A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
Breaking a few eggs

Let's talk embryos.

On this side, we have Jennalee Ryan. She's in the news because she has become the proprietor of the world's first frozen embryo bank. She recruits women to provide donated eggs; she recruits men for sperm; she puts the two together, and hey, presto! Embryos. Lots of them.

On the other side, we have hordes of infertile women who desperately want children. And there we have the embryos, no fuss, no muss, no bother, just plunk down $2,500 $5,000 for a pair of embryos, have 'em shipped to your RE, prepare your body for an embryo transfer, and gestate happily for eight months.

Of course, it's not quite as simple as that, but still, pretty painless compared to shopping for an egg donor, paying for her cycle and your cycle, and offering a "gratuity" for the ability to use those precious, precious eggs.

Jennalee has applied the Henry Ford principle to the whole process--do it in bulk, divide up the costs amongst multiple customers, amortize those egg donors' costs, and give happy, deserving infertile couples the boon of their lives, a child.

I am in the middle, gaping in horror. And thinking about my objections to this whole enterprise has solidified a few beliefs in my muddled brain.

What's wrong with buying ready-made embryos? asks Julie, over at A Little Pregnant. I sat there staring at the blog entry, trying to figure out what I wanted to say. And thinking. And thinking. Finally, I closed the browser window, continued on with our weekend plans, and kept thinking.

What is wrong with it? Why do I feel much less compunction in a couple doing it all on their own, using advertising and recruitment tactics to find a suitable donor, checking the sperm banks for donor sperm, getting their RE to do the work, than I do in this situation?

Well, for one thing, it's the attitude of the businesswoman in question. She's upset that infertile couples have to "prove they will be good enough" to adopt or to accept a donor embryo from another infertile family who happens to have some leftover. You can "avoid the discomfort of involving the biological parents". You don't have to "sell yourself" to or "kiss the butt" of interested birthparents.

Oh, those messy biological parents. Oh, those messy biological ties. *Poof*, wave a magic technological wand, and whoosh, away on the wind they blow.

So I thought and thought and thought, and realized...it's not about the infertile couples. Sorry, folks, I know it's a helluva bitch when you're in the midst of the IF struggle, but...y'know what? It's not about you. This is about the chiiiillldruuun.


This woman's business is codifying anonymous donation to the max. She's marketing the whole concept of free-and-clear, no bio parents to worry about.

No bio parents for the infertile couple to worry about, that is.

Not a single mention of the kids.

Not one.

In thinking about this, I realized just how very much anonymous donation bothers me. Donation of any type--sperm, eggs, embryos. Because, while it's oh-so-comforting to the people who are going to raise these kids, amazingly enough, the result of all this anonymous manipulation is...a human being.

Gasp! Yes! A real, live human being. Someone with thoughts, dreams, emotions, desires, a personality all their very own.

I'm having visions of teens, filled with normal adolescent angst, finding out through old family files (you didn't go through old family files when you were a teen? I did.) that their parents had bought them from a baby bank. Shades of late-discovery adoptees!

How very easy it would be. Just plunk down $2,500 $5,000--hey, you can put it on a Visa card, y'know! It's so very tempting. Really, truly tempting. (Of course, there's that newborn thang to deal with--I really liked having an almost-toddler much better than I think I'd like having a newborn. Sue me. I'm weird.)

But...what if I were a psychotic creep, or OmegaDad was, or we both were? Hopefully, those pesky homestudies mentioned above would weed us out early on. Where's the oversight here? These are real, live human beings we're talking about. Would you hand your darling child off to a total stranger with absolutely no idea of what they're like?

Just because you're IF doesn't make you a Good Person. Just because you're IF doesn't mean you have a right to a baby. This is entitlement to the max.

I am so close to starting to lobby for a state law requiring all egg and sperm donations be info-release-required.

(Edited to fix a link because I'm so fumble-fingered. Duh. Edited again, because I can't read. Duh.)


posted by Kate @ 1/16/2007 01:22:00 PM  
  • At 1/16/2007 01:59:00 PM, Blogger Space Mom said…

    I read Julie's post this morning and thought. Then did some coding and thought some more.

    I can't come down to why I think it is not a great idea. But I am not happy with it.

    I guess there is this pesky issue of biological information. Eventually, the child will need to know SOMETHING of their medical history.

    But is this any different than a closed adoption?

    I wonder....

    And even with homestudies, I am sure some seedy people get past and can adopt. So, I am not sure that argument holds much weight.

    But yes, deep down, it bothers me. And I cannot logically understand why. So I haven't posted yet on Julie's blog

  • At 1/16/2007 04:16:00 PM, Blogger Julie Pippert said…

    You can't always produce a bio parent, right? Sometimes, you have a child, adopted, as a child, baby or embryo, who is, simply, bereft of biological ties. You just have to work the best you can with that, right?

    If the only acceptable family who become parents---outside of simply reproducing on their own---is to be screened and have ties with the bio family, where does that leave all the rest of the adoptions?

    I also think that, in truth, it IS about me, the IF parent, or the adoptive parent. We are pieces of the puzzle. I think (hope?) you mean that it isn't ALL about us versus it isn't about us at all.

    I'm not sure who is claiming entitlement. I don't see how claiming it's fair enough to get to try to become parents means I think (or this Jennalee person) thinks I have the *right* to be a parent.

    IF patients might pursue this simply because it is more affordable than other options. You hate for money to be the issue but sometimes, it is.

    These women (donors and recipients) have to go through stimulation and retrieval. That's not easy. None of any of this is easy, actually. By golly, after going through it, it costs a lot, emotionally, physically and spiritually. You must REALLY want to be parents. You have to be really motivated.

    It doesn't make you good, per se. Or worthy.

    I agree.

    There never are any guarantees though, either about becoming parents, or being good ones.

    In the end, sometimes, it is complicated. And by this point, when you pursue this, you’re already long and far away from ideal.

    What is your proposed solution?

  • At 1/16/2007 04:17:00 PM, Blogger Julie Pippert said…

    OOOPS! part of my comment was cut. Sorry.

    The beginning is:

    I agree we have to consider a child who will have a natural desire to know his/her origins. Or the possible need to know for medical reasons. Further, we have to respect the bio parent position. Ideally, every person who becomes a parent is “worthy” and can create the best world possible for their children. And if, once parents, they aren’t able to adequately care for their children as per legal requirements, there are processes (flawed though they might be at times) that step in to protect the children.


    It’s not always 100% within our control.

  • At 1/16/2007 07:28:00 PM, Blogger LilySea said…

    I agree 100% about anonymity. I think all donors should be ID release and I think there should be mandatory reporting of offspring born from gamete donation. I have heard that many babies born from a single sperm donor aren't reported to the sperm bank so that in fact, if the bank has a rule that only 20 kids can be born from one donor, for example, there's no way to really keep track.
    What a mess.
    And no, you can't always produce a bio connection. I can't produce a father for my daughter--maybe someday her mother can do it. But that situation should not be planned and accepted in advance.

  • At 1/16/2007 07:55:00 PM, Blogger Kate said…

    Spacemom--Yes, this is different from a closed adoption. At least in closed adoptions, there's a court record somewhere, and a judge can be persuaded (or required by law) to release that information to an adult adoptee. As for homestudies--yes, some seedy people do get past and adopt, but at least you've got some vetting. Some.

    Julie--The difference here is that an assembly-line anonymous donation is deciding--beforehand--that the child will never know. And it's pretty damned easy to keep that a secret from friends and family; after all, mom is pregnant, eh? And it's mighty damned easy to conceal from the child, as well. I'm also not talking the parents raising the child having bio ties with the donors...? Did I misunderstand that? About the "it's not about you"...well. Um. My objections *aren't* about the IF folks looking for children. My objections are that the children who result have been commodified and no-one has said word one about them. There's this idea of children, a dream, but it was rare in my experience of the IF world for the people to think of the children resulting as real, live, adult human beings of their own who might feel very differently. It may be the whole future to the IF folk, but it's the offsprings whole existence, background, history. Ah, well, like I've said before, I drank the Kool-Aid long ago...

    Hi, Lilysea! What you said: "that situation should not planned and accepted in advance". Not just "accepted", but eagerly sought after. There was a certain amount of oh-those-horrible-birthparents in the quotes from Ryan that really rubbed me the wrong way.

  • At 1/16/2007 08:12:00 PM, Blogger MomEtc. said…

    Have you seen the website? You'll be even more mortified. Give a look at the page she has her info for potential birthmoms on. She literally talks about trampling on birthfathers rights like she's talking about a Sunday picnic.

    I think I'll do a post on this.

  • At 1/16/2007 08:14:00 PM, Blogger MomEtc. said…

    Oh, and WTF are her credentials anyway???

  • At 1/16/2007 09:42:00 PM, Blogger Julie Pippert said…

    Hmm well the irony is that when we pursued adoption we selected a form of open adoption. We felt that it was healthiest to have the opportunity for contact among the Aparents, Bparents, and child. We decided this after much research and talking to adult adoptees and bio parents, as well as adoptive parents. We did grow to understand---and it is something that evolves with much contact versus innate understanding IMO---that there are complex POVs to consider.

    We also believe in honesty with our children. Everyone asked, "Will you tell Patience how she came to be? Will you huh huh huh?" as if they had any right to know...okay bitterness aside LOL they asked because they needed to know what to say, or not. "Yes," we said, "We'll tell the truth, in age-appropriate ways."

    When we were pondering what we would do with leftover embryos, if we had any, we would *never,* we knew, just hand them over and say "give them to whoever for whatever." We knew if we adopted them out, we'd want to be sure it was a good family in case a child resulted. We'd want to know the people because to us, a bio tie is a real tie. We did not feel capable of complete abandonment. I understand for some, this is best for them, but it was not for us. As it happened, it was moot so we never had to figure out what to really do.

    So for me, the entire idea of the "donate and run" and "buy an embryo with nothing more beyond that" is unsettling. *I* couldn't do it. I couldn't believe it would be good ethics or morals to do it to a child.

    So I'm in essence, agreeing with your opinion.

    I think my objection lies in some of the principles you use to bolster that opinion, many of which were things I had to fight against when dealing with our pursuit to bring a child into our family.

    Many of those same principles were things I felt ended up being prejudice against our "above and beyond" attempts to become a family of more than just us two. They were things hurtled at us to explain why people thought we were "being un-natural."

    I admit it. My *dream* of a child was far from reality. How I'd be as a parent, how things would be, how I'd feel...it was all imagined because I'd never had the experience, and although I'd seen it, I still had *my* vision.

    So I'm one of those people, I suppose. Since I was imagining it, the "wild card" bit of it was beyond my ken. It all came from my head, so it was all my projection. Yeah, even with my kids now, I still am not real sure how they'll be as a grown-up or what they'll think and feel then. I guess I'll find out.

    Maybe I'm not as evolved or self-actualized as other grown-ups. What can I say. Being a parent and having a child was a concept to me before it was a reality. Once it was a reality, it was a (sometimes rude) awakening (still is).

    In long (ha ha sorry to wax on and on here), I feel the *process* has been commodified, and in a way that I personally do not feel comfortable with, but I do not feel solid taking the next leap to agree that because the process is commodified therefore the children are. I don't see the logical path to that conclucsion, it's more of a leap IMO.

    So what I'm trying to say is that although I know my preferences...I'm claiming them as my preferences versus The Right Way.

    This woman sounds like she's doing a piss poor (okay let's not mince words...unethical) job of it, but that doesn't mean I'd be willing, based on this initial execution of the concept, to outlaw the concept entirely.

  • At 1/17/2007 01:41:00 PM, Blogger Space Mom said…

    Good points.. I am thinking still. This is why my thoughts are not coherent...

    (Omom- can you forward this to MomEtc)?

  • At 1/18/2007 01:03:00 PM, Blogger Miss Cellania said…

    Ethics aside, I don't see how she's going to make any money. There's an organization that helps connect unneeded (spare) frozen embryos with infertile couples. The purpose is to save the embryos. People need not pay for embryos.

    And women do not just "donate" eggs for fun. They do it for someone they know who is desperate for a child, OR for the high dollars they get. So I don't see this business model working.

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About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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