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07/18/2006

I can disagree without being vicious, I swear it.

Victoria commented on a recent post:

To the commenter who said she'd sell her own mother to have 7 embryos in storage: Didn't that article make you question the morality of this IVF issue at ALL? Is our desire to have our own biological children THAT FIERCE that we'd happily have 7 frozen children indefinitely?...Don't you think it'd be better to adopt a child that is already born and orphaned?...There just seems to be something wrong here.

The most glaring fallacy I perceive in Victoria's line of thought is this: she's equating seven frozen embryos with seven frozen children, and, boy, howdy, hoo hoo hooooo, am I laughing at that.

Sorry; what I meant to say, because I'm playing it straight and high-toned and respectful here, is that I find that premise risible.

First of all, the success rates for frozen embryo transfers — FETs — are significantly lower than those for fresh cycles.  Depending on the clinic and the state in which an embryo is frozen, the first danger is that the embryo may not survive the thaw; a common estimate for survival is about 50%.

So realistically speaking, let's assume that of those hypothetical seven, four will survive the thaw.  Fine, four no-longer-frozen children to sell your mother for.  But it's not over yet, because the most recent figures put the overall live birth rate per FET at 27%.

Stay with me here, okay?  Now, the average number of frozen embryos transferred per FET cycle is between 2.7 and 3, depending on the woman's age.  For the sake of argument, because you can't transfer a fraction of an embryo, no matter how carefully you slice 'em, let's stipulate that of those four adorable eight-celled icy moppets — whoops, five- or six-celled, because frozen embryos often lose cells in the thaw, possibly reducing their chance of implanting — two are transferred.

Two transferred, with the live birth rate per FET at 27% means...wait, carry the six, multiply by pi, train leaving Hamburg at 6 PM traveling at 50 MPH, if A = B and B = C, unladen swallow, aaaaaaand we have...crap, well, look, I'm not that great at math, what with all the ∝ and ∀ and ∫ and all, but I'm pretty sure you come up with not that many children at all.  In two transfers — because, remember, only four survived the thaw, and you're transferring two each time — you'll be lucky to end up with even half a kid.

(I concede that my calculations might be a bit off.)

My point is that when we're considering seven frozen embryos, we're not talking about seven children, not by a long shot. Of course success rates will vary from woman to woman and embryo to embryo, but my educated guess is that we're talking four max, and probably fewer — possibly far fewer, because, well, we're infertile, and the reasons we're not getting pregnant naturally aren't always circumvented by IVF, no matter how good the lab, no matter how faultless the technique.

I've demonstrated that Victoria's numerical assumption is flawed, but there's much more to it than that.  She speaks of seven children.   Now, I can't speak for anyone but myself.  Everyone who produces embryos has her own opinion on this matter, opinions that are deeply emotional and worthy of respect.  But I can state unequivocally that I have never, ever considered any single one of our small handful of embryos a child.

The ones that implanted — malevolent #1, claustrophobic #2, and flukey #3 — had potential.  They were potential.  Even the losses didn't feel like children to me, though I know to many women they are.  And until #3 was born, he wasn't truly Charlie, though if I'd lost him late in the game I'd likely feel quite different.  As it stands, to me, they were all potential, pure and simple. 

And how would I feel to have a freezer full of potential?  Having a plan in place to help me avoid another fresh cycle?  Being able to put off a decision about stopping treatment entirely?  Keeping me, at least temporarily, from having to give up my hope for a child that's genetically my husband's and mine?

Even given the small chance of success, I'd feel perfectly matrimercantilic, I tell you.

(See?  Not vicious in the slightest.  I didn't even mention adopting orphans!)

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