Tuesday, April 10, 2007

walk a day in my shoes

I turned on our local public radio station yesterday morning - and caught the last 5 minutes of this episode. I was disappointed that I missed the show - the RE on the show is actually my doctor. So I went to the website and listed to the replay. Ooh, it made me so mad, I was actually awake for several hours in the night thinking about it. I wish I had heard it live, because I definitely would have called and given that guy a piece of my mind.

This whole 'designer babies' thing is - in my opinion - total bullshit. People who think that this is what is happening are out of their minds - the don't have a clue what is really going on. They don't have a clue what it feels like to be faced with these decisions. Ok - maybe there is a very tiny percentage of people who are using ART to 'design' their baby. But the vast, vast majority of people who are using these technologies are doing so only because they desperately want to have a child. And people who are choosing to use donor sperm or eggs are generally doing so only because they have exhausted every other means possible to have a child that is genetically theirs. For many people, this is a last resort.

When you are faced with a diagnosis of not being able to have your own genetic child - it is devastating. When you have dreamed for years of having a little child that has your eyes or your smile. Or your husband's hands or his nose. Or maybe your musical talent, or your love of math. And looking at those family photos and seeing the resemblance in your family. Having to give up on this dream is heartbreaking. There simply aren't words to explain what this feels like - only people who are facing this can understand how it feels.

So when you do have to deal with this - and your option for being pregnant and carrying a child is to use donor eggs or donor sperm - then what the heck is wrong with getting to at least choose some of the characteristics of the genes you are getting? What is wrong with wanting to at least choose sperm or eggs from a person who has some similar features as you do - the same color hair or eyes, or even the same IQ?

In reality - this is what we do when we choose a mate. We develop attractions to people partially due to an evaluation of what kind of person we would want to reproduce with. That is part of what is built into humans since the beginning of time - an unconcious evaluation of their physical and mental characteristics and whether we would want those characteristics in our future children. We are attracted to a body type, a hair color, a skin color, and even a level of intellect or income at least partially based on a decision of whether we would want to mate with a person of those characteristics - would we want those things in our children. It may not be a concious choice - but it's there, it's built into our DNA since the days of the caveman.

So what is wrong with consciously evaluating those same characteristics in the alternate genetic material we will use to produce our children, when we can't use our own genetic material?

I didn't choose to use my sister's eggs because she is thinner than me, or has prettier eyes, or better sense of style. I would have given my right arm to have a child that was mine but had my weight issues, or my freckles or my lame fashion sense. But that was not an option for me. If I hadn't had a sister willing to give me this gift - I would have been left with choosing an anonymous donor. And in that process I would have been given a book of potential donors to choose from (as my clinic does have a donor egg program), and I would have chosen one that was close to my height and coloring, or potentially other characteristics that would make the child as close of a resemblance to me as possible. Of course in the end I would have taken any baby - even if it looked nothing like me. I would have taken any healthy eggs. I would have gladly adopted a child of a completely different race if that was my best option for becoming a parent. But if given the choice - what's wrong with choosing one that's like me?

It just makes me furious when people assume that people making these choices are doing so because they want to 'design' a 'perfect' baby.

I'd like this guy to try walking a day in the shoes of someone who has been told that they will never have a child of their own.


My Reality said...

I wish that the media didn't portray things like this with that kind of spin. It makes it hard for those of us that just want a baby and will see any child as perfect, no matter what colour hair or eyes they have.

ava said...

This is a great post...I think you should send an email or letter to the radio station saying pretty much what you said here. It's so stupid for the media to portray it that way, and yet very typical, because we all know that people are much more interested in hearing something outrageous so that they can shake their heads at what other people are doing, never mind if it's even true or not. It's a lot less "wacky" to hear a story about the realities and challenges and sometimes miracles of infertility...

Jaimie said...

Well said!

Foreverhopeful said...

Wow.. I loved this post and wish that those clueless fertiles would truly try to walk a day in our shoes before they make any assumptions and judgements. People just have no idea... and its sad what media can do and how wrong they potray things.

Beagle said...

Great post!

Sadly, the radio show likely has more listeners than you have readers. This sort of crappy biased media protrayal is what gives ART such a bad rap.

Very annoying!

Nickie said...

Yeah! What you said!

The vast majority of ppl using donor eggs/sperm/embryos are not doing it out of choice, but b/c they have no better choice.

Hopeful Mother said...

I'd guess that "reality" is not sensational enough for them... it's much more "interesting" to pose a position that will polarize the readers.

Like you said, walk a day in the shoes of an IF and it would NEVER be portrayed this way. It's a shame.