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The Psychological Reason Why So Many Women Want To Have A Daughter

Have you longed for a baby girl?
PHOTO: SALLY ANSCOMBE/GETTY IMAGES
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Earlier this week, Emily Ratajkowski announced she was pregnant in a personal essay written for Vogue. In the essay, she contemplates the sex of her unborn child and discloses that, while now she's more focussed on "who—rather than what—" her child will be, she had previously yearned for a daughter.

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And Emily can't be the only one. There must be thousands upon thousands of women out there who have felt a longing for a girl, either during a pregnancy or way before they even start thinking about starting a family.

The actress' therapist surmised that the "relatively common" desire for a daughter could be put down to "the concept that people may have children to 'redo' their own childhood. They want to fix themselves and their traumas by trying again with a fresh start and a mini version of themselves."

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But all that feels pretty heavy, and I wondered whether there might be a slightly less macabre reason for a woman to long for a daughter one day, for those who haven't had a traumatic upbringing. When I quizzed Heather Garbutt on the matter, a psychotherapist who specialises in the effects of childhood experiences as repeat patterns in life, she was eager to discuss the myriad of reasons there might be a conscious or subconscious preference towards the female sex when it comes to having a child of your own.

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The expert agrees that it can come about as a result of "a desire to redo your childhood," or to "give to your daughter what you didn’t have." But Garbutt also acknowledges that it might just be down to a very basic, subconscious feeling that you could 'do better' with a child of the same sex. "We have a sense that we'll know what they need, because we know what we needed," explains the psychotherapist.

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Garbutt notes that, at a very binary level, our brains categorise gender as being a fundamental similarity; it leads us to believe that we will see ourselves reflected more in a child of the same sex, and that we will understand them more.

"Women are wired for communication and there is the desire and expectation that there will be deeper communication between a mother and daughter than there might be between a mother and son, because there has to be a little more separation from the son because of the gender," explains the expert.

But in reality, the relationship won’t necessarily be stronger with a child of same sex down to gender alone. It's just your subconscious that thinks it might. "There are always personality things and events that happen in life [to create strong bonds]," clarifies Garbutt, adding that strength of communication ("whether you know how to really communicate with your child to create a good parental experience with them") is a major factor in establishing that bond.

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"It’s a really natural thing," Heather Garbutt says, of women wanting a daughter. "There’s lots of healthiness in it." It's often the same reason so many men will be desperate to have a son at some point in their lives.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.