Just think how cranky I'd be if I'd also read the comments
Most couples resort to in vitro only after years of trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, a process I think of as Desperation IVF. Instead, we chose to preserve the advantage of our current youth and fertility. I call it Preservation IVF.– "Our Babies...on Our Schedule," Gillian E. St. Lawrence, The Washington Post, July 6, 2010
Gillian and Paul St. Lawrence weren't ready to have kids. "When we married," Gillian writes, "my husband and I thought about having children someday. It was very important to us, though, that we first be financially stable enough to support them and give them plenty of parenting time."
But eight years into their marriage, the time still didn't feel right. "Knowing that time was running out," she says, "we resigned ourselves to the fact that we probably would not have children."
St. Lawrence was 30.
Having given up on having a child herself, Gillian says she began to research becoming an egg donor. In the process she learned that it's possible to cryopreserve embryos for later use. "My husband and I could create embryos, freeze them and, essentially, donate them to our future selves," she realized.
Which is all well and good, I guess — but given this article, how do we know their future selves are going to be any more grown up than they appear to be at the moment?
I want to state outright that I think it's really smart to start considering your future fertility early. I think St. Lawrence's premise, as I am generously interpreting it, has merit: Do what you can to safeguard your reproductive options before nature limits them for you. Organize your life, insofar as you can, to allow for future familybuilding. Spread the word that the decline in female fertility takes place sooner and drops off more sharply than most of us understand! Vitrify those eggs, girls, while they're still all plump and juicy!
No, that doesn't bother me. What leaves me agape is...simply everything else.
It is probably not kind of me to include this illustration.
St. Lawrence, as she presents herself in the article and in the associated Q&A, seems to think she's got this thing allllll sorted. They're waiting, she says, until they're financially stable before having a child "so we never have to look at day care or a nanny." She's not worried about the increased risk for pregnancy complications older women face; apparently that doesn't concern "someone like me who was an athlete and still maintains that fitness level." And, incredibly, she asserts that they didn't stipulate who would get the embryos in the event of a divorce: "Personally, we did not address divorce because after nine years we don't see that happening." (First, I don't believe for a second that the consent forms they signed allowed them to weasel out of this decision, even if it was simply an agreement to let the courts decide. Second, ...ohhhh, honey. As Jacquie snorted on Twitter, "Really? I opted out of deciding what happens to embryos in event of my death as I do not plan to die.")
St. Lawrence seems, in short, to believe they're in control. And although I know my infertility experience makes me hypersensitive on this score, all I can think when I read her article is, You're really, really not.
Sure, it's probable that at least one of their five embryos is chromosomally sound. But not all frozen embryos survive the thaw. Not all embryos implant. Not all pregnancies continue, even for women with younger eggs. Complications crop up even in healthy women. And so on. Again, I know my perspective is colored by my own experience, and by knowing so many infertile people. St. Lawrence has no known fertility problems and for most people, conception, pregnancy, and birth present few challenges. But these things do happen, often enough to even "normal" people, that it's hard for me not to bridle at the self-assurance of her statements.
That's my own baggage right there. But even outside the possibility that it might not be as easy as St. Lawrence seems to imagine, so much could happen in the "10 or 15 years" she imagines waiting. Their perceived financial stability could dissipate or never materialize. Either of them could become chronically ill or injured. ("My husband and I chose to not take any insurance from an employer. We have catastrophic individual plans that did not pay one cent for this." Is it just me, or upon reading this does anyone else hear fate rubbing its hands together eagerly and cackling like a bastard?) And divorce does happen, even to people smug enough to say things like, "Couples should consider an agreement or post-nup to deal with the embryos if they question their marriage at all."
I'm not saying anyone should have children before they're ready to avoid all the horrible things that might happen if they wait. (Heard that line before, infertiles? That'd be awfully crappy-things-your-relatives-say of me, right?) I am saying that the self-congratulatory tone of the article drove me absolutely bugfuck crazy because of the complacency it betrayed. The most positive way I can say it is that she just sounds young: overconfident, superior, and heedless of the notion that life has a way of listening to us say things like that and then answering, "Oh, you think?"
There's a nuance she's missing, something she could easily learn just by listening to an infertile person instead of patting herself on the back for not becoming like us. When you wait to have children, there can be greater consequences than your body's diminished capability to do so. I'm not talking about not having energy to chase around a toddler, which is an oversimplification so laughable, it's almost insulting. No, it's way bigger and scarier than that. You miss a part of life. I don't mean you delay it; I mean you miss it. Your longtime friends leave you behind, either metaphorically or literally. Your kids, if they do eventually come along, miss out on relationships they might have cherished: cousins their own age, aunts and uncles with time and enthusiasm for young people, your best friends' kids as members of a happy pack. Your own parents die before knowing their grandchildren. Your view of the other side of having kids — where you've seen them safely into a happy and productive adulthood and can enjoy their company as fully-fledged equals — recedes with every year of distance.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with waiting until you believe you're ready to have children, although most parents will probably tell you that the whole construct of readiness becomes richly comedic when actual live offspring present themselves. But by doing so, even if you're also gaining something, you're sacrificing something precious. By all means do it, if it's important to you, but don't think it comes without cost.
Look, I don't wish trouble having babies on anyone, even someone with the effrontery to coin the snotty phrase, "desperation IVF." I hope everything works out for them the way she seems to expect it to. It probably will, one way or another. As St. Lawrence says herself, "My husband and I are still free to have babies the old-fashioned way. We still have all the options we had prior to this project -- but now we have some insurance against future infertility." (On her web site, she broadcasts this idea caps-lockfully: "BECAUSE OF THIS INSURANCE THAT WE HAVE AGAINST FUTURE INFERTILITY, WE ARE FREE TO PURSUE OUR GOALS WITHOUT GIVING UP THE CHANCE TO BE PARENTS." I...wow. Well. Gosh, there's a lot to say about that but I...yeah.)
But even if it doesn't go smoothly for them right away, though, there might be an advantage to their plan in the long run. Maybe time and experience will give St. Lawrence a gloss of perspective, should she decide to write about this again in the future.
Thanks to Melissa, Becca, and Karen for pointing out this article, and to my Twitter friends who helped me refine my ranting.
I am pleased and proud and giddy to tell you that RESOLVE has released its winners for the 2010 Hope Awards, and I...am among them. Thanks to your support and your passionate clicking, my blog has been given the Team RESOLVE Choice Award for Best Blog. I'll be attending RESOLVE's Night of Hope in New York in September, at which time I hope to have the chance to slobber gratefully all over any of you who are local and up for a few drinks.
Thank you so much. Now if you're not too worn out from clicking, please spare two more to go congratulate Keiko Zoll, who won the inaugural award for best viral video for that incredible video that made us all cry, and Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, whose Silent Sorority won for best book.