Pink When You Wanted Blue

"One last push, Sharon! Bear down! Thatís it... great... here we go... Congratulations, itís a boy!" As her husband high-fived the nurse and wept with joy, Sharonís eyes too filled with tears. Tears of exhaustion. Tears of exertion. Tears of disappointment? Yes, disappointment. Sharon had wanted a girl.

Ask any expectant parent the question, "Do you want a boy or a girl?", and without exception you are going to get the answer, "Oh I donít care what it is, as long as itís healthy." And while that answer is true - we all desperately want our baby to be healthy -- it usually also hides a specific gender preference. A preference for boy or girl, that we are afraid to voice, lest we jinx the outcome.

In a survey of 10,648 responding parents worldwide, 79 percent admitted to having a decided gender preference going into and throughout their pregnancies. Surprisingly, in many cases the preference was to please the spouse. One female respondent wrote, "I wanted a boy to give my husband, who was very macho and into sports, what he wanted... another him!" Male respondents, overwhelmingly, had a preference for a son. Even my own husband, now the father of three daughters, admits that during our first pregnancy, he wanted a boy. But only because that is what he thought he was supposed to want.

This is not uncommon, according to obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr. Marilyn Hendricks. "In my practice, I hear expectant fathers every day who are absolutely fixated on being recreated in miniature. The emotional pressure they place on the mother is considerable. And I am always amused when I educate them to the fact that he, not she, is responsible for the sex of the child. To use a football analogy, the woman is merely there to catch the pass, the man is the quarterback throwing the X or Y."

In Sharonís case though, she had wanted to catch an X. She had wanted a baby girl since she was a baby girl. As a child she loved to play Mommy with her dolls, dress them in pretty dresses, change their homemade washcloth diapers, feed them pretend bottles and sing them lullabies. But they were always girls. Even as a teen, she would wistfully wander among the pink section of the baby clothes department, envisioning the perfect pink baby girl she would have someday.

So how can you come to terms with a disappointment, decades in the making? A disappointment that brings with it intense guilt and even a measure of shame? I mean how can you not feel ashamed about being unhappy during one of the greatest moments of your life?

Many couples now take advantage of the ultrasound done routinely between the 5th & 6th months of pregnancy. While the test is done to check size, bone growth and overall development of the baby, it can often be used to determine the sex of the child. 68 percent of parents in our survey opted to find out the gender when possible. And of those parents, 84 percent did so to be able to come to terms with any disappointment they may have over the sex, before the baby was born.

Yet for those whose baby is not positioned properly during the ultrasound, or who choose to have the surprise take place in the delivery room (like Sharon and her husband), the disappointment can be very real. In most cases, it disappears quickly when presented with the newborn, "I was just happy to have a healthy baby. Having a girl would have been nice, but I wouldnít trade my boy for all the tea in China (or anything else)!" "Any trepidation I had actually disappeared when I saw him." And those men who hope for a "Mini-Me" are the same, "He said he loved her and was glad she was a girl, and that anything he could do with a boy he could do with a girl. He then proceeded to introduce her to the joys of watching baseball on TV (she was born during the week of the All-Star game, to a baseball fanatic father)."

One respondentís reply truly puts delivery room disappointment in perspective. She had hoped for a boy but, "When the doctor responded, ĎI canít put it backí, I immediately came to my senses and realized how stupid it was to even feel that way! I have loved my daughter with every piece of my being for who she was till the day she died suddenly of cardiac arrest at the age of 17."

And Sharon? To quote her, "I learned quickly that blessings are not counted in pink or blue. They are counted in fingers, toes, hugs, smiles and love."

So if you are pregnant, donít worry if your heart is set on pink or blue. Out of all 10,648 survey participants, not ONE admitted to any lingering disappointment. Hoping and dreaming is human, itís normal, itís OK. Because when the final push is over and that baby is in your arms, it all comes down to one tiny, helpless, incredible miracle ready to paint your life a rainbow of emotions.