Choosing Your Baby's Gender - If You Could, Would You?

Filed under: Opinions

pregnant bellyIt took having two children for me to really respect the nature side of the nature vs. nurture debate.

Back when I was childless, I was firmly in the nurture camp. But now I have these two girls; one is a shy athlete, creative, with her dad's impossibly narrow feet. The other loves books, dancing, and has a penchant for tutus and princess dresses. They're alike, and also utterly unique. And totally perfect.

Though genetic selection for personality traits is still future science, it's not exactly science fiction. In the not-so-distant future, parents could have the capability to choose not only their child's gender, but whether or not he has freckles or long eyelashes. And they might also be able to increase their odds that Junior comes out with certain talents or personality traits, too.

Pop into any pregnancy forum or chat room and you'll read messages from parents wishing for a boy or a girl, always with the disclaimer that, of course, what they really want is a healthy baby. Occasionally, though, you'll come across a parent who isn't afraid to be honest:

"I have just always imagined having a girl that I can dress up and take to dance recitals and help her plan her wedding," says a mom on CafeMom's Baby Buzz. Wishes like that can easily backfire, though. Mama Bee from Mama Roo rues of her tomboy, "When I got pregnant I prayed for a little girl. I always wanted a little girl. I wanted to play Barbie dolls, braid hair, wanted dresses and tights, painted finger nails and shopping days."

I don't think it's unusual or wrong for expecting parents to want a girl or a boy -- even if they do it in secret while protesting that a healthy baby is all that matters to them. Some parents get this. Bubbles, a Babble commenter recently argued that "gender does not equal sex." Her point -- and it's a good one -- was that just because you give birth to a baby girl doesn't mean you'll be braiding hair and sharing pedicures.

But even Bubbles, who wants to raise a non-traditional daughter, places herself in the same camp as the mom-of-the-bride wannabes. "Personally," Bubbles went on to say, "I wanted a girl because I want to raise a kick ass gamer girl, and we lucked out and got a girl." In trying to exclude herself from that particular club, she managed to argue herself right back into it. Gamer girl or girly girl ... it's still placing expectations inappropriately.

In the end, I'm glad I didn't have any say in my children's' gender or their innate personality traits. Because the truth is, the minute I met my real kids, the shock and wonder of knowing them wiped out any notion I had of a fantasy child.

But even more than that, I'm not the parent I thought I'd be. I'm not the graceful, patient mama with an angelic aura who bakes cookies and handles every situation with endless patience. I ruin, for instance, at least half the crafts I plan, because someone spills the glitter on the floor or puts glue on the dog, and I can't help but get a little nuts. Perfect fantasy mom me just shakes her head in disappointment.

Instead, I'm a mom who fails ... often, a mom who gets grumpy and who burns cookies and who forgets to send in lunch money on Mondays. I figure that my kids didn't get to hand pick the perfect mom, so how can it possibly be fair for parents to try and plan the perfect child? It's like the Rolling Stones once said -- You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might get what you need.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.