Please Don't Regret My 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 when it's 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. We're truly 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 prefer one way or the other.

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. “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.

10 comments

  1. Your words are written so beautifully! I know a lot of people were surprised when we found out our new baby was a boy. I had comments like, "Oh you poor thing...another boy" or "how strange to have three boys in a row, I know you wanted a girl". My husband and I really were just overjoyed with having another precious child, it did not matter to us whether the baby was a boy or girl. Our girls were hoping for another sister, but they have come to be very excited about their new brother! Talking about how much God loves each of us and only He can decide whether we are male or female, has really helped them to love having a brother even more. Those comments are hurtful, whether you have both genders in your family or not. Like you said, I never want my children to think we would have been more happy or have loved them more if they had been the opposite gender. Praying for you and that precious baby! I'm so excited for you and can't wait to see pictures and hear his or her name!

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    1. Thank you Kari! Those comments are so hard to hear, aren't they? Mostly because it's in front of the other children. I love your perspective and it's nice to know that it's shared by people who have both genders!

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  2. A really beautiful post, Mary. Wow, I was so sad to hear of the heartache this causes you and others. I am so sorry that people say such rude nonsense. I get very tired of hearing "oh you have three boys and three girls! Perfect! You must be done." It must satisfy people's need for order that God has given us an even number... Or something like that. I get tired of silly comments from people but you are right, the worst is when they are standing right there. One man told me we had too many children as my youngest is in the sling and my oldest is holding our toddler right next to me, and all the others are in tow. I looked at him disgusted and said "well someone will have to pay your Social Security when you're old. And alone." Snarky, yes. But I didn't care and if I could go back I probably would have been more charitable. But our little ones truly have to build up a thick skin. I remind them daily how blessed we are to have each other. And they know it. FWIW, my brother-in-law is one of 12: 9 boys and 3 girls. My son always says how cool it would be to have that many brothers:) God bless you, Mary.

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  3. Thank you for this beautiful post. As a mama of 4 girls here on earth, one in heaven, and a baby on the way I can relate to so much of what you have written here. My heart's desire is for a culture of life in which every child is embraced as the perfect, undeserved gift that they are. Thank you.
    Stephanie

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    1. Thank you, Stephanie! I'm so glad you liked it!

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  4. I just found your blog and I'm glad I did. This post really blessed me. Thank you.

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    1. I'm so glad, Hope. Welcome and thank you for the comment :)

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  5. My quite estranged auntie: i hope it's a girl this time! Really! It would be so nice for you! A sweet little girl with pigtails like when you were little! And a girl is good because then she will take care of you when you're old!
    O_o
    I told we don't count the kids and don't any preferences about His decisions...

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  6. I've never lost a baby (hope to God I never will), but I am still alarmed at the idea that someone can have a preference, honestly.

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