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The gender of a baby does matter to some mothers. Gender Disappointment is real.

All you have to do is google ‘gender disappointment’ or ‘choosing the sex of your baby’ and you’ll find many hits for both topics.

The reality is, parents would like to be able to choose the sex of their baby and if it comes to pass that they do not conceive what they hoped they can suffer from gender disappointment.

Two weeks ago a Melbourne mother made headlines with her intention to travel to Thailand to under an IVF procedure so she could be implanted with a female embryo.

Her desire to have a girl is so strong she is willing to go to such lengths to achieve her dream.

Many people have criticized her decision to undergo IVF in Thailand and branded her selfish, as evidenced in the comments section of the above article.

Currently in Australia using IVF to gender select an embryo purely for family balancing reasons is banned.

Many have suggested that she seek counseling because there is obviously some underlying cause to explain her strong desire to have a girl.

That may be the case, but is it something that can ever be resolved? BellyBelly creator Kelly Winder has this to say.

In this article she talks about gender disappointment and in this forum you can see that some people do not think it is real at all.

Can the desire to have a particular gendered child ever be satisfied or resolved if it is not met?

We all suffer disappointments and have to best deal with them but some disappointments can never be resolved. This may be one such disappointment.

But I ask, what is at the heart of this controversy?

The fact that this woman so desperately wants a girl or that she is going to such extreme lengths to have her desired fulfilled.

To explore that last question further, is it because she is using IVF treatment which has been traditionally used to assist couples with fertility problems achieve their dream of having a child.

These separate issues.

Why the desperation to have a girl? Only this lady can truthfully answer this for herself and any conclusion we all come to is purely speculative.

She has said that she loves her boys and wouldn’t trade them for anything, but again, readers have said that she obviously doesn’t love her boys, because she wants a girl. Perhaps if she had all girls, she would have a strong desire to have a boy? I don’t know.

Is wanting to balance her family reason enough? Is wanting to parent a same sex child reason enough?

Let’s face it, we’ve all heard comments made to parents who have single sex children “will they be going for another to get said boy/girl?”

Even though I already have a girl, I was bombarded during my 4th pregnancy with comments like “I hope it’s a little girl so J can have a sister after having 2 brothers”.

I had a boy. Even then the comments didn’t stop. “J, you were hoping for a sister weren’t you?” Leave the girl alone, she’s 8. Then we wonder where deep seeded desires come from.

I had one mother say to me, “I was the eldest of 3 brothers; I hated it”. Thanks.

But if I had uttered the words, “I’m really disappointed that L isn’t a girl”, I would have been condemned by the majority of people, if the reaction this woman has received is anything to go by.

Gender balanced families are everywhere; we see it in advertising. How often have you seen advertisements that include a mum, dad, one boy and one girl?

This research paper concludes the presence of at least one girl and one boy enables the symbolization of the full set of intra-family relations, including the presumed special bonds between the mother and the daughter as well as between the father and the son.

So when you are surrounded by it, why wouldn’t you want it?

Take IVF out of the equation and the situation would play out one of two ways. This woman can go on to have more children until she has her daughter. This may be financial taxing.

Or she gives up on ever having a daughter and lives with a void that cannot be filled. This may be psychologically taxing.

IVF, as I understand it, is a user pays system. If you can afford it, shouldn’t it be available to everyone?

IVF is the unique position of being able to use science to overcome where nature fails (Has nature failed us? That’s a whole other discussion). But what are the moral regulations or even implications of IVF?

A vocal concern for allowing IVF procedures to determine which sex embryo is implanted is that the world will suffer a significant gender imbalance. Ethicist Leslie Cannold says that data shows that generally people choose boys and girls.

At which point would a couple be allowed to use IVF purely for gender selection? After having three children of the same sex? Two children of the same sex? First child? Evidenced they have tried to ‘naturally’ influence which gender is conceived?

There are many, many questions to be asked. And we need to decide who in fact is allowed to set down these guidelines. Who sets the bar?

Value judgements are based on personal experience.

To claim that this woman is being selfish is unfair and short-sighted and ignoring something that is very real for her. How long has it taken to have post-natal depression recognized as something that is very real? Let’s not make the same mistake with gender disappointment. It is probably more common than you or I realize.


  • At 2010.07.23 13:33, Alex said:

    When this story first came out i was so angry i could hardly contain myself.Since then I have had this discussion with many ppl who are either for or against her decision,and i knw many couple that have gone through IVF multiple times as well.What pains me about this womens “desire” is that she is able to have more children and whether ur religious or not there must be a reason for why u n ur spouse have not had a daughter naturally.Obviously ur equipment is working just not the way you want it.
    I understand the desire for a specific gender,i have a beautiful baby girl but i would love a little boy some day, but i think going down this path is just unacceptable and allowing ppl to think that having children is ultimately what “they want” as apose to for lack of a better term “a miracle that should be cherished regardless of what you get” just saddens me its a child not an ipad.
    She has 3 sons and will someday perhaps if they are so inclined,she will have 3 daughters(through marriage) or another son if thats how their boat floats. Or if that is not good enough there are literally hundreds of little girls who deserve a loving home in orphanages around the world.
    I disagree with the mentality “i want therefore i should get” its present in every other aspect of our society i think when it comes to “having a baby” this is where it should be off limits,im all for helping people get pregnant just not helping them decide the out come.

    • At 2010.07.28 10:53, Brenda Freeman said:

      I agree with you Alex. Our society has become “I want therefore I get” and it is a shame that babies have become a commodity we can pick and choose.

      I have children of both sex (2 boys and 1 girl) so I suppose I am not qualified to make a comment on this topic, but as with so many things in life, we can’t always get what we want – sometimes you have to learn to want and love what you have.

    • At 2010.07.23 15:06, Straun said:

      Boy or Girl – It does matter. I agree.

      The simple fact is that society does have a choice about using technology to obtain what sex they want their child to be. People will judge others for using this technology, because it’s new & not so long ago the attitude of “Be happy with what you get” was all there was. The people using this technology are known as ‘early adopters’ & before you know it a lot more people will use it as the taboo dilutes.

      Whenever a woman is pregnant the question is almost always asked of her (& the partner) “What do you want, a little girl or boy?”. Although the answer if often noncommittal, except for good health, does not mean that secretly we do desire one over the another. I think that this is because that attitude of “Be happy with what you get” still predominates peoples mentality & there is shame about admitting that one sex is more important to you than the other, therefore insinuating that you would experience gender disappointment if it didn’t go ‘your way’.

      My wife & I recently had a baby daughter. Although we never knew, we thought that we were going to have a boy. When she came out, it was a surprise & yet we are not disappointed with her being a girl. I can’t deny that there is a part of me that would like a son, but I’m not sure that I’d go to the lengths of gender selection to ensure that occurs.

      Gender selection is probably not for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not alright for others to achieve their dreams when the means is now there to do it.

      • At 2010.07.23 15:19, Enzo said:

        Alex, it seems to me that your logic is flawed. If we’re supposed to accept what is handed to us, then surely IVF should also be off-limits? There’s obviously a reason that ‘the equipment’, as you so tenderly put it, isn’t working?

        Isn’t that kinda like having your cake, but only eating it when it suits you?

        We’re either allowed to mess with ‘natural selection’, or we’re not. It seems the emotional desire to have a particular gender is not necessarily any different to that of having a child in the first place for some, no? We can’t assume because it doesn’t affect you or I that it simply doesn’t exist.

        • At 2010.07.23 15:20, Danny said:

          Pretty well put I think Alex… I think you have a child to have a child, Not a boy or a girl and unless you are prepared for either outcome maybe you just arent ready for a baby… I would have loved if one of my boys was a girl but ultimately I wanted a healthy baby and that is the most important thing!

          • At 2010.07.23 17:44, Alex said:

            I never said it doesnt exist im just saying this women should realise that shes extremely lucky to be able to have children without IVF, and if this desire is so deep perhaps mayb she should adopt a baby girl instead of use something that was created for ppl who have the love but not the physical means to make it happen themselves. Ppl should look into gender disappointment and set up support systems for ppl who are going through this just like women suffering from post natal depression,to figure out why ppl are so fixated on one gender being more “desirable” then the other.
            I disagree with the mentality just because the technology is available means that i can do whatever i want with it.
            And because there are other options out there ie adoption how deep is her desire for a daughter if this avenue wasnt considered? just because the cake is there doesnt mean u have to eat it.

            • At 2010.07.23 18:47, Maria said:

              Hi Alex,

              Here’s some info re adoption. Here’s some info re intercountry adoption.

              “Families should be aware that the numbers of intercountry adoptions have decreased world-wide over the past few years and waiting times for an adoption proposal have extended.

              For example, the last Family Group from China waited three years and five months for adoption proposals from the time their adoption application was received and registered in China.

              We recognise this waiting period is extremely difficult for families and encourage them to be in touch with their intercountry adoption support organisation and other families in their same situation.”

              Ironically, China is one country where there is a huge number of baby girls that are given up for adoption yet it is very difficult to adopt one.

              And yes, before you say it, males are generally preferred in China which has caused a gender imbalance. What it has done is increased the rate of infanticide of newborn girls and orphanages have more girls than boys.

              I suppose the point is if people are desperate enough to get a baby of particular gender, they will do anything to get it.

              This article says that it could cost about $15,000 to adopt a chinese child.

              That’s about the same amount of money this woman is going to pay for her IVF treatment without having to wait over 3 years to get a result and she will have her own biological child. Having a biological child is obviously important.

              Here’s some more info on adoption.

              Adoption it would seem is a very difficult, lengthy and costly process as is IVF. Neither guarantee an outcome but it really comes down to how important is having your own biological son or daughter?

              For me, I don’t feel like I can tell this woman to be happy with what she has because I sit in the privileged position of having a son and a daughter. It just feels arrogant and a bit insensitive.

            • At 2010.07.23 21:25, Lachy said:

              Thing is though, you can see even from the way names become popular that people are basically herd animals, even when it comes to their children.

              If it becomes a ‘lifestyle decision’ which gender your child is, then it’s not hard to see that it could become very fashionable to have one sex over another. The consequences of that are potentially catastrophic for the human race.

              You can site a study that says otherwise, but I think it’s probably wise to tread cautiously with the future of the species! In comparison, the gender dissapointment of a few individuals is a pretty trivial issue.

              • At 2010.07.25 18:20, Maria said:

                Woops, my comment below was meant for. You are sir 🙂

              • At 2010.07.24 21:16, Danny said:

                I have some moral problems with IVF in general so IVF for choosing a sex is particularly hard to swallow.
                Adoption is expensive and hard,yes, but isn’t patience a HUGELY important quality when it comes to parenting? Its definitely not about instant gratification because that is selfish and being a parent is the about most selfless thing you can ever do.
                As for not being able to judge because you have both sexes, there are very few situations in life where being in that situation is required for you to think it is right/wrong.
                Im not saying gender disappointment isnt real but I think it should be dealt with like PND.

                • At 2010.07.25 18:25, Enzo said:

                  “Im not saying gender disappointment isnt real but I think it should be dealt with like PND.”

                  I find this fascinating. Not disagreeing, but fascinating when you apply that principle to another situation:

                  A woman has spent her whole life wanting kids, but is immensely disappointed to discover that she can’t. By this logic, she should simply seek counseling to get over it rather than consider other options, including IVF?

                  I would also put to you that becoming a parent is a paradox in that it is at the same time one of the most selfless AND selfish things one could ever want to do. But just like the rest of this thread, it’s all completely subjective 🙂

                  • At 2010.07.25 18:33, Maria said:

                    Hi Danny,

                    You’re moral compass (thanks Dr Phil) says that you have a problem with IVF in general so it is not surprising that you have a problem with gender selection.

                    Which pretty much answers my next question, would you ever seek IVF for fertility issues? Probably not.

                    But I doubt many would wait 3 years before seeking fertility treatment, doesn’t mean they won’t be patient parents.

                    Wouldn’t you find it frustrating if you were waiting 3 years for a child? I know I would.

                    I think I wrote a post about parenting being both selfish and selfless. If I haven’t, I will 😉

                  • At 2010.07.25 18:10, Maria said:

                    I’ve been thinking about your comment and I propose this to you sir.

                    Let’s play hypotheticals, it will be fun.

                    Say to start off equal we’ll say that 50% of the population are for gender selection through IVF and 50% are not.

                    There is a presumption that the 50% that are against it will be swayed to the dark side to join the 50% that are for it. And even if you are for it, doesn’t automatically mean that you will undergo that sort of procedure.

                    The reality is, it is an expensive and physically taxing way to get pregnant with no guarantees. Not everyone will be able to do it, even if it is available to everyone.

                    It used to be legal here in Australia until 2005. It is legal in the US and we know in Thailand. I’ve also heard that it is legal in Greece and Spain. I haven’t heard of any stories of massive gender imbalance in those countries. In fact, Greece and Spain’s birth rate is worse than Australia’s.

                    I hear your warning about repercussions years from now.

                    As for a “few individuals” suffering from gender disappointment, yeah, I think you’re skimming over something that has the potential of being crippling if not treated and I really do think it is far more prevalent than you realise. I really think there are more women out there that haven’t publicly admitted it out of fear.

                    • At 2010.08.04 17:25, Lachy said:

                      If we are playing hypotheticals, what happens when the technology improves, and it is as easy as taking a pill? Do you still let people choose freely now it’s really easy for virtually everyone to choose? There is good reason to proceed very cautiously over this issue.

                      In reality I’m fairly certain cognitive dissonance (the tendency for the brain to convince itself whatever it’s doing is actually for the best) evens out much distress over time anyhow.

                      But the big thing is, no matter how big an issue personal disappointment is, the future of the species is far more important.

                      • At 2010.08.16 13:25, Maria said:

                        The science will probably improve and yes you should proceed with caution.

                        Though I still think that people will use it to balance out their family as opposed to have a string of boys or string of girls.

                        I like your point about cognitive dissonance. We’re all guilty of that. Without it we wouldn’t cope with anything.

                        Like, it’s good for the country to have more than 2 children.
                        It’s good for the planet to only have 2 children.
                        It’s better that a mother goes back to work to ensure rights for working parents stays on the agenda.
                        It’s better for a mother to stay at home and look after the children.
                        It’s better to homeschool; you can ensure that your child’s academic potential is reached and fulfilled.
                        It’s better to go to a mainstream school.

                        Shall I go on?

                        I love this discussion.

                    • At 2010.07.25 19:44, Danny said:

                      My moral problem with IVF is all the unused embryos that are discarded so I might consider undergoing IVF for infertility as long as we only fertilized as many eggs as we were prepared to use… I have heard of a couple that did this. So of course one of many issues I have with gender selection is all the unwanted boy (or girl) babies (as I see them) that are created only to be destroyed for one lady’s “desire.” What a waste!!
                      I understand that most dont agree with my views on this matter but there is my opinion… Not in its entirety but part thereof!

                      • At 2010.07.25 21:34, Maria said:

                        That’s a fair call about the unused embryos. I don’t know if I’ve heard this correctly but I think couples can opt to donate their embryos to other couples that can’t produce their own. It’s adoption in another form I suppose.

                        This is by no means a simple discussion with simple solutions. Even though in principle I agree with gender selection, I don’t know about the finer details yet and their implications. Just like I said in my blog, who do you let have access to it? Do you either allow it for everyone or no-one?

                        I really do think that gender disappointment is real. To be honest I really worry that mothers suffer from it than we realise but are too scared to say anything. And I don’t want to be guilty of adding to a mother’s distress.

                        I would have to speak with a psychologist to see whether you can be counseled for gender disappointment. Can you ever get over it and move past or do you just have to live with it.

                        I’m assuming that you can get past PND and you don’t have to live with it everyday for the rest of your life.

                        From what I understand of gender disappointment is that you don’t mourn the fact that you have a son, for example, you mourn the fact that you will never have a daughter. It’s tricky territory, wishing you have a daughter doesn’t automatically mean you didn’t have your son.

                      • At 2010.07.25 21:35, Janet said:

                        Wow Mrs M

                        You really generated a lot of discussion with this one. I always find it hard to take a position on this issue. Firstly, because I don’t have kids and secondly because IVF really has changed everything. Is it really wrong to want a particular gender in a baby? Maybe or maybe not.

                        I suppose the majority or perhaps just a lot of people view IVF as a procedure that will give those who really want a baby a chance of having one and taking it one step further to actually dictate the gender of the baby seems a little extreme.

                        I think I’ll have to keep on the sidelines with this one.

                        • At 2010.07.25 21:55, Maria said:

                          Hi Janet,

                          I don’t think I had to do much to generate discussion on this one.

                          I wonder whether say for example, artificial insemination, is more palatable for people. Just separate the XX and the XY sperm and basically just let the sperm loose and let nature takes it course as to whether an egg is fertilised. I’m not a doctor but I wonder whether that takes away the element of ‘design’ that people fear will be the logical next step – choosing blue eyes for example.

                          It used to be legal and then the Howard government put on a ban on it. I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see what happens when it comes under review again.

                          Thanks for the visit. 🙂

                          Love & stuff
                          Mrs M

                          • At 2010.07.30 23:43, Veronica said:

                            When I had my four children I did not care what sex the baby was as long as it was healthy.

                            I was lucky I did not need IVF. I have four beautiful children, 3 girls and a boy. Each is unique with their own special gifts and I would not change one of them.


                            • At 2010.08.03 14:33, Maria said:

                              Hi Veronica,

                              I’m in the same boat as you, except I have 1 girl and 3 boys. My second born son has very much the same temperament as my daughter. My first born son is very different to my second born son. My third born is still a baby so we’ll see what he has in stall for us.

                              Thanks for your comment and the visit.

                              Love & stuff
                              Mrs M

                            • At 2010.08.16 12:55, Cate Bolt said:

                              Wow, interesting discussion. I’m a mum of 9. I had 7 boys first and yes, I did desperately want a girl. I said if number 7 was a boy we would try one more time. Our 8th child was a girl and I felt as though my life was complete. Would it have killed me psychologically if I had never had a daughter? Probably not. I may have always yearned for one, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. When I was pregnant with our 9th (the only one that was unplanned) I wasn’t fussed either way. It turns out we had 8 boys & 1 daughter. I’m very grateful for my daughter, but as a Buddhist, I also believe we are given what we need to learn & achieve the things that we need to. I personally wouldn’t mess with that process myself, but I have also been blessed with the ability to have children naturally myself…so I wouldn’t question anyone using IVF to have a child if they were unable.
                              To each his or her own. I don’t like people criticising my right to have a large family, I certainly don’t wish to criticise anyone else for planning their family how they choose.
                              I think the far greater concern in my mind is how each gender is valued when it is born. With the work I’m currently doing in Indonesia, it saddens me to see female babies undervalued, as they are in a lot of Asian countries. Perhaps it’s better to have female babies born to those who really want them. I dunno!

                              • At 2010.08.16 13:12, Maria said:

                                Hi Cate,

                                I have 4 kids and I don’t see it as a large family, although others do.

                                My hubby has 2 sisters. Between them they have 24 children. The eldest sister has 14 and the younger sister has 10. The older kids have started to get married and have children of their own.

                                It is hard breaking what is happening in China and India with regards to infantcide. I haven’t visited either of those countries but reading news stories is truly heartbreaking. I often wonder how the mother feel when this occurs. It must be soul crushing.

                                Thanks for the visit and the comment.

                                Love & stuff
                                Mrs M

                              • At 2011.10.01 23:49, Lisa Wood said:

                                I not sure I should enter into this debate – I am a mother to five amazing boys, who I love dearly. I would give anything to have a daughter.
                                If someone told me tomorrow that they could guarantee that I would be having a girl I would be there in a flash.
                                Hubby has been to the doctors so its not possible to have that choice anymore.
                                If I was given a chance I would.
                                Its something that is with me every day – I cant explain it. Its like our family is missing something, someone or a part of us is not complete.
                                My boys are amazing, but they are Daddys boys. There will come a time when they grow up and have their own family, where their wife will be going to her Mum with their children.
                                What happens then? Does the son have to decide which family members to see at Xmas and Easter time?
                                I am not sure if anyone can understand what I am going through, or what I am saying unless they have been in my shoes.
                                Dont judge me for it, because I have judged myself with my thoughts many time.
                                Just accept that what I am saying is from my heart, and is what I have to live with.
                                Thanks for the great information.

                                • At 2011.10.02 12:06, Maria said:

                                  Hi Lisa,

                                  I don’t judge you and in fact thank you for taking the time to comment on this blog post. I really do appreciate it.

                                  I hope you find some resolution.

                                  It would be great to be able to discuss this topic publicly without judgement but with an open mind.

                                  Thanks again for giving us some insight into your feelings and your thoughts.

                                  Love & stuff
                                  Mrs M

                                (Required, will not be published)