Q. My pregnancy was not planned – I'd only known my boyfriend for seven months when we found out. But we love each other and were moving in together anyway so decided to go ahead, even though it's a bit of a shock and is all happening rather earlier than I would have wanted (we're both 26). Now I've discovered at my 20-week scan that this baby will be a boy and I find that I feel really disappointed. I always wanted to be a mother of girls. I adore my two little nieces and I grew up with three sisters. I'd never admit it to anyone, but I've always felt a bit sorry for parents of boys – their children just seem more difficult and unruly. I know I should be grateful for a healthy child, but I'm just scared I won't be able to love my baby enough. How can I prepare myself?
A. Reproduction really is the weirdest thing. For months ahead you know that you are due to meet someone you will one day love passionately and unconditionally. And yet that's the only concrete piece of information you have about that person. Imagine if dating services worked like this.
The one nugget of information we can get is the baby's sex, so that's what we focus our expectations on, and what everyone around us talks about – in the process casually spewing out stereotypes that would normally make you send for the PC police: boys are noisier/lazier/more difficult, girls more loyal/sensitive/cute.
But, of course, the other thing about having a baby is that it's a terrifyingly huge step and, for you, grappling with the surprise factor as well, the leap feels even bigger. I wonder if the issue about pink versus blue is really a manifestation of your ambivalence about summoning up feelings for this baby who's made your life swerve down an unexpected path.
There can't be an expectant parent in the world who hasn't looked at someone else's baby and wondered whether they will find it in themselves to devote their lives to one of these mewling and puking little humans. But nature sees to it that not only do you dote upon your baby, you truly believe you have somehow landed one who's cleverer, better looking and more interesting than any other. So not only will you love your son, but his maleness will be part of what you love about him.
It's true that boys are not nearly as satisfying as a consumer experience – all that World of Warcraft and workman-like underwear. But I've known many mothers who wanted daughters and to whom nature gave sons, and I know none for whom this meant loving their boys any less.
The daughter in your head, the thoughtful, easy child you've always wanted, is not real. And nor is the rambunctious, exam-flunking boy. But the real thing will sweep you off your feet.
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