Thursday, October 18, 2007

Freezing Hope

I usually don't post about many controversial topics. Mostly because I'm a Libra - always see two sides of every story. So I manage to talk myself out of anything too controversial. And most of my more "serious" posts don't get a lot of commentary - or maybe people are lurking and don't want to come out.

But when I opened up my regular woman's magazine that arrived in my mail yesterday (with lovely Sandra Oh on the cover, let's hear it for Asian Canadian women!), I had to stop to read this article in depth, "Great eggs-pectations" written by Katrina Onstad. In it, she refers to a medical first, that happened in Canada just this past spring. A mother, Melanie Boivin, had frozen her eggs for her 7 year-old daughter, who suffers from a rare genetic disease called Turner's syndrome which leaves her daughter infertile. By doing so, she is attempting to provide her daughter an option, possibly the only one, for biological motherhood. This latest event is causing even more stir in the hotpot of the assisted reproduction debate.

I really like the way Katrina writes - she presented a fairly balanced view of the issue, and she admits that although she is in favour of reproduction technology the extent of this makes her uncomfortable. But then she also raises the fact that she has never experienced infertility first hand. She is, to those of us who have experienced it, a "fertile". And I don't mean that condescendingly at all; it's just a fact.

The thing that really enraged me was the backlash that Boivin's actions have produced on certain message boards. Child-free message boards. I know that women who have decided they don't want children of their own are certainly entitled to their opinions. And they've probably got the weight of society on their backs, having to defend their decisions, as most people expect women to want children above all else. But I can't believe that someone actually posted that they thought this act would suggest to Boivin's daughter that she is not good enough the way she is. How can that be extrapolated from what I see as an act of pure love?

I must admit, I am biased. Having spent years dealing with unexplained infertility (and you'd be surprised the percentage of cases that are "unexplained"), I understand the heartache, the absolute anguish that women and couples go through in their unsuccessful attempts at parenthood. Aside from the treatments themselves, which are no picnic, there is the even tougher psychological roller coaster of hesitant expectation, dashed hopes and unbelievable frustration that seems neverending as you go from month to month, cycle to cycle, hoping against hope that "IT" will happen.

When you really think about it, there are of course ethical issues. Should her daughter decide to go ahead and have a child with these eggs, they will technically be her half-sibling. Her mother will become grandmother to her own child. Very weird. But this is at the purely biological level. In these circumstances you have to see that the mother would be the one raising and teaching that child. As long as everyone goes into it with open eyes, and above all, the appropriate counselling (including for the child as he/she grows up), there's nothing to say that it shouldn't work- it wouldn't be easy, but then anything worth it rarely is.

Ms. Boivin's daughter may very well think it is too out-there for her. She may decide to adopt; or go with an anonymous donor. Or not have any children at all. But at least she'll have options. Because her mother provided this for her.

We were lucky to be blessed with two beautiful children as a result of advances in reproductive technology. But we also had hope. And you cannot fault Ms. Boivin for keeping that alive for her daughter. Without hope, what do we have?


Kellan said...

I love this title. And I loved this post. I couldn't agree with you more! So well put! People are going to find a way to make issue of most anything - if they try hard enough to find a negative position. Thanks for sharing this. And ... we are also big Sandra Oh fans in our family. See ya.

Family Adventure said...

I remember this causing an uproar when I was still in Canada. It was odd to me, because I saw it as a no brainer, and I was so surprised that people were up in arms about it. I'm not an ethicist, and, honestly, I wouldn't be any good at it. I am too emotional, I think. BUT - in this case, the mother is only doing what she can to allow her daughter to have a CHOICE. She is not forcing anything upon her daughter. I think that is key.

Her daughter will have the option to have no children, adopt a child, have a child using an anonymous donor, a surrogate, OR have a child whose biological history she'll be familiar with. The latter option thanks to her mother.

But what concerns me most about this debate is the LACK OF RESPECT that this family has received from strangers who do not know what it's like to be in their shoes. Even if some experts disagree, please do so respectfully. What I saw in Canadian media last summer was not always very respectful.

I hope you get lots of comments on this one, and maybe even from readers who have been adopted or conceived through donor eggs/sperm. They may have a very different take on it.

- Heidi

MrsGrumpy said...

After two late term losses, my son was born. He was a miracle to us. We lost another in 2001. I know that, in the same vein of knowing I would jump in front of a bus for my children, I would want to do anything to keep my daughter from experiencing the pain of infertility. I see it as this woman not forcing anything upon her daughter. She is attempting to preserve the option of having that miracle.

Laural Dawn said...

What an interesting topic. I will admit it's one that I have not thought about too much as I have been blessed with no fertility issues.

I totally see where the mother is coming with this. If I, as a mother, were presented with this option to something like freeze my eggs for my child I would. End of story. You're right - it will be the daughter's choice.

It never ceases to amaze me how people can be so brutally unkind in chat rooms/boards thanks to the anonymity of the internet.

DaniGirl said...

Yeah, I read about this story in the mainstream media not that long ago. I come from a background of infertility, too, so maybe that colours my perspective, but I see this as an act of love on the mother's part. She's not saying the daughter will ever *have* to use the eggs. But, I do get that there are larger psychological issues at play here. When I can't throw away a sweater that doesn't suit me just because my mom gave it to me, I'm not sure I'd want to deal with the emotional baggage of choosing to use her eggs or not. But, at least by doing this, the mother has given her the gift of that choice.

Great post!

BeachMama said...

Well written post.

I too have had my children thanks to Reproduction Technology. Without it, I would not be a Mom.

And whatever this girl decides to do in her future she knows that her Mom loved her so much she went through the process of freezing eggs for her just in case she may want them.

I would probobly do the exact same thing.

Kelly said...

Count me in as another women who struggled with fertility issues. Before we adopted my son, I remember my 50 something year old mother sitting me down and telling me she would do anything, including carry a child for my dh and I. After I giggled at the image of her pregnant, I thanked her, hugged her, and decided to adopt. The point is that their isn't anything a good mother won't due to ensure their child's happiness. It's beautiful really.


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