As a child, I did not spend time fantasizing about my wedding day, nor the names I was going to give my future children. I knew I did want to get married and have a family one day, but it wasn't until I was an adult that this vision became crystallized. By the time I met my husband I knew I wanted to have two children, and ideally, this meant either two girls, or one boy and one girl.
After experiencing infertility and becoming an infertility counsellor and therapist, I am now painfully aware that the fantasy we have in our minds about the future family we create does not always materialize. I was very fortunate. I ended up with a wonderful husband, and two healthy girls. Many others are not as lucky. Some people never find a stable relationship.
This is why I see a growing number of single women -- and occasionally a single man -- opting to use assisted reproductive technologies (ART) to become lone parents. Few would have chosen this path to parenthood had they another option. Some people remain involuntarily childless after finding themselves unable to conceive or adopt. Some people want many children, but are only able to have one. Some people lose a child. These are all tragic situations that generally evoke sympathy from others.
But there is another family-building circumstance that some people find themselves in, that seems to only provoke condemnation from others. I am talking about when a parent or couple is unable to conceive a child of a particular gender which they desire. I believe this happens often, but most adults are reluctant to admit to it. After all, considering what a miracle it is to have a healthy child at all, what right does someone have to be upset that they did not get a boy or a girl?
We hear horrific stories out of countries where elective abortions are often performed on female fetuses and we shrink in horror at the idea of a prospective parent here in Canada, a modern society, having a gender preference for a child. But the reality is, you cannot always control what you feel. I think this is especially true when it comes to reproduction, a biological process that involves drives that are difficult to rationalize.
I readily admit that if I had had two boys, I would have been deeply disappointed, maybe even devastated. Does that mean I would not have loved my children if they were male? No, of course not. But I know I would have been upset. Does this mean I think that ART should be used to allow parents to choose the gender of their children? Absolutely not. But I do think that parents should be let off the hook for having a gender preference, or being disappointed when they do not get what they hoped for.
Yes, I believe every parent should be grateful for being lucky enough to have a child at all, considering there are many who never have the privilege. However, it is both normal and understandable for a parent to feel sadness if they do not get what they hoped for. In fact, what they may experience is akin to grief, in that they are grieving the loss of the child that they will never have.