The Complicated Feelings That Come When You Find Out You're Expecting Your Fifth BOY

Dec 21, 2016

During the first half of my pregnancy, when the gender of our baby was still unknown, family and friends would often say things like, "Oh, I hope you get your girl this time!"

I know they meant it with the best of intentions and I love them for it, but such comments always made me slightly indignant, like, "Do they really think I'm having another baby just because I'm hoping for a girl?!"

The truth is, before we decided to have another baby, I had to think long and hard about whether or not I was actually okay with possibly adding a girl to our family. The thought literally terrified me. I love my four boys. I love the identity that having all one gender gives to our family. I love being able to streamline gift giving and event planning because their interests and needs are so similar. Basically, I'm just very, very comfortable being a mom of boys.

I've thought often about something my friend once told me. She has two boys and one girl, and she and her husband were contemplating having a fourth. She really, really wanted a sister for her little girl, and her husband said if they could guarantee a girl, then he'd be fine with it, too. But the thing is, you can't guarantee something like that (at least, not unless you want to spend a lot of money), and my friend said she realized she had to be okay with a girl or a boy. (The rest of the story: they decided to stick with three children rather than chance it.)

I found myself facing the same kind of decision before this pregnancy, and I think most people are surprised to learn that it was actually the idea of a girl, rather than another boy, that made me hesitant to have another baby. But eventually, I came to terms with the possibility.

I'm not the type of person to get any sort of premonition about the gender of the baby when I'm pregnant. I never have any dreams or get any sort of feeling. I just always think I'm having a boy because that's all I know. (Maybe if I ever do end up having a girl, my pregnancy will be so different, I'll just know it right from the start.)

Anyway, as the date of our 20-week ultrasound approached, I found myself clutching possessively at my all-boy card while at the same time entertaining a thought here and there about pink clothes and hair bows and mommy-daughter dates.

It was a strange bag of emotions, and I kept thinking about how grateful I was that the decision was beyond my control. I constantly felt the pressure to produce a girl, and I think if it had actually been up to me, I wouldn't have been able to separate what I wanted from the opinions of everyone around me.

Before the doctor began the ultrasound, she asked about our family and found out about our four boys. We told her we thought this baby was probably another boy but that we wouldn't be shedding any tears either way because we were perfectly content with either a boy or a girl. She began her methodical exam, starting with the placenta and cervix. As she made her way to the actual baby, the answer was right there, loud and clear.

"Well that's definitely a boy," she said. "I actually was pretty sure you were going to have a girl, but I was wrong."

And Mike and I both looked at each other and laughed. Five boys. Who would've ever thought?

I knew I would be happy and relieved and just so content if I found out we were having another boy. And I was. All of those emotions were there, front and center. What I was unprepared for were the other feelings that immediately crowded in and clamored for my attention.

The one word that best describes them is, ironically, loss.

Here I was, gaining another child and another son, and I felt an overwhelming sense of loss.

It's hard for me to comprehend, let alone explain, which I think is the reason I felt compelled to write about it. (And I should probably insert that I think my feelings would have been just as complicated if we'd found out we were having a girl, and there would have been a sense of loss with that as well.)

As Mike and I were sitting in the lobby waiting for the ultrasound DVD to copy, I leaned over and whispered, "I'm sad for Aaron." It was an odd sentiment. Aaron hadn't ever even expressed a desire for a sister, and I knew he'd be thrilled when he heard he was getting another brother, but still I felt sad for him. He has always been the very sweetest of big brothers, and I imagined that would have only been multiplied if it had been a baby sister under his kind and protective wing. More than anything, I think it was the realization that I wouldn't get to see what he would have been like as the big brother of a little sister.

As the days passed, that wondering of what would have been seemed to haunt me at every turn. Because we've never had a girl, our experiences so far have followed a rather similar course. And knowing that this is our fifth child and that five children is a lot, it is quite possible that this will be our last and so I might very well never know what some of those things would feel like.

For example, how would I react if the ultrasound tech said, "And . . . it looks like it's a girl!" It's rather mind blowing.

Or what would it feel like to tell family and friends (particularly my mother-in-law) that we're having a girl? How would they respond?

What would I do to prepare for a girl? How would it be different than preparing for a boy? What books would I read? What conversations would I have? What clothes or baby gear would I buy?

What would it be like to choose a name for a girl? To look through lists of girl names and pay close attention to every unique or unusual name I heard?

How would Sunday mornings change if I had to actually fix a little girl's hair before church instead of making a pit stop at the drinking fountain on our way into the chapel to smooth down my boys' unruly tufts?

What would it be like to hold her for the first time? To see Mike hold her for the first time? To see my kids with her?

While I'm so happy to have another boy, everything I've been feeling is so familiar. I've done this all before. Five times actually. And there's a small part of me that wonders what, if anything, I'm missing.

However, traveling the well-traveled road comes with its own perks. I've done this before, and I know I'm in for a treat. I can't wait to snuggle and love another boy. (And I'm happy to retain my position of queen of the house without having to figure out how to share the role.)

And although much of this pregnancy is familiar, there have been some delightful surprises as well. For one, our kids are beyond excited. Like, you wouldn't believe how ecstatic they are about another brother. Every week, we have to look up his progress and growth. And every few days, Clark will randomly burst out, "You're going to have a baby! I'm going to be a big brother!" My kids have never been old enough before to truly enjoy the excitement and anticipation of a new baby, and it has brought a whole new level of joy that I wasn't expecting.

The other surprise is how everyone else has reacted to the news of another boy. In the past, people have offered condolences or half-hearted attempts at enthusiasm when we've shared the gender, so that's what I was expecting this time. But either people are getting better at lying or five boys is just so crazy that it carries its own wonder. I choose to think the latter because that's how I feel. Five boys is miraculously wonderful.

And actually, I have a confession to make: In spite of telling the doctor that she wouldn't see any tears from me, I found myself quietly wiping them away. But it wasn't because I was having a boy. And it wasn't because I wasn't having a girl. As she looked at our baby's brain and his heart and his limbs and his face and his spine, she kept saying things like, "See this? That's exactly what we want to see. You have a perfectly healthy baby."

And that, beyond anything else, is the true wonder and miracle to me. Life is a such a gift, and I feel so incredibly blessed to watch another little one take shape. My heart is full and my tears catch me unawares, both then in that little exam room and every day since.

Photo credit goes to our good friend, James Gardner.


  1. Pregnancy and baby emotions are a mixed bag aren't they {{}}
    I really was hoping for a girl with our last baby (which I got after 3 boys in a row) and yet I have a sneaking sadness that we didn't have a boy (cause I had the best name and I really wanted to meet that boy with that name) and yet I love our little girl to pieces, so pleased we had a girl. Though some days I say to my husband maybe we should have another as I really would like to meet that boy. Emotions, odd, really odd is all I can say. And yet normal emotions too, really are {{}}

    Talking families with 5 boys, think you'd love this blog with 5 boys
    and she does talk somewhere about the emotions of having a 5th boy and people's reaction. My bf had 5 boys and then was totally surprised when baby no 6 was a girl! and it sent her(and me) wild when people kept assuming she 'kept going to get a girl!'

    You know I hadn't realised you had a blondie, don't think I've seen a photo of your boys in a row, just love that shot, worth framing.

    Praying xxx

    1. Yes, exactly, Erin! I think it's a mixed bag of emotions no matter what your family makeup already is. Funny how the "what-ifs" like to plague us!

      Thanks for the blog recommendation. It's always fun to read about people who are in a similar situation!

      And yes, we have just one little towhead, and I would love it if this one was also blonde!

  2. I totally get it! Obviously I have my one girl among my boys so we're not totally in the same place. But the happiness mixed with the loss. When I was pregnant with Cole, I was certain it was a girl. But one week I was holding my friend's baby boy and I was overcome with the thought, "Oh, I really hope I get another little boy!" Then when I found out he was a boy I was so excited and happy, and simultaneously wondering where the little girl I was so sure about was! I told Josh we just better have another one, but he thinks 6 kids would kill him. �� Plus, I probably still wouldn't be satisfied. I think it's just hard to have the possibilities cut off once you know for sure what sex the baby is. You mourn that other baby that might have been. ❤

    1. Yes, you totally get it! (And you guys could totally do six kids!)

  3. Loved this, Amy. We're going to be having an ultrasound in a few weeks to find out what we're having. I assume it's a boy and I hope it is. If I never get a girl I'm sure I'll feel that loss but right now a girl really scares me. ����

    1. Yep, totally. I can't wait to hear what you're having!

  4. It's funny how for moms of boys, going into girl territory can be so terrifying. I only have two boys, but before our six month little girl was born, I was a little worried about what it would be like (I am thankful we have opted to wait for the delivery room for the surprise, but it's a hard wait!). There's just something wonderful about boys and boy stuff and boy toys, that makes little girls seem so foreign.

    Congratulations on your boy! I love your perspective that the takeaway is that we want this baby, this healthy baby, to be ours, not whatever we or others might have wished. I'm from a family of six and can only say, it's so much fun! The more the merrier!

    1. I know lots of families of all-girls who are equally terrified of the possibility of a boy! :-) I think there's just something comforting in continuing on the well-worn path. And yes, there's an ease to boys that's really nice.

      I'm from a big family too, and I agree! Siblings are the best!

  5. Well, your boys are certain to have high emotional intelligence with a mom who can parse her feelings so well. It's so complicated....and in the end so simple, just like you said. I can't wait to see what his hair color is, you have the spectrum right now! :)

    1. You sure know how to make a person feel like a million bucks, Jen. :-) And I'm waiting with bated breath to find out the hair color, too!

  6. Thanks for summing up my feelings so well... We found out yesterday we are having our 5th boy as well! I was prepared for it, like you said, But I am still trying to process that little bit of loss I feel. The shock has not yet worn off (even though deep down I was expecting it- FIVE BOYS?!?!?), but I am grateful for my boys and wouldn't trade them for anything.

    1. A million congratulations, Tracie. The thought of five boys does take some getting used to! :-) Want to move back to Utah and become my next door neighbor? That would be a PARTY.

  7. I cannot express just how much I adore you Amy. I love the fact that you have accepted this role of mothering 5 precious boys so passionately and tenderly. I think many of us wonder the "what ifs," where we experience that feeling of loss, in every major turn of our lives, and I appreciated that you summed it up so beautifully how this experience was for you. I remember when I found out I was having Rosie, I was surprised to feel this sense of loss. I kept wondering if we were going to be missing out on having another boy (don't get me wrong, I was super happy to be having a girl also). I wondered that perhaps Charlie was going to miss out on something because he wasn't going to have a baby brother that would soon turn into his best friend, with the same interests as his. I soon realized, which it sounds like you have too, that everything is as it should be. I'm just so grateful that you are thrilled to have another boy. I feel like we need to hear this perspective more. That it's okay to be so happy about such a large group of boys (or girls for that matter). That you don't have to have kids just so you can experience having a boy and a girl. You can have just boys or just girls and that's great, too.

    1. Brooke, you are the sweetest, and you have just the right perspective too. I love your adorable kids!

  8. So real and true Amy. James and I both loved this post. I am sorry if I was overly shocked or slightly sad as well when I heard the news of boy #5. I was shocked because it really is like getting YATZEE and I was maybe a little sad because I would love to share the experience of girls and girl clothes and commiserate over our girl drama. But I think you really nailed it there at the end of the post. I loved my girls and I was so scared to have boys and not love them the way I love my girls. Then I had boys and love them more than I could have dreamed I would or could. So my new hypothesis is this: "You love what you have because they are yours." :) Hooray for Little Mr. Johnson #5! I can't wait to meet him!

    1. Okay, that Yahtzee comparison might be my favorite thing EVER. That's exactly how I feel.

  9. If you want to see what Sunday mornings are like, you're welcome to borrow Clara anytime for the scream fest that is brought on by minimal hair brushing. Haha. Kidding aside, I love this post and think your thoughts are spot on. It's confusing and emotional and I think there is always a little sense of loss with each baby; for what might have been could have been wonderful and fun too! But I'm growing more confident that our families come together just as they should: healthy or otherwise, mixed genders or all-of-a-kind, with many siblings or few. Thank goodness we're not completely in charge of much in how it all happens!

    I also have to say that you are a wonderful mom to your boys (as you would be to girls) and I am thankful to women like you who are raising kind, smart, sweet boys. Those of us with girls are and will be infinitely thankful for the influence of these good boys in the lives of our daughters.

    1. Haha, I think I'll pass! Getting a girl ready might send me into a panic attack.

      Thanks for your sweet, nice thoughts. I am trying hard with my boys, and sometimes they blow me away with their thoughtfulness, but other times, I can't believe how rude and mean they are! I'm hoping we're gradually trending up though! Parenting is hard.


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