I was really looking forward to being dumber than my daughter. For the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy, my husband and I spun a collective daydream about our wise little girl: We pictured her walking through life with confidence and long, wavy hair, a perfect combination of my curly and my husband’s straight. She’d be his willing partner at museums, so gifted in math she could do her homework without my help. The dumbest, basest jokes, our favorite kind, would make her roll her eyes.
The afternoon of my 20-week ultrasound, I left work early and got on the wrong train. I was late, my husband even later, and we were silent in the waiting room, answering work emails. Following the technician down the hallway, I felt wobbly and unsure: less This is it! than Oh, is this it? We knew we might be wrong, but there hadn’t seemed much harm in hoping. What was wrong with wanting the girl with long hair, so smart, annoyingly smart, just like her dad.
In the aquarium glow of the ultrasound room, the technician held the wand over my bare stomach and asked if we wanted to find out.
“Yes,” my husband and I said at the same time.
“You will have …” she said, adjusting the wand, “a baby boy.”
Gender disappointment is not a term I was familiar with, but one I quickly learned. Parents magazine points out that there are “ways to deal with your mixed feelings.” A blogger for the New York Times’ Motherlodeemphasizes her luck at the health of her child, while Babble recommends being open about your gender-related feelings, whatever they are. Katherine Asbery’s 2008 book, Altered Dreams … Living With Gender Disappointment, devotes 135 pages to struggling and eventually coming to terms with her unfulfilled desire for a girl. (???? my husband texted me, after coming across the copy I bought to research this essay.)