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Tuesday, September 11. 2007
"Parenthood at any price:" The Infertility Industry
Cheryl Miller reviews Liza Mundy's Everything Conceivable, an expose of the infertility industry, in The New Atlantis.
Mundy's apparently emotional book, and Miller's review, provide a good example of how medical technology stretches our assumptions about how life is meant to be. Some people are venturing into strange territory indeed. I find it all creepy, and it seems to present all sorts of conundrums to my libertarian, religious, and conservative self (selves?) - not to mention to my plain common sense. A quote:
Posted by The Barrister in Medical at 13:51 | Comments (15) | Trackbacks (0)
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Eugenics Gone Wild
I was hoping by now some of our female MF'ers would have commented on this very illuminating but confusing article. Is that sexist or what? Yeah guilty I guess but onward, what say you?
For me simply reading the article was as you said, creepy.
If almost anyone starts a conversation on eugenics it usually raises a howl, but that is what all of this "designer baby", "pick the color and IQ" is really all about.
Truly it's gameshow material.
"Ok , I'll take blue eyed males with high intelligence for $500"
"What is a doctor in the family?"
Creepy. Then the reality and sadness ebb as you realize the child so cleverly conceived will no doubt essentially be raised by a stranger or the state.
The mother and father, or father and father, or mother and mother go off to work leaving the child in the "loving "embrace" of a "highly qualified" paycheck earner.
Then mom and dad, or etc, come home tired, play with their child and go to bed, and it becomes Groundhog Day from then until pre-pre-grade school, which is a godsend for the parents because the "wage nanny" is gone and now their tax dollars are really giving them an ROI. Forever thereafter the school is "in loco parnentii" The parents of course are outraged when the child can't stay out of the deans office but it's just like all their friends so what the hell....
In 1965 when Daniel Patrick Monyihan wrote his work on the state of the black family and the nation he warned that the 13% illegitimacy rate was a harbinger of very bad things. Of course it's much higher in all races now and it is a calamity.
But who will write the report on "Eugenics Gone Wild?"
" I'll take "This is F'd Up for $1000"
Good article. Will read the book. Hard to discuss without angering somebody, but when has that ever daunted us fearless MFers? Habu, agree with your comments.
I love my children more than anything. I feel blessed to have had a pack of my own biological children, and to be raising them (quaint, isn't it?!) with their father, to whom I am still married despite daily antics that mimic Punch and Judy. I fall squarely in the social conservative camp.
But when I was approaching 30 and still unmarried I agonized about children, and the lack of them in my life (it was the era when people said a woman of 30 had more chance of getting killed by a terrorist than getting married). I wondered to myself if I should become a single parent. I wondered if I should let myself get pregnant, or go the donor route, or adopt a kid.
I remember vividly one evening looking at my beloved dog and cat, both adopted from the pound, and realizing that since I was unmarried, any child I raised would automatically have a less than ideal upbringing without a father. But that there are many children already in this world without even one loving parent, whose lives would be better being adopted by an educated, loving, stable person with a steady job who would cherish them and do their best by them. But that it would be immoral to deliberately bring a child into the world without a father. Better a single mother than no parents, but definitely not good enough to justify getting pregnant if I were not married. I started looking out for "unadoptable" sibling groups from the agency where I worked (most people want only one baby they can mold, or a "cute" kid). There are thousands upon thousands of them. Languishing in group homes and foster care, of every ethnic group...
In any case, God had other plans for me. Unexpectedly I found someone, got married, had a pack of puppies in rapid succession and have been wearing myself to a frazzle caring for them ever since. I may still adopt a bunch of kids who can't find a home when my biological kids are launched, but for now I am completely occupied.
And these are the boring, old fashioned, everyday conclusions my life these 20 years has taught me about kids:
It isn't how you get pregnant or how your labor and delivery go that show what kind of parent you are, but how you look after your kids day in day out. The best mother I know is a homeschooler who rescued two adorable boys with special needs from one of those East European hellhole orphanages.
I know another mother who went thru infertility horrors and immediately went back to work once the twins were born. But who considers herself a real mother, and the adoptive one not real. Any cat can have kittens. Go figure...
I know other women who crank out baby after baby, breastfeed them, are good "animal" mothers, but who completely lose interest and turn them over to the help past two.
One thing's for sure, the father is irreplaceable. In our family, the main role for the male until the kids were weaned at 2 or 2.5 years old was not so much as a direct parent (my spouse tended to view the offspring with affection but tended to defer to my maternal expertise, and was thrilled that breastfeeding meant he never had to get up in the night for fractious babies) but as a support to the mother. But really needed and appreciated. I can honestly say that I was partly a good mother of infants and toddlers because nursing hormones made me so (the real reason to avoid formula, apart from expense and nutritional inferiority), but also because my spouse protected, encouraged me, and earned a living so I could dedicate myself 24/7 to our children. Our kids had an idyllic life at home with me and in the neighborhood and at church until they went off to kindergarten, and it was made possible by masculine protection and care. Nothing sexist about it. A sensible division of labor. I had better grades, had a career also, but I had better aptitude for childrearing, was happier doing it, and will always be grateful to my spouse for making it possible to give our kids a loving beginning in the world.
I agree that a singular lack in the literature on infertility and "new families" is discussion of the real interests of the children. Of course, most people (at least most women) long to be parents. Most men I know were surprised by their feelings for their kids. Some of my coworkers are now as sentimental and involved in the most mundane details of their kids' lives as the moms, but they admit now that they never would have thought it would happen to them. But just because we want children, doesn't always mean we can give them what they need.
I think it cruel to bring a child into the world without a father. We have family acquaintances who are a lesbian couple, devoted parents, professionals, etc. but the kid misses out without a dad in the house. Plenty of love, attention, discipline, good education, etc. but the male-female point, counterpoint (remember the old Saturday Night Livee, "Jane, you ignorant slut...") is lacking.
I admire the gutsy women I know who are single parents inadvertently (spouse dies, or strays and abandons the family), and how well many of their kids turn out anyway. I believe that churches often do a great deal to provide these families a haven, and parental backup to the harried mom. But it is still less than ideal, and nobody should choose it. It's like starting out on a hike with just one boot.
When I had two colicky infants in a row, my spouse could hold the screaming one for 15 minutes so I could have a shower and catch my breath, could clean up the projectile vomiting, could go out to the store and bring me back a pint of ice cream to soothe my frazzled nerves, could reassure me that I was a good mother, could make a joke about the squinty watermelon turning the household upside down. When I had to carry a screaming two and a half year old out of church, I had a spouse to give the evil eye back to the old biddies at our old, nasty church who did not understand why I didn't just pop the brat one....When one kid was diagnosed with a disability that will likely mean caring for same kid the rest of their life, I had a partner to weep with and gird myself with, and to make plans to endure and make the best of it and do right by the kid with....When I have a pack of insufferably entitled teenagers making demands of me, I have a spouse who reminds me of the Nature film we watched when pregnant with the first one: it showed a pair of birds of prey (peregrine falcons, don't remember?!) who were caring for their nestlings. When smaller, the parents spelled each other keeping the baby birds warm and bringing them things and it was a nice equilibrium. As the birds got larger and larger they got more demanding, until both parents were absolutely exhausted bringing more and more food to critters almost as big as they were....the point is, those baby birds needed both parents....
I know that I have been a dreadful spouse these nearly twenty years, but I also know that I have been a better parent because I am married to my children's father than I ever would have been on my own. Maybe just my own deficiencies? I am sure plenty of women do better on their own than I do, with my comparatively cushy life....
One last thought about parenting: we are all rank amateurs, and unfortunately, just when you get good at it, the offspring have advanced to the stage of demanding a quarter of a million for college FAR, FAR AWAY....I am better at parenting than all my past academics, and work, but I am still crummy at it. I am no super parent (where I live, the trophy wives push and protect and pamper their brats to justify their own lives of idleness and tennis and lunch while brats are in school) as I have to work to keep them fed, etc.
But my bias is mothers should breastfeed infants til aged two, stay home til kids are in full time school, and compromise on their own careers so as to have the time and energy to play with kids after school, and get them to their friends and activities after school. At a minimum, stay home the first two years.
If you can't (or rather, if the mother can't) make a full time commiitment to parenting for the first years, I'd say don't have your own biological children. If you are dead set on the female having a career, go ahead and adopt. To a kid in a group home, even day care and an exhausted working mommy at the end of the day is better than a tenement with four kids to a room in bunk beds in Queens. You don't have to spend thousands and go to RUssia or China to buy a baby. Americans carelessly and selfishly produce more than enough "unwanted" children desperate for parental love. Of course, you will have to negotiate the bureaucratic maze and deal with some loathsome social workers and deal with some tricky cross cultural issues most likely....but if you want to be a parent, it's possible.
These are hasty thoughts. Day care and a single parent are better than life in a child welfare agency, but they are not half as good for a kid as life with two married parents of the opposite sex.
Truly wonderful R. Your children will reward you with love and respect, for the maternal bonding you provided does that.
I have a sister in law who did the IVF. Had two children but because of her business success and her husbands business success the first five VERY important formative years were all influence by the paycheck nanny. No matter how good she might have been at "things" she wasn't the mother and could not provide the important things you provided your children.
Her kids are now 9 (twins, 1 boy, 1 girl) and are confused on the way to being screwed up. Smart but screwed up. You can't get back those important first five years. I have great empathy for her but my wife and I ask each other...why did she have kids...at 40!
Why women nurse beyond 6 months to a year:
They seek to nurture themselves.
They require validation and that is why they had a child.
They have been ignored or abused as children.
They crave attention.
They cannot DO anything BUT portray themselves as nurturing mothers.
They are lazy.
They get their sexual kicks out of it.
And what is your issue, Dr S? Who cares why a woman nurses her kids a long time, so long as she does? Better to do the right thing for the wrong reasons...Nature has a way! Or do you apply your insulting generalizations to the majority of mothers throughout human history?! What a lot of head cases!!
Do you work for Nestle? Or are you a narcissistic husband devastated by his wife's temporarily putting your child ahead of you?
There are some good reasons for not breastfeeding to protect the child [and if you can't put your baby's interests ahead of your own, you should not become a mother]: : insufficient milk [extremely rare in our overnourished society-women who say they don't have enough milk have just not
learned to adjust their lives to accommodate a nursing infant.or are under intolerable outside stress. If the mother has a communicable disease or is on meds that would harm the baby, formula after initial breastfeeding [antibodies etc in colostrum] may be better. If the mother is pregnant and not gaining weight, yes, wean the older baby.
Breastfeeding past a year hurts noone except perhaps those who want
their female workers to work as if they didn't have a family. Any nursing mother knows that by a year, nursing is primarily about comfort and quiet one on one time with a beloved infant. They drink from a cup and eat as well by then.
Why are you so threatened by a mother's continued intimacy past the age of six months with her toddler? She is not a sicko for cherishing those precious two or three years. Last I heard, my fellow nursing mothers agreed that nursing feels good, but watching the confidence and healthy development of our children feels better, and certainly is no substitute for the lusty husbands we conceived these babies with. Most of us do not bare breasts in public or draw attention to ourselves or want a medal for it. Most of us just believe that mother's milk is best for growing humans, and cow's milk for growing calves.
I chose to be a stay-at-home mother and nursed my child who couldn't take a bottle even occasionally for some reason. Would have nursed a few months longer but for the pressure by others. No sexual kicks involved, thank you very much. That's a pretty sick thing to say about women who nurse for a species NORMAL amount of time and not the baby formula $ and fashion modern American short or no time.
Child was very healthy, coordinated, curious, secure, had straight teeth. Grew up to paint a beautiful (nude) Madonna and child, gets along and bonds well with others, has a great appetite for life, isn't focused on her breast size as many insecure girls are or use them to attract men (not being a big C or D she gets away with being a liberal unbuttoner and her clothes hang well), and plans to nurse her children one day and be mostly home with them, home-school, etc.
I attribute all of this to me and my mammaries :)
*Not really*, but who cares? Let people be, esp. those who would give their infants and toddlers some excellent nutrition and bonding. Nursing for several years is pushing it in our culture, tho'. Maybe those kids turn out just fine or better, wouldn't have any idea.
When mine was five months old I had to take a cross-country flight with baby whose ears were hurting by the air pressure changes. The only way to relieve her pain and to stop the caterwauling was to nurse her for most of the flight. I was seated next to a nice, conservative-looking businessman and will never forget how he pretended not to notice the accidental "sightings" and slurping sounds from my noisy eater. He even discreetly shielded us from others when the situation called for it- with his WSJ, I believe. He was a darling good guy and gave me some great stock tips!
First line should read "nursed my child for a year"- the whole point of the unnecessary comment, but for the Spork crude characterizations
Enjoyed your reminiscences mc and mm! And, of course,how the little darlings turn out cannot be attributed to our nursing. It isn't all about us!
In our house, we know that we parents are to blame for any failures and the kids and good genes get credit for any successes. Parenting techniques chiefly impact the self esteem of the parent. We all need to feel we did the best we could. So DR S is crude and unkind and clearly understands little about the needs of babies [my kids would never take a bottle ever] but correct that sometimes nursing is about needs of the mother. But Dr S is ass backwards about what kind of needs most nursing mothers are meeting. It's about "am I doing right by this beloved gift from God?" much more than "how do I look?"
Finally, some comments on this interesting piece. Re Dr. Spork's comment: I was nursed by my Mom until I got married at 32, and my wife has been nursing me since then. And I turned out well, did I not?
Sure way to get weaned, ask your maw to wear that pretty red dress next feeding.
Well, yes, you did, the B, and you're always abreast the latest in developing news and thinking.
That said, might I retract my commentary here- takes up space and was wholly unnecessary and uninvited. Retriever said it all quite well, anyway. Hope it keeps going well for you and the kids, R!
"It's about "am I doing right by this beloved gift from God?..."
What is the 'beloved gift' - the big titties or the baby?
I thought babies came from storks. Must be my bodacious tatas..that's it.
Thanks anyway, your Lordship. And thanks for the hooters.
Obviously, the baby is the gift. And any adult knows that big breasts are not necessary for breastfeeding, just a fantasy staple for males forever stuck in middle school lust from afar [I wonder how often a person who describes women like that actually spends w a real live love interest besides themselves]
"... spends w a real live love interest besides themselves."
What does this mean, please? I mean, like, are you like sayin' as opposed to a real dead love interest? ew!