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Should We Be Able To Choose Our Baby's Gender?

Kim Kardashian's shiny butt didn't break my Internet, but reading rumors last week that she and Kanye had chosen to only implant male embryos for their IVF certainly got my attention. Kim has since then denied these allegations, but she is expecting a boy. You may think, Who would ever do that? But you know what? I would! I would have totally chosen the sex of our baby if I'd had the option.

We found out the sex very early due to my geriatric pregnancy. I was 36 at the time of conception, and when you're over 35, you get to do something called a Maternity21 genetic testing at 10 weeks to check for chromosomal abnormalities. This test can also tell you the sex of your baby. I was sweating bullets over the test, so I was incredibly relieved when the nurse told me everything was normal and no abnormalities had been detected. Then she asked if I wanted to know the sex. She was delighted to tell me, "It's a boy!" I'm not proud to say this, but I was disappointed.

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My gut feeling that it was a boy was confirmed, and when I got off the phone, I cried a little bit. We are only planning on having one child, and I knew definitively that I wouldn't be having a little mini-me. It was very emotional. Plus, all those pesky pregnancy hormones can make a lady just a tad crazy. I went to workout at my local rec center later that day and there was a line of tiny dancers walking through in their tutus. My eyes watered up again at the thought that I wouldn't be having a little ballerina, and even if my little boy wanted to be a ballet dancer, if he has my genes, that ain't happening. Two left feet and five years of dance lessons let me know in no uncertain terms I don't have what it takes.

The question is, would you want to create a perfect baby boy or girl with genetic traits that you find pleasing?

Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful for my pregnancy, especially as I suffered a miscarriage last summer and we weren't sure we would be able to conceive again or have a healthy pregnancy. I'm glad we didn't have months of trying or another miscarriage or a need to do IVF. I'm infinitely thankful for the bladder squeezing life in my belly and I'm finally used to the idea of having a boy. I can't wait to meet him, but truth be told, I wanted a girl.

Oh, how I dreamed of her! Our matching outfits! And hairstyles! I have an old friend from high school on Facebook whose daughter looks like her carbon copy and I wanted that so badly. But, alas, according to our 3-D ultrasound and by nature's design, I'm getting an exact replica of my husband. Which I suppose is better in a way because we cannot yet alter physical traits. So even if my little he-bun was a she-bun, she would probably have looked like my husband anyway. And the lingering question I had after the Kimye Babygate was, Is the stork going to start bringing us only designer babies?

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It's already possible here in the United States to screen IVF embryos for sex or disease through a process called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. I had no idea that fertility clinics offered this service. Some families want to have one boy and one girl for family balance, and it's possible to select only those embryos that do not have genetic diseases. Choosing genetic traits to make your baby into a perfect being sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but the more we know about the human genome, the more likely it is we'll actually be able to make so called designer babies. Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, founder of The Fertility Institutes, told thinkprogress, "We've already dipped our toes into the water on physical characteristics," he said. "We're working on eye color. So that's going to be the next step." While we're not into a scary future world where only blonde-haired, blue-eyed geniuses are the ruling class, it does seem like there is a greater possibility for that to happen.

The question is, would you want to create a perfect baby boy or girl with genetic traits that you find pleasing? Choosing the sex of your child through IVF is one thing; however, creating a super baby with superior traits does seem to cross a line. Realistically, those of us of a childbearing age don't need to worry about selecting genes for our kids to make them outstanding musicians or amazing athletes, but our children may very well be making those kinds of decisions. In the meantime, I can only hope that my son gets my good looks and my husband's brains and musical talents. And I hope he never reads this post, and finds out I wished he'd been a girl.

Photo via Twenty20/caardinal

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