Tag Archives: pregnancy

Two Things Egg Freezing Might Mean?

One of my favorite blogs is Olivia’s View.   There’s a new post there today that has set me thinking.   It’s very brief but it adds in to other things.

What’s noted there is that women over the age of 44 are very likely to have trouble achieving a full term pregnancy with their own 44-year-old eggs.   I suppose this isn’t news in a general way, but the detailed findings lend stronger support to something we probably knew anyway.

So what will this mean?   Long term it seems to me this is good news for the burgeoning business of egg preservation.   Young women (say in their early 20s) will be all the more eager to freeze their eggs.   The more clear it becomes that you will lose fertility as you age, the more appealing preserving your youthful fertility will be.

But this is only useful Continue reading

New Families in All Their Infinite Variety?

Back in March I put up a post about a column by David Dodge, who is a sperm donor for lesbian couples who are friends of his.  (The idea is that he will be known to the child but will not function as a parent.)   It was on the Motherlode blog (run by the New York Times).

Well, now it turns out that this is to be a weekly series under the name “Sperm Donor Diary.”   This in itself is probably a sign of the times.   Last week he posted about euphemisms, describing a conversation about what he was doing he had with, among others, an 11 year old brother.   I didn’t comment on that, but it is surely worth a look.  (It also strikes me that each of the first two columns in the series have a great deal to do with language–a reminder of how important the words we choose are.)    One thing notable (and also carried over from the first entry) is the degree of openness in the process underway.   This, I think, bodes well for the future.  No secrets means no tension about letting secrets out.

Anyway, here is this week’s post and it has prompted me to write.     Tori and Kelly are the lesbian couple involved.   Kelly is pregnant (and the baby is due in July.)   That’s as much as we knew in the past, I think, and it really isn’t that unusual.  But it turns out that both Kelly and Tori provided eggs that were fertilized in vitro using Dodge’s sperm.   Continue reading

Looking Back At Surrogacy

I’ve been working on a piece of writing–something a good deal more extensive than the blog generally allows–about surrogacy.   It’s an effort to look back and think about how views on surrogacy (and the practice of surrogacy itself) have changed over the years.   Imagine my surprise when this video appeared on the NYT website early this week.  It’s worth a look.

It’s nearly 30 years since Mary Beth Whitehead entered into a surrogacy contract with William and Elizabeth Stern.  Baby M is grown and has children of her own.  And the world has changed in oh-so-many ways.   Does any of this matter in how we think about surrogacy?

The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Baby M shaped how we (as a legal culture) thought about surrogacy in a lot of ways, even though it was a decision binding in only one state.    But it was generated in a different time, against a different background.  That doesn’t mean that it is meaningless, but it may mean that our understanding of it has or will change. Continue reading

The Never-Ending Quest for Gender Equality

I think we are rightly sensitive to issues of gender equity in parenting, but it seems to me it is also necessary to think critically about them.   This was brought home to me by this story in the newspaper today.  Does equality give a genetic father the right to be present at the birth of his child, just as the genetic mother will be?    Or does the different between being the one giving birth and not being the one giving birth justify different treatment?

For anyone who thinks hard about parentage gender equity is a difficult topic.    There are so many levels of sameness and difference that figuring out what amounts to equal treatment can be tricky.

On the one hand, men and women each contribute genetic materials to a child.  On that basis one could determine that they are similarly situated and so principles of equality would suggest equal treatment is appropriate.   But on the other hand, women are pregnant and men are not.   If in this regard they are not similarly situated, then equal treatment is not warranted.  How does one fit together the sameness and the difference?   Continue reading

What the US Department of State Thinks About Biological Parenthood

There’s been conversation here from time to time about what it means to be a “biological parent.”   I think that the term is at best murky, because I think a woman who gives birth to a child–whether genetically related to the child or not–might be a biological parent.   Others disagree and, I think it is fair to say, view “biological parent” as essentially the same as “genetic parent.”

We’ve also disagreed (very recently) about whether the woman who gives birth has a biological relationship with the child.   I think the division here is pretty much the same split about whether “biology” includes more than “genetics” in this context.

On one level this is just a debate about language and one might say that everyone is free to use the language they prefer, so long as they make its meaning clear.  Continue reading

McKenna/Miller Custody Case Settles….And What Do We Know?

You may recall that just before Thanksgiving I blogged about a custody dispute between Bode Miller (famous US skier) and Sara McKenna.  They had a brief relationship during which she became pregnant.  Since there really wasn’t much of a relationship between the two, it’s probably not surprising that a custody fight followed.  But the particular course of the custody fight was somewhat remarkable.   (I’ll just link to the first of a string of earlier posts so that you can catch up if you want.)

The key thing was that one judge in NY seemed to think that McKenna had behaved badly because after she and Miller broke up and after she realized she was pregnant, she moved to NYC to take advantage of an educational program at Columbia University.   The decision, originally made in the spring, lead that judge to kick the custody case back to CA, where a judge awarded custody to Miller–I’m not sure on what basis.  Eventually a NY appeals court reversed the trial court in a scathing opinion–essentially recognizing that McKenna did have a right to travel even if she was pregnant.  Continue reading

More on How Pregnancy Matters (And What That Might Mean)

This piece was in yesterday’s NYT.   I’m in no position to comment on the science so, for the moment, I’m going to assume it is sound, though I do know there is plenty of bad science out there.  The essay (it was on the op-ed page, so I think of it as an essay rather than as news) is about diet in the very early stages of a child’s life and how it has lifelong effects–at least according to the study the essay is considering.

But the studies aren’t only about the effects of diet after the child is born.  Here’s the part that leads me to write here:

 Mothers who were fed foods like Froot Loops, Cheetos and Nutella during pregnancy had offspring that showed increased expression of the gene for an opioid receptor, which resulted in a desensitization to sweet and fatty foods. “The best way to think about how having a desensitized reward pathway would affect you is to use the analogy of somebody who is addicted to drugs,” Jessica R. Gugusheff, a Ph.D. candidate at FoodPlus and the lead author of the study, wrote in an email. “When someone is addicted to drugs they become less sensitive to the effects of that drug, so they have to increase the dose to get the same high,” she wrote. “In a similar way, by having a desensitized reward pathway, offspring exposed to junk food before birth have to eat more junk food to get the same good feelings.”

(One thing I think I should clarify first:  that passive voice thing at the very beginning– “mothers who were fed….’– I think read carefully in context it is actually about rats in a lab study.   Continue reading

More About Mothers, Fathers and Moving

I am totally strapped for time this AM but want to put up at least a little bit of a post.  (A postette?)    I’m continuing the discussion from the last post (which was itself continued from the post before that) and if you’re just joining us, you might want to go back and read those.

First the news:   The McKenna Miller custody case was back in court yesterday.   According to this account (there are many to choose from), the judge awarded custody to McKenna (the mother) until the next hearing (December 9).   No indication of the basis for the award.    It’s also the case that after starting in the NY Times the case has become the subject of much wider discussion.    As is always the case, some of it is interesting/useful and some (to my mind, anyway) not so much.  I liked this essay, which I think makes some broader points.

There are many directions to go with the discussion at this point, but with little time I will just content myself with a couple of observations.   Continue reading

When Mothers Move…Or When Women Are Mothers?

Lots of lively discussion on yesterday’s post.  It might make sense to read that post to get up to speed.   I tried to respond to some of the comments but it occurred to me that it might more effectively move the discussion along to do a new post.  (I find reading the endlessly nested comments can be difficult.)    In doing this, it should be clear that I am building on/responding to a lot of points other people made here.

You may recall that the key issue in the case (which will be heard again today) is whether McKenna (the mother of the child) did anything “wrong” when she left CA where Miller (the father of the child) lived in order to attend school in NY.    One critical point to note is that she made this move when she was pregnant (not, apparently, for nefarious reasons, but because a semester starts when it starts.)   The thing that really ticked me (and many other people) off is that the NY judge seemed to consider a pregnant woman moving as some sort of child relocation issue.

This brings me to two different points.  First–on relocation cases generally.   There’s a substantial body of case law out there about how to deal with instances where there separated parents sharing custody of a child and one parent wants to move out of the area.   You could see this case as a variation on that problem.  I think to some degree my familiarity with this line of cases has shaped my response to this case.

On the relocation problem generally there are two key points that have to do with gender.   Both may have some connection to this problem.

1.  Courts are mostly concerned when the parent with primary custody wants to move.  If the parent who visits the child wants to move, it’s not seen as a legal problem.  Consistent with this, I’ve rarely seen any restrictions on the right of the non-custodian’s relocation but you see restrictions on the custodian’s freedom to relocate with some regularity.    (You can see why this is, I think.  But we can explore it if need be.)

It turns out, again for reasons I don’t plan to discuss right here, that it is far more common for mothers to have primary custody than for fathers.   That means that the asymmetry noted in the preceding paragraph turns out to work in a gendered fashion:  Fathers are typically free to relocate and mothers are not.   It shouldn’t be a perfect match, but I must say that every relocation case I’ve seen concerns an effort by a father to prevent a mother from relocating.

2.   Once upon a time, family law was quite gendered.  Men had the obligation to support the family and women had the obligation to keep the house.   We’ve left those days behind–formally at least. There’s no overt gender role assignment in modern family law.    But I think it’s fairly clear that there are some lasting effects of the earlier gender presumptions.   You cannot so change social expectations by changing the text of a statute.

At least for some people–including some judges, who are after all people–when a man moves to better support his family he’s doing the right thing.    Thus, he is viewed favorably or benignly.    When a woman does the same thing, it is viewed somewhat differently.   More broadly stated, I think that men who really invest in their careers aren’t as frequently condemned as parents as are women who do the same thing–because a man’s historical role as parent has been to be the breadwinner while a woman’s has not.

I think both of these aspects of the general relocation problem are at play in the Miller/McKenna case.   I do think that if Miller had moved for some great job opportunity, it would not have aroused the same feeling in a judge that McKenna’s move did.   To vastly oversimplify–he’s supposed seize career opportunities–she’s not expected to do so.   And I think we (the public?) would have figured that he could still play a role in the child’s life–returning to visit as he was able.   I disagree with those who would say we would have characterized his action as abandonment.    If he had moved for a good reason–like a better job or education–I don’t think it would be viewed that way.  (I recognize, of course, that this is all speculation, too.   That means we cannot really settle this disagreement.)

Second, apart from all this relocation stuff, there’s another issue in this case–the question whether relocation principles apply before the child is born.   If the child had been born and then McKenna had moved, it would be a standard relocation case.   But McKenna moved before the child was born.   That distinction matters to me.   At the time McKenna moved she is not a legal mother and Miller is not a legal father–and so the whole relocation analysis is (in my view) inapplicable.   This may just look like timing, but it’s a matter of important principle to me.

I can see that this is in some ways a curious result.   If she moves in December–no legal issue–even though we know she’s about to give birth to the child. If she moves in March–legal issue.   I guess I have two thoughts about that.   First, I draw a bright and heavy line between pre-birth and post-birth.  I think the game changes at that moment in dramatic ways.   But second, the line may look even more important in this context because of the way the relocation cases have evolved.  If we handled those cases more equitably, then maybe the timing issue wouldn’t look so stark.

When Do Father’s Rights Mean Controlling the Mother?

There’s a lively conversation in the comments of the most recent posts here–one I mean to pick up and move along shortly.  But I feel that I need to take time out to blog about this story, which I must confess is one that I’m really bothered by.    It’s from the NYT, which means that for some of you it may be on the wrong side of a pay wall.  I’m sorry about that, but it does seem to be their story.

I’ll start with a summary.  It’s obvious that there are facts in dispute and I’ll try to note specifically where that is the case.   Most of what seems to me to be important is actually not in dispute.

Bode Miller and Sara McKenna met via a high-end dating service.   They both lived in California.   Miller is an Olympic skier.   McKenna is a former Marine and firefighter.  He’s now 36 and she’s 27, but I think they were dating in April/May, 2012.

They dated for about a month-and-a-half.   When they split up, McKenna was pregnant, although obviously she wasn’t very far along.  Continue reading