LAS VEGAS - My good friend just found out she is pregnant with a boy. It is her first child, and instead of celebrating the good news, she cried during her ultrasound.
That's because she really wanted a girl.
Good mothers are supposed to say they are happy with a boy or a girl, as long as the baby is healthy. But gender disappointment is a very real and heartbreaking issue that affects many pregnant women.
Christine Lich of Lindenhurst, Ill., always assumed she would have a girl. Instead, she got three boys. She wanted to appear to be the perfect mother, so she never let anyone except her husband know her disappointment.
"And they tell you it's a boy, it's like, ahhhh. For that short moment, you're kind of bummed in the back of your mind. There's not going to be any pink dresses. There's not going to be any scrapbooking. That's not going to happen," she said.
Lich gets tired of people making comments such as: "Are you going to try for the girl?" or "You need to have the girl."
Even now, four years after her third child, she can't bring herself to buy clothes for a little girl's birthday because she just can't look at the outfits.
Joyce Venis, a psychiatric nurse in Princeton, N.J., who works with women suffering from gender disappointment, said it is not really discussed because other people would perceive the disappointment as being ungrateful. Venis said the problem mainly involves women who wanted a daughter.
Just because a woman has a gender preference does not mean she is a bad mother or that she doesn't want the child, Venis said.
"They have the right to want the certain sex," she said.
Venis suggests women find out during the pregnancy what sex the baby is so they can deal with any disappointment before the birth. She said women should find someone to talk with, and if the woman is depressed, she should talk to a therapist.
Katherine Asbery was so depressed that her third child was a boy, she wouldn't even say the sex. She called him "not a girl," and spent hours crying.
She and her husband had even tried different techniques that promised to yield a girl.
"That dream of what you wanted is gone, and you have to learn to live with that," she said.
Asbery, who has a master's degree in clinical psychology, started sharing her story on mommy message boards, and later decided to write a book called "Altered Dreams: Living with Gender Disappointment."
She turned to her faith and drew strength from talking to others who felt the same way. She said it's important for people to understand that mothers suffering from gender disappointment want their children and are not bad moms. It's just the plan they had for their family has changed.
Her third son is three years old now, and Asbery admits she still has some pangs of sadness. She sometimes looks at her son and wonders, just for a moment, what he would look like as a girl. She and her husband are not going to have more children. Their family is complete, she said, and she doesn't feel like someone is missing anymore.
What she most wants mothers to know is this:
"It's normal. And they shouldn't feel like a freak," she said. "It is a normal process of when a dream has changed. You just have to relearn a different dream."