I Wish My Baby Was A Little Bit Taller

I might wish my baby was a baller too, but that’s beside the point. So.

A few weeks ago I dyed my hair with henna, in yet another chapter of my eternal quest to become a redhead. My best friend is a natural ginger and I’d make a wig from her sheddings if she’d let me. There’s just something about it. When you’re topped with that fiery light, you walk through the world like a blowtorch in a sea of unlit matches. You draw attention just by existing. It’s almost as if you’re called to greatness by your very DNA… but I digress (again).

Last night, I asked J if there’s anything he’d like to change about himself. Not something like losing five pounds, but something genetically coded. Would he switch his nose, change his chin, have slightly less of a centaur-esque appearance when it comes to body hair? (This line of questioning may not have been the best possible thing for his self-confidence.)

He said, “I’d like to be a little bit taller.”

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I read an article recently about how the science more or less already exists to allow for “designer babies.” Bespoke children are a very real possibility – read more here and here. It’s apparently a simple task to choose whether a fetus will be male or female, and some IVF clinics are publicizing their pending ability to manipulate hair, eye, and skin color, not to mention height and – Coming soon! – intelligence, creativity, everything.

This biological advance has its good (avoiding thousands of diseases through genetic screening), its bad (some couples with sick kids want to create “savior children” – babies raised exclusively as healthy organ donors for their big siblings), and – of course – its ethically puzzling ugly: What happens when a deaf couple purposefully “builds” a deaf child? Is that child abuse?

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In our case, J knows I want a daughter very, very deeply. Assuming we can have biological kids, we’d like two, maybe three. I’m so set on this that if we have two sons first, we may just cut our losses – Sorry, hypothetical sons! Mom loves you! – and adopt a girl. So now J asks me all the time whether I’d consider using this science to code our first kid into femaleness. My answer drives him crazy, because it’s always the same: “Hell no!” He can’t see why I wouldn’t go for it – I’d be happy, and our daughter would never know the difference. But…

There’s just something off about it. Leaving out comparisons to sci-fi novels and Gattaca, I can’t help thinking something sacred in our humanity goes out the door when we start meddling. The beauty is in our unpredictability, right?

And yet, if I were going to have a blind child and could change that fate for them, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Never the eye color, but absolutely the eyesight.

Now I’m left with more moral dilemmas than I’m comfortable pondering on a Thursday afternoon. Is it okay to manipulate nature to avoid a disability, but crass to do it for cosmetic changes? There are so many questions, when all I really wanted was captivating red hair. For the moment, though, my overriding thought is this:

If we start coloring inside all the genetic lines, trying to get the “right” qualities in our kids, humanity’s going to look a lot less like fine art and a lot more like a mass-produced poster.

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37 responses to “I Wish My Baby Was A Little Bit Taller

  1. Shot caller, twenty inch rims…We’ve had this conversation before, so I’ll stop there.

    My best friend a spitfire redhead, too, and I love it. Since I was 6 years old, I’ve always envied her fiery locks. But that’s beside the point…

    About babies, I can only speak from experience. When I struggled to get pregnant with my son, I would have done anything…and I mean anything to have that baby. Funny enough, he came when I decided I was okay without him, and he has been such a…dare I say…blessing? That word always makes me roll my eyes, but there’s no other way to describe him. I wanted him more than anything. Boy, girl, blue eyes like my husband, or hazel like mine, blonde, brunette, I didn’t care. I wanted him, and he’s perfect to me. Absolute perfection. He’s pale and blonde and hazel eyed and freckled. A perfect mixture of me and my love. If I would have played with science, I might have ordered something without freckles, since I was teased for them, or something with height like my husband’s because he’s 6’3″, but I wouldn’t want that for a girl because tall girls struggle in school with being “different” but I was different, and I turned out okay…you see? It doesn’t matter. All of the “desired” traits can turn on us. What I want, and luckily what I got, is two healthy happy children who can make me both laugh and scream in the same minute, who test my level of sanity on any given day, but on the same day make me realize how love has no limits, who climb up in my lap seeking warmth and comfort.

    Science can’t make that happen, but I can. Because this lap, my lap, is a welcome mat for my babies who in the lottery of DNA got both the bad and the good from my husband and me, but who, in our eyes, are absolute perfection.

    Whatever springs from your womb, or your heart if you choose adoption, will be the same. And they’ll be lucky to be welcomed into such sweet and loving arms.

  2. Agreed! There’s something wrong about changing the DNA for anything other than making them healthy. That’s all that matters, right? I also really, really want a girl. Partially because I’m terrified at the prospect of having two boys.

    P.S. I have also always wanted to be a redhead, specifically that gorgeous dark red brown colour, and have dyed my hair many times in an attempt. I tried henna a few months ago but it was too subtle, I guess I didn’t leave it in long enough 😦 Maybe I should try again…

    P.P.S. How did the hair colouring turn out??

    • Hello there, soul mate! I’ve found that a LOT of my friends want to be redheads, and I think it’s because we tend to be fun, outspoken, people. Welcome to my wanna-be-ginger club!

      So the henna… it was too subtle. The first two days it was a kind of fake-looking orange laid over my real brown, and then it mellowed into a really nice auburn. Some people complimented it, but most didn’t notice the change. On the up side, it looked natural from Day 3 on… on the down side, it wasn’t really RED at all. So we’re in the same boat once again… le sigh.

  3. Babies!? BABIES!
    If you and your husband have a girl, I will send you my daughter’s hand me downs that are in mint condition. Really!

    But you could still put nail polish on your son’s cute, little toes. 🙂

    • BEBEHS!!! (It’ll be a while yet, but hand-me-downs are THE BEST, and you rock for genuinely offering them.)

      And yeah, there’s no reason little dudes shouldn’t accessorize however they want. Purple onesies, anybody?

  4. That’s a little scary. What if we ended up with an entire generation of super humans? Ones more creative, intelligent and athletic than us?? I’ll stick to leaving it a mystery. I don’t plan on having any children, but If I did, I wouldn’t mind the suspense of what could be.

    • This is what gives me the shivers, too. And, knowing society, it would be the rich who could afford to make super-humans, and wealth+power would get more skewed than it is now…

      You made me think of this funny cartoon I found researching for this post:

  5. So many comments I could make…….

    First of all, as a not-natural redhead, I often look in the mirror and wonder who that redheaded woman is……….I’m more comfortable with her being me than I was a couple of years ago, but it is still an adjustment. I preferred myself chocolate brown with highlights, but that’s murder on both the time and money budget once one starts getting skunky streaks……..

    MTM and I decided not to have children, so I always hesitate to weigh in on these discussions. I do think there’s something to serendipity, though.

    • Wait, enlighten my confused brain… so you’re not a natural redhead or a natural brunette, but it’s easier to be red than brown? Do you use henna, too? I chose it because I read you never get roots, it just fades after about six weeks.

      And I think folks without kids can weigh in on just about anything – several of my friends aren’t going that route with life, but I still think they have endless amounts of common sense, life experience, and just love to share with me if I have children. But to what you said… serendipity is a lovely word, and thing.

  6. This is an ethical quagmire that I don’t think humanity has grown up enough to address yet. God save our souls. I don’t see how we can stop it from happening – we’ve let the genie out of the bottle and it’s too late to put it back in. This is most likely going to be like the atomic bomb – we’ll make the rules after we’ve done some serious damage.

    • What a perfect way to put it – we are too young and naive for this. We are playing with firecrackers and just *hoping* they don’t explode in our hands.

  7. The same ethical quagmire as euthanasia. In theory, if everyone did it for the ‘right’ reasons, maybe. But I agree with Paul. We’re not that grown up yet. Also, it feels to me we definitely kill something when we try to take all the randomness from life. Our intelligence is our curse…

  8. That IS a lot of thinking for a Thursday! 🙂 It’s funny how our minds take us all over the place when we least expect it. You look beautiful as a brunette and even if you colored your hair green, you would still look beautiful! 🙂

    • You’re a darling, and someday – when my job allows it – I will have turquoise streaks! Have you ever done a crazy hair thing? Mohawk, anyone? 😉

  9. There are some things that shouldn’t be messed with, I say. We already do so much tinkering with our environment, with genetically modified foods, etc… leave the wee babbies alone!

  10. I got my hair done the other day and exactly zero heavy, profound thinking occurred. I’m a bit disappointed in myself.

    ANYway, I agree. There’s something a little *insert twilight zone music* creepy about being able to Build-A-Baby just like Build-A-Bear. (<you may not know what that is, but they're in like every mall now so I'm assuming you do). And too many moral/ethical questions come into play. It would end up being a giant political bullshit thing like abortion. "pro-DNA-adjusting" and the opposite. I'm too tired for all that shiz. Let's just leave nature chaotic and random. It all works out. There's comfort in chaos.

    • Ha! Well, when I get pedicures (y’know, once every two years), my entire thought process is about not letting them see that I’m ticklish, so I’m right there with ya…

      I identify so much with just being too tired for all of this. Argh. If nature isn’t perfect, than I don’t have to be, either. Otherwise, there;s so much room for REGRET – you know, like when you blow your paint budget on a color that turns out badly, and then you’re stuck with it… except it’s your KID, and whatever you can’t vibe with is your own damn fault.

  11. Red hair is a recessive gene. Because of all the hook-ups among the different races, it will eventually be bread right out of humanity. It’ll take a while, but it’ll happen.

    The designer baby conundrum is an interesting one. Lots of folks get all religious and say we’re playing God, but why did God give us the ability to discover how to do this? Seems okay to me. Actually, I’m not 100% convinced there is a god. So it’s a non-issue.

    • That fact makes me so sad. God, it’s globalism on a tiny scale – profoundly awesome overall, but sometimes utterly destructive for individual cultures.

      I can’t even dip into the religious POV on this. I care about what it would do to people.

  12. Aren’t girl children just magical? I want one too.

    It does all feel a bit off. I love your fine art comment – isn’t it more exciting and special to see what nature brings?

    However, preventing disease and disability is one hell of a step forward…

    • I cannot see my life without one. I’m sure it’s because I’m my mom’s only child, and I know how I feel about her. Powerful shiz, that mother-daughter bond!

      P.S. Because you of all people will love this – at first, I totally typed: “Powerful shiz, that mother-daughter bonG.”

  13. Personally, I don’t believe we need to go messing with the process that has worked for a while. Our flaws are what make us unique. I speak strictly on the topic of tampering with aesthetics, not medical issues. Too hot a topic. I know I wouldn’t change one freckle or eye color on any of my kids. They are all perfect, just as they are.

    • I know I’ll feel exactly the same way. Even among our three dogs, I love our little mutt especially because her features are so random, and precious because of that.

  14. I would go with making changes for health or survival before birth, and letting the person in question make their own cosmetic changes when old enough. Take me, for instance. I grew up with blonde, then dishwater hair. Now I am to some degree grey, but I cover it with a marvelous red. I was not born with red hair but I have the skin of a red haired person, probably bc my father had red hair. Whenever you come to Memphis. my hair lady is a color genius1

    • Oh, you’re living la vida roja! I’ve always wanted to visit Memphis, and am thinking of some blogger-hopping in the future… do you really mean it? (And how often do you have to go see her?)

      • Do I really mean what? That you should come to Memphis? Yes, and remember Emily P. Austin lives here now. That my hair lady is a color genius? Yes, and she will tell you so herself, along with whatever she thinks would be best for your hair. EVERYONE thinks my hair is natural. I go every five weeks. When she worked on my sister’s hair (she lives out of town) she wrote down the color formula so she could have someone at home continue her color.

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