In vitro fertilisation


English: Blastocyst on day 5 after fertilizati...

English: Blastocyst on day 5 after fertilization Courtesy: RWJMS IVF Program (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


It was thirty-four years ago today that the first baby of IVF was born. Inaccurately dubbed a “test-tube baby” (it was really a petri dish but that doesn’t have the catchy ring to it), the little girl known as Louise Joy Brown became the first of the estimated five million children who would follow her.


I clearly recall the news of the day. The wonder and the fearful predictions of a future where babies need no longer be created or born the “natural way”.


However, aside from the lack of intercourse, nothing substantial changed in the way babies were made. Mom’s eggs, Dad’s sperm, fertilization, cell division and a womb to implant and grow in were still basic requirements. Then. And now.


That fall, sitting in Sr. Kay’s freshman religion class, I listened without comment as she railed against little Louise’s existence in defiance of God’s will. Now, of course, I realize that if there is such a thing as G0d’s will, no way would some puny mortal be allowed to circumvent it. At the time I thought only that it strange that Sister didn’t recognize a miracle when it was leaping off the headlines at her. And I also began to suspect that the woman had been drawn to her vocation by something unhealthy in her psyche.


Personally I was a bit sad that my parents, who’d suffered greatly through six fruitless years of trying to conceive, were now too old to give IVF a go themselves but wasn’t it a lucky thing to have been discovered just in case I needed to use it myself one day.


That thought took on no small amount of irony when it proved to be prophetic twenty plus years later.

Today as I was watching the Today Show clip from July of 1978 about Brown and IVF, Dee wandered into the office.


“What’s a test-tube baby?” she asked after listening for a few moments.


“You are,” I told her.


Her face screwed up in that curious non-verbal “what?” she has, and I continued, using the smallest but most accurate wording for a girl who is days away from ten and going to enter grade five come September.


“I see,” she nodded as her forehead wrinkled in thought for a nano-bite of time before lightning struck.


Grade four marks the beginning of sex ed here in Alberta. Dee was already versed in plumbing and menstruation, so little of the curriculum was new to her. She also knows the bare bones of where babies come from minus the actual sex part. I’ve answered truthfully every question she’s ever put to me but not felt it was necessary to explain the exact mechanics. She’s a kid for whom “just enough info” has always sufficed.


Until today.


“So if that is how babies are made if you can’t make them the normal way, what is the normal way?”


Too clever by half. She’s been devious in her meanderings around this topic for a year or so, but having genetically bequeathed  her the clever genes, I have gracefully avoided “going there”.


The look on her face was a mixture of  “Success at last!” and “Oh my god that’s the most disgusting, horrifying thing I have ever heard in my life. Please hand me a scoop for my mind’s eye.”


“Do you have any questions? I asked, pretty sure what the answer would be.


“No,” she said in her “this conversation is over until such time as I have fully digested implications of this most unexpected bit of knowledge”.


Be careful what you ask, Pandora. And Happy Almost 10th birthday.





Oocyte viewed with HMC

Image via Wikipedia

Ten years ago today, I conceived. It’s an odd thing to be able to pin down the conception of one’s child to practically the minute, but on this day all those years ago, the doctor harvested my eggs, the late husband contributed his “sample” and wee daughter’s existence began later that afternoon.

It was a not overly climatic end to a nearly two year oydessey that I would wish on no one.

When at first we had no luck getting pregnant, the doctors suspected that I was “to blame”. A natural assumption given that I was 36 and Will just 26. It’s helped along by the fact that women are nearly always the go-to in the infertility blame department despite the fact that the reasons for infertility problems are split pretty evenly between husband and wife, we women shoulder most of the heavy lifting.

Our issue was him, however, and in an ironic twist, the only medical fix was to put me through the grueling IVF protocol. I was then, and still am a bit, resentful of the fact that most infertility treatments are aimed at the female, whether it’s good for her or not. We could have much more inexpensively opted for artificial insemination using donor sperm. That was my choice because it meant that all I needed to do was monitor my cycle and show for inseminating when I was ovulating. No injections to kill to stop and then start my cycle up again. No egg harvesting. No egg reinsertion. Much less fuss, muss and upset of my hormones and plumbing.

But Will balked and I gave in because I figured that it didn’t matter as long as we got a bundle of joy at the end of it all.

The first IVF failed and I was ready to give up and move on to other options, but Will wasn’t. His family was very anti-adoption, but in that polite way of people who truly believe that it’s a second-rate way to build a family and probably God’s way of de-selecting people who shouldn’t be parents in the first place. But these types are too Christian to say so out loud. They simply make faces and not quite objectionable asides during the course of conversations. I remember mentioning the possibility of adopting to my mother-in-law and the look of distaste on her face made me sorry I hadn’t thought to vet my future in-laws as well as I had my mate.

Not this his need to cow-tow to his family’s prejudice’s at my physical expense was not a sore point.

Being adopted, I found his mother’s white trash horror of it irritating. Even taken the notable dysfunction of my own family into account, I couldn’t see where shared DNA had benefited her or her late husband’s family much at all, but the extended family’s cold reception of adoption was not what put it off the table. What doomed it was the cost, the waiting periods and the fact that there was no better guarantee it would result in a child than medical intervention would.

“Just one my round,” he said. “It’ll work this next time, I know it.”

It wasn’t as though I didn’t believe him, but the IVF protocol wreaked havoc on my system even though the doctors had me on the lowest doses of everything. My hips and inner thighs were solid bruises and the hormone overdose made me feel as though I was coming out of my skin, and even though I lack solid proof – I am certain that one of the medications is the root of knee issues that have just worsened over time.

In the end, I only agreed to try again after extracting a promise from him that if it didn’t work, he would agree to allow me to try insemination with donor sperm.

So on November 11th of 2001, we drove my painfully swollen self up to the hospital and tried again. I was so nervous and apprehension about another failed round that I refused to discuss the possibility that it would work with anyone. Even a week later, sick with hyper ovaries and already a bit green and nauseous, I wouldn’t allow myself to be drawn into any happy baby talk.

It wasn’t until well after he was diagnosed and dying that I ran across information that confirmed the source of his fertility issues was tied to his illness. Our not being able to get pregnant was actually one of the first missed clues on the road to his terminal diagnoses.

Ten-year anniversaries are considered milestones and that’s likely why those long ago days are on my mind a bit today. I am lucky to have wee Dee, who is less “wee” by the day, and to have moved on to a new life, but the old one always lurks a bit and sometimes asks to be remembered and recognized.


* Six more days til the voting for Top Canada Moms Blog contest ends. Needing votes to hang in there, so to speak. Just a click. Nothing more. Thanks.


Oocyte viewed with HMC

Image via Wikipedia

Rob calls me “literal girl” because sometime nuance escapes me. I have often wondered if there had been an Autism spectrum when I was a child if I would have been slotted somewhere along it.

I make assumptions about the virtual people I know based on what they post and where they post it. If we are Facebook acquaintances, and your feed is a healthy mix of the personal and self-promotion, I figure that no question is purely rhetorical even at the crossroads of religion and politics.

Apparently, I am wrong about this. One can shamelessly promote causes and career and still feel that status rants are sacrosanct.

A blogging acquaintance roared a bit about the recent abortion scuffle during the almost shutdown of the U.S. government, which I personally feel has little to do with “life” and everything to do with stripping women of the few rights we still possess, and basically called out those of us who believe that women’s healthcare should number abortion among its many faces.

Why not just admit that abortion is about killing children, she asked. I would respect you more if you would simply own that fact.

I thought about it. And responded.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have. The cheering section that followed her bluster was a clear indication that only those who believed as she did would be actually respected, but I responded.

Why? Because she asked for responses and because she’s wrong. Her position, grounded in motherhood and Christianity, presumes that those who support the ability to choose to abort a pregnancy think the fetus is a child or that life begins at conception or that the unborn have rights that supersede the woman’s before they are viable.

“You know it’s murder,” she responded.

But it’s not, in my opinion.

I don’t believe in any of that Christian nonsense.

Life doesn’t begin at conception. Existence does. And just existing doesn’t mean much. My late husband existed for months in a spastic body with a brain scoured clean of dura matter, taking in nothing, processing nothing and responding to nothing. That’s not life. The embryos left over from our 2nd IVF existed in cryo-storage for over three years before I gave permission for them to be discarded. Frozen potential but also not life.

I know the difference between life and existence. That’s the quibble and we are nowhere near ready to admit it or deal with it as a society.

But I also don’t think life is sacred. We are born and ,if the stars align properly, we live, happily or not so much, depending on a lot of circumstances of which a goodly number are not ours to control, and then we die. That which is me – truly me – continues on. Maybe my self is born again or maybe there is another plane of existence. I don’t know. But this one life, while I like it very much, is just a blip on a vast canvas and given what I have seen, read, watched and experienced in my short life, I have yet to be convinced that anything about physical life as we know it is all that special. We certainly don’t treat it as such on the whole if one excludes the moaning over potential life, which seems to attract far more interest than the real live children who suffer within walking distance of almost all of us every single day.

But the bottom line is that someone else’s religious beliefs shouldn’t carry more weight in the eyes of the law than my own where my internal works are concerned and forcing a woman to give birth (or to risk pregnancy because you don’t believe contraception is moral either) is wrong. Woman are more than potential incubators, which is what the pro-life movement reduces them to – slutty incubators with the maternal instincts of magpies. (And just as an aside, since when does using your vagina for sexual purposes automatically translate into allowing the government jurisdiction over anything that results?*)

And I said so. But that wasn’t, actually, where I messed up even though – according to someone who responded later – I was rude to have replied at all.

No, what I did was tread unwisely into the “why don’t women who don’t want their babies simply give them up for adoption because there are a lot of us out here who can’t have kids who could benefit from this.”

The unspoken companion fairy story spins off into the “win-win” weeds of how everyone gets what they want and a poor unwanted baby is loved and cherished.

I really hate it when it’s assumed that I was unwanted or that my birth mother was little more than a brood mare.

Being adopted, however, I take all sorts of issue with the idea that adoption is a panacea without consequences. There are oodles of studies supporting the fact that even newborns know their birth mothers, and how can anyone think that an infant separated from its mother and carted off by strangers doesn’t know it or that marks aren’t left as a result?

There is also the tip-toed about problem that, at its heart, adoption is a legal transaction that comes uncomfortably close to buying and selling a tiny human being, who will someday be an adult that the law still regards as a child where the adoption is concerned.

And finally, almost no one goes into adoption as a first choice. Unless you are Angelina Jolie, maybe, you likely adopted as a back up plan when biology failed you. There is nothing about this that makes you a bad person, but the disingenuous way many adoptive parents approach this obvious truth is insulting to adopted children. We know the truth. We only think less of you when you won’t admit it.

I am not a puppy. Here are my papers, bundle me up and take me home. Woof.

My birth mother was seventeen, Catholic and it was 1963. She had no choice but to put me up for adoption.

My parents were infertile. If they wanted a family, they had no choice but to adopt.

Kudos to my parents for never pretending I wasn’t adopted or that the reason for it wasn’t the fact that they couldn’t have biological children. It never mattered to me. I knew nothing else. I was torqued, however, when I found out as an adult that not only was I not entitled to contact my birth parents for a health history, but that my dad had torched all the papers the agency had given them that might have helped me find out the information I am entitled to.

Dad took that tongue-lashing with an uncharacteristic meekness, I might add.

What was annoying about the responses I received on my take on adoption (one I think I earn by being an adoptee and therefore knowing something of what I speak) is the consensus that I was “wrong” and “need help”.



“Aren’t you glad that your mother cared enough to give birth to you? Wouldn’t you just hate it had you been aborted?”

What kind of backward logic is that?

Being a fetus, or even an infant, is not something I can recall, so if I had been aborted, how could I possibly know or care about it?

And if I had been and being born was important to me, wouldn’t I have simply been born to someone else? Or what if simply being conceived was all I had to do to complete what assignment this go around had me down for? What if my only task had been to blink into existence and then cease to be in a cellular form. providing my birth mother with the opportunity to have an abortion, which was part of her life’s lesson plan?

Of course, I had a more active curriculum to complete and to help others with this time. Being adopted was part of that though I still feel it is just a slightly harder to justify form of the whole ownership thing we pretend doesn’t exist where our children are concerned anyway.

It’s too bad, I suppose, that abortions have to occur. They are no picnic for the women getting them either, and it’s incorrect to assume why women have abortions by stereotyping them in the same category as those who take established lives.  But life is hard. Choices can be hard, and abortion is one of the hardest and making it harder, or impossible, might make you feel like a good person but it doesn’t solve the issues that bring women to choose it now, does it?

*Ah ha, I hear the righteous squeal, then why do my tax dollars have to pay for STD and PG checks via Planned Parenthood? If you want privacy, take care of your own damn health. To which I reply, good point. And let’s add getting old to that because my tax dollars shouldn’t have to replace a knee or hip you didn’t take care of when you were young because you were too lazy to exercise, right? Or that heart by-pass or the diabetes you developed eating nothing but processed food. Or the cancer you have because you couldn’t suck it up for the hot flashes and took hormones for too long.

And while we are at it, shouldn’t you have to fund your own retirement? It’s not my problem you thought your house was an ATM or that your children need five star summer vacations, is it?

There are a lot of things that tax dollars cover. Bank bailouts. Sketchy military actions. Corporate welfare. The list of waste is long and shifts depending on your politics, faith system and socio-economic status.

Lighten up.