By Christina Kelly, TODAY Moms contributor
It’s impossible to be disinterested in Melanie Thernstrom’s story about her quest to have “twiblings” with the help of two surrogates and an egg donor. The piece, which appeared on the cover of Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, tells a futuristic tale that smacks just a tad of genetic engineering. Thernstrom, author of "The Pain Chronicles," appeared with her surrogates on the TODAY Show this morning. (Was it just me, or did she look medicated?) Melanie got a late start to motherhood. She didn’t meet her husband until she was 41, and after five unsuccessful rounds of IVF, her doctor gave it to her straight: If she wanted a healthy baby, she’d need an egg donor and a surrogate. So Melanie and her husband Michael didn’t stop at one — in addition to an egg donor, they got two surrogates, who gave birth to two healthy babies that are genetically his.
I’m pro-fertility treatment. I understand that infertility can be very painful. Furthermore, it’s unfair that women’s reproductive window is much shorter than that of men, who get to father children into their dotage. But those are the biological realities. It’s just one of the long list of ways in which life is not fair for us ladies.
I have no personal experience with this problem. I am an older mother. I married my husband at 37, and I wasn’t ready for children in my young adulthood. I was lucky; I became pregnant as soon as I wanted to at 38, and again when I was still breastfeeding my first baby. (Fecundity may run in my family; my paternal grandmother was surprised when she became pregnant and delivered a healthy baby boy at age 46. ) I realize that I may be less sympathetic to Melanie’s desperation than those who have experienced her challenges. I may sound a bit like a naturally thin person who can eat anything she wants expressing surprise that anyone would have a weight problem. The most annoying kind of person.
Still, something about Melanie’s eagerness to share her story makes me uncomfortable. Is she looking to sell another book? A reality show about her unusual family? Her motives are not clear to me.
And the other thing that makes me uncomfortable is my own reaction to her story. Why do I feel so judgmental? Is it my Irish Catholic, “them’s the breaks” attitude? I’m a very non-interventionist person. I’ve never been on anti-depressants. I’d be miserable for months before I’d ever take a pill. I’d live with a physical feature that bothered me, rather than having it fixed. No tummy tucks for me.
Would this non-interventionist attitude have extended to infertility, if that had been my problem? It’s impossible for me to know. I truly doubt that I would have gone to these lengths, though I don’t know if that makes me a better person, or one less willing to fight for what she wants.
Christina Kelly is a freelance writer and the former editor of ELLEgirl and ym. She blogs at christinamkelly.blogspot.com.