Sinead Moriarty: New parents should be cooing over baby - not fretting over its gender being 'wrong'
As someone who struggled with infertility, when I read about gender disappointment, I was shocked. How could anyone who was lucky enough to have a healthy baby complain about their child not being the 'right' gender?
Instead of wishing your boy was a girl, or girl was a boy, shouldn't you just be thanking God your bonny baby had arrived safely into the world?
But when I started looking into the whole area of gender disappointment I realised that it's a big issue and many parents really do suffer. It's a lot more common than I thought and the pain is very real for those experiencing it.
The Irish pregnancy and parenting website - www.rollercoaster.ie - has a 'gender disappointed' thread where many parents share their feelings of devastation over the news of their baby's gender.
"I had my scan two weeks ago and found out we're having our third boy! I was gutted and so upset thinking about how I'll never get to go wedding dress shopping with my own daughter," one post said.
"My heart broke with disappointment but also with shame at my reaction," another said.
The very nature of saying you are disappointed in your baby's sex goes against everything we believe motherhood to be about. Most women who feel disappointed also feel huge amounts of guilt and shame because they think they are letting their baby down.
"Most parents wish for a gender balance to their family and hope for the opportunity to parent both boys and girls. As a result, many experience gender disappointment on the birth of their children," said Dr John Sharry, a social worker and psychotherapist and director of ParentsPlus charity.
The desire for a baby of a specific sex is often so strong that women will resort to any measure possible to achieve the result they crave.
There are thousands of websites telling parents how to maximise their chances of conceiving the gender they want. Timing and diet are the two most common suggestions.
The idea that timing could influence the sex of the baby was first proposed more than 20 years ago by American doctor Landrum Shettles.
According to the Shettles Method, X-chromosome (girl) sperm travel slower than Y-chromosome (boy) sperm and live longer, opening up your conception window. So if you are trying to conceive a girl, don't wait until you ovulate.
You can also use diet to change your body's acidity and PH, which might help you to give your girl sperm a more acidic environment. You need to cut down on sodium, potassium and caffeine, while increasing your calcium and magnesium.
For some reason, boy sperm prefer alkaline environments, which means environments that are less acidic. So to conceive a boy, it is recommended that you increase alkalinity by eating more red meat and salty foods.
Another less scientific tip is that boy sperm hate heat, so it's out with the snug-fitting pants and in with the more roomy boxer shorts, allowing your man to keep things cool and breezy.
But the only way to really ensure the sex of a baby, is pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) - genetic profiling of embryos prior to implantation. It involves creating embryos via traditional IVF, then implanting only embryos of a certain sex.
In Ireland, couples going through IVF at some licensed clinics can have the embryos screened using PGD for genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis. It is not permitted to use PGD to carry out sex selection for social reasons here or in the UK. Those desperate to do it can travel to the US where the procedure costs about $17,000 (€16,000).
Thankfully, most parents who feel disappointment when they learn their baby's gender see it wash away once they first set eyes on their new baby or after the first few weeks of looking after it.
Many experts advise against learning your baby's gender to avoid any disappointment. If you wait until your baby is born before finding out if it is a boy or a girl, the theory goes, you will be more likely to focus on your baby as an individual than on whether you got the gender you "wanted".
Remember, just because you have a daughter doesn't mean you'll end up dressing her in pink. My friend's only daughter will only wear football kits and has refused to wear a dress since she learnt to say the word 'no'.
Likewise, your son may not be the boisterous football-playing, tree-climbing son you dreamt of and may prefer quietly building Lego alone all day.
It's probably best to try to focus on the beautiful baby in front of you, whatever their gender, and enjoy every precious moment with them.