A few months back I wrote about a book on my “to read” pile. It’s Andrew Solomon’s “Far From The Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity.” I have it from the library just now and, as it is around 1000 pages, I don’t think I’m going to finish it. Truth be told, I won’t even make a good start on it. Even so, I’m moving it from “to read” to “to buy.” That’s significant as I buy books rather sparingly, preferring to rely on the library unless I think a book is really a keeper. This one is.
It’s funny because the first thing that struck me was the very first sentence. It’s not surprising that I read the first sentence first, of course. What’s funny is that’s the same thing that struck me when I read the Guardian review, but I’d completely forgotten that. (Okay, mind like a sieve. I know.)
This time I’ll quote the first two sentences rather than just the first line.
“There is no such thing as reproduction. Continue reading
As you all probably know already I’m a big fan of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. She does the most remarkably insightful interviews and the movie and book reviews are also really good. It’s one of the ways I keep up with the world.
Anyway, last week (this is unusually timely for me) she interviewed a young woman named Sarah Polley. Polley is an actress and filmmaker and her most recent work is a documentary called “Stories We Tell.” (It actually just played at the Seattle International Film Festival, but I’m sorry to say I missed it.) It’s an exploration of Polley’s own family history. In the course of it she interviewed her siblings and her father (a Canadian actor named Michael Polley), among others, at length. (Her mother died when she was 11, which is obviously long before the movie was made.) What she focused on was a running joke/rumor in her family that Michael Polley was not her genetic father. Continue reading
“FAFSA” is one of those words (if it is a word) that strikes fear into the hearts of those who know what it is. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid and, as the name suggests, it is the form families have to fill out to get federal aid for their kids. And the reason it strikes fear is that it is a long and complicated process (though they do say that they keep trying to improve it.)
Now you may be wondering why this has anything to do with my blog. Bear with me.
One of the critical pieces of information FAFSA requires, of course, is the financial position of the student’s parents. It certainly stands to reason that this is the sort of thing you’d want to know in determining whether someone was eligible for federal student aid, right? But you all know that figuring out who counts as a ”parent” means isn’t always easy. Continue reading
Continuing with what seems like little run of personal stories, I wanted to talk about this recent photo essay. You can find the photos here, too, though the text is different. And, as is noted, the surrogate involved has her own blog. Anyway, I think this fits nicely with a not-too-long ago post about another personal surrogacy story.
Kristen Broome is the mother of a two-year-old. Her husband is in the military and was in Afghanistan during the time this takes place. She learned that her second cousin, Jamie Pursley, had had a miscarriage and could no longer carry a pregnancy to term. Kristen offered to be a surrogate for Jamie and Jamie’s husband, Jacob. Continue reading
For some reason, I’ve recently come across a whole bunch of personal essays on various topics relevant here. A couple of recent ones that I’ve talked about have been about adoption, both written by adoptive mothers. (There was an earlier account of a surrogacy I wrote about and there are other personal essays on other topics that I just haven’t gotten to yet.)
Now I think the personal essay is valuable and can be a thought-prov0king read. They offer us insights that are important. But they can also be idiosyncratic and unrepresentative. I don’t think you can take them as representative of the typical experience–after all, the person who chooses to write publicly about personal topics isn’t exactly typical to begin with
Neither do I present them to you all so that we can judge the authors worthiness, though this often seems to be the first reaction (and I’m sure I fall into that myself sometime.) Continue reading
Here’s another essay by an adoptive mother that caught my eye. (I wrote about a different one last week–they actually make an interesting contrast.) Christina Darden Hjort wrote her essay just for Mother’s Day. She’s an adoptive parent of a very young child and though she briefly alludes to her own journey to parenthood (which is largely the subject of the earlier essay I wrote about in the linked post), the mother she pays tribute to is her child’s birth mother. It’s worth taking the time to read what she wrote.
Adoption can be so many things. There are terrible stories in the press about the corrupting role of money, which operates on many levels. There are stories of children snatched from their parents or taken from them under various misleading or false pretenses. Those stories tend to get press coverage.
Adoptions like Hjort’s typically do not end up in the paper. After all, what’s the news there? But just because it isn’t in the papers doesn’t mean there isn’t a story to be told.
There’s no doubt there is often some sadness at the core of adoption–as you can see from Hjort’s story–and here the sadness is Britt’s story. Britt is the birth mother of the child. In a perfect world a woman like Britt either would be able to raise her child or wouldn’t be giving birth. But we are so far from that perfect world, that adoptions like this one will Hjort’s will be with us for a long while, I think. So the best we can do is to think about what is best for the children (openness and honesty come to mind) and also for the birth parents.
That means giving a woman like Britt the choice to figure out her own needs, to decide for herself how much contact with the adoptive family she wants. And it means recognizing her loss, which is what Hjort’s essay does. It’s a nice tribute on Mother’s Day.
I try to keep one eye on scientific developments that, while still in early stages, promise to complicate parenthood even further. I wrote about one line of research in the fall. This research opens to door to creating gametes (that would eggs and sperm) from ordinary cells, or at least from non-gametes. This is an outgrowth of research aimed at creating new specialized cells generally.
As the earlier post makes clear (I hope) the idea of creating specialized cells has wide application. The example I used (taken from research) involved creating new retinal cells which would be useful for treatment for certain retinal disorders.
But the implications of the research for reproductive technology are apparent. Continue reading