Disclaimer: This is obviously a sensitive subject and it’s something I have found difficult to talk about before because I guess I’m worried it would make everyone think I don’t love my baby so I’m putting this right at the start, I love my son with all my heart and I wouldn’t change him for the world! But if sharing my story helps one woman feel less alone, or less guilty then it’s worth it.
I am the eldest child of two and I have a sister. My sister and I grew up the usual way, totally love/hate when we were younger but always besties deep down. My sister is my PERSON and we have gone through all of life’s ups and downs together, sharing everything from our sense of humour to our deepest darkest secrets, to our clothes.
Bast Frands 4EVA.
A while ago my husband and I decided we would max out at two kids and for some reason I was convinced that those two kids would both be girls who would grow up together like my sister and I. To be honest I never even opened my mind up to the possibility that I could grow a boy.
My daughter Poppy was born in 2016 and in 2020 like many of you we got our little COVID surprise that confirmed that we were expecting our second child. As soon as I saw those two lines I don’t know why but I “knew” it was a girl and was like “oh great I saved lots of Poppy’s clothes” and started to let my imagination run wild with my girl squad scenarios (hello matching outfits!). To be clear, I didn’t care what I had as long as the baby was healthy, but I just really thought I was going to have two girls. I had convinced myself of it.
I really don’t know why I never thought a boy was a possibility but I remember saying a lot “it’s probably a girl, I don’t think I can grow a boy!”. Looking back it’s the strangest thing. But I had just always KNOWN that I would be a girl mum.
My "girl squad".
My pregnancy ticked along without any complications and in a brief moment of being lockdown-free in November 2020 one of my besties offered to do a low-key gender reveal for us. We had just ripped open the envelope ourselves when I was pregnant with Poppy so I was like sure why not, I already know it’s a girl but it’ll be fun anyway and let’s use any excuse to gather because lockdowns SUCKED amirite?
I got my doctor to write down the gender on a piece of paper and gave it to my friend before the temptation to look got the better of me. When the time came we had our Gladys-approved gathering of loved-ones over, everyone had voted what they thought it was going to be (interestingly most had voted for a boy and I thought they were all crazy) and my husband and I stood there in front of everyone with smoke cannons my friend had bought. In classic gender binary (opinions of which I will keep to myself) it was obviously going to be blue for a boy and pink for a girl. I knew the smoke would be pink. I felt it.
And so we twisted the cannons.
And the smoke came out.
And it was PINK.
HA! I knew it! Another girl. My prophecy was right.
And then I hear it. Some commotion from the back of the group. I look over and I hear…
“IT’S A BOY!”
“Are you joking?” I say?
“I SWEAR TO GOD IT’S A BOY!”
Hilariously it was all captured on video witch you can find here.
And yes if you want decorating tips I can link that peg basket that is hanging precariously in the background. I did say it was a low-key reveal hahaha.
I was SHOCKED. A boy?! HOW?! I could not stop laughing.
Not laughing like haha but laughing like WTF, which to be honest is what everyone was doing. Turns out the company had sent the wrong colour and my poor friend was mortified (side note: she is never allowed to organise a gender reveal again hahahaha).
After the shock and lols subsided and everyone had gone home it started to sink in. And it felt, weird.
My whole imagined dream of my two daughters facing the world together, sharing everything, growing up as besties. Taking care of their parents when they get old. That dream was gone.
And I was having a son.
Busy growing some balls.
A son. Even saying it felt strange. I had no idea what to do with a boy.
My brain said:
My kids aren’t going to be as close when they grow up. Not as close as sisters.
Boys clothes aren’t as cute as girl clothes.
Boys toys are all trucks and cars and guns.
How do you even keep a little peeny clean?
I felt immediately guilty. Guilty because I should just be grateful my baby was healthy. Guilty because did it mean I didn’t love this baby as much because he wasn’t what I expected? Guilty because my daughter wasn’t going to have the same bond as I did with my sister.
I remember CRYING to my husband. How am I going to have a boy. What am I going to do with a boy. How do I parent a boy. How do I bring him up to be a man who respects women and fights for what is right and doesn’t buy into any toxic masculinity bullshit?
Would I love him the same?
Gender disappointment hit me like a freight truck. I wasn’t supposed to be having a boy. Dare I even think it but, I didn’t want a boy.
Even writing this makes me feel guilty, but it’s the truth. And I know there were all these hormones pumping through my body and I know my pregnant brain wasn’t firing with all the logical answers that it normally would. But the picture I had made in my head about our family and what it would look like and how it would grow had to be pulled apart and put back together again with a little dude in the equation instead.
So I told myself I was silly and tried to build a new picture. I reminded myself that you don’t want a boy, or a girl, you just want a healthy baby. I knew deep down this was true and I tried to get re-excited about everything. But for a while it just wasn’t really the same and if I am really honest there were times I became a bit apathetic about the whole pregnancy.
Fast forward to the end of my uneventful pregnancy (textbook, no complications, no dramas) and at 38 weeks I am feeling those familiar pains and I know I am in labour. I think I might write about my boring (in the best way!) pregnancy and birth story down the track but basically I laboured at home for as long as I could, which turned out to be a little too long (ooft timing when to go to the hospital is a b*tch and it doesn’t get easier after your first baby!) and I was at the hospital 8cm dilated which turned into not-enough-time-for-an-epidural because he shot out within 1.5 hours of us getting there.
And there he was.
The coolest kid. The one who was always meant to be. Rocco George Papantonio. Rocco because we just think that’s a kick-ass name and George after my dad. I was in love. Our family was complete.
In the nearly 1.5 years Rocco has graced us with his turbo-charged presence here is what I have learned about what I thought I would miss out on:
I don’t love him any less than if he had been a girl. At all.
Boy clothes are super cute and in actual fact most of the clothes I had put my daughter in worked just fine for him too.
Cars and footy’s and fart noises are super fun because you have that fun together.
With some help I’m pleased to report the little peeny stays clean even if the rest of him is always covered in mysterious food and dirt.
And most importantly, the bond between my two kids is just as strong as the one I have with my sister. I am not afraid at all that they won’t be as close. I am not afraid that they won’t share the same experiences or secrets or clothes if they want to. And I’m not afraid they won’t both look after me when I’m old because they’ll have no choice!
OH and I still do the matching outfits, I think it’s even cuter. Exhibit A:
I just want to reiterate that I'm sharing my story because I want you to know that you’re not alone, that thoughts like this creep up on lots of us. Just know that the little human you get will erase all of that doubt and fear. I promise.