Would You Choose Your Child’s Gender?

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A new test could alter our viewpoint, and raise ethical questions.


By Lyz Lenz

Carrie, 30, a mom of two boys, really wanted a girl. When she was pregnant with her second child, she thought for sure she would have a girl. “The whole pregnancy just felt different,” she said. And even after the ultrasound revealed her child was a boy, she kept hoping. “Ultrasounds aren’t always right, so I held onto a little hope.”

The ultrasound was correct. And while Carrie is thrilled with her son and loves him “to pieces” she still admits she’s disappointed she didn’t have a girl. “This could be our last child,” she said. “It would have been nice to have a boy and a girl, but this must be the way it should be.”

But when I asked Carrie if she could have chosen to have a girl, she said yes. “Hands down. If I could have picked my child’s sex when he was in utero, I would have done it.”

Carrie didn’t want her name mentioned in the story because she’s afraid that people will think she’s a bad mom. And to be honest, I get where she is coming from. When I got pregnant, I wanted a girl too. I grew up with four sisters and girls just make sense to me. But I shared my hopes only with my husband and a few close friends and did my best to keep an open mind and open heart. I wanted my child to know that he/she would be loved no matter what.

And while I was lucky and had a daughter, I disagree with Carrie on one thing. I don’t think I would choose my child’s sex.

A recent New York Times story on over-the-counter tests which use DNA to determine the sex of the fetus could change how mothers and mothers-to-be approach the sex of their children. The tests are 95% accurate and can be used early on in the pregnancy. However, some professionals are concerned about the ethical implications. The New York Times article quoted Audrey R. Chapman, a bioethicist at the University of Connecticut Health Center. “Women may be less invested in their pregnancies earlier than they are later, and the question has been raised whether women will look at their pregnancies increasingly as being conditional: ‘I will keep this pregnancy only if.’ ”

The article went on to note that some women could use the test to abort their pregnancies in their early stages using RU-486.

While Carrie might try again for a girl, she refuses to even consider the possibility of ending her pregnancy if she found out she was carrying another boy. “I’m a mom first,” she said. “Despite my selfish desire for a girl I would never harm my child.” But she thinks other people would. “When you are that early in your pregnancy, it doesn’t even seem real. I know people who wouldn’t think twice about ending a pregnancy if the child wasn’t the gender they wanted.”

And parents self-selecting the gender of their child might find that the boots-on-the-ground reality of their child’s sex is a little more difficult than just raising a boy or raising a girl. Cayden Cathers, MA a family therapist intern at the Los Angeles Gender Center, explains, “Many people confuse sex, gender identity and gender expression, but these are different constructs. Sex refers to one’s biology (chromosomes, anatomy, and hormones). The extremes of this binary are ‘male’ and ‘female’, whereas ‘intersex’ would fall in between. Gender identity refers to one’s own psychological sense of self. The extremes of this binary are ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and ‘genderqueer’ ‘bigender’ ‘two spirit’ ‘third gender’ and otheridentities call in the middle.”

Simply put, just because you choose to have a girl, doesn’t mean life will be all tutus and Disney Princesses. Life and gender and child-rearing are much more complicated.

Despite my desire for a girl, during my pregnancy I worked to stay open to the possibilities my child would bring. My desire for a girl came out of my fear of not being able to relate to a boy in the same way I would to a girl. But it was just that, a fear. There is no guarantee that when she gets older, my daughter and I will have anything in common or that she will identify with those “girly” things I foist on her like tutus and bows.
Noted Cathers, “Gender is a complicated, psychological, spiritual experience that no one else can dictate—not even parents. It is the parent’s own anxiety that is dictating their actions – is that the message we want to teach our children? Or do we want to teach them that each one of them is wonderful just the way they are? I think it is the latter.”

No matter who my child becomes, I hope she feels loved not for her sex, but for the entirety of who she is and who she will become and I think every child should have that opportunity.

About the Author:
Lyz Lenz is a writer, a mom and a midwesterner. Although, not in that order. She lives in Iowa and on the web at LyzLenz.com

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