Random Ephemera

The Line Between Fetus and Child From an IVF Father

I have the ultimate baby picture on my fridge. You can see it above. That's the Daughter With One F when she was just a zygote in an in vitro fertilization doctor's Petri dish. You can actually count how many cells she was at that point. I'm thinking about getting it tattooed on my chest when money is less tight.

In the wake of Wendy Davis' amazing filibuster and the temporary stoppage of Texas Republicans' plans to severely damage the availability of abortions in our state thanks to, for want of a better term, a politically charged flash mob, I spent more time than was strictly healthy debating the nature of abortion with those of my Facebook friends who hold views opposite of mine. My views, by the way, are that abortion should be safe and available, and hopefully rare.

None of those who hunt-and-pecked out emotionally charged comments at me seemed to want to talk about anything but what they considered "baby killing." They even brought up films like 180 Movie (Which compares abortion to the Holocaust) or the old propaganda flick The Silent Scream. To them, a person is a person once semen hits egg and that's that. There is no middle ground.

This is a sore spot for me because this type of thinking would mean my impossibly wonderful miracle of a daughter would just be plain impossible under their rules.

Hair Balls UPDATED: Wendy Davis's Abortion Filibuster Brings Laughter from Republicans, and History to Capitol

Infertility isn't a fate I would wish on my worst enemy. It's agonizing. It makes you question your worth as a man or a woman on a basic biological level. My wife and I spent three years and more than $10,000 out of pocket trying to overcome various physiological barriers with tests, surgeries, tests, injections, tests, diets, tests, supplements, tests, visits to specialists, tests, and oh yeah tests.

You learn a lot about your reproductive system when it's crap. Here's what I learned. It's all an odds game. Nothing more. Nothing less. Everything is odds. You have to face that reality if you're going to succeed.

The first goal is to get an embryo, and preferably more than one. Odds, remember? The woman spends two weeks stabbing herself in the stomach with a follistim pen, injecting enough hormone into her body to try and get the follicles in her ovaries to drop some eggs than can be fertilized. In our case we got just one, but often you get more.

Then you add semen and see if they fertilize. You try this with all of them in hopes that you'll get enough to work with. If science and nature high-five each other just right, you may have two or four or eight or more little potential children to try and implant.

We only had one, so this question was irrelevant to us, but what do you do with all these lives you've just spent thousands on alchemy to create? You could just ask them to throw the whole lot in you as Nadya Suleman did with her eight. She said she couldn't bear the thought to part with them, though you're not likely to find a doctor that would risk that insanity these days.

You can freeze them if you want to try again down the road, though this has a host of problems. Not all clinics offer the service, and it's expensive to do. Then there are other concerns. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to argue over the ownership of these embryos in divorce court? It's happened.

You can donate them to infertile couples, and that's a noble thing to do. Be prepared to spend the rest of your life looking for mini-you in a crowd of children if you do that. It's really no different than adoption. That's assuming anyone wants the embryos, of course. Other couples are doing the same thing you are for their own biological children, and you may not fit any of the criteria that they want if they fail.

Donating them to science is helpful. They will die if you do that. Ditto if you dispose of them of course. Regardless, this decision will not be made any easier if one day some senator's obnoxious personhood bill gets passed because my point is that even starting the IVF journey means that at some point the basic genetic material of your child is likely to be written off as a loss, even if successful.

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Jef Rouner (not cis, he/him) is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner