Wanted a girl, got boys: How one mom handled gender disappointment

Sep. 23, 2011 at 10:27 AM ET

Her name was going to be Grace. She’d read Pippi Longstocking and Little House on the Prairie. She’d love school. She would hold my hand on walks, and I would brush her hair at night. We would be close.

Monica Lopossay /
Snips and snails and puppy-dog tails? Diana with her two cutie-pie boys.

But when I finally married in my late 30s and had a baby, it wasn’t Grace.

“What will I do with a boy?” I remember asking my husband.

When I got pregnant a second time, I was sure that it would be the girl I’d always wanted.

“Is this a mistake?” I asked the woman who told me the baby was another boy. I was upset. I didn’t have any interest in cars or bugs or robots. I’d been so sure I was having a girl.

Girls felt like my turf. I grew up with four sisters and only one brother. I’d been through the awkwardness of my first bra, the pain of losing my best friend when she went to a new school, the confusion of dating. I thought I could pass on that hard-won knowledge, along with my ballerina jewelry box with the pink corduroy lining.

In truth, though, after the awkwardness of tending to my sons’ circumcisions, or getting doused by a surprise fountain of urine during diaper changes, I didn’t think about it much. There wasn’t time to.

Now that Sam is 5, and Oliver is 3, we do the same things I would have done with a girl. We play hide-and-seek, go to the playground, dance around to Elvis Presley music and snuggle up to read books. And every day I run into those moments that get me in the gut: Sammy crying when I try to explain why he and I won’t get married when he grows up. Oliver cradling my face and saying, “I love you, Mommy.”

I doubt now that I would have been a better mother to Grace, or that my life would have somehow been more complete with her.

So what was it I was really yearning for? Why does any parent hope for one gender or the other?  A recent TODAY Moms survey found that one in ten moms have wished their child was the opposite gender – and 60 percent of those moms had sons.

For me at least, part of it was probably fantasy, some idea from Hallmark and movies about the magical bond of mothers and daughters. Maybe Grace was another version of me, one without the mistakes. Or maybe I thought that with Grace, I’d have that intimate time that we all crave with our moms.

As a little girl, I remember listening for the telephone in our busy house. I knew that if my Mom answered it, she might wind up sitting down for a moment, and I could seize that chance to lay my head in her lap. Then she might comb my hair with her fingers.

The other night, Sam couldn’t get to sleep. He said his eyes wouldn’t close. He said he needed a snack. I could tell all he really wanted was to be with me. As we walked to the kitchen, I held his hand, and he did a little skip. I knew just how he felt.

Read more essays from TODAY Moms:

Mother-daughter hair wars can be a tangled mess

What to do when the bully is ... you

Dad's view: Why does my wife have sitter-phobia?

Diana K. Sugg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has covered medicine, crime and other issues for newspapers around the country. She is now a freelance writer in Baltimore raising two young sons.