03/24/2008

Jenny from the bleccch

Dear Ms. Lopez:

Oh, you know what?  That sounds so phony.  I mean, it's just us, right?  Jen and Julie?  J. and J., Lo and ho', shooting the breeze, chewing the fat, anxiously asking each other if our emaciated husbands make us look, you know, kind of pudgy?  Let me start again.

Jennifer.  Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer.

So imagine me poring over the Wall Street Journal, thoughtfully chewing my healthful morning muesli...what, not believable?  Okay, fine.  Picture me completing a punishing circuit of cardiovascular training and rewarding myself with a quick glimpse at the gym's dog-eared copy of The Economist...okay, I didn't say I did that.  Just picture it.  Because we're not all that concerned with the truth here, are we?

In my case, the truth is that on the Internet I happened across an interview you gave People magazine.  I didn't even buy the issue myself.  In your case, the truth is...well, what, exactly?  Let's look at what you told The Christian Science Monitor — I mean, People — about the recent birth of your boy/girl twins:

It was natural. We didn't do in vitro, which I know was reported. Everybody assumed that because we had twins. I wanted to have a baby, but I've always said exactly what I said all those years they (reporters) asked us since we've been married: 'Well, when are you guys gonna have some kids?' 'When it happens naturally, I guess!' And that's when it happened. It was a surprise to us.

Now let me get this out of the way right at the outset: I do not believe that your celebrity robs you of any claim to privacy.  You have every right to reveal as much or as little of your private life as you see fit.  I do not believe that you have any special obligation to be an advocate for other infertile people, nor do I think any less of you — long have I found you most thoroughly fly — for keeping your private pain private.  Because infertility hurts, doesn't it?  You allude to that pain briefly in your hard-hitting tête-à-tête with PBS's Frontline — whoops, People:

You start getting older, you think to yourself, 'Maybe (having kids) is just not meant for me.'

Every infertile I know has faced that feeling, the worry turning to panic, the possibility that maybe, despite all the determination in the world, we won't become parents the way we'd hoped.  You're one of us.  And I can't see holding you to a different standard than I apply to myself: If I don't announce to strangers that my son was conceived via IVF, I don't expect you to, either.  Even if better singers, actors, and seven-time Tour de France winners than you have gone public with their infertility treatment, we all have different comfort levels about how much of our souls we bare to the world, right?

So I don't personally have a problem with your reluctance to confess to treatment.  (By saying "confess," I realize I seem to be suggesting that you actually pursued treatment, despite your unequivocal denial of same.  Don't worry; I just threw that in there as a sop to all the people who read and believed reports of at least two years' duration that you and your "rumpled-looking" spouse were seen at clinics coming and going.)  I mean, I'd like it better if you'd just worked it out with the interviewer ahead of time that you simply declined to answer any questions about your children's conception, but I don't expect you to structure your media encounters around what I would like to see any more than I expect you to run any movie scripts by me before you commit.  (Although come on, Jennifer: a lesbian assassin?  I realize you can't see me, but I am now making the little "call me" gesture with my hand.)

No, where I have a teensy little problem is your statement here:

I knew there was nothing wrong with me. I knew that I could. Deep down, I really wanted it badly...

Jennifer.  Jenny.  Jen.  J.  What.  The fucking.  Fuck?

First off, if you've been trying, as I read in Foreign Affairs, to have a baby for years without any success, then, yes, there is something wrong with you.  It's called infertility.  Deny treatment all you like, but why not admit that?  It's not, like, the dripping clap.  It's not even an embarrassing addiction.  It's a medical condition that affects people in all walks of life.  It doesn't make you any less of a woman, or less of a wife, or less of a bootylicious megastar.  It just makes you human.

But apparently it doesn't make you any more humane, if your second sentence is any indication.  Really, Jennifer: "I knew that I could"?  That sounds a little smug, almost as smug as your husband's assertion that "it never entered my mind that it would never happen."  It's as if you believe it was the strength of your faith, your boundless optimism, and your unswerveable determination that allowed you to conceive.  I ask your leave to differ.  If it wasn't medical help, then it was some good God-damn-me luck.  I would hope you could acknowledge that.

Seems like not, alas.  The way you tell it in the New Republic, medicine and luck played no role; you just wished hard enough and it happened.  "Deep down, I really wanted it badly."  Well, hell, I take it back.  Maybe you're not infertile.  Because that does distinguish you from people who want it only a little.  (You know, just enough to risk their financial stability, test the strength of their relationships, and undergo unpleasant invasive procedures for what is generally a fairly long shot.) 

Look, I don't care what you tell the press about how your children were conceived, although your husband's claim that everything you touch turns to gold does cast an interesting light on the idea of the two of you copulating.  (To his contention that having twins was inevitable because "nothing you do is small," I can muster no comment, as it only forces me to imagine his intimate dimensions, and, Lordy, that's not right.)

Really: I don't care.  Lie if you will.  (Not that I'm accusing you of lying, but if you could produce some of those twins that supposedly run in your family, those skeptical others might find you more credible.  Trot 'em on out.  Give The Nation another photo op.  Careful, though; identicals don't count.)  Deny what you want.  But could you please try not to be such an asshole when you do it?  I and the entire readership of Mother Jones would thank you.

Hope you're well.  Good luck with that triathlon.  I just know your babies will be proud.  See you at the gym!

Love,
Julie

P.S.  Nice pics.  Très Petit Trianon, girlfriend.

11:25 AM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (139)

03/25/2008

Obviously they're not going to do it for us...

Mark your calendars, friends inside the computer, for RESOLVE's Federal Advocacy Day — Thursday, April 10.  It's a day for infertiles and those who love us to make our numbers known, to meet with our Congressional leaders, and to urge support for issues that matter to us all.

Halle

Unfortunately, Halle can't be there.  But maybe you can.  Register to attend, get yourself to Washington, D.C., and RESOLVE will schedule your appointments and provide training.  To prepare you for your meetings, you'll be given full information on these three areas of advocacy:

  • Securing insurance coverage for infertility diagnosis and treatment;
  • Permanent establishment of the adoption tax credit; and
  • Increasing funding for medical research.

You'll also meet other passionate people with a shared interest in infertility issues.  Why, maybe even...

Jrooprah

Okay, probably not. 

Since we can't count on others to fight this battle for us, we need to be there en masse.  But even if you can't make it, there are still ways you can help.  Work with your local media, contact your Congresspeople via phone or fax, or make a donation to support advocacy efforts.  If you've ever struggled with conception, or if you care about someone who has, tell your story and make your voice heard.

Jlomarc

Because we're going to need all the help we can get.

10:47 AM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (51)

07/20/2008

Loved you in Sliders. Now shut the hell up.

Stop the presses, America!  According to People magazine, "Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O'Connell, who celebrated their first wedding anniversary July 14, are not expecting a baby — yet!" 

It may not be immediately obvious why this is newsworthy.  Why, in this corner of the Internet alone I know simply scads of people who aren't expecting a baby — "yet!"  But as it turns out, apparently it's not enough that the media keep us apprised on a minute-by-minute basis of whose unseemly bloat is actually a sacred bump.  Now you can get round-the-clock alerts about celebrities who aren't pregnant.  Or who, like Romijn and O'Connell, want to be, as the actor announced on Saturday at a benefit for an animal rescue group.

O'Connell, who says trying to get pregnant is "a lot of fun," brought along the couple's dogs Taco and Better who he called "our babies."

Yeah, hey, doesn't trying to get pregnant rock?  What's your favorite position, Jerry?  The one where your knees are shaking uncontrollably during your HSG as you try to keep from crawling backward off the table from the pain?  The one where you don't move from the sofa for three days after a D&C?  The one where your doctor palpates your manly bag of worms?

Oh, oh, oh, wait, I get it!  You meant having frequent sex is a lot of fun.  I bet you were misquoted.  If I were you I'd sue.

"It's just such a great feeling you get when you rescue an animal," he said. "They're eternally grateful and they really trust you and they're just the best."

Besides, he said, "Pets are training for kids."

You know, I agree!  Pets are just like kids!  Caring for an animal is a lot like being a parent.  That dumb devotion gets me every time.  I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I'm in it for the lambent gratitude that shines out of my son's eyes even as he delivers a vicious pinch to my upper arm because I've forbidden him to stick a green bean up his nose.  ("It is my breathing tube," he furiously insists.  "No more life-giving oxygen for you," I answer briskly, seizing the legume remorselessly.)  And I can certainly agree that filling a water dish once daily and throwing the occasional tennis ball might prepa...

But, no, on second thought, let's skip that part, because I admit I am just being pissy.  Let's jump ahead instead to the part where I call you a tacky jackass for declaring your reproductive plans to the press at all, much less at the Playboy Mansion; a famewhore for co-opting an event that's about puppies to make sure the world knows you're not averse to sticking it to your wife; and a stopped-clock-right-twice-a-day for musing that now is the time to have children, "before [Rebecca] figures out that she could do a lot better than me."

Stay every bit as classy as you are, Jerry.

For the rest of you who are not, so far as I know, making it nightly with a former supermodel, thank you for your support and perspective during my recent mini-meltdown.  Tomorrow I have some things to give away, chocolate, quilted, and stuffed.

08:10 PM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (64)

12/03/2008

Letters to the editor

Dear editors of the New York Times Magazine:

Whoa, hey, that wasn't very subtle, was it?

First come the photos.  It starts with the picture on the cover, where writer Alex Kuczynski cradles her belly with a knowing, feline smile, as if to say, "I've an icepick concealed in my Spanx.  Fancy a spot of stabbing?"  Cathy Hilling, the gestational surrogate who carried Kuczynski's son, stands by looking calm and approachable, perhaps even slightly abashed.  I know, she looks like she's thinking.  Believe me.  I know.  The stories I could tell you.  Buuuut what are you gonna do?

Then alongside Kuczynski's article, which details how her child came about, there's the photo of Hilling lolling on her porch.  She is literally barefoot and pregnant.  We're supposed to contrast it with the photo of Kuczynski near her porch, manicured lawn, Southampton address, baby nurse and all.  Thanks, photo editors!  Without even reading the text, I get it.  Alex Kuczynski is a cold, remote bitch who hires other people to do her dirty work.  Of course!

A casual reading of the story supports that initial impression.  Kuczynski doesn't do herself any favors in that department, evincing a delicate shudder at the very idea of having Hilling over for Thanksgiving.  (Yeah, I mean, she did bear your son and all, but what if she brought that awful green bean casserole?  And I bet her husband would want to watch the football, which is, I have heard, a sporting enthusiasm shared by many of their lowly station.)  She's relieved to dodge the physical indignities of pregnancy herself — a mother who "just didn't have to do the hard part" — and describes with offputting relish the way her pregnant friends have let themselves go.  (I halfway expected her to sneer about how fat they'd gone around the middle.)  The article is full of nonchalant asides that tell us just how fabulously well fixed Kuczynski is, thanks to her marriage — his third — to sesquitriskajillionaire investor Charles Stevenson.  (I can only assume that "For fun, we snort powdered diamonds through rolled-up trillion-dollar bills" got cut from the original article due to space considerations.)  And that kind of money can buy any kind of reproductive assistance money can buy.  (Like what I just did there, editors?  Hey, any chance you're hiring?)

Plenty of people bit.  The comments on the online version show that readers are largely appalled by Kuczynski — her narcissism, her coldness, her willingness to spend enormous sums of her husband's money to propagate their genes.  (90% of those comments offer the groundbreaking opinion that people with fertility challenges should just you-know-what because there are so many blah-blah-blahs in need of a good what-the-fuck-ever.  5% say something crappy about Kuczynski hiring a nurse and what that must reveal about her mothering; 2% congratulate her on her son's birth and thank her for her courage in sharing her story so candidly; and the remaining 1,237% are clamoring to know just what the hell was up with those photos.)

Me?  No.  I read a little bit more into Kuczynski's words — more than there strictly was on the page, maybe even more than there was in her heart when she wrote them.  She wasn't simply talking about Thanksgiving; that was clumsy shorthand for uncertainty about the kind of relationship she, her son, and her surrogate would eventually forge.  It's a question that demands consideration, one faced by anyone whose children don't come easily.  I don't think less of her for swaddling it in a metaphor.

And maybe it did seem like mean-spirited gloating when she talked about skipping the unpretty parts of having a child.  (Just because you can mention a pregnant woman's hemorrhoids doesn't mean you should.  That is what blogs are for.)  But as a way of negotiating her grief — 11 IVFs and four miscarriages is plenty, no matter how much yoga you do — I can't say I fault her for embracing the positive in her situation, working to find some advantage in getting what was, as she tells it, second prize.

As far as ethics and money go, each of us who pursues an unorthodox reproductive path asks ourselves whether it's ethical to do what is, in the end, purchasing the privilege of creating human life.  Kuczynski decided it is, and had the cash to do so.  Although 759% of the online commenters want Kuczynski to know she should have spent that money on something more meaningful and enduring than her own monstrously selfish urges — I paraphrase only a smidge — I don't agree.  First, I don't know how much she and her husband spend on charitable endeavors, but it's probably more than the few hundred thou they dropped on fertility treatment.  Surely they're entitled to spend some of their unfathomable fortune on leisure activities like IVF retrievals.  (That is, if there's any disposable income left after the powdered diamonds.  I assume those don't come cheap, especially when you're buying snortin' grade.)  Second, I happen to believe that this is one of the few situations in which money can buy happiness, or at least a chance at a particular kind of happiness, and who among us, having the money, would turn down that chance?  Not me.  But you knew that already.  My own ethical backflip is sleeping upstairs in the proverbial ladybug onesie.

So I get it.  I see what you were trying to do.  I see that you even had Kuczynski's cooperation, because, damn, the pictures didn't work, but her own words easily might have if I'd been in a different mood.  But you failed to make me hate Alex Kuczynski. 

Oh, I don't mean I like her; I think in places she seems downright awful.  But I appreciate that she doesn't whitewash her attitude toward Hilling, blotting out all its complexity with platitudes.  I'd expect such a relationship to be complicated, especially as it's experienced by the infertile woman, and I'm grateful that Kuczynski relays her less attractive reactions faithfully — or shows her ass, as those of us in Sunday-delivery-only-land might more picturesquely put it.

Better luck next time, New York Times Magazine, on getting me to hate someone obnoxious.

 

Love,
Julie

P.S.  Don't beat yourself up about it, okay?  You'll have other chances.  For every Peggy Orenstein there are fifty David Carrs, and I trust you to showcase them all.

04:03 PM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (118)

12/08/2008

In medias res

Yesterday

Yesterday was Charlie's birthday party.  Five four-year-olds descended upon my house at the appointed hour, and, at the giddy instigation of my son, created a fracas.  The children played with toys, shotgunned cunning little boxes of chocolate milk, and ended up under the guest bed happily poking each other with the surplus curtain rods I had so imprudently stored there.  The adults drank beer, shouted to be heard over the preschool melee, and benignly ignored the kids until the stroke of four o'clock, when they all filed out in a prompt and orderly fashion, leaving in their wake a terminal moraine of birthday rubble.

Charlie had a riotously good time, and wept piteously as he went to bed: "I'm so, so sad because I want to do more birthday party stuff."  And if dissolving helplessly into tears isn't a valid gauge of success, well, I guess I don't know what is.  I too was exhausted by it all, a fact that freaks me out more than a little.  I am too old for this shit, I thought as I woke up this morning feeling hung over and wrung out.  Last time I thought that, I was crawling off the futon of a stranger, unable to find my pants, rifling through his wallet for cab fare, furtively pawing through his medicine cabinet looking for any unused narcot — uh, I trust you take my point.

So while I was up to my ass in glow sticks and blue frosting, The New York Times was running this Public Editor column about the Alex Kuczynski article:

Kuczynski, who said she disagreed with her editors over the photographs before publication, said she felt they were "incendiary" and distracted from the story. Hilling, clearly portrayed in the article as middle class, described the porch as "the ugliest part" of her renovated, 135-year-old home. She said she felt the photo of her was "contrived."

(In the comments that followed the original story, Hilling says that the photographer asked her to take off her shoes.  Yeah, I'd call that contrived.)

Hilling said she was a bit frustrated by the pictures and Kuczynski's story. "It was her opportunity to tell her experience," she said. "I wish there was a way for me to share more of my part in it."

So do I.  Hey, Cathy!  Get a blog!

Today

Ben was delectable, so plump and succulent that I kept moving aside his clothing to look for his pop-up timer. 

Charlie was similarly great — helping me bake, batting around leftover party balloons, being thoroughly agreeable in every way that mattered — until it all fell apart at bedtime.  I'd promised he could have a cookie after his bath if his behavior stayed good.  And then he was in the bathtub and I was in the laundry room, and I could hear him splashing, not innocuous little splishes but tsunami-grade waves.  I was sending him desperate telepathic messages: Stop it.  Oh, please stop it.  Please don't make me ruin your night.  But he kept on doing it, to a point past which I could no longer ignore it, to a point where he was swamping the goddamn Edmund Fitzgerald.  So I had to ruin his night.

The poor kid shoots himself in the foot an awful lot.  Every time he makes a bad decision — a phrase we trot out with robotic frequency — we remind him that it's up to him to choose how to behave, and that good choices have good consequences, and bad choices mwah mwah mwah mwah mwah.  (Imagine me saying that in the Charlie Brown teacher voice.  Good Christ, even I'm bored by it, and wander away during a Dolly Madison commercial.)  I hope he is taking it to heart, the idea that he has it within himself to govern himself appropriately and, hey, that shit gets you cookies.  I hope some of it is sinking in, even if only slowly.  But at the moment I feel skeptical and, if I'm honest at the end of a long day, defeated.

Defeated.  And cookies.  This afternoon's batch was an aesthetic failure.  I wanted Charlie to be able to help, so I took the dough out of the refrigerator before it was thoroughly chilled.  Of course they spread most disappointingly.  But going into the kitchen just now to cram them into my mouth slide them virtuously into the wastebasket uneaten destroy the evidence — so ugly are they that I can't countenance giving them away — I noticed that they look kind of familiar.  Kind of like...embryosSort ofIf you squintAnd have glaucoma.

Tomorrow

A Christmas tree.  Acrobat school.  And some stories about pants that are so funny you'll wet yours when you read them.  I promise.  Money-back guarantee if you don't find yourself incontinent.

11:16 PM in Charles in charge, Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (45)

01/31/2009

Oh, come on, you had to know this post was coming eventually.

Okay, octuplets?

Seriously?

I wasn't going to write about this.  Every time I get all twitchy here about HOMs after ART, I inevitably get my judgmental ass handed to me on a silver platter.  No, wait: a plastic fast food tray, because the ass-handing's generally done with a terrifying Kroc-like quickness.  It usually begins, "I would have thought that you, of all people..." and, well, how can all that go anywhere good?

So in the early days after the octuplets' birth, when little was known about the circumstances of their conception, I kept my Good Christ, is that woman insane?s to a minimum.  I have learned that when I can drop my own defensiveness long enough to find it, there is usually a kernel of value in criticism.  Therefore instead of kneejerkfully condemning another woman's reproductive choices, I-of-all-people tried to think of her as someone not so different from people I know and love: infertile, frustrated, perhaps unable to afford IVF.  Someone willing to take on the risk of conceive multiples, but unwilling to terminate despite the risk of prematurity, disability, and death.  Someone whose situation could well have been my own, though with different convictions and priorities once pregnant.  I tried to imagine myself in her place, as unlikely a destination as it seemed.  Let a hundred flowers bloom, I counseled myself; let umpteen embryos contend.

And it went very well, I think.  I was feeling downright smug with how warm and unjudgey I was for a minute there.

I initially assumed, as did everyone quoted everywhere, from the highly concerned Zev Rosenwaks on down, that this was another instance of an IUI gone awry, where too many follicles developed and someone, ah, 'ow you say, shot first and asked questions later.  Regrettable, but by no means unprecedented.

A few days later, the story unfolded further and we learned that the mother is in her early thirties and already a mother of six.  Okay, I thought, hanging on to my hundred happy flowers, but even with six already, why shouldn't she try for another?  I don't think fertility doctors should refuse treatment to anyone based simply on the number of children she already has.

And certainly her marital status — un- — and her living situation — at her parents' — are similarly immaterial, right?  The fact that she's unemployed?  Well, it makes me wonder how she afforded treatment and how she proposed to support the children, but I don't tend to get too lathered about such matters.  Days passed and more information became available, but I surprised myself by remaining largely unruffled.  I wasn't even all that exercised when the octuplets' grandmother was quoted as saying her daughter had had embryos implanted.  I figured she must not know what the hell she was talking about.  Please: how firm is your mother's grasp of the details of ART?

But then another few days passed and we learned that as improbable as it had seemed, this high-order gestation was the result of IVF.  An FET, to be specific.  Maybe that's why Zev looks so rueful and wrinkly and...well, brown.  He is wrinkly and brown with chagrin, because damn.  According to the babies' grandmother, who sounds, incidentally, like a magnificent piece of work, all 14 children were.  Which...I mean, what?

And that's where my hundred fucking flowers get stuffed down the garbage disposal.  I tried.  I did.  In the beginning, it was easy not to judge.  The coverage all began quite responsibly, even if courtesy phrases like "It's unknown whether she used fertility drugs" strain even the most elastic bounds of belief.  During the first few days after the birth, as I clicked from report to report, I was nodding my head in appreciation when a reporter pointed out that insurance coverage for IVF would reduce the number of high-order multiples conceived through poorly-managed IUIs.  When an article resolutely refused to romanticize what is actually a fairly horrifying scenario.  When one well respected doctor after another soothingly assured the alarmed fertile public that infertiles don't pull this shit on purpose. 

But now I'm reading a paragraph like this:

Angela Suleman told reporters Friday that doctors implanted far fewer than eight embryos but they multiplied. Experts said this could be possible since Nadya Suleman's system has likely been hyperstimulated for years with fertilization treatments and drugs.

...which leaves me, by no means an expert but certainly an educated layperson, completely flummoxed.  So much for elucidating the process.  And a statement like this:

Nadya Suleman's goal in life was to be a mother, her friends and family said. That is why, even with a brood of six, including 2-year-old twins, she decided to have more embryos transferred in hopes, her mother said Friday, of getting "just one more girl."

...which sets my teeth a-grinding.  (Proof that my miraculous transformation into a kinder, gentler Julie was, alas, temporary: this made me wish all eight had been boys.)  And a passage like this:

The single mother of octuplets born in California last week is seeking $2m (£1.37m) from media interviews and commercial sponsorship to help pay the cost of raising the children.

Nadya Suleman, 33, plans a career as a television childcare expert after it emerged last week that she already had six children before giving birth on Monday. She now has 14 below the age of eight.

Although still confined to an LA hospital bed, she intends to talk to two influential television hosts this week — media mogul Oprah Winfrey, and Diane Sawyer, who presents Good Morning America.

Her family has told agents she needs cash from deals such as nappy sponsorship — she will get through 250 a week in the next few months — and the agents will gauge public reaction to her story.

...which leaves me gasping, for about a thousand obvious reasons, assuming any of it is true. 

Assuming
any of it is true.  There's an awful lot here that doesn't sound right, and I don't know about you, but the grandmother doesn't exactly strike me as the soul of veracity and discretion.  And with that statement, well, I'm off!  As anyone might have predicted, here I am a-judging.  But here's the novel part: I'm not actually judging the mother.  Swear!  No, my deliberate compassion for her is largely still intact, if only because I truly believe she's probably somehow disturbed.  I mean, unemployed, single, living at home, and infertile are some pretty high barriers to extending one's family, so how determined must she be, and why?

Further, although I can't say I know people exactly like her, I can identify with each individual variable in her story, even associate it with a real live person.  We all know someone who's trying to conceive as a single mother by choice, or who's pursued ART even after several other children, or who can't easily afford treatment but manages it somehow, or who transfers too many embryos — i.e., more than we think we would — in a last-ditch effort and, whoa, hey, lookit: four heartbeats.  It inclines me to rather more sympathy than I might have mustered in the past.

But, me being me, I have to judge someone.  So I'll settle for the doctor responsible.  The doctor who transferred at least four embryos into a young woman with five successful previous pregnancies.  (I suppose it is possible that only two were transferred, "but they multiplied"...three...times...each.)  Who either didn't conduct a useful psychological assessment before this cycle, or who did so and missed something major.  (Apparent lack of a functional support system counts, in my opinion, as something fairly major.  Bigmouth wackaloon of a mother, ditto.)  The doctor who's singlehandedly undone years of patient explanation — It's fine, Mom; you don't get sextuplets with IVF — and promoted the popular perception of infertility treatment as the last refuge of the selfish, entitled, and irresponsible. 

Thanks for the help, Doctor Anonymous!

And with that single sentence, I'm starting to think maybe I have evolved somewhat after all.  I thanked him quite politely, and didn't use the words reckless, charlatan, or revocation of license, not even once.

11:04 PM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (182)

02/10/2009

Octuplets. Still. Again.

Nadya Suleman has named the doctor responsible for the conception of her octuplets and, she says, her other children.  (Her mother disputes this, saying that a previous doctor had promised not to perform further procedures on Suleman, requiring her to go elsewhere for treatment.)  Suleman says he's Michael Kamrava of West Coast IVF, whose bio and photo were available as recently as yesterday, but hmmm, have now been removed.

Worst.  Fertility doctor.  Ever.

[O]f the 61 procedures Kamrava conducted in 2006 — the most recent data available — only five resulted in pregnancies and only two of those resulted in births. One of those births was Suleman’s twins.

“These are the worst numbers I’ve ever seen. This is absurdly low,” said Dr. Mark Surrey, another fertility specialist in Beverly Hills.

[...]  His history of poor results comes despite Kamrava placing more embryos per procedure than all but 10 of the nation’s 426 fertility clinics for patients under 35. In 2006, he averaged 3.5 embryos per in vitro fertilization treatment, compared with the national average of 2.3.

A quick search of the boards at IVFC shows that patients were skeptical of Kamrava back in 2006, when he was promoting an embryo transfer technique with "guaranteed implantation."  "It pains me to think how many people flocked to him with the hopes that his treatment was the magical answer," said one poster.  "My RE called this guy a downright charlatan and said he had the worst reputation in the community."

...


In other octuplet news, Suleman has taken an NBC camera crew into the NICU to film her children.  When I heard she planned to do this, I was disgusted.  First of all, they're not performing seals clapping their flippers for a herring, they're sick babies in a hospital.  Second, isn't the current standard of care for preemies to minimize disruption?  I sputtered about it all weekend, and then suddenly I worried if maybe I wasn't being too harsh.  I thought, Wait a minute.  Didn't I post pictures of Charlie here?  Didn't I share his NICU experience?

And then I thought, Wait another minute.  Big difference between a handful of posts on TypePad and a tête-à-tête with Ann Curry.  Many a distinction to be made, one of the starkest being that I had no interest in any kind of payoff, aside from the support of my friends inside the computer.  (Oh, I know the Today show says Suleman isn't being paid for her appearances.  But I find it hard to believe that she was provided no compensation whatsoever.)  Relieved, I returned to the cushioned comfort of my moral high ground and my incoherent sputtering.

But then this morning found me wavering again.  Everything about this situation is crazy, Suleman and her mother included.  Suleman's actions are not those of a rational adult.  (A single example among the thousands she's provided in the last couple of weeks: Suleman said she was confident she'd be able to provide for her children after she finishes school.  I wonder when she thinks she'll have time to continue her studies.  And if she seriously intends to support her family, I wonder why she didn't finish school first, before this latest pregnancy.)  So anytime I've tried to square her actions based on my own personal standards, I've had to step back and remind myself that she is not a normal infertile.

So that softens my attitude a bit, my belief that she's not operating within the same constraints of reality as, you know, most of the human race.  And when I can remember that, I can be a little less appalled. 

A little.  I'm still sickened by the thought of a herd of reporters crashing through a NICU, which is as close to a sacred place as any I've ever known.  But while I might abhor her motives — or what I imagine them to be — for putting her newest children in the spotlight, it seems possible that the result will eventually be better care, whether it be in the form of more money or more human assistance, than her fourteen children might otherwise have gotten.  So I still think inviting a crew into the NICU is disgusting, but I grudgingly acknowledge that some good could theoretically come of it...right?

01:13 PM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (138)

02/13/2009

This just gets better and better

Ben and I have a stomach bug so I'm not up for much in the way of commentary today.  Good thing this shit practically writes itself:

A few months after Dr. Michael Kamrava helped Nadya Suleman become pregnant with octuplets, he transferred at least seven embryos to another patient.

She was in her late 40s and wanted just one baby.

Now she's five months pregnant with quadruplets and hospitalized at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, according to several sources familiar with the situation.

Not so crazy, right?  Most of us probably know someone in her 40s who transferred that many embryos or more.  (I know one who did ten.)

But:

The [ASRM] guidelines allow for the transfer of more embryos in older women. But in this case, the woman was using embryos made from eggs donated by a woman in her late 20s -- which fertility specialists said increased the possibility of a multiple birth.

If I didn't already feel like throwing up...

Thanks to E Beth for the pointer.

01:23 PM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (56)

06/01/2009

Bleeding Kansas

I don't care how incongruous it might seem for me — at last and gratefully a mother — to rage at the murder of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few remaining doctors in the U.S. to perform late-term abortions.  It's not, and I'm doing it.

I am also donating to Medical Students for Choice, which works to secure training opportunities for pro-choice future physicians, and to the local arm of the National Network of Abortion Funds, which raises money to provide assistance directly to women in need seeking care.

I echo the NNAF's statement: "[A]ll women should have the right to decide whether and when to become a mother.  Every woman should have the right to shape her own life and the right to care for herself and her family with dignity."  And no one, no one should be harassed, threatened, hurt, or, my God, killed for assisting women in exercising those rights.

I know — believe me, I know — not everyone who reads this feels as I do.  If you are moved to say so in the comments, please do so respectfully, not for my sake but in acknowledgment that whatever you may feel about abortion or those who facilitate it, a man is dead, has been killed in cold blood, in an act of homegrown terrorism.  And if you do feel as I do, please take action.

09:44 AM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (167)

06/29/2009

Hardcover, I tell you. Full price!

Dear Liza Mundy,

I am a fan.  Let me tell you how big a fan I am: I bought your book in hardcover.  I think it's fantastic — provocative but not gratuitously so, balanced, well researched, and humane.  It's rare to find journalism that raises the essential questions of the ethics of ART without pissing me right off, but in Everything Conceivable you did it beautifully, nimbly avoiding sensationalism and finger-wagging and settling instead on a neutral-to-positive observational tone that recognizes what's at stake for those of us who face those questions on a very personal level.

I'm also a habitual reader of your columns, emitting a gusty sigh of relief every time I see that Slate, in its coverage of reproductive issues, has showcased your thoughtful approach rather than devoting precious, precious pixels to William Saletan (whose full name in this house is pronounced I Fucking Hate William Saletan).

So now that we have my iron-clad fangirl cred out of the way, can I just ask what the hell you were thinking?

I read with interest your column in Sunday's Washington Post magazine.  That is a fancy way of saying "read while trying to keep my eyes from rolling back crazily in my head."  See, I agree passionately with the central point you make, that insurance coverage for fertility treatment would reduce the incidence of high-order multiples.  I just wish you hadn't pegged that argument to Jon and Kate goddamn Gosselin.

Maybe you know this, but maybe you don't, so I'll be blunt: Lots of infertile people loathe the Gosselins.  Oh, sure, we can identify with them to a degree; most of us have had to let financial considerations affect our reproductive decisionmaking in one way or another.  Plenty of us have had to decide whether to proceed with a cycle that could have resulted in a multiple pregnancy, and understand the dilemma they faced at the time.  And although many of us can't relate to their decision to continue their HOM pregnancy, many can, and even applaud them for doing so.

It's everything after, Liza!  The demands that the state of Pennsylvania extend Medicaid nursing care to their sextuplets — at the time a year old and healthy — because "society has a responsibility to help with the children, since modern medicine promotes the use of fertility drugs, which can lead to multiple births."  The soliciting of donations and what some feel has been a marked lack of graciousness when given gifts.  The acceptance of trips, a house, and cosmetic surgical procedures — Hair plugs?  Awesome. — as if it were all no more than their due.  And lest we forget, there's the little matter of the shameful and continuing exploitation of their children.  (Oh, yes, I, mommyblogger, did go there.)

My point is that it made me cringe to see you hold the Gosselins up as an example, even as an example of ART gone awry.  They're a lightning rod both within the ART community and outside it, and I would be sorry to see your cogent argument get lost amid people's feelings about them.  You know — I know you know — that there are far, far more...well, normal people contending with the same basic question the Gosselins faced: What's to be done when the most medically appropriate treatment is out of our financial reach?  And even though the family's travails serve as a useful and timely peg, I wish you hadn't hung your otherwise great reporting on it.

It is, as I know you appreciate, a big damn uphill battle, this insurance coverage thing.  I witnessed that firsthand last week, as part of RESOLVE's Advocacy Day.  I was a volunteer meeting with legislators — okay, fine, legislators' aides — asking them to support the Family Building Act, to require that any insurance plan that offers obstetrical benefits also offer infertility coverage.  I did my very best "to make the long-term benefits clear: fewer high-order multiples, healthier children, less exhausted parents."  Only I left out the part about less exhausted parents, because I think that part of the argument is way weak.  And I added my own flourish about ending up with more pocket cash for my own set of hair plugs.

Kidding.  Kidding!  It's the tummy tuck I'm saving for.

Anyway, one of the most basic principles of persuasion is that you don't introduce a negative.  If you are, for example, asking a polite but uninterested 22-year-old with a purple ball-point pen to convince her boss, a ranking member of the Senate Health and Education Committee, to support the Family Building Act, you don't mention Nadya Suleman unless she does.  (If she does, you create a disturbance — "Look!  Over yonder!  I think I might see an anthrax spore!" — and run.)  It clouds the issue and invites objections.  And God and ART patients know there are already enough of those.

So I guess what I'm saying is that I hope, in future, you won't introduce your own negative, diluting your message, which is a powerful one, with trivia.  I mean, come on: "Would better insurance have saved their marriage?"  Does anyone really care?

Don't get me wrong.  I still think you're pretty thoroughly excellent, and I appreciate your work more than I can say.  I think it can stand on its own, and it deserves to, without the silly trappings.



Love,
And I am not being sarcastic,
Julie

P.S.  Wait a minute.  I am reconsidering.  If invoking Jon and Kate gave you the leeway to be informal, using phrases like "doctors often stuffed lots of embryos into a woman's uterus," you know what?  I approve.  Carry on, Liza.  Carry on.

11:55 AM in Jane, you ignorant slut | Permalink | Comments (31)