Sunday, October 2, 2011

How the media encouarges separation of mother and child

The cover story of New York magazine last week was titled: "Is She Just too Old for This?" and showed a freakish and obviously photo-shopped picture of a very pregnant woman in her, hmmm...late sixties. The story eventually went on to say that old motherhood is great and as long as it's possible, go for it, if that is what you want. There are a lot of bothersome issues about having kids at an age that they will be taking care of senile parents while they are in college or right after, but that's not what caught my attention. Here's one issue that did:
"Among women over 40, birth rates have increased. Among women ages 45 to 49, they've risen 17 percent....Women over 45 who want to carry their own babies most often use donor eggs...."

Wow. That is a huge increase in the number of young woman selling their eggs, and thus a huge increase in the number of children who will be raised in relative affluence (you don't buy eggs if you are poor or a struggling student, you sell them), but who may or may not know who they are related to genetically--at least on the maternal side. Of course, if the "mother" and "father" who will raise the child also use sperm they buy at the mall, the child will have no biological anchor, and probably a near zero chance of ever having a relationship with anyone they are akin to by biology.

Lorraine

This is a social experiment the likes of which we have never seen. This makes adoption from the era of closed adoptions seem like small potatoes. In any adoption of the kind we usually talk about here--man/woman/sex/baby/adoption--there is usually a good chance of some kind of reunion with natural parents. But it exists. However, we are learning that men who sell their sperm (I refuse to call in "donated," as that implies for free) are by and large not proving to even be willing to make their identity known to their biological offspring. And early indications are that they women who sell their eggs feel much the same way: those eggs I sold a long time ago? Done and gone. Kids? Not mine.

A long while back I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about a site that offered scholarships to women who "donated" their children criticizing the whole concept because it smacked too much of baby-selling, but the post so offended some young women who took the scholarships, or wanted to, I took the post down. They were in enough pain anyway, and I didn't want to add to it--no matter how I felt about the practice. Scholarships shouldn't be held out like shiny carrots to young women in order to induce them to give up their babies. Now and then a woman who had donated eggs would stumble upon the post, and comment, stating that she felt no emotional connection to those eggs.

SPERM DAD WITH 70+ KIDS
So it's likely that most of those children of purchased eggs (going price seems to be between $4,000-$15,000, depending on your creds and GPA) and sperm (one ad that pops up offers college students or grads $1,200 a month!) will never meet their biological parents. Last week the Style network showed an hour-long documentary about a man who did register at the sperm donor site, and met two of the 74 known children (to date) he is biological father to. He estimated that the number was probably closed to 120. His fiancee was a bit freaked out, but never mind. The one day he met the kids and spent a day with them in kid activities, he was affable and affectionate, and the two children bonded with him immediately, so much so that it's obvious they are going to want more. So, dear fiancee, he looks as if he will be a great father. The film, Sperm Donor, in many ways was heart-breaking, and made me think of the growing number of kids that are being conceived and born without a link to finding anyone who looks like them. That was one issue in the New York magazine story. The second was adoption.

Near the end of the piece, adoption is almost causally offered up as an answer for aging folks who want to raise children--and think of the advantages of financially secure older parents:
"Compared with their 30-year-old peers, 50-year-old women have 'access to their own money and clout in the world,' says Elizabeth Gregory, a woman studies professor at the University of Houston and author of Ready: Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood. Thus established, they can chaperone the field trip without job anxiety; financially secure, they can take an extended parental leave when the baby comes."
 NO GOOD REASON TO NOT ADOPT
Then the example: literary agent Molly Friedrich, who is 59 and has two adopted children (ages 9 and 14) from Guatemala and Vietnam respectively. Her two biological children were grown and gone when she decided to adopt "because she couldn't think of a good reason why not."

She goes on: "My feeling is--this is going to sound insanely narcissistic--twenty years with my husband and me versus twenty years in an orphanage, there's no comparison....They have a much better chance of flourishing with us than in the places they were raised." It was that last comment that got to me, as well as the countries that she adopted from. Here is the letter I sent to New York:
While no one would doubt that it's better for two kids to spend twenty years with literary agent Molly Friedrich and her husband rather than "twenty years in an orphanage," as she states, what is questionable is whether the kids would have been in any orphanage if there was not such a robust market for babies in the U.S. and elsewhere.

It's been well established and reported elsewhere that to supply the demand for "orphan" babies, children have been kidnapped and stolen and placed in "orphanages" so that well meaning and well-off folks like Ms. Friedrich and her husband would find them "available" for adoption. Guatemala and Vietnam are two of the worst offenders, and the reason their adoption mechanism has been under scrutiny and at times shut down. Unfortunately, where there is money to be made in the sale of children under the guise of "adoption," unscrupulous people will fill the demand.

In Vietnam, hospitals were sending babies to orphanages for overseas adoption when the parents were unable to pay medical bills for the birth. Health officials also got financial inducements to facilitate the number of available babies. During the civil war in Guatemala, parents were killed in order to make the baby an orphan. Ten minutes on the Internet will lead to reporting on this.*

While only the few would go forward with an adoption if they knew the child had been abducted from his or her natural parents, and I am certainly not accusing Ms. Friedrich and her husband of this, corruption in the baby business has been so rampant that international adoption today was, and remains today, a crap shoot. You might get a child who truly needs a home. Or you might not.
It is magazine pieces just like this one that encourage more international adoption, and thus, more corruption. Anyone writing about this today has an obligation to include a least a passing mention to this, rather than just note that these children have a better than of "flourishing..."than in the places they were born.--very truly, etc.

WE ALL SHARE THE FINANCIAL BURDEN
This is making my head ache, and I didn't even get into the laundry list of problems that older women have when carrying a child [with her own egg or that of another woman]: preterm labor; preemies with lung problems; digestive problems; brain bleeds (of the fetus); neurological complications, developmental delays and learning issues. Mothers over 40 are likelier to become afflicted with
"pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, hypertension--the worst outcomes of which can be the death of the fetus and occasionally the mother as well. It is also after 40 that the risk of of having child with autism increases--by 30 percent for mothers and 50 percent for fathers, says Lisa Croen, a senior scientist at Kaiser Permanente. Advanced paternal age [sperm from older fathers] is likewise associated with miscarriage, childhood cancer, autoimmune disease, and schizophrenia and other neuropsychchiatric disorders. 'Everyone wants to believe it's not going to happen to me,' says Isabel Bloomberg, an OB/GYN at Mount Sinai."
Folks, I'm just quoting the writer Lisa Miller in New York magazine. She did not get into the cost of these conditions--some temporary, some lifelong--on our already overburdened health care system. We all pay, and pay heavily, for these experiments in modern living.--lorraine
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*Or even our own search engine here as we have reported on international adoption frequently.










22 comments :

  1. Link to the lead-in article:
    http://nymag.com/news/features/mothers-over-50-2011-10/

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  2. Science run amok

    The things people will do

    to make a buck

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  3. That picture is grotesque and horrible and it alone makes me not want to read the article. Is she too old? Hell Yes! It looks a picture advertising a horror movie.

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  4. FYI International adoptions in the U.S. are plunging. China has slowed to a crawl and the Guatemala and Vietnam programs have been shut down by the U.S. Russia isn't to keen on sending more children because of highly publicized incidents such as the boy who was sent home.

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  5. No one is listening to the adult donor conceived.

    No one in the industry thinks regulation is needed - not a big surprise.

    It is all so wrong that it makes my heart hurt and we in the adoption community need to talk more about this and raise awareness.

    The outcome will impact millions in no time at all - wrong.

    Lorraine the only part I questioned in your article is whether the risks you mentioned to the babies are babies from eggs implanted or are they for the mothers eggs which means their old.

    What we don't fully know yet is what the process may do to the genetics of the person - we don't know the full impact on what turns genes on or off and this is such a new science we will not find out for years yet. My words aren't right but there have been concerns raised already about it...science isn't there yet.

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  6. It is more difficult for an older woman to carry a child, and various problems crop up at a much higher rate than younger mothers.

    To clarify:

    the laundry list of problems that older women have when carrying a child [with her own egg or that of another woman]: preterm labor; preemies with lung problems; digestive problems; brain bleeds (of the fetus); neurological complications, developmental delays and learning issues. Mothers over 40 are likelier to become afflicted with

    "pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, hypertension--the worst outcomes of which can be the death of the fetus and occasionally the mother as well. Again, these risks are associated with carrying a child.

    It is also after 40 that the risk of of having child with autism increases--by 30 percent for mothers [I believe this is with her own aging egg] and 50 percent for fathers, says Lisa Croen, a senior scientist at Kaiser Permanente. Advanced paternal age [sperm from older fathers]is likewise associated with miscarriage, childhood cancer, autoimmune disease, and schizophrenia and other neuropsychchiatric disorders. 'Everyone wants to believe it's not going to happen to me,' says Isabel Bloomberg, an OB/GYN at Mount Sinai."

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  7. Thanks Lorraine!

    The science I spoke of in my comment is still out but what worries me is the fact that "it is still out" and yet the people using ART/IVF don't seem concerned or willing to talk about it.To me that is alarming.

    The most recent article I could find is below and it is pretty techy but you can get the gist of it even without a science background.

    http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/25/9/2387.full

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  8. More evidence of our consumer culture gone wild. Having cash means you can purchase anything you want, even a human. No need to delve into any ethical considerations - the only thing that matters is enabling the consumer to gorge on an endless buffet of choices in the marketplace.

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  9. It us unlikely that any of the parents featured in this article adopted infants domestically. Agencies do not accept applications from PAPs who are that old and few birthmothers would chose such parents for their child when there are so many younger couples seeking to adopt.

    Even internationally, many countries have age limits and most of the programs are slowing or shutting down.

    These parents are left with the more extreme ART procedures which are reckless for women that age.

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  10. Hmmmm....
    AARP recently had an article about how to handle grandbaby lust if your own offspring aren't producing. I appreciated their suggestions, some of which I would extend to PAPs. The one that comforted me was the option to focus on and appreciate the relationship with adult children. But this NY magazine cover maybe puts a new TWIST on it. With ART you can make your own grandbabies!
    JJanet

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  11. The only adoptive parents featured i the piece were the ones I mentioned; the article was 95 percent about "having your own," thought whatever modern means necessary. Adoption was only included as an afterthought for those who might not want to put their aging bodies through what is best handled by young ones.

    And yes, we are very aware that international adoption is way down, due to the corruption finally coming to light. But for what still goes on in Nepal, check out the video I am going to post in the sidebar, it's from Al Jazeera.

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  12. US Embassy: “It is not possible to estimate when adoptions between the United States and Vietnam may resume.”

    Sep 27th, 2011 by Tracy

    From The Embassy of the United States, Hanoi, Vietnam:

    General Information

    The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Adoptions between the United States and Vietnam expired on September 1, 2008. Intercountry adoption from Vietnam to the U.S. is not possible at this time, including exceptional cases.

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  13. That picture is just in time for Halloween! Barfola.

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  14. "Insanely narcissistic?" No doubt.

    For those interested, Ann Patchett's current novel "State of Wonder" involves the discovery of a tribe whose women never lose fertility, and a pharmaceutical company's quest to find a drug to bring this "miracle" to the rest of the world. Thoughtfully raises many of the issues here.

    As for older fathers, my adoptive father was 48 (first father 21) when I was acquired, and none of my peers were dealing with the same parental health issues that I had at home. Just made a bad situation worse.

    Finally, older parents must realize that parental loss before adulthood causes severe developmental challenges for any child. (Younger parents can die/become incapacitated too, but no one needs to stack the odds in favor of damaging their children.)

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  15. I wish I could say that the picture showed something out of the ordinary, and that this was something we didn't see in Labor and Delivery. But we do. I haven't had a 60-year-old patient, but I haven't really been around the block yet. I have been an L&D RN for three years now, but my mentor was telling me that eight years ago, she had a 60-something-year-old patient who bore her first kid (donor eggs and sperm). The father had died of pancreatic cancer in the fifth month of the pregnancy, leaving the mother alone. The grandparents were in their 90's. Frightening outlook for that kid, isn't it?

    The hospital where I work is in Berkeley. Our patient population is split between groups from Oakland (immigrants, women of color living in poverty) and the women of the Berkeley hills who want everything natural and come in with birth plans three inches thick. I have lots of high-risk patients in both groups, for different reasons, as one might imagine. But you can also imagine where a lot of the resources get allocated. Or where the corporation would LIKE to allocate most of its resources. The big moneymaker in the hospital is, make no mistake, the NICU. High-risk pregnancies are money-makers. We try to keep the babies inside as long as we can, but in the end, some people (like that 60-year-old) want their babies so badly they'll do anything to have them, and the hospitals are glad to take their money.

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  16. NICU

    A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, usually shortened NICU and also called a Special Care Nursery, newborn intensive care unit, intensive care nursery (ICN)...

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  17. Ms. M wrote: "The big moneymaker in the hospital is, make no mistake, the NICU. High-risk pregnancies are money-makers."

    Wow, that's a mindblower. Encouraging women to have high-risk pregnancies. Just when I thought America's for-profit health system couldn't get any worse.

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  18. I had both of my raised kids in my 40's. If I wanted to take a risk I believe it's no one else's business. Both of the kids and I were fine. My first daughter is taken from me because I'm young and unmarried and now I'm being criticized for getting pregnant (totally organic - a romp in bed with my husband)at forty five?

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  19. Barbara, I don't think that a naturally occurring pregnancy to a 40-year-old woman is what's being pointed out here. Yes, it's a high-risk pregnancy, but as you said, who cares?

    I think what what's at issue is the trend toward donor-conceived pregnancies in the 40's and later, especially much later.

    We actually see a lot more "organic," as you put it, pregnancies of women in ther 40's than you'd think. There is a spike in fertility for some women, if they're with the right guys and don't have other fertility issues. I regularly have patients have oopsie babies, number 3, 4, 5, or even 1 or 2 in a second marriage for women in their 40's. It's great! I am just glad that I am not those 48-year-old parents going home with twins, kids number 4 and 5! I am 42 and exhausted as it is. To each her own.

    I *do* take issue with anonymous donor conception and 60-year-olds having kids. It seems like the kids will not only be left with questions and emptiness, but probably will be left with parental death in their early adulthood. Sad on many counts. Just my opinion.

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  20. @Barbara T,
    I agree with Ms. Marginalia. This article and the comments are about using ART to get pregnant especially at advanced ages. Not about women who get pregnant the "old-fashioned" way after the age of 40.
    Btw, Barbara, I like your blog.

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  21. Have you seen the cover of Newsweek October 10 & 17, 2011 issue?

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  22. Robin, I did. I thought it was really disturbing. Internet hookups to exchange sperm? It sounds like some of the men are more interested in knowing their offspring than some sperm banks allow, and it does get rid of the middlemen, so to speak, but that one story about the guy who wants to sleep with lesbians and knock them up was horrific. It's all about fulfullment for adults, and not so much about the kids. As usual. Ugh.

    ReplyDelete

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