On receiving the Nobel Prize in 2010, Sir Robert Edwards, the test-tube baby pioneer, claimed: ‘The most important thing in life is having a child. Nothing is more special than a child.’
True, nothing in life is as special as a child and I’m sure you agree with this statement made by the man who invented IVF, and put smiles on the faces of numerous couples dealing with fertility challenges.
When IVF was first invented, it was all about technology and science giving hope to women, who had given up hope of ever having children. Moms, who had resigned themselves to fate and had settled down to live life without kids. Often times, their lives were filled with recriminations, filled with pain and anguish over wanting something that was out of reach. All that changed with IVF, and other Assisted Reproductive technology procedures.
As with anything good, abuse becomes inherent, which is one of the reasons why you will find every corner hospital wanting to offer IVF services. If they are lucky to get successful with one, the baby becomes their poster baby; the symbol that they indeed offer ‘successful’ IVF procedures. With that singular success, their past failures are cancelled, at least in their minds, and some desperate mom will fall into the hands of such clinics, not knowing that that particular baby was a one-off success, and not a regular occurrence.
Now, assisted reproduction is, first and foremost, an industry, one which in the UK alone is worth at least £500 million, with 59.7 per cent of IVF cycles paid for privately in 2011. I don’t know the figures for Nigeria, but the obvious fact is that the vast majority of IVF procedures are funded by the couples involved, with a very small fraction funded from other sources.
Samirat* is a very angry woman as I write, all because of her experience with IVF. She is what you would call a perfectionist, so it took her a while to get married…she was almost 40. Because of her background, she was not given to sexual encounters. So, she waited…and the man for her came at the right time for her.
They started trying to conceive immediately, but after six months, when nothing seemed to be working, she went to see a doctor, and she was persuaded to give IVF a try, given her age and the quality of her eggs. She agreed, and they proceeded with the procedure, but it was only after the first cycle failed did the doctors discover that her husband suffered from a low sperm count. Age and low sperm count were the factors against them.
Not wanting to let go, she gave it another try six months later, when her husband’s condition had been put under control, but again, it failed. That was when she wished she had never heard of IVF. She hated the fact that IVF was being bandied as the miracle cure for her childlessness, when, instead, it had brought her so much physical and emotional anguish…not to mention hurting their savings.
While her rational mind told her IVF had worked for numerous women, that she was just unlucky, she was still furious at being told a lie. IVF did not work for her, even though she had been told it was her only hope of having a child by herself, it dashed her hopes.
Apart from selling IVF as the gospel cure, there are some ethical issues attached like the case of the Octomom; who transferred a whooping 12 embies because she did not want any of her eggs to go to waste, and in the end, she had eight live babies, which caused an uproar in the fertility world, and in the world in general. Not only was it ethically wrong, it also endangered the lives of the mother and even those of the children, who were forced to exist in very cramped quarters. Not the wisest decision she, or more importantly her doctor, made!
Another abuse that is inherent in IVF is the issue of embryo or egg selection, and not because of heath issues either, but for gender and behavioral selection. It is almost as if IVF has made it possible to have the ‘perfect’ child; intelligent, good looking baby with the parent’s preferred choice of eye and hair colour. To such couples, a child is just an accessory to their already perfect life. Thank God for them that I’m not God.
I recently just heard the full story behind the twin birth of an acquaintance of mine. This woman’s husband forced their doctor into selecting the male embryos for transfer, during their second IVF pregnancy.
This was a couple who had waited on the Lord for fruit of the womb for 8 years, before IVF finally worked for them. They gave birth to a boy/girl set of twins, and two years later, they were back with their doctor, trying for another baby with their frozen embryos.
And then one night, the wife noticed that her husband was acting fidgety, so she had asked him what the problem was. He replied that there was no problem. Knowing her husband, she pressed, until he confessed that he was seriously thinking of them transferring only the male embryos of their frozen embies. He told her how, he was the only child of his parents and it would not do for him to just have only one son, and since IVF accorded them the opportunity to select gender, he saw no reason why they could not take advantage of the opportunity.
In the end, the man got his way and only the male embies were transferred, three of them. They got another set of twins now, boy twins. He was happy to have ensured the continuation of his lineage through his boys, but his wife still thinks about the other embies…
No doubt, IVF and other assisted reproductive techniques are life savers, but their abuse can leave a TTC mom disillusioned, especially if the promised child does not come at the end of the day.
Baby dust for the journey!
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