Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson


It’s OK to feel sad about not having a girl

Robyn Wilder has just found out that she's having another boy with this, her second and – in all likelihood – final, pregnancy. And she's allowing herself to mourn just a little bit

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By Robyn Wilder on

During my last pregnancy, things got a bit hairy around the 12-week scan. It transpired that the foetus had a one-in-22 chance of having Down’s syndrome and – much more seriously – a one-in-18 chance of having Edward’s syndrome, which babies tend not to survive. So, to rule these out, I had a CVS test – a large needle plunged into my belly to sample DNA from the placenta – which is how my husband and I found ourselves waiting nervily in a geneticist’s office, almost three years ago.

She explained that although the baby had tested negative for Down’s and Edwards, we both shared a mysterious but very slight genetic abnormality, which might be normal human variance – or something more sinister. “Flat feet or a learning disability – we just don’t know,” she admitted. “Now, Miss Wilder, you have this abnormality, but are fine. But you are female, and the baby isn’t, so…”

I didn’t hear the rest because my husband and I were bouncing up and down, clutching each other’s hands. We were having a boy! We went on to have the boy in fact – my son Herbie, and he is developmentally fine; no Down’s, no Edward’s, no learning disabilities to date. Although he is a little too fond of pre-6am drum-playing for my liking. 

But that is how, last time, I found out I was having a boy. The it’s-a-boy-ness got a little lost in all the oh-crap-but-is-he-OK-ness, but underneath it all was an element of shock. I, you see, was expecting a girl, largely due to the fact – and I’d like you to remember here that I have a degree and everything – that I’m a girl. I’m a girl and so’s my mum. So somehow, to be quite honest, I couldn’t conceive of carrying around an entity with a penis. Obviously, I came to terms with it, and now have a lovely, happy, tousle-haired little boy to show for it.

I will never team a frilly dress with a pair of stripy tights and some Doc Martens (unless one of my sons requests it)

When I fell pregnant this year, I was sure it was a girl. Partly because my pregnancy symptoms were different this time around, but mostly because I already had a boy, so surely it would be a girl, because life tends to go to plan, doesn’t it?

Obviously, I am having another boy. And this boy has no markers for anything genetically challenging, so finding out was entirely without drama. So, why did I leave the ultrasound clinic feeling so odd and floaty? Because I’m 41, so statistically I’m unlikely to have another child after this one. And it is a very strange thing to realise that this is it. For life. I am going to go to my grave without ever having had a daughter.

This is nothing like an issue. I am – the prospect of a lifetime of muddy boots and skid marks aside – very happy to have two boys. I like boys. I myself was a tomboy, growing up. It’s just that to have a line drawn under any sort of potential doesn’t half remind you of your mortality. It’s like realising that, at 28, I was too old for a Young Person’s Railcard, all over again. 

And it’s an important thing to mourn. I will never have a daughter and it’s vital that I wallow in that a bit. I will never team a frilly dress with a pair of stripy tights and some Doc Martens (unless one of my sons requests it). I will never pin back a mane of tumbling ringlets. I will never have The Talk about periods. It’s important to have a little sadness and get it out of my system now, so I don’t get all Miss Havisham about it later. So I don’t look regretfully upon my own children, even for a second.

But I will allow myself the occasional moment to wonder about the daughter that might have been. Particularly if the skid-marks thing gets too unbearable.


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Illustration: Naomi Wilkinson
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