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Coping with Gender Disappointment: Navigating Emotions on a Surrogacy Journey

emotions surrogacy journey

Surrogacy is a deeply personal and emotional experience for intended parents, filled with hope, anticipation, and sometimes, unexpected emotions. Similar to conventional pregnancy, one such emotion that can arise during the surrogacy journey is gender disappointment—the feeling of sadness or disappointment when the gender of an expected child does not align with intended parent’s expectations or desires.

Because a child is longed to for, to the extent of seeking IVF treatment and bearing physical and financial strain in the process, intended parents feel an increased level of guilt compared to their naturally pregnant counterparts. Not to mention the ultimate act of service on behalf of the surrogate partner; intended parents struggling with gender disappointment feel ashamed and ungrateful in the face of this generous act.

Gender disappointment in pregnancy can stem from a variety of factors, reflecting the complex interplay of personal, cultural, and societal influences on parental expectations and desires.Common reasons include:

Personal Preferences and Expectations: Parents may have had a strong preference for a specific gender based on their own upbringing, cultural norms, or personal desires. When the baby’s gender does not align with these expectations, it can lead to feelings of disappointment.

Desire for Balance or Completeness: Some parents may already have children of one gender and desire a sense of balance or completeness in their family. When the baby’s gender does not match their hopes for achieving this balance, they may feel disappointed.

Gender Stereotypes and Biases: Gender stereotypes and biases prevalent in society can influence parental expectations and perceptions of their child even before birth. Parents may have preconceived notions about the characteristics, interests, and abilities associated with each gender, leading to disappointment if the baby’s gender does not conform to these stereotypes.

Attachment to Gender-Specific Dreams or Plans: Parents often develop dreams and plans for their future child based on assumptions about their gender. For example, they may envision playing sports with a son or bonding over shared interests with a daughter. When the baby’s gender differs from these expectations, it can lead to disappointment as parents adjust their visions for the future.

Family Dynamics and Relationships: Gender disappointment can also be influenced by family dynamics and relationships. For example, a parent may have a close bond with siblings of a particular gender and desire to replicate that relationship with their own child. When the baby’s gender differs, it can evoke feelings of sadness or loss.

Medical or Genetic Concerns: In some cases, parents may have medical or genetic reasons for desiring a child of a specific gender. For example, they may be carriers of genetic disorders that affect one gender more than the other, or they may have a family history of certain medical conditions that are genderspecific. When the baby’s gender does not match their hopes for avoiding these risks, it can lead to disappointment and anxiety.

Cultural or Familial Expectations: In some cultures or families, there may be strong expectations or traditions regarding the gender of the baby. For example, there may be pressure to have a male heir to carry on the family name or fulfill certain societal roles. When the baby’s gender deviates from these expectations, it can evoke feelings of disappointment or concern about fulfilling familial obligations.

Emotional Attachment: Some expectant parents develop a strong emotional attachment to the idea of having a child of a

specific gender, imagining the unique bond and experiences they will share based on gender-specific traits or interests. When the baby’s gender differs from this imagined connection, it can result in feelings of loss or disappointment.

External Pressures: Expectant parents may also experience gender disappointment due to external pressures from friends, family members, or societal norms. Comments or expectations from others about the “ideal” gender of the baby can contribute to feelings of inadequacy or disappointment if the reality does not match these expectations.

Fear of the Unknown: Gender disappointment may also arise from uncertainty or fear of the unknown associated with raising a child of a particular gender. Parents may worry about their ability to connect with or understand a child of the opposite gender, leading to feelings of anxiety or apprehension.

Previous Experiences: Gender disappointment can be influenced by past experiences, such as miscarriages, infertility struggles, or traumatic events related to gender-specific issues. These experiences may amplify the significance of the baby’s gender and heighten feelings of disappointment or grief if expectations are not met.

It’s important to recognize that gender disappointment is a normal and valid emotional response for many expectant parents, but it’s essential to process these feelings in a healthy and supportive manner. Seeking support from loved ones, discussing feelings openly with a partner or counselor, and focusing on the joy and excitement of welcoming a new life into the world can help intended parents navigate gender disappointment with resilience and acceptance.

Acknowledge and Validate Your Feelings:

The first step in coping with gender disappointment is to acknowledge and validate your feelings. It’s essential to recognize that feeling disappointed or sad about the gender of your expected child is a normal and natural response. Allow yourself to experience and process these emotions without judgment or guilt. Remember that your feelings are valid, and it’s okay to seek support from your partner, friends, or a mental health professional if needed.

Shift Your Perspective:

While it’s natural to have preferences or expectations regarding your child’s gender, it’s essential to shift your perspective and focus on the bigger picture. Remind yourself that the most important thing is the health and well-being of your child, regardless of their gender. Take time to reflect on the unique qualities and attributes that each gender brings, and embrace the opportunity to raise a child who will enrich your life in ways you may not have anticipated.

Communicate Openly:

Communication is key. Talk openly and honestly with your partner about your feelings and concerns, and listen to their perspective with empathy and understanding. Sharing your thoughts and emotions can help strengthen your bond as a couple and foster a sense of mutual support and solidarity as you navigate this challenging time together.

Manage Expectations:

Managing expectations is crucial. Remember that the gender of your child is ultimately beyond your control, and focusing on acceptance and gratitude for the miracle of life can help shift your perspective. Embrace the unpredictability and joy of parenthood, knowing that your child will bring their own unique personality, interests, and talents to your family, regardless of gender.

Seek Support:

Surround yourself with a supportive network of family, friends, and fellow expecting parents who can offer empathy, encouragement, and guidance during this emotional journey. Consider joining online support groups or seeking counseling from professionals. Connecting with others who have experienced similar emotions can provide validation and reassurance, helping you feel less alone in your journey.

Practice Self-Care:

Take time to engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s spending time outdoors, practicing mindfulness and meditation, or indulging in hobbies and interests. Nurturing your physical, emotional, and mental well-being is essential in managing stress and fostering resilience during this challenging time.

Ultimately, the love bond between parent and child transcends gender and disappointment does not usually persist once bonding takes place. Coping with gender disappointment as an intended parent on a surrogacy journey requires compassion, selfawareness, and support. By acknowledging and validating your feelings, shifting your perspective, communicating openly, managing expectations, seeking support, and practicing self-care, you can navigate this emotional journey with resilience and grace, ultimately preparing to welcome your child with love and acceptance regardless of gender.


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