My wife and I suffered from infertility for two years. We turned to egg donation and successfully conceived a son, Jonah, who’s now 3 1/2. Since that first attempt we decided to try again and my wife is expecting twins in early December. I’ve written fairly frequently here about our experiences.
When John Edwards was chosen as John Kerry’s running mate, the New York Times and other publications noted that Ms. Edwards had “used hormone injections” in her efforts to become pregnant with the two children they share. I wrote a post, Elizabeth Edwards and Infertility, declaring that it was highly likely Edwards used egg donation to become pregnant and that I hoped she might speak publicly about her experience on behalf of the millions of Americans who are infertile and have used egg donation to create families of their own.
When I visited the John Edwards blog to mention the post I’d written, I received a torrent of abuse from people saying I had no business invading Edwards privacy, that I was diverting people’s attention from the far more important issue of the election campaign, and even worse personal insults. I understand that there is a tremendous level of ignorance and even hostility toward the infertile in this society. But I was still taken aback by what I read in this forum.
Last week, Suz Redfearn sent me an e mail saying she was writing an article, Did Elizabeth Edwards Use Donor Eggs? for Slate.com on just this subject. She interviewed me and to tell you the truth most of what I said ended up on the “cutting room floor.” I also felt the article’s tone was a bit breathy and breezy considering the gravity and complexity of the issue. But I still feel that Redfearn wrote an important piece that deserves the attention of the everyone, whether infertile or not.
Slate published the article today and there’s been a similar torrent of hostility in the Slate discussion forums against Redfearn for writing the article, and against Slate for publishing it. These commenters are irate in feeling that Elizabeth Edwards’ medical issues are no one’s business but her own. They are irate that someone like Redfearn even feels this is an issue worthy of discussion. Here’s a non-representative sampling of responses:
“Who, has put you in charge of butting your nose into, this womans life. How dare you question this personal part of her life. You should not even care, let alone ask others into this very private choice in this person’s life. SHAME ON YOU.”
“I’m appalled by this piece. It is irrelevant and mean spirited. And I’m disappointed in a publication that I have always found a place for refreshing views. I find it highly questionable that such an article would be published four days before the election about something so personal.”
“Suz has obviously grown up in the climate where corporal punishment was not practised. A pity. Her attitude and convolute mind deserve a big double smack on her derrier.”
“I cannot believe anyone would have the audacity to publish such nonsense. This is truly deplorable and I cannot fathom that 1) the authors of this article are so heartless as to actually put these accusations in print and 2) that Slate allowed them to be published. This shows the authors’ desperate and futile attempt to “make news” and a shameful lack of judgment and credibility. The classless people who wrote this should be utterly humiliated and disgusted with themselves.
A note to the authors: to charge that a mother’s children are not her own is a gruesome crime.”
Not once does Redfearn contend that Edwards’ children are not “her own,” even if she used egg donation to create them. I know. My wife is more the mother of our son than the blessed woman who contributed the eggs to create him. My wife bore him in her womb for nine months. She breastfed him when he was an infant. She has been every bit the mother that any woman would be who used her own egg to create her child.
Where do people come up with these ridiculous imputations. Why are they so ignorant? Why are they so hateful?
Redfearn’s article merely suggested that Edwards, should she choose, could educate the nation about the scourge of infertility. She could do enormous good for the hundreds of thousands, if not millions of couples who suffer from it. She could use her bully pulpit to speak of the injustice of the infertile not being able to get health insurance coverage which would enable them to use fertility treatment to conceive. She could speak of the injustice done to the poor woman, desperate to have a child and family, but who cannot afford the enormous expensive of these treatments.
The infertile need someone to speak for them. Chris Reeve willingly served that role for those suffering from spinal injury. Michael J. Fox serves this role for those with multiple schlerosis. Magic Johnson champions those suffering from HIV/AIDS. What’s wrong with asking someone in the public eye to take up the cause and help those suffering with the same condition as them?
I have gone public about infertility and egg donation because I want to do my small share to educate those who don’t suffer from this as my wife and I did. My son knows he is an egg donor baby. We are open with him about this. We want this to be a natural part of his life. I completely do not understand those who either defer telling their children or say they won’t tell them at all. Being an egg donor baby should be no different than having red hair or green eyes. The longer there is silence, ignorance and fear regarding this subject, the more pain and suffering such children may experience as they grow up.
If you’re disturbed by the comments you read above, I hope you’ll visit the Slate.com Medical Examiner forum and add your two cents worth.
UPDATE: As I write this on November 6, 2004, the Edwards family has revealed that Elizabeth Edwards has breast cancer. I want anyone reading this to know that I wish her a speedy and full recovery. I have a friend and a former girlfriend who have had breast cancer. Both have beaten it so far and I’m hopeful that Edwards will be among these lucky ones.
Mary F says
I am with you!!! I think that Edwards should come forward eventually and tell the world about the DE (donor egg) aspect of her kids. I have 6 year old twins from DE….I have NOTHING to be ashamed about. When “other” people try to tell me things like “I would never do that” or “It was God’s will” ( I lost my ovaries at 33 )…..I look at them incredulously and say: “Why would you say that, I just can’t imagine anything more right than my kids:////
I have never been ashamed of donor egg and have NEVER had any reason to be ashamed of where my kids came from. SO many women struggle with DE and if they only knew what was on the other side…pure bliss, a lot of work, stretch marks and lots of other great things, they would be less worried about the genetics connection!
The reaction to the article and your comments reminds me of the recent flap over Mary Cheney. Honestly: one can only think discussing the Edwards family’s use of donor eggs or Mary Cheney’s sexuality is bad if one believes that the things being discussed are themselves somehow shameful. I mean, sure, people shouldn’t go around asking total strangers “Are you gay?” or “Are those children really ‘yours’?” But these are public figures dealing with issues that many of us deal with, and they have a chance to remove harmful stigmas… so, talk, people!
Looks Michael is doing well so far having Parkinson. When I first heard he had the disease, I thought he’d be dead in a few years. Glad to hear he still kicking and making a difference in the world.