17 February 2009

Octo-Mom

Plenty of other people have said plenty of things about that woman who had octoplets a few weeks ago. Batshit crazy, she is. I don't really need to add anything.

But every time I read about it, or talk about it, the thing that makes me the saddest - and the angriest - is that she gives IVF a really bad name. And I worry that this event, her litter, is going to cause a backlash against IVF, with the powers that be imposing more regulations and more requirements on the procedure. And the problem with that is that more regulation could backfire on those of us that need(ed) it.

I got pregnant at 42 with my own eggs. It was our third cycle of IVF; there were twelve eggs retrieved, and there were 10 embryos available for transfer three days later. The embryologist chose the best five, and those five were transferred to my uterus. One took, implanted if you will, and now, the one child that resulted is a feisty kindergartner.

There's no question in my mind that transferring five embryos was appropriate - considering my age, our prior cycles, the quality of the embryos. There is also - but maybe it's just me - no question that had I turned up pregnant with quints, a selective reduction would have been in order.

The press hoopla surrounding the octo-mom puts a spotlight on an isolated case - and I sorely hope that it's recognized as an aberration. Take that doctor's license away, but don't take away the ability of good ethical doctors to treat patients in the most appropriate way.

35 comments:

FreshHell said...

Absolutely agree. I think that doctor is to blame for allowing that woman to carry all of those children. Never mind raising them (which is mind blowing), but how incredibly dangerous for the babies to be born so small and premature and so at risk of...so many things. All for the sake of having as many as possible? Who does that benefit? She already had so many children to begin with. But, yeah, let's hope one idiot's choice doesn't ruin it for other women out there who want one or two. Who want a family. Not a baseball team.

She She said...

Well said, thoughtful and reasonable.

Menopausal musing said...

Madness, utter, utter madness, WASN'T IT????

kathy a. said...

there is a saying, that hard cases make bad law. this is one of those situations -- so unique and so horrible, and so widely known. so very unlikely to ever happen again.

i hope and believe that this one extreme situation is NOT the public face of IVF.

this media fascination has just been awful, bringing out the absolute worst in people. i mean, death threats? all this ranting about taxpayer dollars? and yadda ya, for weeks.

other people's reproductive choices are NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. i worry a lot that this is one more excuse for everyone in the universe to think they own every womb on earth, and are entitled to express their opinions about each and every pregnancy [or lack of pregnancy, in some cases] they encounter.

Anjali said...

Obviously, an even cursory psychological evaluation would have indicated that a young woman who is depressed and has considered suicide should not have multiple transferred embryos after having 6 kids, when she is also single, has no income, and no partner. I feel sorry for her. She was totally taken advantage of by a doctor who should be arrested for reckless endangerment.

And I hate, too, that this is another excuse for the media to paint all women (whether undergoing IVF or not) as hormonal maniacs who want nothing more than to be pregnant and surround themselves with small children.

kathy a. said...

i'm not saying she made good choices; nobody on earth could provide care singlehandedly with that many infants, not to mention her other young children. and her doctor should be strung up by his thumbs. but we do not all need to participate in stoning; it would be better if we concentrated on helping the kids we know to be the best people they can be.

Susiej said...

You know, you're right. I really didn't realize it, but she does give IVF a bad name... because you can't look at her without thinking that. I saw her in the checkout on the magazine stand... she looks so calm and Madonnishy.

Mental P Mama said...

Amen. My IVF 17-year-olds would agree as well.

phd in yogurtry said...

You make such a well spoken, good case for sanity in the midst of the insane.

Janet said...

agree, agree, agree.

I tried IVF at 43...my significant other backed out when the eggs were ready to harvest.

Sigh...

jen said...

the whole thing saddens me. while it's a pickle (using generous terms) the babies are HERE. doesn't matter now HOW they got here, and HOW they will be supported, all of them, mom too, is what I think about.

And I am not thinking of blaming the whole industry that has allowed hundreds of thousands of happy families over the years.

cactus petunia said...

Wow. Very tricky topic to discuss without passing some kind of judgement.
A woman's right to choose is a woman's right to choose. Whether I agree with her choice or not, it's still her choice, and I'll always defend that.
That said, I'm sending prayers to that family. They're gonna need all the help they can get.

Gwen said...

I couldn't agree more. I have the same fears. I hope that I made that clear in my post about Octomom. I know people who have needed to use IVF to have the families of their dreams. It is both appropriate and miraculous for so many reasons. I'm very happy you were able to have a baby using this method. But Octomom is a whole different situation. For one, she is irresponsible. She is, admittedly, unable to care for the children she already had. Hopefully, the powers that be will be able to see the difference between, say, someone like you, and someone like her. That difference is huge.

Gwen said...

And just to add one more thing as I'm reading the other comments. Cactus: You're right, a woman has a right to choose. But at what point do we start holding people accountable for their actions? I have the right to have as many children as a I want so long as my having those children doesn't infringe on the rights of others. If I start using taxpayers money to support my brood, then that isn't fair. With rights come responsibility. You can't have one without the other.

Kyla said...

I totally agree. It is all so dicey, the consequences of her poor choices have the potential to affect many.

Don Mills Diva said...

AMEN.

Definitely take that doctor's license away but don't restrict IVF for people (like me) who will likely need it.

the queen said...

Thank you for proving me right and Friends 2 & 3 wrong. They insisted NO doctor ever implanted more than 3 embryos, ever. We were having a debate about Octomom - I was playing OctoAdvocate. How many embryos is too many? Who gets to decide? Evidently Friend 2 could have 2 embryos, Friend 3 could have 1 embryo, and I can not have any embryos at all.

Ree said...

Here Here! (Or is it hear! hear!?) At any rate, well said.

Life in Eden said...

EXACTLY.

I too have hesitated to post on this due to the whole who-ha. But all my comments on others posts have been along the same lines as your post -- please g-d don't let this become the face of IVF. Don't let it change things for others.

I think that there should be discussions PRIOR to transfer regarding selective reduction. If the patient may need many embryos transferred to have a possible success, they should be prepared for reduction for the safety of all involved, if needed.

flutter said...

actually, i think it was the doctor that made a mockery of IVF

Mayberry said...

Great post. Did you also see Lisa Belkin's take on it, @ the NYT's Motherlode blog? She makes some good points about where "the line" is and how to see it.

Lotta said...

SUCH a rough call. Is it ok to let IVF Dr's decide who should or shouldn't have kids? Pysch evals before injections? I just don't know. But I do feel awful for those kids.

Florinda said...

Well said. I'd hope that in time, this is seen as the isolated, irresponsible case that it is and not typical of either women who seek IVF or the doctors who provide it.

Stimey said...

Yeah, I agree that this particular woman is not necessarily the poster child for good parenting. But it kind of freaks me out that so many otherwise progressive women are saying (in plenty of other blogs) that based on her financial and non-married position, she should not be allowed to have more kids. I get that there is more to it than that, but I think it's a slippery slope. I look at other people with large families and the reaction to them, and it seems like the reason people think this woman shouldn't have been allowed to have more kids is because she is poor and single. Who are we to say that poor and single women can't have babies? The whole thing makes me a little uneasy.

cactus petunia said...

I agree with Stimey...it shouldn't be up to me or anyone else to decide who gets to choose what's best for them. And I don't agree with Gwen's reasoning that it's okay as long as we can afford them. All children have an impact on society as a whole. Not just the ones that come from poor families. In fact, wealthy families can have a much greater negative impact on society than poor ones, in that they tend to use far more of our planets natural resources than they should, simply because they can afford to. Who gets to decide if that's okay?
And I'll shut up now...Thanks, Magpie for opening up the discussion!

Angelina said...

Lots of interesting points have been brought up and it's nice that everyone discussing this issue here is so civil. I would like to say what bothers me and I hope that it will not upset anyone too much:

I have always thought that it's pretty amazing that IVF can give so many couples a chance to have a family that their bodies have not, on their own, made possible. To me science is wonderful when it can heal a person in more ways than one. The octo mom will not change for me the view that IVF is wonderful in some ways.

What really bothers me is when religious people refuse to go through a selection process because they believe it is against God's plan. I am not religious but when I read this point of view I always want to object "No, it wasn't God that gave you this chance at children. God denied you and you turned to science." So if you're willing to turn to science to give you what God did not, why should it be so hard to make a choice that is healthiest for both the parents and children.

There's a reason why human beings very rarely give birth to multiples. It isn't healthy for the babies, it isn't healthy for the parents.

There, I've said it. I respect people not wanting to go through a selection process because of religious reasons, but if a couple knows they won't do that, I really feel they either should not go through IVF, or they should reduce the number of viable eggs implanted.

Angeline said...

its such a rare rare case isn't it?
I'm not too sure about IVF, but if like you've said, 5 embryos were transferred to your uterus, hence there could be a possibility that you get 5 kids? (damn what do you call 5 kids, if 8 is called octoplets, and that's not even in the dictionary!)

usually its just one right? people who truly needed IVF is because they can't conceive as well as others right?

sigh... anyway, I completely agree with you on the way the doctor did it....

Woman in a Window said...

Holy crap! I don't follow popular culture too closely, although I heard mention of the case in blogland. But are people really that stupid to backlash based on one crazy woman? Really?

Aurelia said...

Maggie, I think that in your case it was one thing to transfer that many embryos, both because of your profile and because of the fact that you really were willing to have selective reduction. You were in a fresh cycle and any left behind would have been frozen for FETs which can have lower success rates in some clinics. (Not mine, because it has a protocol to ehlp with that.) But yes, I can understand a woman in a fresh cycle who is willing to reduce wanting that option.

But in a woman who is firmly pro-life? And doing FETs, with already frozen embryos? They did not have to be all used then. They could just sit there and stay frozen for years while she did endless singleton pregnancies, after transferring one embryo at a time.

That Doctor could have acted in a very different manner ethically. Her reproductive decisions are her own, and even if I wonder at her parenting choices, I absolutely do not want laws made that restrict anything to do with my uterus.

But that Doctor? Yank his license! Make sure he never touches another woman again.

And maybe the ASRM should make a rule that all couples/single women, prior to undergoing treatment should have to read and sign a document that outlines the risks of multiples very very explicitly and questions them about how they feel about selective reduction so they understand that if they are firmly pro-life, that they really should only do single embryo transfer.

Prospective parents can still change their minds any time as is their choice, but I personally think knowledge changes the conversation from "twins are the jackpot" to "twins have a 19 times higher rate of death and disability," and it just might change the outcome.

As for you Maggie? My question is, if you were given the option they have in Europe, which is free unlimited treatment, (drugs, storage etc, included) in exchange for only doing single embryo transfer, and then as many FETs as SET as you like, would you have done that instead? Just because I remember money being an issue with your last cycle, and sometimes it is with other patients?

Library Lady said...

It's a woman's right to choose--but it's also her RESPONSIBILITY to be able to support the babies she brings into this world--financially and emotionally. And OctoMom qualifies as neither.

And yes, it is our business because from what I can tell, the IVF and medical treatments are all courtesy of the state of California, and thus, courtesy of all US taxpayers--since our taxes trickle down to the states.

I'm lucky enough to have my two monsters--er, daughters--and to have had them the old fashioned way. And I wouldn't want to deny other women the chance to be parents.

But some sort of common sense regulations are in order. At the very least, no one's tax dollars should be going to support meshuggenehs like this woman

slouching mom said...

Amen. One woman, and a distinctly nutty one at that, should not ruin what is a necessary and longed-for procedure for so many people.

Julia said...

Very much with you. But I also think your case fits in the ethical guidelines I've read recently, both from Europe and North America-- your age and history, as well as willingness to reduce made you a good candidate for the way your cycle went. I have to say, though, that my friend who is an MFM has a serious dislike for a particular IVF practice in my city because they transfer too many embryos, resulting in a very high rate of selective reductions (which, apparently, are often done at my practice, where my friend also works). Dr. Friend tells me that reducing does not take the pregnancy's risk down entirely to the level of what it would've been if it started out at the number that it was reduced too, but it is certainly better risk-wise than carrying the unreduced pg.

When I was planning our IVF cycle last year, I was a giant pain in the ass for the clinic because I kept insisting on a single embryo transfer-- given my history (both before and after-- that PTL this summer sure was FUN, not)I believe I was right, and really my biggest immediate fear going into treatments was the possibility of needing to reduce. Not because I am on principle pro life, I am most certainly not. But because of where I was coming from, I really just didn't want to be in that position.

And that brings me right to the Octomom and the fact that I can never understand how the doctor and she could both be so incredibly irresponsible, taking such a huge risk with the lives and health of the potential babies.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

If only her doctor had exercised some common sense.

I must comment on Cactus Petunia's comment. Who will pay taxes and support our aging society if people don't have children. It would seem to me that those of use who have several children (that we can afford) balance those who have none.

nonlineargirl said...

My response to the whole thing has been similar - she is making all ivf-users look like crazy people. I have had the same response when a Jewish person does something terrible. I want to stand up for Jews and yell: hey, you are making us all look bad!

Jen said...

I've never had IVF but certainly don't judge the procedure based on Oct-mom. I'm wondering why she even had IVF in the first place, given that she apparently did not have fertility problems.