Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fresh Eggs, Ten Grand a Dozen

I saw this link on CNN, and it raised some mixed feelings.

I considered selling my eggs, once upon a time. I was fairly desperate for money (trying to get out of a relationship with The Horror) and my buddy W. was constantly going on and on about selling sperm being a terrific part time job. Yes, he said job. He's a darling, but sick in the head.

Unlike the women in this article, I didn't even pretend that it was about Helping People Achieve Their Dreams. I was looking for five thousand dollars. The procedure for the donor involves pain, being so overloaded with hormones that PMS looks like a frolic through a Disney cartoon, and a remote chance of damage to one's own reproductive organs. Five thousand dollars seemed about right.

Now I'm on the job hunt again, only this time I've got a six month old boy. The stakes are higher all the way around. The economy is a mess, and I'm even more of a specialized employee than I was the last time I was looking for work. But I'm much less picky this time around. My son is going to have everything. I don't know how to explain it, because I don't mean "every toy he ever wants" or "every whim indulged," and god knows I don't mean "social success and popularity" because I'm the last person on earth who can show him those tricks. But I want him to have everything, just the same. And being underemployed after two relocations in one calendar year is not a good start.

The stakes are higher in the egg business, too. I am now in possession of proven, defect-free fertility, in an age where diagnosed infertility is on the rise. Fees don't top out at five grand, they top out at ten grand. And although I spent the first six weeks of his life wondering what the hell I'd done to my life, I now look at this sweet boy industriously chomping on his own fat toes and think, my god, what would I be without him? Selling eggs (my rose colored vision does not extend as far as pretending that I'd donate the eggs and be paid for my time) doesn't seem so horrible.

Well, except that I think it is.

I suspect infertility is on the rise because the first generation of people conceived with technological assistance is breeding. Well, trying to breed, and failing, because Darwin and Mother Nature are not flouted with impunity. Evolution does not care about dreams and desire. Either you can pass on your genes (the entire purpose of reproduction), or you can't. The ones who can't die out. Period. Compassion, wishful thinking, and technology postpone the inevitable.

The discussion on this topic invariably gets watered down by a lot of soft hearted people waving wallet sized photos of adorable urchins, accompanied by the shrill cries of "You're saying THIS BABY doesn't deserve to exist!" Um... no. The argument has nothing to do with particular babies, with chuckable chins and dimpled knees. My heart can break for someone who wants a baby at the same time that my head understands why it shouldn't happen.

Of course I know about wanting a baby. It took months to succeed at creating my own particular baby, and I spent those months wondering if there was something wrong. That wondering shook me at a fundamental level. The fear of being defective, broken, an evolutionary dead end is something you cannot possibly understand until you experience it, but let me assure you the fear is total. My husband and I agreed before we started that, should we be unable to conceive naturally, we would accept the judgment of evolution and not fight it. I believe this was the only rational option, and yet there were nights where I thought surely it wouldn't hurt to get some tests done. Identifying the problem wasn't the same thing as using extraordinary means to solve the problem, right? I was well on my way to total rationalization when we found out our son was on the way. Oh, I understand the temptation of seeking treatment all too well.

Despite the question of infertility looming large in my mind, I don't think the answer is to create life in a lab, not yet. We don't know enough about the all the variables, why some embryos live and others die. We don't know why some women bear children as easily as a Pez dispenser pops out candy and others die trying. All we've succeeded in doing is pushing off the reproductive defects onto the next generation, and in so doing, we've done harm to our species.

If I were to sell my eggs for ten grand a dozen, I would be contributing to the problem. I'm an organ donor, says so on my driver's license, but this isn't the same thing. And I think paying ten thousand dollars for eggs (and fifty bucks for sperm) is an ethical disaster. It seems to me reproductive donation should be more like kidney donation if it must be done at all - the donor should be known to the recipient, and there should be no money changing hands at all.

Bearing a child is not a right, and fertility is not a matter of justice.


RainyPM said...

Great post Sanya. You've given me a lot to think about.

I found out I was pregnant with my second child a week before my appointment at the fertility clinic was scheduled.

Even if I'd found out I have fertility problems, my mom didn't have trouble conceiving me, same with my husband's mother. I would definitely still get checked out, and take medical steps towards having a baby.

I might change my mind if there were results from a medical study showing an obvious correlation between children conceived with a little "help" and their own fertility.

While I think your points are interesting, I think fertility treatments are appropriate for many people.

Lahdeedah said...

I see the biological reasoning behind your argument.

I see the compassionate reason, too.

I see the points of those who decide to adopt, and I've met a woman who's been through hell only to find out all the technology in the world won't help her conceive.

In a world where children are born into poverty and misery every day, it is the Western World that women go through every means possible to pass on their genes... and isn't that biological too, on a fundamental level?

The desire to procreate isn't compassionately broad to identify 'within the species.' It's individual. We were (biologically) bred to pass on our particular genes.

Technology only makes it a bit easier.

I don't know where I fall on the spectrum, though, biologically, I agree.

Boliath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Boliath said...

(Resposted without typos)

I fear your argument could be taken to a dangerous level.

Consider this scenario: A person had a genetic disease or defect. The treatment for this has made them sterile. Should they be helped to have children because they could pass their condition along? Why bother using modern research and technology to assist them in fighting the condition in the first place? Let them die out so we have one less imperfect member of the species? I am not being facetious; your post does go there.

On the issue of infertility itself, I don’t believe you do understand the pain of infertility after only a few months trying to conceive your son. While I accept you may have touched the surface of that pain, there are people out there who have delved deep into its depths and shared that experience with us over many years. Your casual dismissal of their profound struggle bothers me immensely.

Infertility has not struck just those who were themselves born assisted by technology, it has affected women and men born to all races, creeds, health status, upbringing, ages and shapes, even those in possession of proven fertility have experienced secondary infertility in trying to conceive another child. Infertility, (primary and secondary and all the other kinds and flavors) is on the rise for many reasons, environmental toxins and older parents are just two factors that jump to my mind. There are many others but I do not pretend to be an expert.

I do have close friends and family who have struggled to conceive, wishing to understand better how to help, understand and support them as they wrestled with physical obstacles and emotional trauma, I started to read infertility blogs. I have learned so much from so many about life, love, tragedy, death and birth. I suggest you research this painful subject more before you pass judgment.

Sanya said...

I see your point, B, but almost any argument when overstretched loses its value, let alone this one. For instance, one could argue that because horrible things happen to people in prison, and indeed, many a minor criminal has emerged from prison not one bit improved but in fact a worse criminal, then NO ONE should go to prison.

Nonsense. And stretching my point into some dreadful exercise in eugenics doesn't make it less valid. Ours is the only species that intentionally rewards defective (in that they cannot be reproduced) genes. If the labs and drugs and tests and everything else went up in a puff of smoke, then we wouldn't be talking about how having children is a right.

I don't think anyone needs to suffer for years to understand fear. I would not claim to know how someone feels after years of yearning, but to say that I dismiss that pain means I did not communicate very well in my essay what months of fear did - that is to say it almost made me override my own ethical decision. Suffice it to say that I did a great deal of research and reading.

But in the end that research, reading, and soul searching brought me to the place of writing this blog entry. It just happens to be a different place than your reading brought you.

It also happens to be a different place than my own cobloggers :)

Thank you for your civil tone and contribution.