You may have heard that Jimmy Fallon has come out about his and his wife’s five year struggle to have a baby. Their daughter, Winnie, was born via surrogate this past July. On the Today show, he talked openly about their experiences and added:
“Try every avenue; try anything you can do, ’cause you’ll get there. You’ll end up with a family, and it’s so worth it. It is the most ‘worth it’ thing. I’m just so happy right now. I’m freaking out.”
via Jimmy Fallon reveals he and wife endured ‘awful’ five-year fertility struggle before using surrogate – NY Daily News
I love it when celebrities are comfortable sharing about their fertility challenges because they normalize an experience that happens to 1 in 8 couples. The more we talk about things, the less alone people feel and that is GREAT.
But quitting infertility treatment is an incredibly personal decision and not everyone ends up with a family.
While I’m very happy for Jimmy and his wife and I can bet that it’s all worth it now that Winnie is here, safe and sound, I need to point out that his experience doesn’t mean that any other person going through infertility can and should “try every avenue.”
I remember when we were just starting infertility treatments and one of the other moms at my son’s preschool asked if we had any other children. I’d just started Clomid, which made me crazy and vulnerable and sad, so I burst into loud, messy sobs there in the hall. I told her what was happening and she told us that she went through infertility, too, but was able to conceive her two children via the then brand new ICSI procedure. In fact, ICSI was so new at the time that she and her husband flew to Rome in order to work with the doctors who had invented it.
She told me this to inspire me.
“You will stop at nothing to get your baby!” she said, leaning in to hug me. But even then I knew that I would stop at something. I wouldn’t fly to Italy, for example, seeing as how there was no way we could ever afford it.
When it comes to making treatment decisions it’s easy to say YES to something if you know there is a baby at the end of it. After all, when you’re dealing with infertility a baby is worth almost anything. But when we’re making decisions we have to consider whether it’s worth it if there is no baby at the end of it.
I know that’s a depressing way to look at it but infertility treatment gets us going the same way that gambling in Vegas gets us. It becomes addictive.
We think, “One more cycle!” and we grab up our silver dollars and pull that lever again. The more money and effort we put into it, the more we need a pay off to justify all that we’ve already spent. That’s how we end up going further than we meant to, spending more than we can afford, and becoming consumed by the great big treatment machine.
Before we fly off to Rome or hire a surrogate, we need to ask, “If this doesn’t work, will it still be worth it?” It’s all right if that answer is yes and it’s also all right if the answer is no.
The thing about infertility, like the rest of our life challenges, is that it is ours to live. There’s not one right way to do it. Jimmy Fallon and his wife chose surrogacy and it was all worth it. Someone else will choose to live child-free and that will all be worth it, too.
A couple of years ago I was walking with an acquaintance and she mentioned a speaker she was hoping to see later that day at a pro-life rally.
“Wouldn’t you be thrilled to see her?” she asked me.
“No,” I said. “I’m pro-choice so even though I value the right of people to disagree with me, I wouldn’t be comfortable at an anti-choice rally.”
My friend said she was surprised to hear this since I’m an adoptive parent. Then she said, “So you wouldn’t be able to counsel a woman who wanted to keep her baby just like I couldn’t work with a woman who wanted to have an abortion.” I explained that pro-choice means exactly the opposite. Pro-choice means what it says: Pro-CHOICE. Of course I commend any woman who chooses to continue a pregnancy because I recognize the validity of her choice. I celebrate when any woman freely makes the decision that is right for her; that’s what reproductive justice is all about.
Being a pro-choice therapist is at the core of my counseling philosophy. Without this central tenet I wouldn’t be able to work with my clients whose thoughts, feelings, spiritual beliefs, cultural backgrounds and experiences vary so widely. I don’t want my clients to live out my ideas about what a good life looks like; I want them to live the lives that they are meant to live and this means empowering them, helping them get solid information about their options, and trusting their decisions.
This is especially important when we’re discussing counseling about family building. Issues of choice go beyond helping a woman consider her options during a crisis pregnancy. Choice is part of decision-making in fertility treatments, family planning, and birth options. Choice is about honoring every woman’s ability to know herself best and to make her own good decisions. Choice is about offering her loving, respectful support whether or not her decision looks like anyone else’s.
Choice also speaks to my commitment to hear individual women’s experiences and to give space for joy and grief and for ambivalence. Family planning, pregnancy, fertility — these are complex, deeply personal issues and our feelings reflect that complexity. Our feelings may change over time. We need space to grow and to bring that growth to our understanding of the paths we’ve taken over the course of our lives.
I support you. I support your right to decide. I am invested in protecting your right to accept or reject any option. I honor your decision-making. I trust you. I am pro-choice.
I’ve written this post in honor of NARAL’s Blog for Choice Day 2013.
“Whenever the employment rate is down, we get more calls,” says Robin von Halle, president of Alternative Reproductive Resources, an agency in Chicago where inquiries from would-be egg donors are up 30% in recent weeks — to about 60 calls a day. “We’re even getting men offering up their wives. It’s pretty scary.”
from Ova Time: Women Line Up to Donate Eggs for Money
Gamete donation lives in its own ethical morass.
The discussions about adult-kids’ right to know since it in many ways mirrors the discussion in adoption; basically it comes down to whether we have the right to know our own histories. And if we do, how much of that history should belong to us — how many details ought we to have.
There’s a Donor Sibling Registry (this links to a video). Fertility docs think the registry is a good idea but it might cause a shortage of donors like has happened in Britain.
Here’s an interesting essay that talks about some of the unique challenges for donor kids, including the idea that they need access to other donor kids as they grow up so that they don’t feel weird or out-of-place. And another article that talks about the importance of half siblings.