Saturday, July 23, 2011

"The Age of Mechanical Reproduction"

That's the title of Paul Ford's column at the Morning News, in which he describes, in sometimes disturbing detail, the experiences he and his wife have had with artificial reproductive technologies (ART), including artificial insemination and IVF.

There are plenty of compelling theological and medical arguments against ART. But even leaving those aside, the emotional and financial costs, combined with its frequent ineffectiveness, make ART repellent. What Ford describes is an anxiety-ridden, humiliating, dehumanizing,  exorbitantly expensive, and so far ineffective set of procedures that has put incredible stress on his marriage.  It has not given him or his wife any insight into the reasons for their infertility, and the dim hope that it offers is not proportionate to the  pain of their apparent helplessness in the face of their infertility.  Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

He writes:
...When it is complete you screw on the forest-green lid, write your name and your wife’s name on the label, put it all in a biohazard bag, and ring the buzzer. Along comes a woman, another nurse. She takes the bag and holds it up to the light. If you read the paperwork there is a request that you don’t make any jokes during this moment.

The worst thing that can happen in that room is “failure to produce.” They warn you about it. Men go in and hours later have not come out. They’re sobbing and their arms are sore. Their wives or partners are out in the waiting room, surly from hormone treatments. No one has sympathy for a man who can’t produce. They should have sympathy but they don’t. You do not want to be that guy. And so far I have not failed. Just in case, I have special videos on my phone.

The nurse will take the biohazard bag to a room filled with machines. They will run the sample through a centrifuge. I will join my wife, who is filled with chemicals that encourage ovulation, in a treatment room. A doctor will use a plastic syringe to inject my purified and enhanced semen into my wife. Then we will wait.

Three years of waiting. Everywhere around us there are waves of bouncing sons, bounties of daughters, stroller wheels creaking under the cheerful load. Facebook updates, email messages, and Christmas cards arrive with pictures of tots, their faces smeared with avocado or cake frosting. Babies on rugs, babies in hats. Invitations to baby showers with cursive script and cartoon storks. Over a beer an expectant father—another expectant father—gives me the news, tells me that his wife will soon have her second or third. Am I happy for him? What else can I be? Once again I put out my hand, close my eyes, and wish them joy.

(Read the rest.)

This is why for many people, it is NaPro, or nothing.

Ruler tip to: The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy

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