Friday, October 16, 2009

IVF: Getting into the God Business

When the Octomom story broke a number of months ago, my head was spinning at the revelation that a fertility doctor had implanted an unemployed, single mother (who already had 6 children and who was sponging off her parents, living in their small 3 bedroom house) with 8 embryos. Somehow the doctor's behavior seemed even more insane to me than the behavior of Octomom herself which says a lot. The story got a ton of media - all the talking heads were flapping their gums (and wagging their fingers) over it, but we never did hear from the doctor himself, did we? No, he avoided the limelight, probably because he knew his behavior was nothing short of criminal. The man should have been thrown in jail.

I haven't written about the subject of in vitro fertilization (IVF) before today, but it's been on my blogging back burner. Thankfully, two of my readers e-mailed me to vent about the subject and their eloquent letters (which they permitted me to reprint below) raise some very interesting questions and I'd love to hear your thoughts:
Is in vitro fertilization in line with "God's plan"? (assuming one believes in God)

Is IVF an act of selflessness, or selfishness?

Is having children an entitlement? Is the capacity to give birth a medical necessity? Should health insurance companies be required to cover IVF?

Are those who pursue IVF (and the docs who perform this procedure) "playing God"?
By the way, thank you to ALL the readers who contact me with blog post ideas or forward links to me. I save them in a little file called "Blog Post Ideas" and my folder is getting pretty big. I plan to dip into it on a regular basis. Please continue to send me your ideas, letters, links and vents. You can reach me at firecracker_mandy(at)yahoo(dot)com.

And now to the letters of our esteemed readers, HawkMom and Shrodinger's Kittens (thanks, ladies).


I'm a mother (obviously) but I just love reading your Childfree blog. I've been to other places that just rant about "greedy moos". I don't take it too personally, though, as I've heard from some childfree acquaintances that parents are often self-righteous and arrogant towards them. All of what you say is spot on. When having children, you gain a lot emotionally and spiritually (if you're into that), but you give up a lot more. If kids were adults, we wouldn't put up with them. It's all take, take, take. I adore my girl to pieces, though, so I don't mind being temporarily insane for the next 18 years, which is basically what parenting is. I'm okay with that. : )

Anyway, I was about to write a post on my own blog about IVF and fertility treatment. I've written about it before and commented on forums, but I was charbroiled beyond recognition. These ladies are brutal. I'm in a weird place, as I am unapologetically pro-choice. However, fertility treatments in general make me uneasy. I'm one of those natural birth loons, so forgive me in advance, but I do find it offensive that many of the same women pumping themselves full of hormones and graded embryos are rallying against gay marriage and abortion as "against God's plan". Hypocrisy much? I lost a friend over this recently, when she found an old blog entry of mine. As diplomatically as I could, I explained to her in an e-mail back-and-forth that her twins (formerly triplets) were more the result of her selfish desires, that her PCOS was not a life-threatening disease comparable to cancer, and I just couldn't sit back and pretend that she was selfless and brave, no matter how many treatments she went through. She had "no regrets" over the fact that one of her babies died before the end of the first trimester and another one almost died in utero, spending the first few weeks of his life on breathing machines, clinging to life. She said she would do it all again, because I "wouldn't understand" what it's like to want something so many other women can have. The jaw drops when I think about this. I did apologize for offending her, if that helps. I thought you may understand my perspective, because those of us who have biological children or don't want any altogether are forbidden to have an opinion. I was actually searching your archived posts for something about the topic. I have to go run some errands now, but I was wondering if you could link me up to an old entry or if you were interested in writing about it in a newer post. My interest in all of this has been piqued even more with that recent mix-up in Wisconsin.



Every time I see an article that argues assisted reproductive technologies should be covered by insurance I can't make a coherent argument. It makes me too angry. Covered by insurance? It should be illegal. Nobody ever died from not having a baby. And then you get a situation like Jon and Kate--note in the article when they started trying for another baby she told the doctor she would not selectively reduce. This is the thing I hate most about assisted reproduction: for some reason your body is not able to sustain an embryo or bear a child, but we can chemically torture it into doing what it shouldn't, all because society says you are a failure as a woman if you don't pursue every possible option to get a baby, no matter how impractical or expensive or detrimental to your health. Look what Science can do for you! Oh, so many beautiful babies! It's a miracle!

Then a few months later the doctor sits them down and says, "You have to think about selective reduction. There are too many embryos," And mommy and daddy say, "Oh, teehee, I can't play God!" Guess what, you got into the god business when you started this chain of events. Everyone screams about their right! to have a baby, but nobody wants to take the responsibility. So God, in the guise of the taxpayers, pays for their defective litter that's plagued with physical problems and learning disabilities. Because no sacrifice is too great for a baby, especially if other people do the sacrificing.

So where does it end? Thanks for letting me rant, I apologize if I got wordy, but I thought you might have something (more coherent and less ranty) to say about this article if you hadn't seen it already. Take care.



The Pint said...

I'm pretty sure this may get me charbroiled in some circles, but I'm not at all comfortable with the idea of IVF being covered by insurance. I sympathize with women who very dearly want biological children - one of my best friends has twin daughters as a result of IVF (first try, thankfully) - but I cannot get behind the "must have a biological child at all costs!" mentality knowing how many countless children there are who are in desperate need for a family to care for them as if they were their own.

If not for a set of relatives who would have found it too shameful to not take my sibling and me in after my parents died, we could very easily have been among those kids, and even as an adult, I can still remember how terrifying that feeling was. For that reason alone I can't bring myself to be overwhelmingly supportive of having insurance cover IVF.

I've always firmly believed that it's not just your DNA that makes you who you are, it's your experiences - what you've learned, where you've been, what you love and feel passionately about. Those things are just as easily passed on, if not more so, than genetic traits, and if you really want a child so you can "pass on a part of yourself," I think adoption and fostering are just as valid choices, as well as morally imperative choices, due to the fact that the children who need such love and care already exist.

Anonymous said...

"So God, in the guise of the taxpayers, pays for their defective litter that's plagued with physical problems and learning disabilities."

So. Much. Word.

People love to shoot back, "Well *my* babies are healthy." Ten fingers and toes while breathing is the standard now? Check back on the kid in about 10 years when they can't keep up in school. I found a British article that linked IVF with birth defects. Rare, but there is an increased risk. So much for selfless. They want a babeh and by Jeebus, they're going to get one. I know I sound like some kind of hypocrite, because I have a baby, but if I couldn't, I would've either been childless, childfree, or adopted/fostered a child. It's not all that complicated.

Also, I think it's disrespectful to anyone who has ever suffered and died from cancer to equate Clomid and artificial insemination with a life-saving treatment such as chemo. I also don't appreciate how infertile couples are revered as "loving" and "compassionate", or that they "love their babies more" just because they go through more to get them. My eyes roll out of my head when I hear that touchy-feely garbage.

To be fair, while I do take issue with the process, I wouldn't deny it of someone else. My view about gay marriage is that if you're truly happily married, then you would want the same for same-sex couples. I carry this philosophy over to ART, too. I'm happy as a mother and I'm not comfortable telling another woman she shouldn't be if that would make her happy. I do feel it's wrong for everyone who wants a child to have one, and it's very upsetting for me that people are taking advantage of science this way. But I'm a woman of integrity and I have to be morally consistent. I wish the same could be said for all of these Christian IVF-er couples who custom-create their "blessings from God".

~Beth~ said...

I firmly believe that if you feel you cannot love an adoptive child "because they didn't come from your body," then you are not mature enough to have children anyways.

Thanks for this article, and the second letter was spot on!

Sea_creature said...

Thanks for the intriguing post and excellent letters. I am very interested in the views of intelligent parents.

When it comes to IVF, I can very much identify with what Hawkmom has said. It upsets me to no end, the lengths that people will go replicate.

CFVixen said...

Some really awesome posts here! I have some definite opinions about IVF, and these letters mirror them. Thanks!

Fanboy Wife said...

I just don't understand why people who really feel the need to have children can't adopt if it is not physically possible. There are enough people on this planet.

It really bothers me when people have a terrible disease or other medical condition, but manage to have children via IVF. Aren't they at all concerned that their children are going to have those exact same problems if they're genetic?

libbycoleman said...

Most of you have no idea what adoption is all about. The adoption industry is very crooked. It preys on people who are desperate for kids, as well as birthparents. Yes, I know all of you have seen Branjelina and Madonna and their trendy adoptions. But get the stars out of your eyes. It can cost anywhere from 15K to 50K to adopt internationally. NONE of that money is refundable if the adoption falls through for any reason. And you could wait as long as 3 or 4 years to get a child. Compared to IVF (where there are NO wait times), why would it surprise you that people would rather do IVF? Also, there is so much child trafficking and selling babies to orphanages that goes on that many countries have closed down their adoption programs. Birth records are altered, names are changed, stories are made up. Some of these so-called "orphans" have living parents who are searching for them. In fact, I would say, those who adopt are far more selfish than those who shun adoption and choose to have bio kids.

jmichael said...

"In fact, I would say, those who adopt are far more selfish than those who shun adoption and choose to have bio kids."

how so libbycoleman?

also, you didn't mention domestic adoption, lots of kids in America looking for homes

jm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jm said...

Whenever I hear pro-IVF women cry out "You don't understand!" it's hard not to reply, "Clearly it is YOU who does not understand!" Motherhood is about more than pregnancy. I appreciate the biological urge that gives many women baby-brain, I got it myself as soon as my hubby and I said I do. But we are not just creatures of instinct, we are also creatures of intellect. Pregnancy is only one part of motherhood, and despite what our bodies tell us it is not even close to the most important part- it is simply the first biologically necessary step. IVF strikes many people as selfish because it morphs the entirety of parenthood into a single-minded uterine obsession. Every baby came from a uterus. What makes yours so special? Yes, the experience of pregnancy is unique (as I'm currently discovering) but unlike some other life experiences in this one you inevitably drag at least one other person along for the ride. Isn't there something disturbing about creating embryos just to have them sit frozen for eternity, or placed at such a great number that some or all inevitably die, all so you can have an experience? Is that experience really so important that you will spend any amount of money, any number of years, and risk the lives of the children you claim to want so badly? Is that 9 month experience really so much better than what you might have with an adopted child?

And doesn't it seem like the most outrageous narcissism to insist that no matter how convoluted the process of getting a baby, that baby better, in some muddled fashion, contain some of your genes? This strikes me as base and animalistic. Of course we are evolutionarily wired to try to pass on our genes. But that doesn't make it a 100% noble pursuit, if it did we would be applauding every man who poked a hole in a condom and every woman who "forgot" to take her pill. Hooray! You passed on your genes, who cares how! Getting knocked up isn't the point of parenthood, it's just the standard place to start. If you aren't able to start there that doesn't mean you can't be a wonderful parent to a wonderful child. That's what should matter: that you build a loving relationship with a child and teach him/her to be a loving adult. Genes or no genes, we respect any parent who accomplishes this.

I've already said I'm pregnant, and so pro-IVF folks might immediately dismiss me. But before we married my husband and I discussed the possibility of fertility issues. We both agreed that unless the issue were an obvious and easily addressed one (like a cyst that could be removed) we wouldn't pursue fertility treatments. We wanted a family, not a pregnancy. After nearly a year of nothing I was even excitedly perusing local foster-care websites, and it was a little bittersweet to realize I wouldn't be doing that again for a couple more years. I'm no paragon of virtue, but I'm saying we should all consider adoption, including fertile couples, as an ethical imperative.

And international adoption is not the only way to adopt. There are many young children who are desperate for loving parents. If you want an American, Caucasian newborn then yes, you are in for an expensive wait. But if you are looking to start a family regardless of the color of your child's skin you may be surprised at how eager agencies are to help you.

Unknown said...

Amen...YOU are a smart, level headed, open minded human. If only even a small percentage of women could become educated & open minded enough... as well as empathetic enough to the suffering of children as you, that would still be miles & heaps & bounds better than the present mindset/status quo