To Nudge or to Noodge

v6_i6_article2

GRANDPARENT WANNABES AND THEIR DAUGHTERS’ FERTILITY

I am not a grandmother—yet! But my friends who are blessed with grandchildren tell me that grandparenthood is equal parts pure love and complete wonder. Some even tell me they wish they could have skipped parenting and gone straight to grandparenting. I can’t wait.

Or maybe I can. According to an article published last May in the New York Times, eager grandparents are taking their daughters’ fertility into their own hands by paying for egg freezing. In today’s world of reproductive technology, it’s never too early to harvest healthy, viable ovaries for the delicate, sometimes elusive eggs that represent potential grandchildren. As parents watch their single daughters get older, they worry that their children will age out of their reproductive years. Biological clocks are not simply ticking; they’re booming as loudly as Big Ben.

Before I get into the details, I should note that freezing your daughter’s eggs is not an extreme alternative for a particular kind of mother. Back in the day when I was closing in on 30 without marriage prospects, I don’t doubt that my mother would have seriously considered taking me to a fertility clinic for the sake of her grandmotherhood. Truth be told, I love the fact that I have a feasible option in case my daughter’s baby timeline is not exactly in synch with mine. Or, if she’s on the other side of 35 without a partner, she can still be a mother if she so chooses. I should mention that she is only 18, so I may be getting ahead of myself.

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, a journalist and the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood, is quoted in that same New York Times article as describing the negotiations that happen when grandparents advocate for egg-freezing as, "the post-adult birds and the bees talk." It’s telling that the article does not mention that after years of romantic disappointments, Lehmann-Haupt decided to freeze her eggs at 35. As she recounts in her book, at $15,000 it was not a cheap choice, but it was an essential alternative for her.

Lehmann-Haupt came of age in the mid-90s, when another journalist, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, caused a stir with her book, Creating a Life: What Every Woman Needs to Know About Having a Baby and a Career. Hewlett set 35 as a firm age by which to have a first baby. Hewlett may have had biology on her side—after 35 a pregnancy is routinely treated by physicians as high-risk—but her ideas couldn’t be reconciled with modern love and 21st century life. Lehmann-Haupt saw Hewlett’s clarion call to start a family earlier as a hard proposition and was determined to draw "a new roadmap of [women’s choices]."

Lehmann-Haupt’s decision to take charge of her fate and freeze her eggs is part of a growing social revolution chronicled on websites like RetrieveFreezeRelax.com, founded by Jennifer Hayes, and Brigitte Adams’ site, Eggsurance.com. Hayes notes that there is a dearth of information on the subject of egg freezing:

If you were to go to Amazon.com right now, the only thing that would come up about egg freezing are [sic] some magazine articles. What the general population isn’t aware of is that the science behind egg freezing has dramatically changed in the last five years. Most women that I have spoken to are still under the impression that the process has a very low success rate. That was true five years ago. Not so anymore.

Eggsurance.com, the more impressive of the two sites for its depth of knowledge—including step-by-step guidance for women who freeze their eggs—has a tag line that sums up the goals of women who want to take explicit control of their fertility: "For proactive women who want to ensure they have the option of having children—just not now."

For all the progress that reproductive technology has made in the last decade, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine still considers egg freezing experimental. But as the science continues to be refined, the label is bound to change—and so are the emotions attached to the process. What hasn’t changed is that a significant number of women want to become mothers—and they will go to great lengths to make that happen. Egg freezing was still an unproven technology when Lehmann-Haupt was in her early 30s, but I predict it will eventually become the gold standard that frees women from bad dates and the false hopes that the romantic imagination conjures.

Egg freezing may also still be considered experimental, but so is love and parenting. And if the recent trend of parents mucking around in their kids’ fertility holds, so will achieving grandparenthood for some of us. I may be ready for grandchildren, but I am, in every permutation, pro-choice. If that includes my daughter bypassing motherhood for her career and her passions, then that’s her business. I just want to go on record as saying that I am available for babysitting when the time comes.

About the Author

author_judy_bolton-fasmanJudy Bolton-Fasman
Judy Bolton-Fasman is an award-winning writer who writes a weekly column on family life for The Jewish Advocate in Boston. Judy’s work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, O Magazine, and The Jerusalem Report. Judy is working on a family memoir called 1735 Asylum Avenue and blogs at www.thejudychronicles.com.

There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*


9 × = twenty seven