By Lisa Regula Meyer
It’s a crazy world, that of IVF. It’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, and it does one heck of a job on your body, not to mention the toll it takes on your mental and emotional health. But it’s a useful means to a great end- that of building a family. Friends of mine are taking up the IVF journey soon, and are figuring out how much they have to learn. The process of becoming a family could be really easy for them, two women with a known donor chosen and agreed to the process, but they want to go the extra step to involve both moms- one as egg donor, one as egg recipient. They’ve recently passed the first hurdle in this whole process, getting one of them a job in a company that provides domestic partner benefits to same sex couples. I’ve been assigned the role of “surrogate worry-wart” in winding their way through this maze, in an effort to let them relax a bit.
Another of my friends are finally pregnant after years of intermittently trying (when they had funds available) while fostering children in hopes of the chance to foster-to-adopt. Still others finally had a surrogate give birth to beautiful little boy. Another is recently pregnant with an unexpected (and unwanted) sixth child, one recently lost a pregnancy at 11 weeks, and one is dealing with pre-eclampsia and an early birth. Lots of babies happening around here.
In biology, I teach my students about the seven classic requirements for an organism to be considered alive:
- Response to stimuli
Most of these are really automatic for humans, we maintain our body temperature and water balance without thinking about it, except when something goes wrong. It’s the same with our cellular organization, use of energy to fuel body processes, increasing our size (we’re maybe a little too good at that now, says my belly pudge), and so on. But that last characteristic- reproduction- can cause enough headache to make up for all the easy parts of being a living organism.
In the larger sense, family building is also the thing that makes all the rest of it worth doing. We’ll put ourselves on diets, through hormone therapies, have surgeries, and try to give and respond all the right signals to bring the next generation about. It’s really quite impressive, that desire for a family.
Obviously, “family” means something a little different to humans than it does to, say, a slug, even if our own family may have members that more resemble a slug than a human some days. But the drive is still there to have others like you in the world, either by choice or by blood, and to have that opportunity to influence the future of the world in some minor way. That influence on the world is one way of making ourselves “live” a little longer, and maybe be immortal in a sense, and it’s an extremely fulfilling endeavor in and of itself. Given all that, is it any wonder we go through so much to create a family?
A given all the hurdles that couples or individuals have to face on the road to parenthood already, why on earth would we want to make it harder for families to be created and supported, through the means that most fit their needs. We don’t tell groups of people that they can not grow past five feet tall, and enact legislation to prevent them from growing to that height. None of the other traits are subject to such regulations as making a family. How about we stop acting like there’s a good reason to do so?