NY Times Magazine’s radical infertility politics

Yay for the New York Times Magazine, which just featured a surprisingly thoughtful article on infertility.

“Meet the Twiblings” tells the story of a heterosexual couple’s torturous journey from 6 failed IVF cycles to egg donation and surrogacy. Here’s the kicker: they used two surrogates to carry singletons conceived from a separate egg donor. The babies were born 5 days apart, hence the “twiblings.”

Author Melanie Thernstrom writes articulately about family relationships that are beyond the capacity of the English language to describe:

There is no word to describe the relationship between our children and the carriers’ children, but it feels to me that they are, somehow, related. They are gestational siblings; they don’t share a mother, father or genes, but they were carried in the same body and they learned its fathomless chemical language.

There is also no word to describe our children’s relationship with each other. Our children were born five days apart — a fact that cannot be easily explained. When people press me about their status (“But are they really twins?”), the answer gets long.

To be sure, Thernstrom is far from the first to create a family outside the biological norm. She’s also far from the first to write about it.

Communities of queers, slaves, and institutionalized deaf children, just to name three, have been doing this for as long as these groups have existed. They generally didn’t have boatloads of money to assist the process of family-making or major publications interested in documenting their lives.

But Thernstrom is the first mainstream author I’ve read to make these points in the context of infertility. In light of all the crap circulating out there – just check out Ross Douthat’s infuriatingly glib column of January 2nd – it deserves mention.

On a personal note, the timing was right. We’re about to plunge into IVF #2, and I’m sure that, if it fails, Dr. Stein will recommend genetic embryo testing, and, if the embryos are dunces, gamete donation.

Still, even if money was not an issue, I probably wouldn’t want egg donors and surrogates. Despite everything, part of me still judges them as bizarre and desperate alternatives. Then again, I used to think the same about hormone injections.  Now it amazes me that babies can get made without them.


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