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September 17, 2012

Slate: How to buy a daughter

Megan Simpson always expected that she would be a mother to a daughter.

She had grown up in a family of four sisters. She liked sewing, baking and doing hair and makeup. She hoped one day to share these interests with a little girl whom she could dress in pink.

Simpson, a labor and delivery nurse at a hospital north of Toronto, was surprised when her first child, born in 2002, was a boy. That's OK, she thought. The next one will be a girl.

Except it wasn't. Two years later, she gave birth to another boy.

Desperate for a baby girl, Simpson and her husband drove four hours to a fertility clinic in Michigan. Gender selection is illegal in Canada, which is why the couple turned to the United States. They paid $800 for a procedure that sorts sperm based on the assumption that sperm carrying a Y chromosome swim faster in a protein solution than sperm with an X chromosome do.

Simpson was inseminated with the slower sperm that same day. Fifteen weeks later, she asked a colleague at the hospital to sneak in an after-hours ultrasound. The results felt like a brick landing on her stomach: another boy.

"I lay in bed and cried for weeks," said Simpson, now 36, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy. She took a job in the operating room so she would no longer have to work with women who were giving birth to girls.

Simpson and her husband talked about getting an abortion, but she decided to continue with the pregnancy. In the meantime, she looked for a way to guarantee that her next child would be the daughter she had always dreamed about. She discovered an online community of women just like her, confiding deep-seated feelings of depression over giving birth to boys. The Web forums mentioned a technique offered in the United States that would guarantee her next baby would be a girl. It would cost tens of thousands of dollars, money Simpson and her husband did not have. Simpson waited until her third son was born. Then she began to make some phone calls.

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