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?