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The Age of Mechanical Reproduction
July 11, 2011 9:57 AM   Subscribe

The Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Paul Ford. When it comes to IVF, in-vitro fertilization, nothing is normal. Your world is upside-down. Your doctor compliments your wife on her monkeys. Then, when every dollar and exertion has gone toward a single hour of hope, it begins to snow.
posted by foggy out there now (98 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
My wife has purchased a half-dozen pairs of lucky socks that she wears to the clinic.
...
Three years, 11 negative results.


THOSE SOCKS ARE CLEARLY UNLUCKY, DUDE
posted by Greg Nog at 10:07 AM on July 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Mr. Echo & I embarked on a campaign to conceive a second child few years back. We had agreed that we would try everything up to IUI and if that didn't work, we'd stop.

The drugs were hell, the waiting and hoping while watching people walked around our neighborhood with newborns in strollers was hell; the letdown when the first drops of blood appeared were really hell.

As we approached the agreed-upon endpoint I found myself thinking, "it wouldn't be that bad if we raided our son's college fund to pay for IVF, would it?" We held firm to our initial plan.

It was painful to let go of that dream and even though I've made peace with it, I still get a sharp twinge of sadness when I see babies. I feel for people going through this, I really do.
posted by echolalia67 at 10:16 AM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


After reading so many half-cooked blog posts and link-baiting op-eds online, my tolerance for shitty writing, or awkward writing, or merely adequate writing has become considerable. Which means that reading something as excellent as this is an even rarer treat.

I've long admired Mr. Ford as a writer, and I wish him and his wife the best.
posted by Zozo at 10:23 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I really must be a heartless bastard. I saw this on Kottke.org and thought "Wow. How selfish of him. There are probably millions of kids out there without parents and he's spending all this money and time trying to make one of his own. Why doesn't he just adopt?"

This is why I will never have kids.
posted by MattMangels at 10:28 AM on July 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


That was a good read. Given that the events were from Christmas, the last line suggests the socks are not, in fact, unlucky.
posted by IanMorr at 10:35 AM on July 11, 2011


I wasn't sure how to interpret the last line; I thought it might just mean "I ejaculated". The first two lines of the penultimate paragraph, I thought, implied that they were still waiting to see whether it would be a success.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:37 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a very well written piece, but it does strike me as a bit strange that you apparently would not trouble to check the weather forecast the night before your $15,000 one-hour window procedure.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:38 AM on July 11, 2011


Thanks for this, I think it's quite good. He gets the tone right: equal parts absurdity and despair.

My wife and I have been going through this for over a year. And it's one of the most difficult things I've ever been through. It's just really brutal: the hope and expectation, the repeated devastation, the odds (which are not good), the silent recriminations and arguments over whether this or that decision was the right one. When we started I had a sort of naive view of these things, I cleaved to the notion that there was no reason this should put strain between us, rather than just on us. It doesn't work that way. The pressure is just too much, the medical load too asymmetrical, for that not to tell.

The worst thing, in many ways, I mean other than not being able to FUCKING GET PREGNANT, is feeling so horrible when other people do. My wife cries reading Facebook. I get choked up at the pool. My sister had a baby within the past year, and just negotiating the birth and subsequent visits was horrible. Of course my sister doesn't understand, not really, why my wife doesn't want to hold the kid (her third), and so takes it personally. Another strain between. Tonight we have a bris for a friend who got married 10 months ago. 10 fucking months and she's already given birth. My wife's best friend told her she was pregnant with her second kid about 9 months ago, and all my wife could do was burst into tears. My brother-in-law got married a few months ago, and because my wife had not spoken to him in a few weeks, despite texting him, she was convinced this weekend that his new wife is pregnant, and that ruined part of yesterday afternoon. These things all sound kind of extreme, but I have yet to talk with anyone who went through IVF who did not experience the same things.

The whole process breeds a lot of secrets, too. Our first shot (we had to go straight to IVF), we told everyone about it. We were naive, and figured it was pro forma, and my wife would soon be pregnant. After it didn't work (you get the embryo implanted and then wait for two weeks ("the dreaded two week wait") to get a pregnancy test), we had to tell everyone that it hadn't worked. After that my wife stopped talking about it. Now we're kind of in a little ivf bubble, and it's not that great, but talking about it means that other people might bring it up at a particularly shitty time. Reminders suck. Her close friends no longer know where we are in the process, which made it that much harder the last time when she had to have emergency surgery and was suddenly in the hospital for a couple of days. No one quite knows how to talk about it. After one try, when she did get pregnant, but then had a very early miscarriage, my very loving parents didn't follow-up for two weeks because they were too confused by the various different requests from different times not to raise the subject.

We never had the kind of snow problem this guy had, but on our last try we ran into a big problem. There's a lot of timing with all the different shots, and as the article details, that last shot happens at exactly 36 hours before egg retrieval. As it happened, the evening of the shot I had to teach a class. My wife was very nervous about giving herself the shot. They try to give you a lot of information about what to do, but the nurse's instructions always suffer a bit from their over-familiarity with the mechanics of it all, and so my wife was nervous about that. And, I was the one who gave the shots each night. So we were faced with two unappealing alternatives, either she could come to the school, I could stop the lecture, and give her this important shot in some college bathroom, or she could give herself the shot. She decided to give herself the shot. She watched an online video (thrice), set up the shot, and then it didn't work. Or maybe it did. She couldn't tell, but she thought she hadn't done it correctly. She called the on-call nurse, who couldn't tell from the description. After a lot of tears, and a call to the doctor, they talked her through giving herself another shot. All this I found out after class. It sounds like just a little hiccup, but there were two months of onerous shots leading up to that point, and this was the one chance to get it right. The possibility that it had failed was terrifying and infuriating. I had to let two trains pass before I could get on the Metro for home, because I was so angry that she hadn't come to the school so I could do the shot. Everything turned out fine (in terms of egg production, there was no successful pregnancy), but the tension from that one night alone was awful.

We'll be starting our sixth cycle soon.
posted by OmieWise at 10:41 AM on July 11, 2011 [50 favorites]


Thank you for posting this.
posted by Apropos of Something at 10:42 AM on July 11, 2011


but it does strike me as a bit strange that you apparently would not trouble to check the weather forecast the night before your $15,000 one-hour window procedure.

The timing of the trigger shot is dependent on the maturity of the eggs already in the ovaries, and isn't really something you can adjust all that much.
posted by OmieWise at 10:43 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why doesn't he just adopt?

Adoption isn't what it used to be. Domestic adoption is a hard road, and if you really want an infant you're going to wait many, many years or pay a lot of money and then (perhaps) experience the heartbreak of the birth mother deciding to keep the baby at the last possible moment. Or, you can adopt an older child if you are willing to take on the possible physical and/or emotional problems that so many children who are available for adoption have.

International adoption has all the costs, plus the international paperwork, plus the horrific moral dilemma of hoping your baby is actually an orphan and was not, for example, stolen from her mother.

All of which is not to say that adoption isn't a viable road. But to say someone should "just" adopt is disingenuous. In a lot of ways, IVF is actually easier and cheaper than adopting a healthy infant these days.
posted by anastasiav at 10:46 AM on July 11, 2011 [23 favorites]


MattMangels: here is one person's perspective on that. She also addresses the issue in her blog (link to archives)
posted by gaspode at 10:46 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


MattMangels: You may not be aware that adoption is not a panacea for people who want children but are unable, for whatever reason, to obtain them biologically. The procedure is lengthy, dicey, and expensive, with many organizations looking to profit from would-be parents' desperation.

Adoption of a child from a foreign country presents a whole host of transnational-type problems; some relevant stories have been posted here on the blue.

The point is that there are any number of perfectly legitimate, non-biologically-selfish reasons why a couple might pursue medically-aided conception to this extent.
posted by pts at 10:47 AM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why doesn't he just adopt?

That's actually addressed clearly and succinctly:
We talk about adoption, which is expensive and ambiguous.
posted by muddgirl at 10:50 AM on July 11, 2011


From gaspode's article: The reality of adoption is that even under the best of circumstances, it can take years to bring a child home.

Now that is heartbreaking.
posted by MattMangels at 10:52 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, I'd just like to say that nothing points to the utter and total and all-consuming apathy the universe must have toward us humans like the plight of the childless couple. Month after month after year with no baby. No nothing. And yet. And yet.
posted by pts at 10:54 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


My wife and I went through this. Three years of escalating fertility treatments, culminating in one IVF session that, for us, did the trick. Emotionally, this piece rings very true for me, very true to where we were emotionally at that first IVF session (minus the blizzard).

Here's the thing. The worst thing that can happen in fertility treatment, or in human reproduction in general, isn't failure to conceive.

Our IVF session did the trick, all right. Twins. With one egg. Extremely low-probability, identical twins.

After very early delivery, 70 agonizing NICU days, and the death of one daughter and another month of hospitalization for the other, I can say this with certainty: the worst thing that can happen in fertility treatment, or in human reproduction in general, isn't failure to conceive.
posted by gurple at 11:21 AM on July 11, 2011 [33 favorites]


We talk about adoption, which is expensive and ambiguous.

...and instead they spend three years and tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. This attitude makes absolutely no sense to me. Why is it so important to people that they be the biological parents of the children they raise? Why is that worth a small fortune and years of hormone treatments with debilitating and embarrassing side effects? Why?
posted by IjonTichy at 11:32 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why is it so important to people that they be the biological parents of the children they raise?

1 meeeellion years of evolution.
posted by DigDoug at 11:34 AM on July 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why does anyone have children at all? Surely 3 years and tens of thousands of dollars is nothing compared to the physical and financial sacrifices required for the next (minimum) 18 years. Not to mention the debilitating side effects of pregnancy (up to and including death).
posted by muddgirl at 11:35 AM on July 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


I mean, if we're going to judge infertile couples for their choices, we can't spare fertile couples.
posted by muddgirl at 11:35 AM on July 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


N'thing all the feelings confessed above. Infertility's a really difficult cross to bear, especially in this post-pill world where I control my fertility (even if I am so brazen as to delay it until I reach a statistically improbable age at which to conceive), and in a consumer society where I get what I want. Ironically--as the OP's title indicates--IVF's a terribly dehumanizing solution. The unitive aspect of a couple's procreative act is non-existent and mechanical. I believe this fact actually causes, or at the very least exacerbates, much of the agonizing emotional difficulties of infertility. Men (and you're a saint if you didn't) start to objectify their spouses as incubators (and women start to think of themselves that way--'What's wrong with me?'). The consumer mindset of children-as-things-to-be-acquired spills over into the envy of not being able to express joy at other couples' seemingly easy fecundity.

Adoption isn't what it used to be.

There aren't as many kids to be adopted (at least not domestically in the U.S.). Historically, the main source of adoptee children was either a poor and/or shamed young mother. But now, rich or poor, one can can abort the child or, if poor, keep that "one extra mouth to feed" and receive incremental welfare for each new mouth.

Yet, at the same time, the stigma of adoption ('Ha ha, you're adopted!') is lessening and more parents consider it an option to childlessness.

So we end up with a higher demand and lower supply. Throw into that mix the rollercoaster of an often misplaced governmental/regulatory zeal for children's welfare--invasive interviews, home visits, 'will you spank the child?,' attorney's fees, waiting, open adoption (can cracked-out birth momma still come visit?), waiting, court, etc.--and adoption isn't what it used to be.

Why is it so important to people that they be the biological parents of the children they raise?

On one side, dude, it looks just like both of you--your two favorite people in the world--a little bit. The selfish gene, I suppose. On the other, who wants to run the risk of xyz with some kid whose parents you'll never meet?
posted by resurrexit at 11:39 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree, muddgirl. It seems as though people hardly ever take a critical look at the drive to have descendants and wonder whether it makes sense in context of the genetic risks they carry or their financial and emotional capacity for child rearing. (Let alone consider whether the child will ultimately thank its creators, because what happened to gurple's children is horrific, but it's worth keeping in mind that that every child created is likely condemned to an inevitable death someday, and most will be sufficiently aware to feel the fear and pain of its approach.)
posted by fivebells at 11:49 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah, that shot in the butt is no fun at all. I had to administer that, my wife had to receive it. I don't know which was worse.
posted by gurple at 11:49 AM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems as though people hardly ever take a critical look at the drive to have descendants and wonder whether it makes sense in context of the genetic risks they carry or their financial and emotional capacity for child rearing.

Since it seems to me that infertile couples are more thoughtful than naturally fertile ones, maybe we should be bringing up this derail in threads about pregnancy that don't also involve infertility.
posted by muddgirl at 12:05 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


...and instead they spend three years and tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. This attitude makes absolutely no sense to me. Why is it so important to people that they be the biological parents of the children they raise? Why is that worth a small fortune and years of hormone treatments with debilitating and embarrassing side effects? Why?

No one goes into infertility treatments planning for it to take three years. Everyone knows or knows of at least one couple for whom the treatments are successful - they do work. So you go in, and they start with far more noninvasive procedures. Every three months or so, often longer, you reevaluate, and only then try the next step. In my case, we went in, had IUI once (no drugs, no shots) and nine months later had a baby. The second time around we haven't been so lucky. We're also drawing the line before IVF, but there have been quite a few steps (not to mention a couple of heartbreaking miscarriages) in between before we have to worry about that. In fact it's been nearly 3 years since we started trying again, but it doesn't feel that way. More like a series of baby steps (sorry for the pun).

Adopting is a noble and wonderful idea, but it's not for everyone, and as others pointed out, there's no baby mall out there where you can just decide you want a baby and simply go bring one home. Circumstances have changed from the day when it was a universal solution. Assuming you're not genuinely infertile, just challenged, biological parenting is still the easier route to go.

On a side note, I remember that snowstorm. In fact, I too was trudging through it on my way to our fertility clinic for monitoring to see when to come in for our next IUI. Ours (obviously) didn't take. I hope theirs did.
posted by Mchelly at 12:06 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


"and instead they spend three years and tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. "

You know it also takes years -- often far more than three -- and a great deal of money -- tens of thousands of dollars -- to adopt an infant, right?

If your objection is that it's long and expensive, well, adoption doesn't seem like a better answer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:06 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


The word 'ambiguous,' used in the piece in reference to adoption, is such a stunningly poor fucking word choice (from a professional editor!) that I tripped up and had trouble with the rest of the piece. I understand the weirdness of running a 'do we adopt?' decision-making process in parallel with a 'when do we stop relying on science here?' process, and I get that there's the unspoken but essential and obviously way way way scarier 'when do we make the decision to stop this and accept that life will simply not be What We Always Dreamed?' question hanging over everyone's head. I get that. But 'ambiguous,' in a piece about moral responsibility and selfhood and selfishness and the howl of the thinking craving body, is just the WRONG word. Even if it's meant to abstract away a big economics/logistics discussion.

Curious to hear local curmudgeon/savant @TheLastPsychiatrist's reaction to this piece, though I bet I can predict at least part of it...
posted by waxbanks at 12:17 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If your objection is that it's long and expensive, well, adoption doesn't seem like a better answer.

Respectfully, you're missing my point. In the article, the author uses the ambiguity and expense of adoption as a reason to not even consider it--and then goes on to describe a lengthy, pricey, excruciating-sounding series of fertility treatments that his wife underwent instead. I'm arguing that, from a practical standpoint, adoption is at least on par with IVF, and it puzzles me that the author dismisses it off-handedly in a single sentence.
posted by IjonTichy at 12:17 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm arguing that, from a practical standpoint, adoption is at least on par with IVF

Except that IVF produces a child that is biologically similar to at least one parent and adoption does not. IVF means that the wife can experience a somewhat "natural" pregnancy and adoption does not.

If we want to argue that it is NOT a clear benefit to have a DNA-related child, then we need to question whether or not it is responsible for ANY person to consciously conceive a child, whether or not they need intervention. And that sort of question curiously only turns up in threads about assisted conception.
posted by muddgirl at 12:25 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


You mean Paul Ford?
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:26 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm arguing that, from a practical standpoint, adoption is at least on par with IVF, and it puzzles me that the author dismisses it off-handedly in a single sentence.

I agree with you, but figuring out the cost and time involved a matter of how your expectations are set, with IVF, and how you estimate risk. For my wife and me, our IVF experience consisted of one treatment. We decided to hedge our bets and go with this program that let us pay the amount that two treatments would cost but have up to six treatments. We were on the "losing" side of that bet, because we got pregnant on our first treatment.

So we paid about $25K. If we hadn't done the weird insurance thing, we would have paid $12K. That's a lot cheaper than adoption, and a lot faster, and gives you an infant (who is, yeah, your biological child), which for some people is a desirable thing.

That's the side of the coin that the author would like to be on.
posted by gurple at 12:27 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this is actually an interesting microcosm of the clash between the expectation that we can just have the lives we want vs the reality that sometimes -- even with the height of our prowess -- ordinary success can be elusive.

Love. Career. Children. You can accidentally trip over people in the street who have these things. And yet they might elude you (and probably have or will at some point), along with many other things. Sometimes "we live the given life, and not the planned."
posted by weston at 12:31 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm arguing that, from a practical standpoint, adoption is at least on par with IVF

Except that IVF produces a child that is biologically similar to at least one parent and adoption does not.


Yes, and I know this is a priority for many people. If that's the real reason behind the author's reason for rejecting adoption, though, he's being disingenuous to claim it was because of expense and ambiguity. Either way, I still find the way the article deals with/dismisses adoption to be troubling, to say the least.
posted by IjonTichy at 12:32 PM on July 11, 2011


A couple in our family circle are undergoing this, right now. I really didn't understand what all the treatments were for until I read the linked article. How I wish for them the bliss that they seek; the chance to give birth to and raise their own children.
posted by Lynsey at 12:35 PM on July 11, 2011


I'm arguing that, from a practical standpoint, adoption is at least on par with IVF, and it puzzles me that the author dismisses it off-handedly in a single sentence.

Without knowing your personal history, I'd venture to guess that these are abstract questions for you. I think they get much more difficult when they become personal, and in the interaction with the hopes, dreams, wishes, and fears that make up the typical personal psyche. Added to that are all the expectations that IVF will work, and work quickly, and the case for adoption seems much less clear cut from inside the problem.

As muddgirl points out, on a purely economic basis, having kids doesn't make much sense any way you go about it, and yet the majority of women in the US opt to have kids during their life (~70%).

On preview: Either way, I still find the way the article deals with/dismisses adoption to be troubling, to say the least.

The ethical imperative to adopt is different from what the article is discussing, but, again, if it's ethical imperative you want to talk about ("to say the least") then there are a lot of decisions about how to spend money that open people up to charges of ethical lapse.
posted by OmieWise at 12:35 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


If we hadn't done the weird insurance thing, we would have paid $12K. That's a lot cheaper than adoption

Really? This suggests that adoption need not be that expensive:

http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/s_cost/s_costs.pdf

...or is there something I'm missing?
posted by IjonTichy at 12:38 PM on July 11, 2011


Either way, I still find the way the article deals with/dismisses adoption to be troubling, to say the least.

The article quickly dismisses adoption because the article isn't about adoption. Should articles about adoption discuss all the reasons why the couple didn't choose fertility assistance?

I haven't had to deal with my own fertility yet, but I get the impression that for infertile people, the issue of adoption is the elephant in the corner that everyone feels compelled to mention. If they don't say anything at all, they get well-meaning but thoughtless comments about it. If they mention it shortly, they get castigated for not being more thoughtful about it. If they go into the whole story about the pros and cons of adoption, and why they decided against it, they will get a micro-analysis of every decision and why they're wrong.
posted by muddgirl at 12:43 PM on July 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Really? This suggests that adoption need not be that expensive:

Does it? If you exclude the "Foster Care" line on page 2 (that's a very specific kettle of fish we haven't been discussing), all the other options go up to at least $30K. My sister-in-law has adopted four children internationally, and I think the costs ranged between about $20K and $25K.

And, to be frank, you'll pay more if you want 'em young.
posted by gurple at 12:45 PM on July 11, 2011


The ethical imperative to adopt is different from what the article is discussing

The article quickly dismisses adoption because the article isn't about adoption. Should articles about adoption discuss all the reasons why the couple didn't choose fertility assistance?

The article seems to me to be to be about wanting children really, really badly, and the increasibly desperate steps a couple takes to try to make that a reality. I'm trying to understand why adoption wouldn't fit that need, and I still don't get it. Why wouldn't a couple in this situation try every available method of having children, rather than ruling out one avenue from the start?
posted by IjonTichy at 12:48 PM on July 11, 2011


The article seems to me to be to be about wanting children really, really badly, and the increasibly desperate steps a couple takes to try to make that a reality.

Oh, for cripes sake, the title of the article is The Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:50 PM on July 11, 2011


Why wouldn't a couple in this situation try every available method of having children, rather than ruling out one avenue from the start?

Why are you assuming that they ruled out one avenue from the start?
posted by muddgirl at 12:50 PM on July 11, 2011


Waxbanks, I assumed that when he called adoption "ambiguous" he was referring to the fact that adoption plans so often fail at the last moment, or even after a child has already been placed in a home. Adoptive parents often are put in an ambiguous position, as not-quite-parents or parents-until-told-otherwise. Some people are just not up to the emotional challenge of bonding with a child who may be taken away.
posted by BlueJae at 12:51 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


adoption plans so often fail at the last moment, or even after a child has already been placed in a home

And if we're talking about foster-to-adoption routes, which is generally the cheapest method, the child can be in your home for years and years before the family court decides the best placement for the child.

A close coworker of mine is in the process of adopting two sisters through a foster program - they have been in his home for over a year and it is not settled yet. It would break his heart if they were ultimately returned to their parents or to a family member, but that possibility is something that he has accepted.
posted by muddgirl at 12:54 PM on July 11, 2011


I still don't get it.

You don't really seem to be trying very hard. There have been several responses about the emotional reasons people might not choose adoption first, and you've not engaged with a single one of them.
posted by OmieWise at 12:56 PM on July 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Adoption isn't what it used to be. Domestic adoption is a hard road, and if you really want an infant you're going to wait many, many years or pay a lot of money and then (perhaps) experience the heartbreak of the birth mother deciding to keep the baby at the last possible moment.

I have friends dealing with infertility, and they've been blogging recently about pursuing private adoption. They sound very optimistic about the amount of time it will take for them- our homestudy is almost done, and then we get matched with a baby! Putting up the nursery as we speak! It goes against everything else I've ever heard about adoption; I hope they're right and it comes through quickly for them, although I would always wonder what sort of "special" firm they were working with that could turn around a baby like that.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:00 PM on July 11, 2011


Hey, this is a ways back, but:

These things all sound kind of extreme, but I have yet to talk with anyone who went through IVF who did not experience the same things.

Damn straight, OmieWise. Every bit of it. The jealousy, the resentment, the guilt over the jealousy and resentment, the knowledge that your relationships with fertile friends and family are deteriorating despite your best efforts to squelch the jealousy and resentment and guilt. Yeah.
posted by gurple at 1:02 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


the author uses the ambiguity and expense of adoption as a reason to not even consider it
the author dismisses it off-handedly in a single sentence.

Sounds to me like they did consider it, and they decided against it for reasons that he did not go into at length, because the article about was the route they *did* decide to go.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:06 PM on July 11, 2011


If we want to argue that it is NOT a clear benefit to have a DNA-related child, then we need to question whether or not it is responsible for ANY person to consciously conceive a child, whether or not they need intervention. And that sort of question curiously only turns up in threads about assisted conception.

...as people have pointed out above, if what you want is a child, and it doesn't matter to you whether or not the child looks like you, and you're fertile, the easiest route to take is still to have biological children. That's why this issue comes up far more often when people are talking about infertility; at the point where you're spending thousands of dollars and years attempting to conceive, the practical advantage to procreation vanishes, and you're more directly confronted with the question of to what extent you value having a DNA-related child.
posted by IjonTichy at 1:07 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


the easiest route to take is still to have biological children

Well, it's easy in that it happens naturally. I think there are a lot of women who could argue that their pregnancy wasn't easier or cheaper than adoption, when all costs are totalled.

and you're more directly confronted with the question of to what extent you value having a DNA-related child

Exactly. Infertile people who are TTC are already directly confronted with the question of how much value they put on a DNA-related child. And yet we feel compelled to ask them, over and over again, while we let naturally-fertile (or closeted-infertile) people bear children without comment.
posted by muddgirl at 1:15 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed the level of detail the author provided. I agree with the comments that he provides information not seen elsewhere.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 1:15 PM on July 11, 2011


IVF is intense. I just hope it pays off.
posted by Theta States at 1:15 PM on July 11, 2011


I would always wonder what sort of "special" firm they were working with that could turn around a baby like that.

I have friends who adopted through a private agency, and from what I understand, as soon as the paperwork was finished they set up a nursery, because they needed (perhaps they were required? I am not sure) to have everything ready for a child. My friend's exact words were "It could be next week; it could be never."
posted by janepanic at 1:16 PM on July 11, 2011


@BlueJae -
Waxbanks, I assumed that when he called adoption "ambiguous" he was referring to the fact that adoption plans so often fail at the last moment, or even after a child has already been placed in a home. Adoptive parents often are put in an ambiguous position, as not-quite-parents or parents-until-told-otherwise. Some people are just not up to the emotional challenge of bonding with a child who may be taken away.
Besides my grammar niggle (adoption is not in a class of things that can be 'ambiguous'), I'm concerned here with your final sentence; that's why I mentioned TheLastPsychiatrist, and selfishness. If you're not up to that emotional challenge, how exactly do you let a child leave you, emotionally and physically, right around puberty?

None of which is as important as, y'know, They're doing something hard, I feel for them. So there, I guess. But there's something about this essay that rubs me the wrong way, vigorously.

Maybe it's the repeated references to how hard it is to jack off when your wife's ovaries swollen up like balloons? Something's backward, there. Maybe.
posted by waxbanks at 1:17 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


at the point where you're spending thousands of dollars and years attempting to conceive, the practical advantage to procreation vanishes, and you're more directly confronted with the question of to what extent you value having a DNA-related child

Darn right, you're confronted by that. But you're simplifying quite a bit -- there are non-monetary advantages to having your own biological child other than just that the child has your DNA (which, I found out, was a fairly big deal for me). For one, you get your child from day one (or earlier, in our case, ha ha). That wasn't a huge deal for me, emotionally, but it turned out it was for my wife. That plays out in practical ways, too, though. My nephew, adopted from Russia, has major eating issues stemming from how they fed him in his orphanage. My niece and nephew adopted from Ethiopia have entirely different and also severe food issues because of how scarce it was for them.

After our batshit insane IVF experience, we're not doing that again, so the issues with adoption are what we're thinking about if we decide we just gotta have one more kid.
posted by gurple at 1:18 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I found this essay to be totally Art-less
posted by holdkris99 at 1:19 PM on July 11, 2011


As we approached the agreed-upon endpoint I found myself thinking, "it wouldn't be that bad if we raided our son's college fund to pay for IVF, would it?" We held firm to our initial plan.

I have a friend who had the same endpoint, and also stuck to it. She said that the farther into trying they got, the harder it was to imagine quitting, that every failure to conceive made her feel more broken, and the only thing that could fix it was to get pregnant. She felt like she really could understand why people go to extreme lengths to get pregnant, once they've started trying.
posted by not that girl at 1:20 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have friends who adopted through a private agency, and from what I understand, as soon as the paperwork was finished they set up a nursery, because they needed (perhaps they were required? I am not sure) to have everything ready for a child. My friend's exact words were "It could be next week; it could be never."

Ugh, how terrible to have to be always ready like that, with an empty, fully-stocked nursery.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:21 PM on July 11, 2011


BTW,
The cost of prenatal care and delivery for a 'healthy' baby for an uninsured woman is in the vicinity of $20,000 to $30,000 – more if there is a C-section or anesthesia or if the baby has medical problems," Ferrari says.
Of course, many pregnancies are payed for through various insurance programs, but then again many insurance programs will cover some form of ART, and foster-to-adopt programs are often subsidized as well.

But we don't ask fertile women if having a bio-baby is "worth" $20-$30k. We assume that it is.
posted by muddgirl at 1:23 PM on July 11, 2011


If you're not up to that emotional challenge, how exactly do you let a child leave you, emotionally and physically, right around puberty?

The comparison between the natural independence of children growing into adults vs. potential adoptive parents having a chance at adopting a child pulled away from them at the last second (or after, as friends had a baby already at home "recalled" by the biological mother. Heartbreaking isn't even the word) is absurd.
posted by pinky at 1:26 PM on July 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


The cost of prenatal care and delivery for a 'healthy' baby for an uninsured woman is in the vicinity of $20,000 to $30,000 – more if there is a C-section or anesthesia or if the baby has medical problems," Ferrari says.

Hmm. Actually, this makes the sentence in the article even weirder to me--if adopting isn't even expensive compared to prenatal care + delivery, it's certainly not expensive compared to IVF + prenatal care + delivery.

But we don't ask fertile women if having a bio-baby is "worth" $20-$30k. We assume that it is.

This issue is absolutely something that every single person, regardless of gender or fertility, should carefully consider.
posted by IjonTichy at 1:28 PM on July 11, 2011


This issue is absolutely something that every single person, regardless of gender or fertility, should carefully consider.

Again, this IS something that infertile people consider, so it's absolutely unnecessary to bring it up every time someone talks about their experience with ART. Feel free to mention it any time a friend of yours mentions that they're trying to have a baby, or are already pregnant.
posted by muddgirl at 1:30 PM on July 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Again, this IS something that infertile people consider, so it's absolutely unnecessary to bring it up every time someone talks about their experience with ART.

Has anyone here been doing this? I started talking about this because I had a specific issue with the way the article dealt with adoption. This is the first time I have ever discussed adoption on Metafilter.

Feel free to mention it any time a friend of yours mentions that they're trying to have a baby, or are already pregnant.

If they write an article dismissing adoption as "expensive and ambiguous", maybe I will.
posted by IjonTichy at 1:39 PM on July 11, 2011


"and instead they spend three years and tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments. "

We adopted domestically, an African-American infant. We are white. Based on agency fees, some birthmother expenses, and our home study fee, we expected the whole thing to cost $14,000-17,000. Because our birthmother lied to us and to the birthfather, we ended up in a custody dispute with him that took two years to settle and cost us some $47,000 in legal fees, on top of those initial expenses. I think adoption is a lovely way to enlarge your family, but there are risks involved. There is no "just adopt." There is no easy option. One thing about pursuing fertility treatment is that you know you're not, wittingly or unwittingly, participating in ethically dicey practices. International adoption is a mess. According to some sources, the vast majority of babies adopted domestically have biological family who want them but have no legal rights (our daughter's fraternal grandmother, for instance, wanted custody, but had no standing to pursue it). This is kind of a shitty thing to live with. It's complicated, and we were in the right under the law, and probably ethically, too, and she's certainly better off with us. But we'll always know we fought with all our resources to keep a baby away from her biological father who wanted her.

Adoption often (usually?) costs tens of thousands of dollars and takes years, too. It's naive to think otherwise. People aren't evil for pursuing fertility treatments and they shouldn't be judged as if there is some simple alternative they're just too selfish to take advantage of.
posted by not that girl at 1:41 PM on July 11, 2011 [29 favorites]


Why wouldn't a couple in this situation try every available method of having children, rather than ruling out one avenue from the start?

Speaking from my personal situation, I think you kind of need to pick one method and run with it. I've ruled at adoption, for the time being, both because I'd like to see what a kid looks like with both my and my husband's DNA, I'd like to experience pregnancy, and I've seen a dear friend negotiate the world of adoption twice (successfully) and I have no interest in trying to navigate that right now. Maybe in the future if I've exhausted fertility options, but I'm not going to hedge my bets and work on both avenues right now. Cost isn't an issue for us because our health insurance covers fertility treatments and adoption.
posted by JenMarie at 1:44 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm arguing that, from a practical standpoint, adoption is at least on par with IVF, and it puzzles me that the author dismisses it off-handedly in a single sentence.

Sometimes when I'm writing a piece, there's something that I could write a whole nother long essay on, but it's not the point of the story I'm telling, so I might just pass over it with a sentence or two in order not to have a digression that breaks the flow. It doesn't mean I haven't thought of it more fully, just that I haven't written about it more fully right here and right now. Touching on adoption in a single sentence doesn't necessarily mean that he and his wife had one conversation one night that went, "So, we could adopt, whaddaya think?" "Nah." "OK, that's settled then." It might mean, rather, that he thought it would be weird not to mention it at all, that he wanted his readers to know that he and his wife are aware there were other options for them.

I mean, OK, maybe the "Adoption?" "Nah." conversation is a fair approximation of their process. But it doesn't seem right to assume that from what's written here.
posted by not that girl at 1:47 PM on July 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


One thing about pursuing fertility treatment is that you know you're not, wittingly or unwittingly, participating in ethically dicey practices.

I've managed to hold my tongue in this thread so far, but come on.
posted by booknerd at 1:51 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why would one crazy woman and her horrible doctor have anything to do with this conversation, booknerd? Do explain.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:58 PM on July 11, 2011 [4 favorites]



Really? This suggests that adoption need not be that expensive:

http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/s_cost/s_costs.pdf

...or is there something I'm missing?


You're missing that the only one that is guaranteed to be cheaper is adoption from foster care, which is so different than adopting a baby or making one yourself that it's not even equivalent.

I know someone whose child was adopted from foster care. Foster care children have a lot of problems. With few exceptions, no child enters the foster care system unless they have been pretty horribly abused. If the child was moved back and forth and back and forth, they may end up with attachment disorder which is pretty horrible (radio segment: Love is a Battlefield from Episode 317 of This American Life). And of course these children will still be trying to work through their past issues. So don't be surprised, for example, if your 6-year-old child starts coming on to one parent or the other in an attempt to resolve issues of sexual abuse from their parents or other foster families.

I'm not saying that foster children shouldn't be adopted. I'm saying that you are taking on a much more difficult role than just a parent. You are taking on a child who has been damaged, in ways you may not ever understand fully.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:58 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know people really, really want to have a kid sometimes. I understand that, I understand the longing there. As a biologist though, I know that sometimes people just aren't meant to have a kid. All kinds of uncommon, potent circumstances can come together when two people of almost random genetic backgrounds come together. Some of these can inhibit fertilization and some of them can make you wish they had inhibited fertilization.

Sometimes though, difficulty to conceive is based solely on your living close to a local farm.
posted by Slackermagee at 2:06 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Speaking from my personal situation, I think you kind of need to pick one method and run with it.

This can be true in part because, especially if you're trying for a newborn adoption through a private agency, it's pretty likely that if you get pregnant, your agency will drop you. Either because they want children to be spaced a certain distance apart (in which case your home study will expire while you wait to be eligible again and you'll have to pay another fee to have it updated, usually not as much as the original fee) or because some agencies do not place babies with people who have biological children, period.

I've managed to hold my tongue in this thread so far, but come on.

In this conversation, I had managed to forget about that specific issue with fertility treatments until you brought it up. But you're right about it; I do have ethical problems with some aspects of it. One of my friends, using hormone injections, produced 8 eggs the month she got pregnant with her son, and just prayed she wouldn't end up having to decide whether to carry a bunch of babies or terminate some. I was not personally willing to do hormone injections (had it gotten to that when we were trying to conceive) because I wasn't willing to have to make that kind of choice. That was my line in the sand.

The Octomom that you linked to is a special case, though--she chose to implant 8 embryos after IVF, and it's some kind of crime that a doctor was willing to do it. She knew what she was doing. She did it on purpose. She's an outlier and shouldn't be used as a basis for judging every person who pursues IVF.

I think you could argue that with most fertility treatments, you at least have some idea what kind of ethical mess you're getting into. With adoption, you can find out years later that your supposedly orphaned daughter actually has a living biological mother. Or, as we did, that your birthmother lied about who the birthfather was. You're at the mercy of a lot of other people's choices and their degree of honesty and right action.

My whole point about adoption is always: it's a great way to make a family, in that the family you make can be great! But it's so messy in so many ways that I don't believe it should be spoken of as if it is either simple, or an obligation to be laid on people who want children but don't conceive easily.
posted by not that girl at 2:08 PM on July 11, 2011


Why would one crazy woman and her horrible doctor have anything to do with this conversation, booknerd? Do explain.

IVF is nowhere near immune from controversy. Sure, Nadya Suleman is an extreme example, but I think not that girl's unfortunate adoption complications are probably an extreme example too, and I found her statement (the one I quoted) objectionable at best.

I've read countless articles about dangerous multiple births to religious parents who refuse to abort any of the fetuses, and incidences of this have increased dramatically with the invention of IVF and other fertility treatments. Suleman isn't the only example, but she was the first to come to mind. I don't have ample time to Google others right now.
posted by booknerd at 2:09 PM on July 11, 2011


I question why anyone in their right mind would transfer more than one embryo in an IVF session. In 2011, anyway.

My understanding is that people have done it in the past because they thought it gave them a higher chance of getting at [at least] one baby to term, but that recent studies show that effect to be small at best. And the downside risk is terrible; even a relatively issue-free twin pregnancy is a nailbiter and a potential disaster, to say nothing of high-order multiples.
posted by gurple at 2:16 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had no idea that this group of processes for assisted reproduction was commonly referred to as ART. That makes his title INCREDIBLY clever -- maybe the cleverest title in history -- if nothing else.
posted by The Bellman at 2:24 PM on July 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Sure, Nadya Suleman is an extreme example, but I think not that girl's unfortunate adoption complications are probably an extreme example too, and I found her statement (the one I quoted) objectionable at best.

You're right that my family is something of an extreme case; according to statistics I found when I was in the middle of the custody fight, only about 1 in 1000 adoptions is contested. At one point my adoption lawyer told me that custody disputes are so rare that many adoption lawyers practice their whole careers without being involved in one. I don't mean to describe our experience as typical, only as one example of the kinds of risks people take on.

On the other hand, there are a lot of complications that fall far short of full-on custody fights. Among my friends who have adopted, there have been the following:

1. A birthmother who changed her mind just before the baby was born, but after the hopeful adoptive couple had paid all her medical expenses and accompanied her to prenatal appointments and ultrasounds.

2. A birthmother who changed her mind after the hopeful adoptive parents had spent 3 days in the hospital with the newborn baby, including breastfeeding it.

3. A judge who disapproved of open adoptions and was able to hold up finalization for nearly a year while forcing the adoptive parents, at great expense, to repeat background checks, provide additional information about their finances, health history and so on--essentially forcing them to jump through additional hoops at her whim.

4. A judge who did not believe the birthmother when she named the father, and forced her and the adoptive parents to seek out her estranged husband, whom she hadn't seen in two years and who may have been abusive, in order to either get his consent or prove that he was not in fact the biological father.

5. A child with Reactive Attachment Disorder so severe that all other members of the family were in danger of physical harm, and his younger sisters were continuing to be sexually abused at his hands, until he was placed in a residential treatment facility.

All this just to say: There is no such thing as "simply adopt." That's all. There is no such thing. It's hard, it's time-consuming, it's expensive; it's risky. I apologize if I have been careless in my wording as I have attempted to make this point.
posted by not that girl at 2:28 PM on July 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Foster care children have a lot of problems. With few exceptions, no child enters the foster care system unless they have been pretty horribly abused.

For the most part, yes.

I qualify that because I know a couple who adopted an 8 year old who had been orphaned by both parents dying of AIDS and was herself HIV +( bio-dad had a hidden drug problem and infected bio-mom unknowingly). Despite the unbelievable tragedy of losing both parents, the kid (who is now graduating from college) was fortunate enough that she had a very stable, loving home environment with her bio-mom and a lot of support from social services while her mom was dying. That seems to have made a big difference in her ability to bond with her new family. I think it would have been very different had she come into new family from 8 years with an abusive, neglectful family.
posted by echolalia67 at 2:47 PM on July 11, 2011


"There are probably millions of kids out there without parents and he's spending all this money and time trying to make one of his own. Why doesn't he just adopt?"

This is why I will never have kids."

1. Adoption does not heal the wound of wanting to carry on your traits, personality, loving style, and very heart itself. My adoptive mother was never able to concieve. I can feel the ache that she is the end of her line. And what's more, that ache that she did not WANT to be the end of her line. I will carry on what of her "spirit" is possibly for me to carry on as I can have kids, and I hope that bringing her love into those that I meet and into future generations will give her the sense of carrying on after death that many humans feel in having biological offspring.

But it is not the same. Different can be ok, but for people WANTING to have a biological child who carries the stored genetic memories of all their ancestors--- it can be a powerful experience for those who feel that holds a deep meaning.


2. You misunderstand what is needed of adoptive parents. The world needs parents who will love a non- biological child. But the world doesn't really need homes for white healthy newborns. There are plenty. Sure if you want to change race you can get a discount. (yes, I find it horrifying as well.) Or if you are down with disabilities you could get a price reduction. But to tolerating a special need child-- OR ACCEPTING A CHILD OF ANOTHER RACE WHEN YOU WOULD PREFER A WHITE BABY BECAUSE YOU CAN GET A DISCOUNT--- is really murking into "who are we really doing this for and does this actually serve the kids" territory.

3. To solve this murk I would prefer that infertility and adoption be considered totally seperate issues. Adoption does not exist to serve infertile couples.
Sentiment like, "What if the biological mother changes her mind at the last minute! It would be so sad!" demonstrates how dehumanized people already view biological mothers who have considered adoption. Until papers are signed, she is a mother. She is not a birth mother, she does not owe anyone her child and she not NOT NOT deserve to have drooling potential adoptive parents in the birth room ready to shower her with praise for giving them her baby when she really deserves that time to focus on being with her child and make sense of whether adoption-- which will be extremely psycholigically debilitating for her-- is actually necessary for the well being of the child.

4. Bringing us back to how easy it is to forget that adoption should exist to serve children. If a pregnant woman needs services to be a better parent, our goal should be to improve our services to help the family achieve stability for the well being of the child. Its not a perfect world, but just as we should strive to cure diseases (and we often DO cure disease) we should continue to study dysfunctional families, mental illness, addiction, abusive cycles, and of course poverty and overstressed single parent headed homes to create the best services we can. It is up to the mother who is in difficult circumstances to decide if adoption is still necessary once she has been offered comassionate and appropriate services that address her parenting needs as best as possible.

5. The most ethical solution to inertility IS to improve our research on causes of infertility including studies of toxic exposure, epigenetics, chronic stress, genetic abnormalities, and all the factors under the sun that lead to and affect inertility and can help us reverse the condition; as well as improving the services we have available to help those who want to concieve.

6. EVERYONE should consider adopting/fostering a child from foster care. You might not find you are able, but we all, as a society owe it to the children among us to support those who need extra care, both by supporting programs that do that for us if we don't have the skill set to do it ourselves-- and by offering our homes to kids in foster care or who need a home and would otherwise be in a group home situation. Someone facing infertility has no greater reason to bear this burden that in all sincerity we all should put forth some effort toward carrying, than any of the rest of us.
posted by xarnop at 3:26 PM on July 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


That seems to have made a big difference in her ability to bond with her new family. I think it would have been very different had she come into new family from 8 years with an abusive, neglectful family.

Hmmm... maybe I'm not clear on this, but was this still a case of foster care? Sounds like the kid went straight from one set of parents to another...usually kids who enter the foster care system are there a while before being adopted.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:34 PM on July 11, 2011


Deathalicious, if the parents had died, then the rights were severed immidiately. The delay with foster kids is due to long drawn out processes in which parents are given many chances to recover and be better parents to their kids.

The way it works now is really not very functional at all. There is not an "easy solution" because unfortunately outcomes for kids who stay in foster care or get adopted are actually not as much better than "moderately indequate" biological families as you would hope.

Unfortunately, even if the biological family is crappy, removing children and placing them in another home is extremely psychologically hard. Some feel the better for it, some feel the worse for it, but no matter what, it's hard to prove with science which outcome is actually better when there is not violent abuse happening int he biological family.

I ABSOLUTELY am pro-reform in this area though. We absolutely need better solutions for children facing dysfunctional families.

I understand wanting more good people to considering offering their homes to children in this situation, because I want this too! But we really need people to do that because they care both about the children and the dysfunctional family involved. And are able to love the child in a way that is appropriate for the child--- NOT in a way that is fulfilling unmet dreams of having a biological child that won't be. And can accept the existance of an already existing biological family who the child may continue to see as their very own family and just as important as the adoptive family even if adopted in infancy.

I have known some women who were considering adopting and then instead decided to adoption a near aged out foster teen--- pregnant. And offer her heart at home as a mother and a granny to both the pregnant teen and the new child.

That is the kind of love people need to be ready for when going into offering homes to non-biological children. ixing it up with fulfilling infertile couples dreams, makes the kind of genuine love orphans/orphans of the living need--- even harder to achieve.
posted by xarnop at 3:46 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Pregnancy and birth are life-changing. They are, psychologically and more importantly, physiologically, fine-tuned over milennia of evolution to ensure the mother is prepared for caring for the infant that is the end-product of this process. Sure, wonderful mother-child bonding (even breast-feeding) is possible for mothers of adopted babies. This is not to discount adoptive parents/mothers as "lesser" parents. On the contrary - they have to overcome more obstacles! But they miss out on stuff. Months of prenatal bonding. The first kicks of the fetus. The mother's body changing to accomodate the baby, to make birth possible. There are changes in the pregnant body, and in the mind, that are certainly as deep as (e.g.) going through puberty. Finally, mothers that do not give birth miss out on the massive amounts of hormones the female body produces during birth to facilitate bonding when the child is finally put in her arms.

It boggles my mind how anyone could come to the conclusion that the one - nurturing a child in your own body and giving birth - and the other - receiving a newborn that is, basically, dropped off at your (albeit well-prepared, loving) door-step - are essentially the same, just because, duh, "you get the baby you wanted!" Typical for a culture where babies are "delivered" (like something off Amazon.com), where pregnancy and childbirth are seen as medical complications to be overcome by the holy trinity of pitocin, epidurals and c-section.

If someone talks about "just" adopting, he or she not only has no idea about the difficulties of adoption - he or she must also have deep misconceptions about how important and incisive pregnancy and birth are.
posted by The Toad at 3:49 PM on July 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


The way it works now is really not very functional at all.

I think a link to the excellent Fosterhood in NYC blog is called for here. Read a few months back.
posted by anastasiav at 4:04 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Finally, mothers that do not give birth miss out on the massive amounts of hormones the female body produces during birth to facilitate bonding when the child is finally put in her arms.

While I take your point, The Toad, it's worth noting that there are a lot of c-sections these days, many of which take place before contractions even start, for many different reasons. The hormones released by the vaginal birth experience are not experienced by millions of biological mothers every year.
posted by gurple at 4:12 PM on July 11, 2011


That's true, gurple, but even with an early, scheduled c-section, you still go through enourmous hormonal changes during pregnancy (being 8 months pregnant, I can attest to that...). Nesting behaviour, strange relaxation, changes in how you relate to your partner...I find it telling that these things are usually discounted as annoyances - "symptoms" of pregnancy that is, in turn, essentially seen as a disease, instead of being interpreted as healthy, normal preparations for the baby you're about to have. As with all results of evolution, not every one of these changes is useful, or there for a reason - but lots of them are. So I can understand if parents-to-be find it really important to experience them.
Speaking for myself: I would be worried about being able to bond with an adopted child, and I don't think that fear is entirely irrational.
posted by The Toad at 4:36 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Adoption does not heal the wound of wanting to carry on your traits, personality, loving style, and very heart itself.
Yes, this wound motivates expensive, risky attempts to conceive like the ones described in the OP, part of a $3B/year industry, and the tip of the iceberg, compared to the difficulty, pain, risk and expense of actually raising a child to adulthood. How is "wanting to carry on your traits, etc." not a form of narcissism? Isn't this wound just a displacement of the fear of personal death?
posted by fivebells at 5:49 PM on July 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Isn't this wound just a displacement of the fear of personal death?

Along with the desire to continue to breathe, drink, eat, and otherwise preserve the organism?

It's one thing to try to encourage perspective on the "footprint" of each human being brought into the world, and to ask people to balance their personal desires with consideration of that impact. But it's something else altogether to trivialize or pathologize people's desire for offspring, which is probably about as inherently narcissistic as the idea that one has something important to add to a discussion on the internet or anything else people are likely to decide to do with their allotment of life.
posted by weston at 6:10 PM on July 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Along with the desire to continue to breathe, drink, eat, and otherwise preserve the organism?

Actually staving off death directly addresses the fear, and is not a displacement at all. To do so is equally selfishly motivated, but at least it's honest. It's a worthwhile distinction to draw, because having a kid isn't actually going to vitiate the eventual total dissolution we all face. Motivating child rearing as a way to "carry on your traits etc." is a form of whistling past the graveyard.

...about as inherently narcissistic as the idea that one has something important to add to a discussion on the internet...

Your motives in posting this comment don't seem narcissistic. Am I mistaken?
posted by fivebells at 6:40 PM on July 11, 2011


I don't know infertility. I can't speak to that, though I did think this was a good article. Very good, in fact.

Adoption, though, I know a little about.

My grandfather was a foster child. He had a profound impact on my life, my youngest son is his namesake. Because of his history, I wanted to adopt children from the time I was old enough to want anything.

When I was 29, married, with a stepson and a toddler daughter, we had something of a near miss. Our neighbor's daughter was pregnant with her fourth child, and, determined to relinquish her. It's a long, long story, but even as potential adoptive parents, all we could do was encourage her to get her parent this baby she was carrying- her three were all lovely, she was obviously doing something right.

I started searching. I found message boards, where the bulk of the responses fit into one of two broad categories: other intended adoptive parents encouraging us to use any trick in the book to get a baby, and birthmothers who generally said things like, well, maybe she just wants to go back to school and don't you dare judge her for that. The birthmothers that said we right to encourage her to parent also expressed profound regret. It was not too helpful and very sad.

Eventually, I found a forum called Adult Adoptees Advocating for Change. As it turns out, adult adoptees form the backbone of the anti-adoption movement. This confused me at first- I mean, anti-adoption? Does that mean pro-orphanage? I didn't get it.

The gist of their position is this: adoption as an industry is both inherently unethical and inherently dishonest. No money should ever change hands. Children's birth certificates should never be sealed or altered, and children who do not have adequate families should go to other family members, or, if that isn't possible, into a permanent home with legal guardians, but who are referred to as caretakers rather than parents. Children should always have the legal right to know their biological parents, even if they need supervised visits. Open adoption should be legally recognized (it's not, currently, in any state, despite popular misconception).

Many adoptees on this forum were adopted internationally, and there are many who were adopted under deeply shady circumstances. At least one member remembers being kidnapped from her Asian home country, and then sold to her adoptive parents in Canada. Many domestic adoptees come from circumstances wherein family members of their biological parents fought to raise them, but did not have money or standing to prevail in court. And many, many adoptees tell stories of being abused and resented because they did not "cure" their adoptive parents infertility.

For whatever it's worth, to a person, they were all extreme lefties: pro-choice, in favor of wide and broad social programs, from welfare to universal healthcare, and very feminist.

You have to apply, by essay, to gain access. They screen.

On the topic of adoption, my heart has changed. Now, we'd would like to foster, rather than adopt, and we would like to foster pregnant teens, because that is where there is the greatest need.

If I am convinced of one thing, it's that adoption doesn't cure infertility. It just does not. Infertility is a medical condition. To suggest "just adopting" as an alternative to medical treatment is to reduce an adopted child to a prosthetic limb- it dehumanizes absolutely everyone involved.

No, infertility isn't life threatening, at least, not that I know of. But for crying out loud, people get full on, major surgeries for superficial nonsense, they get things made of plastic implanted in all sorts of places, they get their noses intentionally broken and skin pulled so taut that things like blinking and smiling are difficult. So to suggest that someone is an egomaniac for seeking treatment for a legitimate medical condition is a bit silly.

My goal would not be to continue pushing the boundaries of human reproduction, or to move toward a Handmaid's Tale reality. It would be to alter our economy and society so that people have the option of becoming parents younger, when our bodies were meant to reproduce. It would mean better support services of all types, so that young people can be great parents. In my utopian fantasy, there's no need for ART or adoption, or abortion, either. But since this is the world we've got, the position I take is to back off, and let people decide for themselves what's best for them, even if it means doing something I'm uncomfortable with.
posted by Leta at 7:21 PM on July 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Hmmm... maybe I'm not clear on this, but was this still a case of foster care? Sounds like the kid went straight from one set of parents to another...usually kids who enter the foster care system are there a while before being adopted.

IIRC, she was in the system for a little while (HIV+ kids can be hard to place) and the couple in question brought her into the family as a "foster to adopt".
posted by echolalia67 at 7:35 PM on July 11, 2011


It's a worthwhile distinction to draw, because having a kid isn't actually going to vitiate the eventual total dissolution we all face.

I'd agree that to the extent someone believes that having children would somehow actually forestall their death, delusion would an apt criticism. Not so much narcissism, though, and I don't think many people are actually deluded in this way.

Instead I think what's meant by "carry on your traits, personality, loving style, and very heart itself" is better read more literally. There might be a wish of *narrative* immortality in it, but I think that's best lumped in along with any other desire to leave anything lasting in the world (which may be vain, but certainly isn't impossible, and is probably not much more futile or temporary than anything else).

Your motives in posting this comment don't seem narcissistic. Am I mistaken?

Isn't the act of commenting at all narcissistic? Maybe not full-blown center-of-the-universe empty-of-empathy narcissism, but it seems to me that the idea that ones views are an important enough contribution that one should spend time posting them on the internet (among other means of offering them in front of people) contains at least a little self importance. Probably, in my estimation, about as much as the idea that ones traits should have another iteration or two.
posted by weston at 7:35 PM on July 11, 2011


Fivebells--- if you look at the grief research done on parents who lose children to death the grieving process is much different than losing an adult or other friend or relative. You could say this injury is narcissistic as well because otherwise why doesn't everyone mourn eternally for every child who dies?

That doesn't make the grieving process any less real.

And people in mourning with losing a child to death (which often happens to people dealing with infertility) or mourning the absence of a child who was made of them--- it's still not appriately dealt with by substituting with adoption.

Mourning happens first and if adoption winds up on the table later that's fine. But adoption is not a replacement of a newborn child who came from you. The reality is that a newborn born to another mother has another mother.

the other mother might be viewed as a meaningless incubator by the adoptive parents or even by the adoptee-- but each adoptee is different and not all adoptees will see the people from whom they came as a meaningless entity who they are happier keeping in the shadows where those yucky meaningless birfmuthers belong. If as an adoptive parent you are attached to being the one and only parent you might have a hard time grappling with some of the genuine familial feelings that can come up for some adoptees in open adoption arrangements or on reunion.

Each adoptee is different, but you have to be prepared that many of us see our biological and adoptive families as equally family, particularly in relation to how much love biological family members may have poured into the creation and mourning the loss of us so that we could have this "better life" that we needed so much that our mothers were worth destroying to give it to us.

(On reading--- I heart you Leta! An interesting study that was done recently found that the amount that a first mother (in open adoption) professed that she looooved adoption was in fact unrelated to the amount of grief/depression or anxiety she was currently experiencing or experiences in relation to the loss of the child. Meaning that it's easy to say, "Oh those women are happier" but the reality is that overall they suffer the same negative affects as those of us who are willing to say our adoption experiences were painful and that reform to prevent women from losing children would be ideal (to those of us who care)

""There were no significant results; that is, there were no significant differences between birthmothers with low satisfaction with adoption and birthmothers with high satisfaction with adoption and: current levels of depression/anxiety, current intrusive thoughts and avoidant behaviours about the relinquishment, children since the relinquishment or the amount of years that had elapsed since the relinquishment."
Study here

Another interesting finding from another study mentioned in that link (though as usual with studies be aware of problems with research)
"However, birthmothers involved in open adoption also reported feeling more socially isolated, experienced more physical problems, felt more despair and more dependence on others, than those mothers in the closed group, as measured by The Grief Experience Inventory. That is, while the birthmothers reported feeling positive about the adoption they were experiencing a significant number of grief symptoms, suggesting that there may be an intensification of felt grief when face-to-face contact takes place."

And also this:
"Blanton and Deschner (1990) went on to compare their findings to normative data for parents whose child had died and they found that the relinquishing mothers had a higher incidence of grief symptoms than those whose child had died."

I personally don't feel comfortable with supporting struggling families by proposing a solution that leaves my mother feeling in any thing like such a state. And of course research on cross fostering animals finds that when animals are transferred as new borns or early in infancy to a different also lactating mother they have long term hormonal and metabolic changes throughout their adult lives.

Bonding is a physiological process and it makes no sense to think we should be carefull about sensitive periods in transfering a puppy from it's mother but removing a human infant will have no affect?
posted by xarnop at 7:49 PM on July 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter is amazing because people will share deeply personal stories about adoption, IVF, etc in the same thread as people who want to argue about infertility the same way they would about why Germany lost WWII. This thread is both lovely and infuriating.
posted by chunking express at 8:49 PM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the story.

Mrs Wombat and I have no kids but have been trying for a while, first a wasted year of IUI, and now we're doing IVF.
The odd thing about IVF (well OK it's all odd) is that they actually show you the embryos before they put them in. They proudly handed us a polaroid of 6 gray circles, neatly lined up, each looking like a blob of lumpy oatmeal. They complemented us on how good they looked. When the woman is in her mid forties they put in all the embryos, just to increase the chance that one will take -- at that age the most common result is zero babies, or if you are very lucky, one. More than that is very rare.

We took the polaroid home and wondered which gray circle will get lucky and become a baby. Should we show the kid the picture when it grows up? Hey, here's you at minus 9 months. But I think it would drive the kid crazy not to know which one is them, and they'd ask what happened to the others and what their names would have been.

And then two weeks later, after all those stomach injections and procedures and hope, the result is nothing. Just nothing. Not even any clue about what went wrong, what you should do differently next time.
But anyway, we're doing fine, we're not falling apart, and we will go around again.
posted by w0mbat at 8:10 AM on July 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Very sorry to hear it, w0mbat. Hope the next round goes better.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:31 AM on July 12, 2011


It took us three transfers for it to take. (There were some complications with my initial egg-producing step, and the whole thing was painful and exasperating for me, but I'm now 33 weeks pregnant and feeling good. Everyone's different, but have hope.)
posted by statolith at 9:46 AM on July 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


But anyway, we're doing fine, we're not falling apart, and we will go around again.

Good luck, w0mbat. My sister-in-law had to try twice, but she and her husband have two lively, lovely girls starting first grade this fall to show for it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:06 AM on July 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has anyone here been doing this?

I've been pregnant 6 times; I've successfully brought 2 pregnancies to term. People will bring up the "just adopt" BS at the slightest provocation to anyone who is pursuing any kind of fertility treatment. In my case, I was hypothyroid, and all it took was a $4/mo medication to keep me pregnant, but still I had people slavering at my heels about how "selfish" I was being trying to conceive my own child when there are millions of lonely children waiting to be adopted.

Of course, none of them had adopted any kids. If they had, they'd know how asinine the phrase "just adopt" is. It's like saying "gah, why spend all that money on transatlantic plane ticket? Just get a sailboat and sail there!" It's not cheaper, it's not easier, it's not faster, and it's not more guaranteed, to say nothing of the ethical implications.
posted by KathrynT at 11:34 PM on July 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


As someone who has never had a kid and never tried, I'm really appreciating all of these stories from those of you who've gone through these difficulties; thanks so much, y'all.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:16 AM on July 13, 2011


Thanks for the kind comments. I'll pass them on to Mrs w0mbat.
posted by w0mbat at 3:26 PM on July 13, 2011


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