The XX Factor

Hey, That’s Not the Kid I Ordered!

A little disappointment is inherent in parenting. Suzie doesn’t inherit her hockey-forward mom’s stick skills; Johnny lacks Dad’s engineering bent. But a few women (and they all seem to be women) are disappointed enough that Johnny isn’t Suzie to spend thousands of dollars and endure IVF, abortions, and even a divorce to produce the little girl of their dreams (who, I suspect, had better damn well like pink).

Journalist Ruth Shalit Barrett delved deep into the world of what some call “gender disappointment” and others call (in slightly different words) reproductive Veruca Salt syndrome. Amidst all the advice on how to make your vagina an X-sperm-friendly habitat or find a fertility clinic offering sex-specific IVF (a process that’s prohibited in both China and India, where there are strong cultural preferences for boys), she found something else: women who were willing to tell the readers of Elle exactly how disappointed they were with their little boys.

I considered abortion when I found out it was a boy, several say. I was “gutted.” “I was mourning a death.” When one woman gave birth to two boys instead of the expected boy/girl pair, she “felt like a funeral should be held.”

A lot has been said lately about the ethics of writing about the parenting experience . Should we detail our worst days as mothers? Blog about the trials of potty training? Profit from the material provided by our child’s autism or marijuana addiction, or claim to love our husband more than our kids? As someone who’s blogged honestly-and sometimes too honestly-about my difficulty bonding with my adopted daughter, I wrestle with these issues regularly. I am all for talking about difficult experiences in the hope of reaching out to others who have felt, or are feeling, the same way. But there’s one line I’ve never crossed-one thing I think you should absolutely never say to or about your child: I didn’t want you. I wanted somebody else.