I am aware that sex disappointment* may be a difficult subject and some people may not understand, but I feel compelled to share. I know that I am not alone in these feelings, as I know many other loss mamas who have been in the same boat. So, here it goes…

mom holding baby - A Guilty Disappointment in Pregnancy after Loss

Shutterstock/Nina Buday

When I found out the sex of my rainbow baby, I was really sad, pretty devastated actually.

I know that it sounds absolutely horrible, because I should just be grateful to have seen a healthy, living baby on that ultrasound. And I was and am so grateful for that, but something inside me just lost it.

Two years ago when we had boy/girl twins on the way, everything just felt right. It was perfect and that’s how our lives were supposed to be. We were supposed to have a boy and a girl to raise and to love. We were supposed to have mommy/daughter and father/son days. We were supposed to have tea parties and go fishing. So many of those dreams instantly shattered the day we lost Mary. I had to re-identify myself as a mom with just a son here on earth. Yes, I will always be the mom to a daughter, but she’s not here and “parenting” her is not the same.

When we finally got pregnant again after Mary died, my husband and I were both convinced we were having a little girl.

We both know that absolutely no one could ever replace her. No daughter or son will ever fill the giant void in our hearts that she left. However, our dreams of raising a little girl could be real again. We were so excited for that new experience that we missed out on.

blue handprints on belly - Guilty Disappointment

Author’s Personal Collection/Elizabeth Schulmeister

When I saw that little penis on the ultrasound screen I didn’t want to believe it. I’m not a mom to boys! My head and my heart know that I will always be a mother to a daughter. But, physically, at the park or out shopping, I’ll look like a mom of boys. I don’t want people to say, “You and your boys,” because then Mary’s always left out. If we had a girl this time it would be “your babies” or “your kids,” and I could assume that was including Mary.

I’m also struggling with this new revelation because, well, this shit is hard!

Getting pregnant has been so stressful. And being pregnant and trying to keep this baby alive and well has been beyond draining physically and emotionally. I don’t know if I can do this again! Had we had a girl this time, I think we could have been done. Now, however, I feel like there’s still something else missing. Yes, our family will never be complete without Mary. But, it also feels more incomplete because we haven’t been able to have the experience of raising a daughter like we planned for and dreamed of.

It has been 11 weeks now since we found out, and I am excited to welcome this sweet little boy. Some days it hits me harder than others that I still won’t get to use those cute bows and dresses that I have packed away. Most days I feel good and honored to be carrying this beautiful boy, and I know that he has an amazing big sister watching over him and protecting him.

“Sex Disappointment” after a loss is much different from someone who was just wishing for a certain sex.

It involves a lot of past emotions, broken dreams, tiny rips in an already broken heart. There’s a lot of expectation as well that we can only be happy and thankful for this growing life. We don’t want people to think that we’re not happy and thankful. We know, better than anyone, to be grateful for each and every second that we are given with these sweet babies, because we’ve experienced what it feels like to have one (or more) ripped out of our lives in an instant. The sadness felt does not, in any way, diminish the joy or amazement at growing our rainbow babies. It is just an additional emotion added on to this already crazy ride of pregnancy after loss.

*A note on sex (gender) disappointment: Among the loss community this has been referred to as gender disappointment in the past. In recent years there has been a movement to label this experience as sex disappointment, as this more accurately describes the genitals a person is born with. However you define this experience for yourself, it’s important to know that sex disappointment is a real psychological experience that pregnant after loss parents can go through. 

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