand. It’s also something that I think we naturally try and keep quiet about, suppress and move on.

I think people don’t mention these feelings much because it’s so easy to misunderstand and assume that you don’t fiercely love the child you have, or assume that you are seriously hung up about it forever. Neither of which is the case for me. I am not sobbing into my cornflakes every morning that I don’t have a girl, our boy is THE person who was meant to come into our family, and I’ve loved him since the moment I knew he was growing inside me. I definitely have not ever wished to swap one of my boys for a girl.

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I’ve written this partly to vent for myself, and partly in the hopes that it might act as a comfort for anyone feeling similar. Those first weeks after we found out were a confusing time for me, and all the while I was beating myself up for feeling anything other than extremely lucky and excited for our new arrival. I didn’t know of anyone else who had felt this way.

As with all things you feel like you shouldn’t be saying out loud, I tried to bury the feelings. But it was only when I gave myself time to fully acknowledge everything I’d tried to bury, that I found I had given myself what I needed to move forward.

Almost immediately after that, the image of three boys, three brothers surfaced to the forefront of my mind. I could let myself imagine all the good things. The image of two boys and a little sister suddenly became something that seemed so alien, something that never was ‘our’ family,

For anyone who might be feeling those horribly conflicting and confusing emotions, feeling guilty that they might be feeling ‘gender disappointment’ even though that term is woefully inadequate, I promise that it doesn’t last forever. By the end of my pregnancy, it had well and truly cleared and made way for me to fully concentrate on looking forward to meeting our baby boy.

In fact, perhaps because he was my third and adjusting to a newborn was familiar territory, perhaps because I felt defensive and protective over him being “another boy” in other people’s eyes, whatever the reason, I fell in love with him from the very first moment – something that had taken a little longer with my other two children.

Yes, the large family I imagined back when we started making our family was one with a mix of boys and girls. The reality is different. But it’s equally as lovely.

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Sorry About The Mess is a personal lifestyle and family blog. documenting the life of London blogger and photographer, Chloe. This is our family story.

Comments (31)

  • I am not sure what to say but I know that your feelings are real and should be validated. You have no need to feel guilty, you have three beautiful boys and you are a bloody brill Mum who loves them all equally xxx

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    • Thanks Rachel. The guilt was only momentary. Now I’m just enjoying my time having a lovely newborn to snuggle.

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  • I can relate to this so much! I always wanted three kiddies. So far we’ve got two boys. Before we had either of them, I knew I would like a mixture too. To be honest, I went through a similar process after finding out my second would be a boy. Hubs is now unsure whether to go for a third – and I feel much like you’ve described, in anticipation. Great post x

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  • I feel like I could have written this myself. I have a step son, son and I’m due tomorrow with another boy. I’m overwhelmingly excited that he’s a boy and wouldn’t change his gender for the world but I do feel a loss at what could be if I ever had a girl. Being only my second child it doesn’t seem so final for me but as this is my husbands third he doesn’t want to have any more so I feel like it may also just be the fact that my baby making days are over!
    The comments are the worst, ‘ooh never mind, maybe next time’, ‘ooh is it a girl this time?'( said with eager excitement! It makes you feel fake when you express how happy you are that its a boy.

    Ramble over haha thank you for sharing my love

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    • Maybe next time is a horrible comment. All the best for your imminent arrival, very exciting!!

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  • I love this post. I have two girls then had a boy. We didn’t find out what we were having but I felt the pressure to produce a boy was huge. Everyone presumed we’d had another child because we wanted a boy but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. I convinced myself the last one would be a girl too as that was all I could imagine and the shock when he was a boy was huge. It took me about a year to get used to it I think!! My heart goes out to you, the emotional rollorcoaster of kids eh?!

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    • The pressure is horrible. Even when half the time it’s just in my head.

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  • People just seem to have no clue how to respond to baby news. It’s bizarre how inappropriate they are, across the board. When I fell pregnant with our third people were actually incredulous because ‘you have one of each already’, yes, we do but we always planned three children! As you say, the only appropriate response is ‘how wonderful!’

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    • I was asked a few times if my third was unplanned. I think for some people anything above two children is just unimaginable. I always wanted four (then swiftly changed that plan to 3 once I actually started having babies, haha!)

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  • People can be so insensitive, I think that often they just say the first thing that comes out of their mouth to fill empty space without genuinely processing what it is they were saying. I remember after having Olly, when I was still hooked on the idea of a 3rd, that people kept saying “one of each, that’s you done then!” etc. I was disturbed and frustrated by the comments.

    Of course the irony is that now I’ve been sterilised the same people are “oh, no more then *sad face*” Can’t bloody win.

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    • Yes I think definitely a blurt the first thought that comes out situation.

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  • Thanks for writing so honestly and thoughtfully about such a deeply personal and complicated topic. I had dodgy comments when I was pregnant with my second boy and still get those ‘when are you having a girl’ comments now, 8 years on! I wrote a post about this years ago after watching a show focusing on extreme gender ‘disappointment’ but the reality is often more subtle and that term doesn’t cover or honour the scope of emotions you go through as a mother to be. So much of parenting is processing isn’t it? Coming to terms with ideas and feelings you never knew you had, letting go of expectations and learning to embrace the family you have. Your boys are beautiful, every single one of them great post x

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    • Thank you. I loved your words about parenting. Describes it perfectly.

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  • Thanks for putting this so eloquently. You’ve summed up exactly how I feel on this topic – I have two boys and felt the second was a girl because I already had a boy, and that was how it worked right?! I would love a girl but a third child (regardless of gender) just isn’t in our plan. I feel sad that my boys won’t get to have a sister, but that’s life I suppose! I got asked by a stranger on holiday last week, ‘no girl? Just two boys?’ It took all my strength to laugh it off and say ‘me, I’m the girl!!’ Thanks again and congrats on your gorgeous brood

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    • It’s the ‘just’ in ‘just two boys’ that would bother me. There’s no ‘just’ about it!

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  • Loved your honesty here Chloe. I can’t relate but I always, always make sure to stick to ‘Congratulations’ when people share any baby news because nothing else is ever appropriate. Babies are a blessing, not always easy, but always a blessing. Interestingly I had really strong feelings with each of my three but I never shared with others because I didn’t want people to think that’s what I ‘wanted’. Your posts always engage me so much 🙂

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    • Me too, always just “Great news!” Or “Congratulations!”

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  • I think you’ve captured it really well, that idea of being upset about not having a girl while at the same time being so happy about the boy you are having is a weird concept but a very real one. We had the opposite with a girl first and then a boy ‘oh you’ve got a full set now’, it’s not simply about having one of each. I like the different relationships I have with my daughter vs. my son, but as my youngest grows I know the relationship I have will be different with him again.
    Oh and lovely photos 🙂

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    • Yes, all relationships are different because they are all different people – I know that for certain having two very different boys (and a third who will no doubt show us that he too is different in many ways to his brothers).

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  • There is so much that I could say about this, but I can’t articulate it right now.

    I am currently writing a post about this… I’ve just had my fourth boy.

    I would love to tag this post, when I am finished writing my own post.

    This is written beautifully

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    • I wrote down some thoughts whilst pregnant, but it took me until now to piece it all together into something I felt I could articulate well enough. It takes time. I would definitely like to read your post when you are ready to publish it. Congratulations on your boy and enjoy your lovely newborn time together!

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  • Everyone is convinced that we ‘balanced our family’ with the second set of twins via a US trip to determine the sexes – we didn’t! But to be honest it was only because we couldn’t afford to, had we been able to justify the additional cost of travel and PGD on top of the IVF we would have strongly considered it. Just because we were doing the really invasive bit of the process anyway, and because I’m a control freak who likes to know and have a handle on things.

    I think that wanting at least one of each is such a primal thing, it’s impossible to ‘head over heart’ about something like that no matter how much you adore your children and would rather have those children anyway. Of course there has to be a period of adjustment. Your three are so delightful though, I’m so glad that you are able to connect with and appreciate your wonderful reality. I do think that Baby O is probably the most gorgeous baby I’ve ever seen – including my own!

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    • Haha, a cheeky trip to the US that you managed to hide from everybody : ) I think that your ‘balanced’ family is just so lovely, as the girls will grow up with a best girl friend for life and the boys the same too, they are going to share so many adventures together!

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  • I have 2 girls and although we are unlikely to have a third, one of my concerns if we did would be that people would assume we were only trying for a third in the hope that we had a boy. And that if we had another girl she would be some sort of poor consolation prize. I don’t know whether that concern is justified or not but is based on some of the comments we got when we found out our 2nd was a girl. I definitely understand those feelings of letting go of the idea of experiencing a boy and a girl. I’ve had to come to terms with knowing I will never have a son and it is a strange mix of feelings like you say.

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  • My goodness I want to give you a hug. I cried for 3 days when I found out LJ was a girl. Everyone, including the midwife, had said they thought I was carrying like a boy etc etc and you just build up this little picture in your head don’t you? We had the same comments afterwards – the ‘oh will you try for a boy’. It is hard. And actually now that we are having a boy I am slightly annoyed as they will all now think it was what we were aiming for. But I would have been just as happy to have a third girl, because like you say – it is just what is meant. x

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    • I think it really doesn’t help when others unwittingly encourage you to build up an idea in your head – we do enough of that for ourselves! ; )

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  • I have one of each so didn’t go through these feeling about have a friend who did and a lot of people didn’t understand it. To me though it’s totally reasonable and you were right to give yourself that time to adjust to things. You have a beautiful family lovely x

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    • It’s quite a complex thing, so I can see why a lot of people don’t understand it…I’m not sure I even understood it when I was going through it myself!

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  • As soon as I popped on to your blog this post immediately caught my eye. Although my third baby was a girl, I know that if I had had a boy, I could have easily written this piece myself. When we found out the sex of our 2nd son, we felt terrible for initially being disappointed that he wasn’t a girl. Then we snapped out of it and never thought about it again, pleased that we had another healthy boy. At his scan I remember fleetingly thinking that I wouldn’t rule out another baby and 3 years later, we decided to try again. We found out the gender at 16 weeks because we wanted to know either way and partly because if the baby had of been a boy, we would have been prepared for it and not got our hopes up. It all sounds terrible doesn’t it and it feels like such a taboo subject to talk about with people. Of course a baby is loved whatever, but we’re still human and have hopes and dreams. One of the main things I was relieved about more than anything, was not having to deal with people’s thoughtless comments if we had of been expecting another boy. Reading what you had people say to you must have been so hard and I’ll never understand why people feel the need to say such stupid things. I think it definitely puts things into perspective once the baby arrives as by that point you wouldn’t want them to be anything other than who they are. Such a poignant post and perfectly written x

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    • Thank you Hannah. I can totally understand how you must have been feeling when you decided to have a third. He’s three months old and we are still getting comments. I think they will probably last forever. But then if we were to decide to have a fourth, and it was a girl, we’d get comments like “Oh you finally got a girl” which feels a bit mean to my boys (in my head anyway). To be honest, facing those comments and reactions again puts me off wanting a fourth child right now!!

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  • What a fantastically written, and brilliantly honest post. I think everyone has an idea in their head as to what their family will be like, and for lots of people it will look different, and like you say, you’re not disappointed but it just takes time to get your head around things. I feel so cross though when I hear about people’s negative reactions to boys, and how everyone MUST want a girl. I remember feeling pissed off when I first announced I was pregnant with Sasha, and so many people said I must be rooting for a girl, which made me feel insulted on Freddie’s behalf! Boys are ace, and how lovely to have a gang of brothers- you are a lucky lady! x

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