The art of conception is no longer about merely having a child. Americans now have the option to choose the gender of their children. According to Today.com, “we are now able to take the mysteries of the universe into our own hands. Gender selection is a $100-million-dollar a year industry. And Americans are choosing girls!”
Why girls? Slate writer Jasmeet Sighu found a “subculture of women desperate for daughters,” reports Today.com. “Reading the posts on these forums is like entering another world,” Sighu writes. “Users adorn their avatars with pink and princess imagery.” Many women are choosing to turn to invasive and expensive medical procedures to get the baby girl of their dreams due to “a desire to engage in stereotypical female activities that they thought would be impossible with a baby boy.”
Slate tells the story of Megan Simpson, a Canadian mother of two boys who was desperate for a girl. So desperate, in fact, that she and her husband turned to medicine for help. Slate reports that Simpson and her husband drove to a fertility clinic in Michigan, since gender selection is illegal in Canada, and paid $800 for a procedure that sorts sperm, assuming that sperm carrying a Y chromosome swim faster than those with an X chromosome. Fifteen weeks later, an ultrasound revealed that the procedure failed. Simpson, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, was pregnant with another boy. According to Slate, Simpson “[laid] in bed and cried for weeks.” Although she and her husband considered abortion, Simpson went through with the pregnancy. Shortly after delivering her healthy son, she began making phone calls to find out more about pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), a procedure in which a selection of fertilized embryos are sorted to find which ones will be boys, and which girls. The embryos with the gender of choice are then embedded into the uterus.
With patients like Simpson, fertility doctor’s “have turned a procedure originally designed to prevent genetic diseases into a luxury purchase akin to plastic surgery. Gender selection now rakes in revenues of at least $100 million every year.”
Not everyone is a supporter of taking such extreme measures to fulfill a gender dream.
Today.com writer Lela Davidson, the mother of a 12-year-old girl, writes:
“It is a special joy to raise a girl. Just like it’s a special joy to raise a boy. Part of becoming a parent is realizing that it’s not about us; these little people we raise get to lead their own lives, not the ‘pretty in pink’ ones we plan for them. If these women cannot be grateful for the miracle of life in any gender, they don’t deserve a daughter — or a son.”
Marcy Darnovsky, director of the Center for Genetics and Society, is concerned about the “possible psychological harm to children born through gender selection. They fear these children would be pressured to live up to the stereotypes of the gender that was picked out and paid for by their parents.” Darnovsky voices her concerns to Slate:
“If you’re going through the trouble and expense to select a child of a certain sex, you’re encouraging gender stereotypes that are damaging to women and girls. …What if you get a girl who wants to play basketball? You can’t send her back.”
For Simpson, after four years and $40,000, she finally had her baby girl. Simpson tells Slate she had to work six days a week right up until the home delivery of her daughter to pay off the debt she accrued trying to conceive her. But according to the mother of four, “She was worth every cent.”
As a mother, I understand longing for a mother-daughter connection. As a mother of two boys, however, I also understand the complete and total joy of holding them for the first time, of hearing their tiny heartbeats and holding them when they cry. That being said, my 2 1/2 year old is still a mystery to me. He likes bugs, and boogers. His favorite outfit consists of snow boots and his bike helmet and nothing else, and no matter how many times I bathe him always seems to be dirty. But as often as I am mystified by my boys, I wonder how they would feel if they knew I cried when I saw their tiny bodies on the ultrasound screen. I understand wanting a little girl to have tea parties with, to play dress up and braid hair, but I wonder what Megan Simpson’s sons must feel when they look at the their little sister, and know the time and money and energy spent into creating that little girl. And I wonder, with three older brothers, how that little girl must feel when she wants to play football or wrestle with her brother, or make mud pies instead of playing with barbies.
Readers: What do you think? Should parents take gender matters into their own hands? Or should a child’s gender be left up to nature?