Adventures in making and raising our test-tube babies

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Silence is Golden, and Duct Tape is Silver

I owe this title to the daughter of a friend of mine. My friend is, well, loquacious. And her pre-teen daughter is clever, and she is not above duct taping her mom's mouth shut.

So this brings me to a thought I've had recently: to blog or not to blog. Also could be put: to blab or to shut up. As always, I choose to blab, but not without thinking about it.

It used to be that adoption was a very secret thing. Many decades ago, my grandfather's law office once handled an adoption of one woman's baby, by the woman's sister. Neither sister knew about this. That is, Sister 1 didn't tell anyone she was having a baby and giving it up for adoption, and Sister 2 didn't tell anyone she was adopting. So even the sisters didn't know that the baby was staying in the family. Obviously the need to transfer care of a human is really distressing to all involved, but wouldn't the sisters have found some comfort in knowing the baby was (still) biological family?

Once on TV I saw a show that mentioned that infertility used to be so taboo that people wouldn't admit to it. Women who planned to adopt prepared the way for their new baby socially by putting pillows in their clothes until the baby showed up.

And though I think that talking is usually better than not talking, I can appreciate the problems that stem from telling people your business. A recent commentator on the Adoption post really touched me. She said that she had been adopted, and that bullies had taunted her about it on the playground. They told her that her biological parents had thrown her away. It broke my heart to hear that. Better to keep a secret, no?

Of course, there are good reasons to tell people that you're adopting, and to tell children that they're adopted. The adopting parents need support. The kid's family medical history will come from a different set of people than the ones who raise them. And that's not to mention all the various questions about identity, transparency, ethnicity, etc. that might also come up.

Now apply this to children conceived through Artificial Reproductive Technology. Assuming both the egg and the sperm come from the same parents who will be raising the children: then what? Do you tell the children they were Test Tube Babies? Do you alert them to watch for physical anomalies that they'll discover some day were due to certain fertility procedures? (Not that we know of any, but this is a new technology and there aren't any IVF babies over 40). And maybe more importantly, what will the bullies say about them on the playground?

I had never thought about this. Or rather, I thought what my chiropractor told me: that her daughter's baby book was better than other baby books because she had pictures of her little girl when she was just a few cells. Wow! Neato.

But are our babies going to be teased? Are they going to be treated differently? Because if we conceive and bear children, the World Knows now that it's from IVF.

James told me the other day that he loves this blog, and appreciates my need to get things out into the world. But overall he is reluctant to tell people that we're doing IVF, because he doesn't want our babies to be labeled as "different" once they're born. He thinks that their conceptions are their own, and nobody else's business. I can get behind that. He thinks back to how strange "Test Tube Babies" sounded when we were growing up. How space age. How alien.

It's true that by the time we have children running around school playgrounds, they will be in very good company. The scads of twins and triplets they'll be going to school with are just the obvious ones. The "singletons" (that's a single baby) will look just like everybody else. What will they think of it all? What will the mean people think? Does it matter?

Will people be mean to them?

I'm writing this blog to help me process all the things that I'm going through. It is also to teach people about infertility -- precisely because it hasn't been talked about much before.

So how will this impact our children?



Anonymous said...

This is a good blog entry. I had never considered the possibility of any sort of "stigma" being attached to a child conceived through IVF. I think though that in today's society there is so much variability that nearly everyone could say "what if my kid is teased for this". There are inter-racial children, children born to same sex parents, children in a single parent home, internationally adopted children, etc. Ultimately what matters the most is that your kids will have a happy home with two loving parents.


bzh said...

Oh, so many thoughts.

First... Please don't misunderstand. The schoolyard bullies didn't injure me with their comments. My parents' handling of the "adoption issue" for both me and my brother** -- like sending out "I was selected, not expected" birth announcements, and telling me stories from birth and throughout my childhood about the wonderful woman who had loved me enough to place me in a better situation than she could give to me -- was so warm and life-affirming, that nothing anyone ever threw at me stuck. Really. I never went home crying. I never doubted my place in the world. In fact, I thought it was cool to be different. What kid does that?

I'm a firm believer in honesty with kids. Because honesty never hurts at first as much as dishonesty hurts later.

I can't imagine a kid having any trouble with having been conceived by in vitro if it's just a part of her story from the very beginning. I can, however, see a child having trouble with having been conceived by in vitro if even her parents thought it was something to be hidden away.

I know people who found out in adulthood that they were adopted. They're among the most distrustful people I know. They can't sustain relationships because they can't form bonds. It's a sad, sad thing.

Children are remarkably resilient. They fall in love with the people who care for them, love them, give them comfort and help them feel secure when they're afraid. Whether that comes in the form of two mommies, or grandparents, or adoptive parents or people who worked damn hard to have biological children, they don't seem to care. Love isn't based on biological ties. Hell, it can happen in a flash between perfect strangers.

As for the mean people, not telling them won't disarm them. If they don't have IVF to pick on, they'll pick on something else. I hope you won't base your decision on what they may or may not do. It's an exercise in futility.

I applaud you, Kay, for sharing your story and, along the way, helping people like me to understand the pain that infertile couples feel. I've been that "why don't you just adopt?" person. Fortunately, I'm not that person anymore. And while the change happened long before you started this blog, you've helped reaffirm it was the right decision to make.

** No, we're not biological siblings... no we didn't know each other before we were adopted... yes, we're very different... no, neither of us is in touch with our biological mothers... yes, we both believe we grew up with our real parents. (I call this my Adoption FAQ...)

Anonymous said...

I've struggled with the IVF baby label thing. I've always assumed we'd tell him the truth about how he was made. It is what it is, I guess. I hope there is no teasing because of it- I guess if they call him a test tube baby, he can correct them by saying, "actually I was made in a petri dish, not a tube!" :)

Who can control the teasing over anything really, though. I was picked on for having stubby toes...


Kay Bailey said...

Jennifer - good point. We're hoping to have nerdy kids, anyway, so they're going to get picked on.

Bzh - you give me the warm fuzzies. Your input is really interesting and I'm learning a lot.

Starleneg - If I'd known you had stubby toes, I'm not sure our relationship would have progressed as far as it has.

Love, Kay

Wendy said...

I think that by the time your little one grows up IVF will be so common place that no one will notice. I've already had plenty of IVF babies in my classroom, and quite frankly the kids really don't care or really see a difference. I mean today's kids can't even imagine having to watch a black and white tv or the meaning of Atari, or what it must have been like to not have a computer in your bedroom. They just don't know any better. And with all the artifical crap and pesticides and stuff that we are putting into our bodies I'm positive that IVF will soon become even more common then you think. The important thing is that children are loved by their parents.

Laughing4Heir said...

Good post.

My inclination is to err on the side of privacy in matters regarding our child-quest. As much because its our own business, as because I work in a male-dominated field where few women are married, much less mothers. (ie, Sympathy is probably in short supply, so I want to wait until the right moment.)

As for telling the kid, however, that seems like it's the kids right to know. And I agree with your chiropractor: that kid will have the story from cell 4, not from the first puke! How awesome is that?

It will be interesting to see how IVF kids are integrated into the traditionally-conceived kids. It seems to me that there are so many IVF kids these days that it might not be so alien as it was when we were growing up. However, kids will ALWAYS find SOMETHING to tease about. We always like to find the "otherness" of a person and wedge it.

bzzzzgrrrl said...

Nothing I will say will surprise Kay, I am guessing. She knows me pretty well. In case anyone else cares what I think:
-First, I think we should tell children where they come from, please, for all our sakes. We do not have to be as graphic as "back seat of a Chevy," but it is good for children to know about sex, and about science, and about adoption, and about the diversity of our stories.
-Second, there is literally no doubt in my mind that your (anyone's) child will be teased on the playground. Going crazy not telling them adoption stories or not naming them "Richard" will only mean that those mean kids will work a little harder. Hell, if there are multiple children, your child will be teased in his or her home.
-Third, sharing your story with the world is really, really hard. It means all your friends know. It means your parents know. It means in five years when you're looking for a job, your future employer who is looking for an excuse to discriminate against you on the basis of family status will know. And while bringing your story to the masses is good for, and enlightening to, the masses, it is a difficult truth that not everyone will be so kind about being enlightened. Your blog is already the twelfth google hit on your name and blog, once you eliminate variations on "hutchison". It is the fifth hit for your husband's name and blog, with no need to exclude anything.