What social truisms guide public sentiment and provoke reaction in the debate on fertility treatments? Recent media coverage of the Octuplets has aroused concern of potentially dangerous outcomes when human whimsy combines with advanced technologies – IVF – and what appears to be irresponsible practice. The Octo-mom, however, is an anomaly in the field of reproductive science, and her sensational story does the disservice of distracting from the everyday successes shared by most IVF patients.
Reproductive rights are implicitly tricky to navigate. While moral impunity is not a luxury in this field, moral judgment should not be leveraged in reaction to scandal and tabloid fodder. Instead, it should be weighed according to the many stories that establish the parameters of the modern-day family, and shape our collective conscious.
Take, for example, the story of Fran Watson: a mother from Calgary, Canada who, at the age of 43, fulfilled her lifelong goal to have a family. Watson waited 20 years to find the right partner, get married and then have a child. She says that the spiritual rewards of her patience have accrued exponentially. “What I feel as a mom who waited a long time is ‘My God, I’m happy! And what can possibly be wrong with that wonderful feeling?” This sentiment resonates with an ever-increasing number of couples who choose to wait to have children, for any of a number of reasons.
It seems, then, that IVF is only met with criticism when the science becomes disruptive to our perception of natural stasis. The slower journey to motherhood, however, and the latent realization of a nuclear family can be celebrated as a triumph. In these cases, IVF is the means to a happy ending.