Then it came out that this wasn't the case at all, that she had done IVF, and that her fertility doctors had shockingly transferred eight embryos (an unprecedented number) and each took.
Finally, it came out that the woman was a single mother, living at home with her parents, and that she had six other children, all of whom were conceived via IVF too.
And then I became pissed off.
Having gone through IVF (and an FET) myself, I know a bit about the protocol and ethics behind it. To my knowledge, transferring eight embryos is unheard of. From what I've read and heard about embryo transfer over the years, the maximum number most doctors will transfer is four, and usually a transfer of four in the U.S. only occurs in women of advanced maternal age whose embryo quality is not ideal. This is because transferring more than four embryos not only puts the babies at risk should all four embryos take, but it also places the mother's life at a considerable risk as well. Twin, triplet, and higher-order pregnancies come with a number of serious complications (trust me, I know). For the octuplets' doctor to have transferred eight is not only irresponsible but borders on malpractice. I believe there is more to the story here.
IVF is already viewed in many circles as "playing God." Those who have suffered from infertility, or know someone close to you who has, understand the incredible stress, pain, and heartbreak of being unable to conceive and appreciate the medical technology that exists to make parents out of those yearning for a child. But I would wager a guess that the majority of the population holds a negative view of IVF. We infertiles should "just adopt" because obviously God never meant us to be parents.
A few months ago I wrote an opinion piece for my city's newspaper advocating for IVF to be covered by insurance here in New York. You wouldn't believe the amount of hateful email I received from people equating IVF to a boob job or rhinoplasty-in other words, "lifestyle medicine." I later "appeared" on a radio call-in show to defend my position and received more of the same, although this time, I was pitted against a doctor (an opthamologist) who argued against my views.
My own extended family believes IVF is wrong, although their reasons are rooted in their Catholic faith. Never mind that their lives have been incredibly enhanced by my three children.
My point is that this story isn't doing IVF and those who undergo it any favors. The woman's mother has said in interviews that she believes her daughter is obsessed with having children. The octuplets' mother is unemployed, unmarried, and lives in her parents' small home with her six other children. This isn't the case of an infertile couple's low-order embryo transfer resulting in the freak circumstance of embryo-splitting. From all accounts, this is the story of an unbalanced and possibly emotionally disturbed woman and a fertility doctor exercising bad judgement that borders on the criminal. In other words, this is exactly the kind of press IVF doesn't need.
I feel sorry for this woman. I feel even sorrier for her 14 children. But I'm also sad for all the couples going through fertility treatment right now in order to conceive. Because of this story, they'll no doubt have to explain to friends and family "in the know" that 99.9% of reproductive endocrinologists are ethical and moral, that no, they won't have 8 children themselves, and that no, IVF is not an unregulated, backroom science experiment. It's a medical procedure performed with the goal of achieving a single, successful pregnancy.
Without it, these three little monkeys wouldn't exist.
On a completely different (and much lighter) note, the new issue of Root & Sprout, the online parenting magazine, is now live. It's a great time to start reading the magazine. Why, you ask? Well, because yours truly has been hired to write for it. So, if you like what you read here, make sure you check out Root & Sprout for my articles (and others' too, if you're so inclined). My regular articles will begin appearing in next month's issue.
While you're reading, check out the Giveaways section and register to win some great prizes. And Melissa, the site's talented and extremely dedicated creator, is always looking for articles. You know you want to see your name "in print," so read the writer's guidelines and submit an article.