' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Improved reproductive technology: Will it reduce the demand for infants??

Friday, March 16, 2012

Improved reproductive technology: Will it reduce the demand for infants??

An essay in Portland Oregonian, "Grim message in fertility 'gain'" about the downside of improvements in fertility technology caught my eye. To Bonnie Rough, a Seattle writer and author of Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA, research finding that women could create new eggs via stem cells can be interpreted as "yet another attempt to fit women's reproductive lives into an unnatural stress system" where motherhood is dictated by the demands of the workplace. What leaped out at me was that the reasons women postpone trying to conceive are the same reasons other women give for giving up their babies. In spite of all the rhetoric we're hearing during this election season about helping America's working families, the fact is, our work places are not child-friendly.

Bonnie Rough
I thought of a birth mother in her late 20's I met at the Coordinators 2 Conference in Richmond, Virginia last September. She gave up her son because she could not pencil out supporting him and herself on her small salary from her office job. "It was the right thing," she told me "but it is still very painful." I've heard and read the same story at conferences, support groups, and on birth mother blogs. Graduate students, women embarking on careers, women in pink collar jobs stating with patently false confidence that they gave up their babies because they were not ready to have a child--just as other women put off trying to have a child because the time is not right. (As one who raised three daughters, I can tell you that we're never ready and the time is never right. This has been true as long as humans have walked on this earth.)

Rough sees the new reproductive technology, announced recently by scientists at the Harvard University-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital’s Vincent Center for Reproductive Medicine, as smacking of "the same cold, impersonal, isolating ‘solutions’ that force women to suit American business: induced labor, cesarean section, breast pumps, lactation stalls, expensive or insufficient day care and forced, sometimes permanent, career hiatus."  She notes that “the United States is the world’s only developed economy without guaranteed paid maternity leave.” It is no coincidence that the United States also has the highest rate of voluntary infant adoptions.

Pregnancy rates over the course of one year
Source: Management of the Infertile Woman by Helen A. Carcio and The Fertility Sourcebook by M. Sara Rosenthal
Both of the above line graphs are for women with normal reproductive function.

While the new  technology may prevent some adoptions by allowing some women to have "their own" child, science--including The Pill--certainly has induced many others to wait too long, thereby exacerbating demand for infants. By and large, the women who blog about the sorrow of infertility are not in their teens and twenties when fertility is almost never a problem. Yet far too many young women today are seemingly ignorant of this basic biological fact. The chart above shows that fertility starts dropping in our twenties, and by age 35, fertility is over taken by infertility. That's right around the time that "baby fever" becomes a medical "problem," rather than simply a physical reality. Aging happens.

In short, advances in technology cannot substitute for what's really needed for a happy and (re)productive society, family-friendly policies that encourage women to have babies when they are most fecund, and social policies that allow mothers the grace to keep them.


  1. I agree, women should have children during their prime child bearing years. But I don't agree that it's society's responsibility to insure that takes place. I'm certain you're familiar with William Galston's research (former adviser to Predident Clinton on domestic policy) that concluded there are three criteria needed to prevent poverty at a 90% rate: 1) finish high school 2) get married, and 3) don't have children until you're married. Suggestions have also been made that you take a job, any job, and don't quit it until you have a better paying job, you'll avoid poverty. Single women who have children cannot easily continue to work during their immediate pre-natal period, nor immediately following birth. With a husband in place, this isn't an issue (typically). It doesn't follow, to me, that the lack of husband(or strong support system) now places the burden of support onto the employer. What size of company should pay someone to not contribute to the company? 10 employees, fifty? A mom and pop store? And why an arbitrary distinction? My son's best friend was born to his sixteen year old mother. She married the baby's father (the love of her life) and 9 years later they have 2 beautiful children and own their own home. His mom didn't have to return to work until the youngest was 18 months. My son's friend excels in school and sports. They come from a family where no one has finished college and their generations have little extra money. But they've never been on the public dole. Of course, that's a n of one, so it's anecdotal. My company ( a very small one) has a baby/kids room with a bed, books and tv so parents with sick kids can bring them to work if they so choose. They can work a shortened day. They can take off and go to the doctor for their child and return if they choose. But we can't afford (with fewer than 10 employees) to pay a competitive wage to someone to not work, then pay the same wage to someone to take their place. And I don't agree that it's the role of the government. Difference of opinion. My children are adopted from Russia. As business owners, we received no compensation for the months we travelled back and forth (we didn't work, we didn't get paid). It required quite a bit of planning, saving, and coordination of effort. We don't have any paid vacation or paid leave, because we own the company (of course our employees do enjoy these benefits). I would never expect the government to compensate me for my choice.

  2. Oh you have been compensated by the government ie the taxpayer by your adoption credits. Many adopters now get subsidies to adopt until child turns legal age along with medical care and all mental health care paid by taxpayers. A bonus money wise if ther are a different race.

    If you tire of the adoptee's we taxpayers will support the children you adopted as you can leave them at a place in Montana.
    Where many Russian adoptee's live their forever families
    giving up.

  3. I understand Barbara's concern that small businesses often cannot afford to offer paid maternity leave, etc. This is why I favor a strong social support system that is funded by the government. Support systems become more affordable if they are funded from the broader tax base, which in turn relieves small business of these expenses.

  4. I only mentioned my adoption experience because the authors request we remark on how we relate to adoption before commenting. My adoptions are off topic. Since "Anonymous" is passing on false information, however, the false statements need clarification. Here is a link to adoption tax credit law; ahttp://taxes.about.com/od/deductionscredits/qt/adoptioncredit.htm.And the ranch in Montana was started by an adoptive mother and is a 501c3. We can all disagree with each other without being nasty and misinformed

  5. Barbara,

    Are you complaining about owning a business and not being able to get benefits your employee's get? Are you complaining about having to take time off of work to travel to Russia to adopt?
    I have no sympathy fir your whining about either you are fortunate to be able to acquire children at another woman's lose. You still manage to whine about it.
    Step into the losing mom's shoes did she really want to lose her child to a foreigner?
    Also there are tax credits to those who adopt $13,000 this year alone. Since 2006 I have no doubt you are aware of this tidy sum.
    As far as the ranch in Montana led by an adoptive mom who herself adopted and had been in adoption business until she saw a need to help adoptee's from Russia at $1000 a child a month. Many do not go home to their forever home.
    No false info here just truth.
    As far as your Russian adoption goes I really don't care so dint worry about it being off limits you mentioned it not me.

  6. Excellent point and post, Jane.

    When I became pregnant for the first time, I was working in what only could be called a hostile environment for virtually all of the professional female staff. I had hoped that I might be able to work out a maternity leave followed by working flex-time/half-time/something other than full time.

    When I realized that there was just no way that this would happen--and that I was AFRAID to tell the boss about my pregnancy--I quit. His negative reaction affirmed all of the fears I'd harbored. (The only professional woman on staff who balanced motherhood with full-time work at that time had parents who cared for her children.)

    That was more than twenty years ago. Though I was, and am, extremely fortunate to have a husband who could support a family on one income, I would have liked somehow to have been able to balance professional work and motherhood. But since a scaled-back version was not possible, I had to choose one or the other; never have I regretted opting for full-time motherhood.

    Looking around at my closest friends who DID perform that balancing act, their careers always suffered. Their husbands'? Not so much, if ever.

    I don't see this dilemma changing for the better any time soon...

  7. Anonymous, my family did not qualify for the adoptive family tax credits. And I'm not whining at all. I'm grateful for every circumstance of my life, good and bad that have made me who I am. Unless you speak Russian (as I do) and have traveled through Russia many times (as I have) and studied Russian history (as I have) I'd suggest you educate yourself before forming opinions. Or just spout misinformation and display your ignorance. I'd tag myself as "Anonymous" also, if I were making blatantly false (and hateful)statements. I think it's wonderful that the woman in Montana opens her ranch to kids with profound RAD as a result of being neglected and abused in Russian orphanages, or who have suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. $1000/month doesn't go too far helping children with such profound special needs.
    And, I'm thrilled (as are my employees, who don't tend to leave) to offer great benefits. My Russian adoption isn't "off limits". Make whatever comments you like. Make me a target of your hatred. It says nothing about me, only about you. I'm not an overly religious person, but I'll pray that you have the strength to overcome you anger and hatred toward those who are different than you. Good luck,God bless you, and good bye.

  8. What's all this about a ranch in Montana for RAD Russian adoptees? It sounds very bad. Anyone have a link or more information? Many of those places to unload your bad teens are really nothing more than prisons and dumping grounds for rich kids who misbehave, and yes, a lot of them are adopted.

  9. The final stop for disruptive adoptees

    from 2008

    A Montana ranch offers intervention and structure for kids -- mostly from abroad -- whose new families can't handle their disruptive conduct.

    At first glance, the children saddling up the horses look like they were cast by Hollywood to play wholesome, athletic all-American kids. But outward appearances don't tell the whole story.

    One has molested a sibling. Another has tried to kill the family pet. Lying, stealing, vandalism, fire-setting round out the list of transgressions.

    Because their parents can no longer manage them at home, the 24 youngsters -- almost all international adoptees -- have ended up at the Ranch for Kids http://www.ranchforkids.org/, a therapeutic boarding school in northwest Montana.

    This is the final stop.

    Above link takes you to story; I've seen the story on television.

  10. So sorry my comments led to a veering off of the important topic of keeping women in the work place who want to remain there, and who pays for them to remain there. It's sad to hear stories like Mrs TBb's who was probably an excellent employee.

  11. Barbara,
    You are complaining about single women not having a husband to support them while taking time after giving birth. Or having a sick child and of course society doesn't pay for that but according to you small business's do like yours who can't afford to pay both mom and another emplyee if mom isn't there.
    What I see is a woman who has money to adopt two
    children from Russia. While you did this with no help you did have help it's the mother's of those poor children who bore the children so you could play mommy.
    So much for pot calling the kettle black. We ALL use even you the wealthy business owner who traveled around the world to take what she considered to be entitled to another woman' s children. Guess there was no protection for this woman or her kids in Russia.
    If you had adopted from US you could have got bonuses and wouldn't have to complain about all your blessings!

  12. Two red flags I see on the ranch website; it is linked to Fundamentalist Christianity, and some abusive Attachment Therapy "experts". I would feel sorry for any child sent there, after what those children have already been through in Russia and their "forever homes" that weren't.

  13. I thought of a birth mother in her late 20's I met at the Coordinators 2 Conference in Richmond, Virginia last September. She gave up her son because she could not pencil out supporting him and herself on her small salary from her office job.

    I am a mother who lost her daughter to adoption in 1980. When I read the above all I could think of was that I am so glad my parents didn't put pen to paper when I was conceived. I was the seventh child on a blue collar couples salary. They would have had to adopt me out if they did the math. Math doesn't work when you are only looking at today. Math changes. Windfalls happen, people get raises, they go to school and get better jobs. My heart goes out to yet another mother who made a "choice" using incomplete data.

  14. Anonymous said:
    "I have no sympathy fir your whining about either you are fortunate to be able to acquire children at another woman's lose." (Direct quote, typos included.)

    Since I don't know Barbara's story, I can't say for sure, but I would guess that the Russian mother's loss occurred, the baby was placed in an orphanage, and then was adopted by Barbara. I agree that any time a mother gives up a child it is a loss, but especially in countries where there are so many children living in dire conditions in orphanages, that loss did not occur just because a woman in another country wants a baby. It's not Barbara's fault that the child was in need of a family, but I commend her for giving the child a family so it wouldn't have to live in an orphanage.

    Susie said:
    "What I see is a woman who has money to adopt two
    children from Russia. While you did this with no help you did have help it's the mother's of those poor children who bore the children so you could play mommy."

    Susie makes it sound like she thinks the Russian mother had a baby for the express purpose of having Barbara come over and adopt it so she could be a mommy. I doubt that is the case. I don't know Barbara's story, but I would suspect the baby was already given up and living in an orphanage at the time it was adopted by Barbara.

    I know that most of the time when a mother gives up a child for adoption it causes her irreparable harm and is something she will never get over. The thing I do know is that it's not right to vilify someone for adopting a child that has been given up and is living in an orphanage. Would it be better for the children in countries like Russian and China to grow up in an orphanage or be adopted and have at least a hope of a life?



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