permission to be disappointed


As this pregnancy winds down (or ramps up), I’ve had this idea for something I’ve wanted to write about for several months but it’s felt risky to say out loud. And at the same time, it feels risky to not say it because soon I might forget that the feeling even existed. So, here we go: I want to share that when I found out we were having another son I was deeply disappointed.

For some context, at our 12 week ultrasound appointment the technician told us she was 80% confident we were having a girl. I’d been feeling extremely sick and the pregnancy felt different in general, so I felt that she was just confirming my intuition. For the next 8 weeks I allowed myself to fantasize about raising a “strong woman” and all the stereotypes that went with that.

So, when at 20 weeks a different ultrasound technician told us our baby had a penis, my heart sank. And almost as quickly, a flood of guilt and anger came over me. How dare I feel disappointed? I was growing a healthy baby. I know how many women would do anything just to grow a healthy baby. I know that a baby’s sex is just one of the many complicated and wonderful pieces that make a human a human.

And yet, this feeling of disappointment felt as real as it felt taboo and unacceptable.

I think there is a subtle but powerful storyline around pregnancy that goes something along the lines of you have been blessed with the gift of new life, be grateful, or else. So we silently trudge our way through the first trimester because we are to be grateful for this new life that is literally making us ill.  Throughout pregnancy and birth as our bodies change, expand, stretch, ache, sag and are sometimes physically injured, we jokingly complain in private to our mom friends, but certainly not in public where our complaints might be taken to mean that we are ungrateful. Then, if we choose to find out the sex of our child, we celebrate, regardless of whatever fantasy we’ve been holding in our minds for the past 20 or so weeks.


In a healthy pregnancy, there is no room for disappointment.

But I want to remember the disappointment that was there and I want to share it with you. Privately, I did make room for it for a time. I spoke to close friends who I knew wouldn’t judge me. I strolled the girl’s clothing section of The Gap and felt the sick feeling of envy while staring at a ruffled dress with lemons. I mulled over my feeling of loss that I would never talk to a daughter about getting her period or delivering a baby. I came to consider closer my own identity as a woman and some really painful realities about the ways I view sex and gender.

I want to remember that it was there because it’s okay. It’s okay to have a fantasy and be disappointed when life doesn’t bend to your beck and call. Even when you are pregnant.

And it’s already left me. I’m not sure what took away my disappointment but lately when I fantasize about this baby it is with a deep curiosity and wondering. What will his fingers look like? Will his lips be swollen like his brothers were when he first arrives? Who will he become at one year old? at 5? at 15? I want to know this baby human who happens to have a penis. I want to watch Luke know and love him. 

There is a risk that he could someday read this blog post and feel unwanted. Sweet Boy, if you do, all I can say is that hopefully by the time you’re reading this you know that it is not within my capacity to “unwant” you. In fact, I already know without having yet met you, that I will want you too much. I will want to hold you longer than you will want to be held. I will want to talk to you longer than you will want to talk.

I hope instead what you learn from reading this is that life is dotted with these moments of disappointment that turn out to be the best thing that have ever happened to you. When you happen across those moments, sit down with your disappointment. Fill yourself up with it as long as you need. And then later, sit down, maybe even lie down, with your gratitude that every now and again the universe takes care of you.