Happy New Year from Fertility Lab Insider!!

January 4, 2011Carole No Comments »

Happy New Year! I hope this new year is a year of resolution of infertility for each and every one of you who are suffering from infertility.

As difficult as it is, infertility is not a permanent condition, but a life passage. Everyone with infertility moves on to parenting by some means or adapts to living child-free.  Most of you will move on to being parents, by one means or another. Assisted reproductive technology has opened a world of possibilities and the ability to parse baby dreams in a way unimagined and impossible twenty years ago.

In vitro fertilization has made pregnancy possible for women with blocked tubes and men with few sperm. When fertilization happens in the lab, the intended mother can be distinct from the egg donor and the gestational surrogate. The intended father can be distinct from the sperm donor. In the past, if your eggs weren’t healthy, the experience of pregnancy and childbirth was closed to you. Likewise, if you made healthy embryos but couldn’t hold them in your uterus, adoption was your only alternative. Today, gestational surrogates and egg donors open up new passages to parenthood. Without IVF, this was unimaginable.

New reproductive technologies force patients to really think about why they want to be pregnant. Why they want to be pregnant helps determine the best way to get pregnant. Of course patients want to have a child and be a parent, but what  part of parenthood is most important and what can be left behind? Before IVF, there were only two flavors of parenthood, biological or adopted. Now we have more options and more complexities.

Do you need to see your and your partner’s genes in your child? Can you parent a child that you are not genetically related to? Do you need to be pregnant? Do you need to be racially connected to your child?

Obviously, what you would want, what anyone would want, is not to have to think about why or how, but to simply become pregnant and have a child, the simple, cheap and easy way.

Just the other day I read a beautiful, insightful account of one woman’s passage through infertility in the story,  “Meet the Twiblings” written by Melanie Thernstrom for the New York Times. She describes her emotional journey through infertility, failed IVF cycles and finally, realizing her heart’s desire through third party reproduction.

With the help of both an egg donor and two gestational surrogates, she and her husband had “twiblings”– siblings who were twins in the sense that they were conceived from the same eggs and sperm, but born 5 days apart, each from a different gestational surrogate.

What I found so compelling is Melanie’s deep understanding of herself and how she wanted to mother her children. She didn’t let infertility consume her but put it behind her as she moved on to the real job of mothering her children. She never lost sight of the point of the exercise. It is true that once you become a mother- no matter how or when- it really isn’t about you anymore.

Melanie’s single minded mothering shines through as she describes her experiences with third party reproduction. When after multiple failed IVFs, a perinatologist advised her to use  donor egg if her goal was a healthy baby, it was a relatively easy decision for her, because the end goal became obvious. She started mothering her future children even before conception when she carefully considers and selects the best egg donor and gestational surrogates for her children. When she decided her babies would benefit from breast feeding, she was happy to let her surrogates provide the milk, since they could and were happy to do it.

It is clear from Melanie’s story that she didn’t come to this understanding of what being a mom meant to her without the painful loss of her original dream child, but she gets there, never-the-less. And getting there mentally made real living children possible. This wonderful paragraph from her story sums up her transition from “what if”  to “how to”  beautifully :

“Plan A — making babies with the tools you have around the house, as they say, the fun, free tools — faded into the background, and Plan B became foreground. I can count the ways Plan B is a less-desirable way to have children — the route seems to take you off the edge of the world and into the land of scrolly dragons. But when you actually go there, the map shifts. The brain’s ability to rewrite — to destinize, as it were — the birth story and turn a barn into a manger is so powerful that Plan B, all its unsexiness notwithstanding, became the best plan, because Plan B created the children that we have and are convinced we had to have.”

I found her article insightful and inspiring on so many levels. I hope you have a chance to read it. I would love to hear your comments about Melanie’s experience. Does it resonate with you too?

The only downside to Melanie’s story is that her passage to parenthood was possible because she could afford to use third party reproduction. Until infertility treatments are universally covered through insurance, economics, and not medical limitations, will unnecessarily limit patient’s means to achieve parenthood. That is probably the single saddest thing about infertility.

© 2011, Carole. All rights reserved.

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