Tonight I watched a documentary on Channel 4 about women who suffer from "gender disappointment". They have sons but desperately want a daughter. It drew its title from one of the featured cases: "8 Boys and Wanting a Girl".
I was struck by the inequity of the rich woman who could afford the IVF and egg screening treatments and was thrilled by her twin daughters, contrasted alongside a woman from a more typical household who would never be able to afford such treatments. Her story culminated in an ultrasound scan of her fifth child which we saw was to be a fifth son. It was painful to see her distress, for many reasons.
I also had sympathy for the husbands of these women, all of whom complained of the obsessive nature of their wives' longing for a daughter and who found it hard to sympathize with the fact it made them depressed when they had several healthy children, albeit of one gender.
I did find myself asking more than once "How must those boys feel?"
I can only fall into a sweeping generalization and say it's probably different for women (a sentiment echoed in the programme by at least one mother). I know that the decision not to try for a third child was a harder one for Hayley than for me.
And I find it hard to judge these people because I have a son and a daughter. I had expected our first child to be a girl. When he was born and I saw we had a boy I was instantly proud and excited in a way I had never anticpated and there is not a day that goes by when I don't look at my son and re-expereince a little of the joy of those first moments of his life.
And although I was prepared for our second child being either a sister or a brother for Oliver, I could never have been happier than when I saw she was a girl. I just cried. And today, as she grows up, I find myself more and more in awe of her wonderful character. Yes I know she might make up for it in her teen years, but right now she is a daddy-doting bundle of sweetness for whom I feel more grateful every day.
So gender disappointment is something I have been lucky not to experience and I do feel sympathy for the families in its grip. I only hope that for some of them, something will release from their sadness. I do believe change can happen in an instant and can come from within. I hope that instant comes along for them, because to be blessed with such beautiful families and spend your life sad would be a tragedy.