whose story is this?

Did anyone else see this article about DE/gestational surrogacy in the New York Times Magazine today?

I thought it was for the most part well done, but what keeps coming out for me are the class issues.  As the author says herself, not everyone has the options she has:

Even if everything went perfectly, it was hugely expensive. Of course, the cost of surrogacy is dwarfed by the cost of actually raising a child, to say nothing, for example, of a college education, but considering what baby-making usually costs — nothing — it took our breath away. We were able to afford it because of a financial deus ex machina. Just when the I.V.F. bills were mounting, the software company that Michael co-founded was acquired by a large company. But there was still something disquieting about choosing to spend so much — and having an option that many infertile people did not have.

And then, later, as the parents are starting to consider gestational surrogacy, they hear this, reminding them that they are not the same as the women who may carry their children:

“You won’t have anything in common with the carriers,” a director of a Los Angeles agency (which we decided not to work with) insisted dismissively. The gestational carriers at their agency were mainly white, working-class women, often evangelical Christians — “the kind of girls you went to high school with,” he said, managing to give “high school” an ominous intonation.

It’s similar to the class issues I’ve seen as I start looking into the adoption literature.  Birth mothers (and, apparently, surrogates) are One Kind of People.  Adoptive parents (and, apparently, parents who use surrogates) are Another Kind of People.  To her credit, the author of the NYT article seems to see these issues and recounts several instances of choosing not to work with someone who displays what she considers to be offensive attitudes towards egg donors and/or surrogates.  Throughout the process she works on erasing class boundaries.

But the fact remains that the NYT feature is yet another article on infertility featuring a wealthy, white, attractive, woman facing an attempt to become pregnant after 40.  I’ve read this story before.  Peggy Orenstein wrote a version of it, in fact.  Tina Fey starred in a movie version of it. New York Magazine recently did a story that equated infertility with ambition, coming right out and saying that the pill is bad for women because it makes us forget about our biological clocks.

White, over 40, heterosexual, pursuing ART with seemingly unlimited financial resources.  It’s becoming the dominant cultural narrative of infertility, and it erases the rest of us.

What do you think?  Is it good to have one coherent cultural narrative around infertility?  Does it help for there to be an easily identifiable face on it?  Or does it hurt more than it helps, by erasing all of the diversity in the ALI community?

Or, as is more than likely, am I mountain-from-molehilling again and making it all up?  (If I am, I would love love love some links to mainstream press or fiction about infertility that doesn’t fit the narrative.  I’m sort of hoping I’m wrong about this.)


12 responses to “whose story is this?

  1. I hate the class issues that surround infertility. As a young, non-career-oriented, lower-class infertile woman who started ttc at 22 instead of 42, it bothers me that infertiles are seen as the upper-class women who were “too busy” to have kids (a fact that I know isn’t true btw, just stating it from an outsider’s point of view) and now have ample money to spend. It’s an assumption that even my first RE made: “Oh just put away about $1000 a month and we can get you that ivf within a year.” What?? I barely make that in a month! He actually told me that if someone can’t afford IVF, then they definitely don’t need to have a baby. Um…thanks. Basically, infertility doesn’t care how old, what race/ethnicity, how rich, or what sexual orientation you are. It can be anyone at any time, and I’m with you – I’m tired of seeing the same infertile face in every article. Yes I understand they are suffering as much as the rest of us. But still, the lack of diversity shown is harmful, depressing, and just plain repetitive.
    Sorry about the slightly incoherent rant. Blame the strep throat I’m fighting. 🙂

  2. But dear, in a way I am glad that these articles are popping up. From where I am, being barren is a curse, some great wrath of God or something, and not everybody has a fair chance to get over it.

    Is the stereotype correct? No, there are lot more shades to it.

    I know this blogger for whom surrogacy turned out very badly. I wonder when those stories will hit media.

    An article in the local edition here stated that because of the option of IVF now available, children in adoption homes were getting increasingly ignored by infertiles. I was angered by the sentiment in it. It was as if ultimately infertiles were to be the bearers of somebody’s irresponsibility.

  3. Gah. I don’t think about this stuff too often but I totally agree with Jackie and Wiseguy. I’ve been TTC since I was 20. Was never on BCP before my “issues” started. I’m so not in the sterotyped IF category and neither are most of the blogs I’ve seen in this community. There are one or two that I’ve seen that fit but 95% don’t. I never even thought of a class difference but I guess there would be a clear one for some of the over 40/rich/IVF/surrogacy crowd. Even though it’s good for the public to be made aware of IF, there are IFers of all walks of life and only showing this one little bit of the spectrum just serves to create stereotypes, false impressions., and negativity towards all IFers.

    BTW, Jackie, a doctor telling someone that if they can’t afford ART, then they don’t need a baby is absolutely f*cking rediculous. I’m pissed at whoever that was for you.

  4. I had a similar reaction to this NYT article and NY Mag article. At first I was so filled with pride and joy that our plight is getting mainstream media attention. But the stories ARE one-note. SEriously, this author could afford TWO surrogates and an egg donor. That is so freaking unrealistic for 99.999999% of the population. And in the NY Mag article, I was hopeful that there would be some science/academic/doctor input on how the pill might actually cause infertility (not just mask it for these overly-ambitious women), but it didn’t even go in that neighborhood. On the other hand, I did appreciate the overarching thesis that the pill is not all it’s cracked up to be and OBs aren’t really educated about that (ie: my OB told my not to go off the pill until I was 200% ready to be pregnant and have a child, what she should’ve told me, in my “I want to TTC as soon as my husband is ready”-appt, is that I should go off the pill right away and use backup protection b/c it can take a LONG time to get a regular cycle and if I wasn’t having one after X months we’d know to look into it b/c getting pregnant does NOT always happen the moment (or months, or years) after you go off the pill.

    But I digress! Thank you for bringing this up.

  5. I meant to put “overly ambitious” in quotes, btw. 🙂

  6. I think it’s ridiculous any time any group of people is classified as one “type”. I was married at 22, started TTC at 24. They don’t ever seem to tell the stories of those of us affected by disease – just those who “waited too long”. I don’t know if it would really matter though, as far as changing public opinion or awareness though. We all know most people just secretly think that if you’re infertile, you should “just adopt” already and stop being so selfish…as pretty much every comment on any of these articles will read.
    I think no matter which category you look at – adoptive parents, birthparents, people who chose to use surrogacy, surrogates themselves, egg donors – you will find much diversity…if you look for it.
    We all know the media loves to peg people, put them in neat little categories, but that’s not how real life works.

  7. Yes, I am not even really sure who these articles are directed towards…

    Are they directed at young career women, and intended to reassure them that they are not missing out? “Don’t worry that you spend 18 hours a day at work and have no social life… in 20 years you’ll be rich and you can buy a baby…”. Is that the message???

    Cause, um, I don’t think that’s the one we really want out there…

  8. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing because my husband takes the magazine away until he’s done with the crossword, but I read the first page or so, and had exactly the same reaction. Also, a “this is only ‘news’ because it’s so extreme and because it WORKED” reaction. I HATE these stories. I think they do far more harm than good. Your statement, “It’s becoming the dominant cultural narrative of infertility, and it erases the rest of us” is really gorgeous and so dead on.

    I would love to just see a story that focuses on the pain and not the outcome (all these unrealistic happy endings!) and covers the whole damn range, with thoughtful interviews!

  9. You are so right. And bunny is right in saying your statement was gorgeous. I had the exact same thought about that sentence you wrote. Perfectly worded.

    The perception in the media of IF is ridiculous. Those of us here living it know it’s ridiculous but I guess the fact that no media ever focuses on the painful stuff without happy endings is because no one wants to read it. I’m not sure why because its a fact. It fails more than it succeeds and yet the media doesnt want to talk about it.

    Whatever. We know the truth. And it aint in glossy magazines or newspapers. It’s right here on your blog.

  10. There are quite a few people out there who cannot afford IVF or adoption (or those who have to fundraise) – I’d like to see stories on those people.

  11. Really interesting topic, the class angle of infertility. Thanks for your comment on my creme de la creme post.

  12. Eek.

    I am that group. Over 40, well, minus the money and career bullshit.

    My first daughter was conceived without ART. No one really knows it and honestly probably wont as this comment is so late. I lost her and got started again late in life.

    No choice but to do IVF at age 37. My late pregnancy loss killed my career, so that is n/a.

    That article is a fucker and I am mad as hell for reading it. I am glad you shared it. Ignorant aceholes.

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