A.R.T. Assisted Reproductive Technology. I’m a Mom of an IVF/ICSI baby but there are many other types of A.R.T. parents: ZIFT, GIFT, Microsort, IUI, DI, DE, DI/DE, etc. Like what NOT to say to an Infertile friend, here is what NOT to say to parents of A.R.T. Children.
1. Oh, so is she like other babies?
Well, besides the fact that she turns into an ogre under the full moon? First, is there an appropriate way to ask this of anyone? Second, when all other factors are equal, IVF babies are no more at risk than any other baby.
2. She’s a Test Tube Baby?
Seriously? If you say this to me I’m going to hit you in the face. And I’m a pacifist. If she’s a “test tube baby” then is your baby a “microscopic crack in the condom baby” or a “forgot to take my pill today baby” or a “too drunk to remember the diaphragm baby”? For your information IVF doesn’t even happen in a test tube.
Oh and if you call her a Petri Dish Baby there will be blood.
3. Did you get to pick the eye color?
Why, yes, yes I did. We didn’t do this because we suffer from soul-crushing infertility but because we had $15,000 to blow and really only like people with blue eyes. And designer baby is the new black. Natch.
4. Weren’t you worried about having like 8 babies?
NO I WAS NOT. THAT WAS NEVER A POSSIBILITY. The media focuses stories about IVF on the few, horrible, irresponsible people who abuse fertility treatment (and their unethical doctors that allow them to). Did you know that in the US 2% of all births are IVF babies? That doesn’t even include other methods of A.R.T. World wide over 200,000 IVF babies are born every year. Since the first IVF birth in 1978 there have been approximately 3.5 million children born through IVF. There are guidelines for responsible IVF transfer published by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. They aren’t law of course, and shouldn’t be because every case is different. There are hundreds of conditions underlying infertility and a single set of guidelines couldn’t cover them all.
Also, I just want to point out that people often assume that some women of high-order multiples have made their choice out of a sanctity for life – e.g. choosing not to “selectively reduce” embryos to save others. For the record, I am not in favor of selective reduction but I am in favor of avoiding the need to make that decision! Yes, Kate Gosselin didn’t “reduce” her babies and kudos for her but she should have never went against medical advice and went forward with conception knowing she had that many eggs maturing. When I did inseminations or super-ovulation cycles I was monitored almost daily for follicle growth. If you have too many developing they cancel the cycle and warn you NOT to have sex. The more responsible choice is to only attempt conception with the number of babies you are willing to carry and thus avoid the reduction dilemma.
Oh, one more also – women also are led to take risks related to high-order multiples because of the exorbitant cost of treatment and the fact that it is not covered by (most) insurance. Read more here and here.
5. Are they “real”?
In reference to twins or triplets. What the hell is a real twin? What is the opposite of a real twin – a “fake” twin?
6. Why didn’t you just adopt?
Adoption is beautiful. It is also difficult, expensive, and not for everyone. It is a personal choice. The desire to be pregnant and give birth is a real and valid desire. Don’t insult someone for striving to fulfill their biological drive.
7. Is she biologically yours?
This gem usually comes from someone with just enough information to be dangerous. They know enough to realize that A.R.T. can include donor sperm and/or donor eggs. It really just isn’t any of your business and the question implies that biology would somehow change their view of your child.
8. Was it you or your partner?
This question, regarding whose “fault” the infertility is, crosses that none-of-your-business line too. Additionally, many infertile couples I know do not make that differentiation. I think of myself as infertile even though our medical diagnosis is “male factor – anti-sperm antibodies.” Pete is my husband he’s the father of my children regardless of how they come to us. When people say “well you are fertile” I get very angry and defensive for my husband.
9. How many embryos do you have/what are you doing with your left over embryos?
This question is usually loaded with a religious judgment behind it. The real question is “are you going to discard your embryos?” Really, none of your business.
10. Are you going to have more?
This question is rude for the same reason that it is rude to constantly ask a young couple “when are you going to have kids?” You don’t know the pain that might linger behind the question. The desire for a second child is as painful as for the first for many. Others are happy with one child and feel insulted that they should want more to complete their family. Really? None of your business.
All snark aside, I usually try to see the intention behind the question. Often people are just ignorant and are trying to show sympathy and not meaning to be rude. Some things people have said to me that feel “right” :
- “Oh that’s amazing!”
- “What a blessing!”
- “You must be so thrilled!”
- “She’s just perfect.”
- “Interesting, I’d love to hear more about that, if you are willing.”
Stop. Think. Then speak. Thank you.