Which Was It ?

Recently, more than one woman, as the nuances are parsed out, has come to realize that what they thought of as a miscarriage was actually a type of abortion. Truth is the definition means that both result in a similar outcome.

Medically, an abortion is the termination of pregnancy by the removal or expulsion from the uterus of a fetus or embryo prior to a viability allowing it to continue living. Many doctors now prefer to refer to this event as a termination rather than an abortion (for obvious reasons). This can happen either spontaneously or it can be induced. Generally, the more spontaneous is referred to as a miscarriage and this can occur even rather late in a pregnancy. When the event is induced, it is referred to as an abortion. Often, when a D&C is performed, medical personnel don’t really know for certain, if an embryo is present. I remember having to have a D&C when I was receiving reproductive assistance between the births of my two sons due to my lining not developing well enough and being asked directly if I was or could be pregnant. Since I was experiencing secondary infertility due to age and had not had any embryos transferred, I could be confident in my answer. With recent laws at some state’s level, this kind of situation could risk legal ramifications for the medical personnel and the woman.

During in vitro fertilization, it is common to fertilize more eggs than will be needed as the goal is to increase the woman’s chances of a successful pregnancy. Those excess fertilized eggs are commonly frozen, disposed of or donated for scientific research (which will then cause their destruction) – none of those choices are thought of as abortion. Some couples, as we did, will donate their frozen embryos to another couple – though in our case – the couple whose effort initially was successful and joyous, ultimately failed to develop after that point. All reproductive assistance patients want their pregnancy to be successful. In my mom’s group, only about half of the woman who started off in the group with us ended up with a pregnancy and ultimately, a child or children (we had quite a few twins and even a set of triplets in our group).

Often tens of thousands of dollars have been invested in the effort. Though this effort may initially appear successful, the pregnancy can still end and a decision must be made to remove those cells and the lining. Technically, this would be defined as an abortion. I read today about one case where a patient was carrying triplets. The pregnancies created by through in vitro fertilization, each implanted but stopped developing at different stages: one at six weeks, one at seven and one at eight. Therefore, none of these embryos were going to be successful in producing a child. Her doctor had to remove that tissue. It is not healthy and serves no purpose in remaining.

There is a kind of miscarriage that will be referred to as a missed abortion. The pregnancy actually ended, even though no symptoms of that had occurred. The contents of the uterus have not been naturally expelled. Sometimes, there may be some brownish discharge. The fact that the embryo has died is often discovered during a routine scan by her OB. The patient will be given Oxytocin, antibiotics and a D&C (a complete uterine evacuation – abortion). This is a situation where new laws could become problematic, especially if this occurs after 6 weeks and a positive indication of pregnancy.

Somehow Holding It Together

Nicole Kidman and adopted children Isabella and Connor Cruise

A friend brought Nicole Kidman’s motherhood issues to my attention yesterday. She has my sympathy for many reasons, even though she is an adoptive mom and also had her youngest child via a gestational surrogate – neither of which I am supportive of – but I do understand the challenges she has endured.

Given that Tom Cruise does have a daughter with Katie Holmes, I would assume that the infertility issues were mostly on Nicole’s side of things. One can’t really talk about Tom Cruise without Scientology coming up. I have a very dear friend, who once posted the most gorgeous images every single day (even some she created herself) to my other WordPress blog – Gazing in the Mirror. She is deep into Scientology and even inspired me to want to look at it (I even bought some books) but I just really couldn’t get into it. Some of the health aspects were intriguing to me.

As a mother who’s daughter grew up raised by my ex-husband and a step-mother, I know the difficult balancing act required to maintain any kind of relationship at all under those circumstances. In an article from August 2021 posted at LINK> Now To Love – Nicole never gave up on the possibility of reunion with her adopted children, Bella, 28, and Connor, 26, even after suffering further heartache as she missed out on her daughter’s wedding in 2015.

The two young adults still maintain strong ties to their 59-year-old father’s beloved Scientology – the religion that originally took Nicole’s children from her by discouraging contact. The siblings kept their distance from Nicole due to her alleged ex-communication status as an “SP” [Suppressive Person] following her divorce from Tom. Now that they’re technically adults, they are free to make their own choices. Cruse had legal custody of the two adoptees after the divorce.

“Bella sent out an olive branch to Nicole a couple of years ago by using her name in her clothing brand [Bella Kidman Cruise]. “That meant the world to Nicole,” says our source. “She’s shown nothing but respect for those kids, and she kept to the agreement she made with Tom, who took full custody.” “Nicole really went out on a limb talking about them, but it was important for them to know, even in an indirect way, that it wasn’t what she wanted. And it seems it worked.”

As to the gestational surrogacy. The two younger children are shared with Nicole’s husband, country singer Keith Urban. An article about Nicole’s struggle to have children is in this article, LINK> Nicole Kidman’s Fertility Treatments, IVF and Surrogacy. Though there is separation for the child who developed in another woman’s womb, Nicole’s two daughters with Urban a fully genetically related. As a mother who had two sons via egg donor IVF conception, I can understand wanting a second child as a companion to the first one and wanting them to have that common genetic bond.

Kidman has been open about the difficulties she has faced conceiving. During her marriage to Cruise, she suffered a number of miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, which occurs when the fertilized egg is implanted outside of the womb, resulting in the fetus not surviving. After her marriage to Urban and a year of trying to conceive, thanks to technologically advanced fertility treatments, Kidman was able to become pregnant and give birth in 2008 to her first biological child, Sunday Rose. 

Three years later, in 2011, the couple announced the birth of their second child, who was gestated via a surrogate. Kidman and Urban are the child’s biological parents (her egg and his sperm), the embryo was implanted in the gestational carrier’s uterus. Their second daughter was born on December 28th 2011 in Nashville and given the name Faith Margaret.

Keith Urban, Faith Margaret, Nicole Kidman, Sunday Rose

May the two girls be as happy together as siblings as my two sons are and may Nicole continue to develop an ongoing relationship with Bella and Connor.

All In One

Mom via adoption, IVF and surrogacy

Infertility is a difficult path for any woman. For many of us the expectation is that we will have children at some point in our life. The Atluri family now has 7 children but it took every trick in the assisted reproduction toolkit to get them to this outcome. Josephine is one of the 1 in 8 women requiring fertility assistance, and also one of the 1 in 4 women who have experienced a miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

My blog today comes thanks to an article in LINK> The Huffington Post by Josephine Atluri. The family also had decisions to make regarding their frozen embryos, a situation in light of the uncertainties brought about by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade and the rush to close and lock doors in many Republican controlled states. Not that this was a factor in the Atluri family’s calculations but it has become a factor for many couples who have used IVF now.

The first child added to this family came by way of adoption. During the 3 years they attempted to create their family with assisted reproduction through IVF, she experienced chemical pregnancies, miscarriages and flat-out failed cycles. After losing a twin pregnancy at 17 weeks, she realized that she could no longer handle the physical, mental and emotional toll of another IVF cycle. Thus, half a year after the loss of their twins, they pivoted in their approach to parenthood and pursued an international adoption. They adopted a 10-month-old boy who became the physical manifestation of their hopes to have a family.

After a year of joyful parenthood, their sense of optimism had renewed enough to try one more IVF cycle at a new fertility center in Denver. Thankfully, they succeeded, becoming pregnant with twins again and this time the pregnancy went to term. They became the parents of healthy boy and girl twins.

The happy ending did not erase the pain experienced from infertility, miscarriage or pregnancy loss for Josephine. This eventually manifested in a fight to control her body as untreated mental health issues snowballed into bulimia. During the healing process, she discovered that she felt the need to “control” her body through her eating disorder partly because it was uncooperative reproductively. 

Every year after the birth of their twins, they received a letter from the storage facility that safeguarded the many embryos from their last IVF procedure. For four years they decided to keep them frozen. On the fifth year, her husband said, “I think it’s time we give these embryos a chance.” After a drawn-out moment, she expressed another truth she had confronted during her healing journey. “I can’t. I just can’t do it again. I’m so sorry.”

It was at this point they decided to pursue surrogacy. She says, “At every step of the process, an unthinkable level of trust, vulnerability, collaboration and communication was required.” Without complications, their surrogate gave birth to their twin boys. Even so, they continued to receive annual reminders regarding their remaining frozen embryos, They tried surrogacy again and two decades after their first IVF cycle, they are now the proud parents of seven children: a 15-year-old son, 13-year-old boy/girl twins, 6-year-old twin boys and 1-year-old twin girls.

She thinks of herself as a warrior in a 17 year long war against infertility. Thanks to the support of online community, she was able to find strength in her story and voice. She speaks up about women’s physical and mental health issues in an effort to destigmatize and normalize these important conversations. She has become a fertility, pregnancy and parenting mindfulness coach.

An Alternative to Adoption

Even before I knew so much about adoption, when secondary infertility became an obstacle to my husband’s desire to be a father, my OB-GYN said, “there is another way.” Now that I know more about the trauma that adoption causes, than I knew at that time, I will always consider this the best way. Even before we knew about that, my husband and I rejected the idea of adopting children. I do feel that sperm donors are more worrisome because the history of that kind of donation may include many, many half siblings. I have a biological, genetically related, grown daughter and two grandchildren, so having been there and done made accepting the “other” way easier for me personally.

Distance prevents us from having a closer relationship with our donor but my children have met her on more than one occasion. They are aware of her and that she has children, two sons and a daughter, which she has raised. Occasionally, I show them pictures of her and those children, when she shares them at Facebook. She has always been interested in the boys, while being non-intrusive but totally open to any relationship they may want to create with her. They have a private method of contact with her, if they wish to use that, through 23 and Me.

The Guardian today has another family’s story. “They used her eggs to have a baby. Now they’re one big family.” by Ellie Houghtaling, with photographs by Bridget Bennett. The subtitle notes – “Anonymity is meant to protect donors, but taking another path can afford a different sort of security – and new ways to think about how to raise a kid.” We took a similar path, our donor was a stranger we “met” on the internet and had what is called a “known donation”. We have not had exactly the same style of parenting as in this article. We have always been open and transparent with our sons about how they were conceived because they were wanted and not some kind of accident.

It is rare for families to meet the stranger donating eggs to them. In the US, egg and sperm donation is usually a closed process. It is more common for a family to hear about the donor through an agency. With anonymous donation, the couple may receive only basic, non-identifying features about their potential donor – such as their university or their eye color – without ever learning their name or hearing their voice. Most donors go through some testing. In the case of egg donation, hormone injections are utilized over a period of time to procure whatever number of eggs the donor produces. With agency facilitated anonymous donation methods, the donor is never told whether their donation was successful, who the family is, or what any offspring that result look like.

Before our first procedure (she donated again for our second son), we spent time with our donor and her youngest son. We were respectful of what she was doing for us. Both times, we provided her with whatever comforts she suggested would be helpful after her eggs were retrieved and have stayed in contact with her over the years. Our sons are genetically the same – the sperm and egg sources were the same for both. I see our donor and her children reflected in the appearance of our sons. It makes me happy – which might seem strange to some people – but I think it is a reflection of my fondness and appreciation for her. As far as being their mother – the donor has shown a total understanding of the differences in her and my roles. My sons treat me 100% as their mother, which seems natural and understandable regardless.

Becoming a family thanks to that “other way” has proven to be a good choice for my own family. Our sons seem to understand they would not even exist under any other circumstance.

Short And To The Point

I wanted to make a point that I did not in yesterday’s blog – Conveying Personhood to Embryos. Who is motivated to adopt babies in the United States ? Infertile couples. Due to the overturning of Roe v Wade, there is now much more uncertainty now upon the best path to parenthood for such couples – that is – using IVF and having children with one or both of the parental inputs donated. If this avenue becomes inaccessible (as abortion already had in much of these United States, even though federally protected), more of these infertile couples will be seeking to adopt any available baby.

My husband and I considered adoption to build our family but decided against the uncertainties of taking on someone else’s baby. That was even before I knew my own adoptee parents’ origin stories. In the 5 years since I started uncovering that story and along the way learning so much more about the trauma associated with separating a child from its biological parents, I have turned against adoption for the most part, even though I owe my very existence to that method of creating a family on the parts of my adoptive grandparents.

We know that increasing the supply of domestic infants available for adoption factored into several of the Supreme Court Justices thinking, I have to wonder if they considered further pressure on that supply if assisted reproduction becomes more expensive and/or inaccessible.

Conveying Personhood to Embryos

I am good with the definition above. With the overturning of Roe v Wade, couples who have utilized assisted reproduction to produce embryos now in cryogenic storage are concerned. Therefore, people hoping to conceive with in vitro fertilization are now considering moving their stored embryos to states where abortion is protected.

A handful of states want to use an abortion regulation to define life as beginning at fertilization. This is language that is commonly present in several state abortion bans. Some have gone into effect and others will soon, including in Utah, Texas and Louisiana. Some states want to go further – giving embryos constitutional rights through what are called “personhood” bills, even though most will never become babies. Personhood laws have been proposed but have not yet passed in Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Nebraska.

IVF is the other side of the reproductive choice coin. Abortion is a woman’s right to choose ‘no.’ IVF is their right to choose ‘yes.’ Laws that define life as beginning at conception could lead to limitations around how many eggs are fertilized in each IVF cycle and whether the resulting embryos, most of which are often not genetically viable, can be disposed of. It’s standard to retrieve a dozen eggs or more, then fertilize and test them to ensure the one that is implanted in the uterus has the best chance of leading to a healthy pregnancy. If those embryos are considered people from the moment they’re fertilized, disposal could be a crime and doctors could be prosecuted. That would make IVF less successful, more costly and more inaccessible.

Couples are worried that their embryos could be held hostage by abortion legislation and that they would then be unable to move them out of state. They are worried their state will force them to have another child even though they feel their family is complete. They are worried about getting pregnant at all and miscarrying – will they be able to receive the care they need?

The bottom line is this – losing choice means losing the autonomy to dictate one’s own future. 

Much of the content for today’s blog came by way of this article – “IVF may be in jeopardy in states where embryos are granted personhood” by Chabeli Carranza and Jennifer Gerson in The Guardian.

So Many Siblings

There is a difference between sperm and egg donations which are utilized in assisted reproduction to enable a couple to become parents. A man donating sperm can father a lot of genetically related children – which is now becoming apparent to many of the maturing individuals who owe their lives to that process. It is a lot more complicated and involved for the woman who donates her eggs. Generally, she is never going to be involved in the number of offspring that a man donating sperms can theoretically create.

Donor conceived persons do have some concerns in common with adoptees as it relates to their medical family history and cultural genetics and the unknowns that such conceptions entail. Therefore, my blog today is inspired by a story in The Guardian about Chrysta Bilton. Her father was a prolific sperm donor. In her 20s, she discovered that she had dozens, and most likely hundreds, of biological siblings growing up all over the US. That the man she knew only as her dad, the one who struggled with homelessness and drug addiction, was secretly one of the most prolific sperm donors at the California Cryobank.

Chrysta’s story is complex, worth the time to read it, if it interests you. I was a young adult in the 80s and settled down into the married life that is mine late in that decade but I have some sense of what it was like. My life does not resemble Chrysta’s in the least really but there were the unconventional choices that I made as well – to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother (I was already divorced from her dad) while I tried out driving an 18-wheel truck, which I found I could do. That led to taking off to live without much of a safety net in the marijuana growing region of Humboldt county. We had some bags of dried beans and the guys (I was the only woman and did the cooking and cleaning up afterwards) shot critters for us to eat. We also got some Salmon from the local indigenous people. Those were my wild days.

I do have some understanding of the issues related to donor conception. With the advent of inexpensive DHA testing, something that seemed like it could be kept private within the closest family, is not something that can or should be kept private today. I’m grateful my husband and I have always been open, honest and transparent about our own choices regarding how we became the parents of our two sons.

Chrysta ends her story with this contemplation – What is family? What does it mean to be in someone’s family? What responsibilities do you have to those people? Meeting her 35 new siblings, she realized “something shared between all of us is that we all had a mother who desperately wanted us to exist.” That is a truth, children born by assisted reproduction are not accidents. They were intended. I believe that is an important factor.

In Britain today, donor children born since 2005 have the right to find out the identity of their biological parents when they reach 18. This “removal of anonymity” law came about after studies found that adopted and donor-conceived children benefited emotionally from knowing who their biological parents were, regardless of whether or not they had any contact with them.

As of late 2021, in the US, it is still technically possible to have anonymous donations. There is a Right to Know movement that is seeking to unseal closed adoption records but that has only been accomplished in about half of these 50 United States jurisdictions.

Chrysta’s book about her experiences is titled – A Normal Family. Her book is available in the US at all the usual booksellers.

Confusing An Embryo With a Live Baby

I think a lot of the emotion on the pro-Life side of things comes from misinterpreting an embryo by thinking of a live baby. Our frozens from the medical assistance we received to conceive my oldest son didn’t take when we tried for a second child. We had frozens leftover from our second attempt that did succeed but we knew that we had taken an unacceptable risk with my pregnancy and our son’s well being with that effort (if we had known, we would not have even tried but I am forever grateful that we did). Not wanting to simply dispose of these frozens, we did donate them to a couple trying to conceive. After initially receiving the good news of a pregnancy, that hoped for event subsequently failed to progress. I am still glad that we chose to give these frozens a chance.

For many years, it seemed that we had been lucky with our youngest son as there were no unfortunate effects. Then, around late 2014, I realized that he couldn’t see at a distance very well. An eye exam resulted in glasses. Due to the pandemic, follow-ups with his eye doctor were delayed. In that intervening time, his eyesight worsened significantly and an option that might have been available as a corrective could not be employed due to his now age of 17 (he actually was glad and I was glad for him – he didn’t want to do that one). Now, he does eye drops before sleep to hopefully hold the line on any more regression of his eyesight worsening.

Though my husband had tended to blame my son’s love of computer games and Discord relationships, in researching the issue, that potential cause has never been proven. What has turned up in studies is a statistical effect from gestational diabetes. Due to my age at his conception, a condition that I had only experienced late in the previous pregnancy, emerged as early (or even earlier, unknown to us) as 6 weeks gestation. It took insulin and Metformin both to control it and I still ended up on bedrest for 6 weeks as he was so large my womb could hardly tolerate it and threatened to deliver early.

I have admitted to my son my probable complicity in his condition. He has been very kind about it, acknowledging that I did not intentionally damage him. I do feel responsibility regardless. I share my story because although medical science has made it possible for women of an advanced age to conceive and successfully carry a pregnancy, better to have your children when you are still young enough to do so without extraordinary measures. My son has always felt like my reward – my peacemaker (a story on CD told in song by Joanne Shenandoah that I listened to in the first days of his conception). He is the sweetest son and I am glad he is in our lives.

The Brave New World

It is a reproductive fact – the egg contributes 50% of a person’s DNA, the sperm contributes 50% of a person’s DNA. For donor conceived children, the mother and/or father who is raising them may or may not be genetically related to them. Often, at least one parent is but in the brave new world of creating human beings utilizing reproductive technology – a child may be raised by a single mother who is not related at all to her child – though she may have carried the child and even breastfed her baby. The truth is that one’s marriage to their child is life-long, though as in the case of divorce, a genetically related parent may not be in their child’s life 24/7 or even throughout the childhood.

I do know of families with donor conceived children for whom the donor was anonymous – this can apply to egg donors as well as sperm donors. Fact is – Anonymity — as a pragmatic matter — can no longer be guaranteed to the donors who contribute to the existence of any donor conceived person. Donor-conceived people have interests all their own. Not all donor-conceived people know about their origin, and many express an interest in knowing more about their donors, including medical and identifying information. In a group of adult donor-conceived offspring from the 256 families that were eligible to receive identifying information, 85 (35%) contacted the clinic for this purpose. Many of those who contacted the clinic did so within the first three years after they turned 18, with the most common motivation to obtain information about their donors, including who they are as a person, their reasons for donation and their medical and health information. Third, recipients have a strong interest in knowing about the health risks their future children may experience based on the medical history of the donor.

Today, a woman writes – I’ve decided to conceive through a known local donor and my own egg. The child will know this man is their biological father. We are planning on meet up at least every 2 weeks from birth and he will receive plenty of pictures. He has also agreed to donate a second time in about 2 years so that my children will be biological siblings. (my note – that is certainly what my husband and I have as sons.) My question is, is there anything I’m overlooking in my excitement that I can do differently for the well-being of the child with this set up?

There are some details that sound like they haven’t been worked out yet. Is this an informal sperm donation or is it being arranged through a bank? Will he be listed on the birth certificate as the child’s father? Have you asked for perspectives from donor conceived people? Do you have a support system to help you raise the baby if he is not planning to be involved financially or practically? Has anything been drawn up legally? If he is not on the birth certificate as the father then he has no responsibility to help, participate or abide by your wishes. Sperm donors are not treated as the father of the child by law. No matter how much you may like and trust him today, things can change. To be clear, I am not against you creating a donor conceived a child. I encourage you to work out the legal details and to really think about the what if‘s no matter how unlikely they may seem now.

One response and some additional questions was this – The most ethical way to do this would be to list him on the birth certificate as the father and actually co-parent with him, not just let the child meet up with him every two weeks. Do you really think that would work out long term ? How would you handle it if the child tells you they want more time with their dad, overnights or to live with their dad or anything at all ?

Then there was this – What about when dad develops a new relationship with a woman who wants him all to herself?? To be with her and their “real” kids? Followed by an example – I actually know someone who was in this exact situation. She did what you are hoping to do, with a man who she thought would be in her child’s life forever. He moved across the country, married a woman who was/is extremely uncomfortable with the situation, they had kids together, and now he hasn’t seen his oldest child in over 2 years.

The woman in the question doesn’t want a romantic relationship and so that brings up another issue – You can forgo a romantic relationship, while also not procreating with a stranger. I do not understand why anyone would have a child with a man you do not know and then give that man access to your child. It takes a level of intimacy to trust someone to father your kid, doesn’t have to be romantic.

Again, more questions – what happens if you do meet somebody and fall in love, and your partner wants to take on the role of “dad” and feels threatened by the child’s relationship with its father ? And mentioned before – What happens if the father meets somebody and falls in love and she feels threatened by it, and tells him she doesn’t want him involved with you and your child ? What happens if he gets a job opportunity that moves him across the country, or even across the world ?

A woman choosing to donor conceive really needs to seriously think through the situation and there are situations where it does make sense and can be handled well. So just some final thoughts –

Both need to be absolutely certain on how that would work. Couples that intimately know each other can struggle to communicate well enough to co-parent, even within a marriage, and even more so when they live apart. You mentioned the specific of every two weeks having visits but what do you expect the visit to entail? How will you communicate changes in schedule? Are there financial obligations? Would your expectations change if his financial situation changed? What influence would he have on life decisions such as education, religion, place of residence, activities etc. What if someone needs or wants to move? Will you be able to control who else is included in the visits? How will his family be included or excluded? How will you handle inevitable disagreements on important issues? Do you have it legally planned out if something should happen to you and you are unable to parent or pass away? Planning to have full legal custody doesn’t guarantee you will make every decision on your own for the child. Are you financially prepared to confront additional legal barriers? You also mentioned having a sibling in two years which opens a new can of worms so to speak. I have watched so many of my friends struggle to work with someone they once loved navigating these issues. Some no longer recognize the person they chose (it happened) to father their child. Parenthood fundamentally changes people and it does seem you could set you and your child up for tremendous conflict. I think I would have multiple friends and family members write down every potential question they can think of and discuss how you can legally address these questions. I would also set up a prescribed procedure that should be followed when conflict does arise. I hope that is something attorneys can legally require. I’m sure you have thought a lot about what you expect, just be certain all of the potential legal issues are addressed to the best of your ability. In my opinion it would be a mistake to cross bridges when you come to them or rely on the donor to be a benevolent actor.

And just this advice – for your own protection, talk with a lawyer first. I got a free consult with a lawyer with expertise in this area, and decided a sperm bank was a better choice. There are a lot of cases, especially in certain states, where your donor could be considered a father, and could take custody, even with a legal agreement in place. Or could prevent you from moving out of state, etc. Took me awhile to let that dream go, but it was the right choice for me.

And though there aren’t many yet (I have read an essay from one myself who recognized she would not exist otherwise, which I thought a very healthy perspective) here are some Thoughts From A IVF Donor Conceived Person (if you want to read some more from such a person’s perspective). With this one, I thought this was also a healthy perspective – “I have never doubted that I was wanted, I’ve always known I was meant to be here on this earth. My conception wasn’t down to mystical chance, I had purpose and meaning to both sets of my parents from the moment I was conceived in my little Petri dish.”

Personally, as a last word, I can relate to this as I experienced secondary infertility, I was simply too old to conceive naturally any longer, even though I did give birth to a genetically, biologically related child – “Finding that you need assistance in conceiving does not mean you have failed, and it doesn’t mean any child you conceive through assisted reproduction is in any way ‘artificial’ or different from naturally conceived children. I’m proud of both my biological mother and my mother. IVF doesn’t make them any different to other parents, and raising a child that was not her own biological material doesn’t make my mother less of a parent.”

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Ukrainian Twins

Lenny and Moishe

Straight off – I am NOT a fan of surrogacy. There was a mom in my mom’s group who used a surrogate because she was actively undergoing treatment for cancer. I remember the two of us sharing that we were using reproductive assistance for our husbands. She did pass away about the time her boy/girl twins turned 2 years old. After years of trying, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law finally were successful in bringing a son into their lives.

My problem with surrogacy has arisen out of my gaining knowledge about the trauma of separating any baby from the mom in who’s womb the baby gestated. This is detailed in the book The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier. Even though my own family has depended upon medical technology to create our sons, I am at least grateful that in our own ignorance, we did one thing right – my sons both grew in my womb and nursed at my breast. I have been able to do something with them that I wasn’t even able to do for my biological, genetic daughter – be in the boy’s lives throughout their childhood.

The Russian war against Ukraine is heartbreaking and difficult to be a witness of. So, a feel good story coming out of that country is welcome. NPR did a follow-up to this story that had more than it’s share of bumps along the way. The genetic, biological father of these twins Alex Spektor was born in Ukraine, when it was part of the Soviet Union, and his family came to the US as Jewish refugees. From experience, I do believe that boys benefit from the genetic, biological mirror of being raised by their father. 

The mother was a surrogate; and therefore, was never intended to parent these babies. His twins were born prematurely to the surrogate mother in Kyiv just as Russia began its war on Ukraine. In a dramatic mission called “Operation Gemini,” the babies and the surrogate were rescued from Ukraine in March. They dodged Russian artillery fire, drove through a snowstorm, and finally arrived at a Polish hospital where Alex met his boys for the first time.

For 2 months, the family was stuck in bureaucratic limbo in Poland. Alex’s wife, Irma had flown to Poland in early March, after the twins had been evacuated. She had stayed in Chicago to get the family’s legal paperwork in order. She arrived late at night and the next morning went straight to the hospital where her twins were. Alex and Irma have spent those 2 months fighting to take their twins home to Chicago.

The hospital said they needed to prove the twin’s paternity in order to discharge the kids. The American embassy said in order for them to get passports for the boys, the parents needed to bring their twins to Warsaw. Eventually officials needed to see the birth certificates and they were still in Ukraine. So, Alex crossed from the Polish city of Rzeszow back over the border to retrieve the documents from the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

Finally, the couple and their twins were able to fly home to Chicago. Alex now says his experience with his twins has made him feel closer to the place of his birth. Because of these experiences, friends of the couple in Chicago have created an organization known as the Ukraine TrustChain. They provide medical supplies, baby formula, food and other essentials to people in the war.