Dream Baby vs. Reality

When you’re pregnant, odds are you will spend time thinking about the future, and imagining your life with your new little one in your arms instead of in your belly. That’s all well and good, but I think some people take it overboard with their “dream baby”; and then when reality hits, it’s a much bigger adjustment for them than they anticipated.

One woman I knew by email said that she was very disappointed when her baby didn’t look anything at all like she had pictured him — she had expected him to have more of his father’s coloring, mainly. Genetics is a funny thing — there’s no telling for sure which features will be picked up by a particular child. I think my children look quite different, yet most people say things like, “Oh, they look so much alike!” or ask if they are twins. My older son looks a lot more like his father than like me; while my younger son has almost nothing of my husband in him. Weird. I know a family that has eleven children, and every single one of them is different. The mother’s father was from Spain, so some of the children got her darker complexion while others did not; they have different eye colors; two of the girls are red-heads (one is very fair-skinned while the other has a lovely olive complexion); one of the girls and one of the boys both have dark skin, brown hair, and brown eyes; while a couple of the boys and one of the girls have lighter skin and blond or near-blond hair. There’s just no telling what your child will look like!

Another “dream vs. reality” moment is if you choose not to know the baby’s sex. You may be right in your intuition, but you just might be wrong, too, and if you carry your supposition too far, you may be in for a surprise. (Fortunately, most of the time women are not disappointed once the baby is born, even if the baby is the “wrong” sex.)

Another problem is if you do choose to know the sex of the baby before it is born. This can work itself out in two different ways, the first is, if you strongly want a baby of one sex and you find out that your baby is of the other sex, you will likely feel more disappointment than you would if you found out after birth. I’ve read of a study about this, but it’s been years ago and I can’t find it now. One story I read was of a woman who found out while she was pregnant that she was having a boy. I forget the exact circumstances of the baby’s conception, but the mother didn’t hold a very high opinion of men, and had decided that she couldn’t raise a boy, and that if the baby was a boy, she’d give him up for adoption, but if it was a girl, she would keep her and raise her. When the woman telling the story went to see the mom in the hospital, she was cuddling her baby boy, full of love, totally transformed from how she felt in pregnancy. Her “idea” of what having a boy would be was totally blown away (in a good way) by his birth; but had she not found out by ultrasound what she was having, she probably would have been more attached to the baby in utero, because it just would have been “my baby” then, rather than “a boy.” This is an extreme example — most mothers don’t “reject” a baby like that simply because of its sex (although in some cultures, such as China and India, women are aborting their daughters because they want a son for their first and/or only child). But most women aren’t like that — they aren’t that disappointed… and yet many women are more disappointed than they’d like to admit when they find out beforehand, but not so much when the baby is actually born.

The second way that knowing the baby’s sex beforehand can cause problems in “dream-land,” is (again, something I read years ago, and can’t find again) that when people know the sex of their baby, they tend to skip over in their imaginations much of the “baby stage” and go on to older-child stuff when girls do girly things and boys do boyish things. This can make it hard when your little boy that you’ve envisioned riding a bike or building block towers has colic or diaper rash, or is screaming with teething pain. Or when your little dolly that you’ve pictured with curly hair and frilly dresses has a diaper blow-out or projectile vomit or any number of “unfeminine” problems. Another possible problem is if your “little princess” is actually a little tom-boy when she’s older — much harder to take if you’ve built up a dream version of your child that your real baby just doesn’t fit.

What I read indicated that when parents don’t know the sex of their child, they tend to imagine “baby” as either boy or girl, and to picture the early stages of infancy more, and rarely project very far into the future; whereas when parents do know, they skip the early stages, and imagine their son or daughter in toddlerhood or beyond. (The abstract from this study sounds like it confirms what I had read years ago.)

Dream all you want; imagine all you want. But don’t hold so tightly to your dreams that you become disappointed in reality. Picture a lot of different scenarios, so you don’t get bound up in just one.

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