The Daily News

LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

For Cat Cora, Who Rocks the Needle and the Knife

Dear Cat Cora:

I don't usually proclaim my love for celebrity chefs--you probably understand that I'm watching you for the recipes or to see the creative ways in which you use ostrich meat, even if I don't actually eat ostrich. But I thank you from the bottom of my heart for announcing your IVF pregnancy during a news cycle obsessively reporting on the outlying freakiness of the assisted reproduction community including the Georgia bill and Nadya Suleman's octuplets.

Thank you for your part in helping reclaim ART from being a dirty word.

Thank you for not only having the ovaries (which, you know, are ten times more powerful than having cojones) to make something called "pig candy" in the coffee battle but to also speak frankly about how you and your wife built your family including your current, simultaneous pregnancies. I love that you cross-transferred your embryos, giving each parent the chance to be either the biological or genetic parent for each child. I love that you admitted that you two had your first IVF cycle five years ago which resulted in your oldest son (Jennifer's embryo and womb). That you followed it with a cross-transfer of your embryo to Jennifer's womb, and now are carrying a child created from Jennifer's embryo in your womb while she carries a child with an unknown genetic parent because you two transferred embryos from both of you to her womb.

See, that's the story that people need to hear. Because even though some are acting like 14-year-old boys as they discuss it (yes, Mr. Hilton, I'm speaking about you), more are seeing your story at its roots: two people, in love, who want to build a family, and use technology to make it possible. This is technology used correctly--it fills a gap, making the impossible possible in a way that is healthy (emotionally and physically) for all parties involved.

Listen, there are those who have never had to struggle for something, never had to push open a door that was only slightly ajar, and so they won't get it. They'll blog about it, asking if you should be allowed to do this instead of considering how what you are doing is mirroring what heterosexuals take for granted in their family building process--that unless they are struggling with infertility or choose adoption as their path to parenthood, both parents will get to experience being either the genetic or biological parent. It's a given that heterosexuals rarely consider and it's a shame that they use terms such as "real mom", "unusual", or "silly" instead of highlighting the creativity and forward thinking you two brought to family building. Forget them--concentrate instead on the people who have just mentally had doors open for them who hadn't considered how they could achieve the same thing in their family building process.

But it's not just a service you're doing for other women who are actively building their families. You're putting a face onto IVF--a familiar face who shows up on the television each night showing brains and brawn (it takes a wo-manimal to cook a five-course meal in under an hour in front of a live studio audience with people reporting on your every move). The people who have had their views of IVF shaped by the recent octuplet incident and now pulling back and seeing a new twist on just who uses IVF (and who is wo-manimal enough to inject herself with hormones).

For every idiot claiming that they can't quite wrap their brain around this one (seriously, I could understand if we were talking geometry theorems or sentence diagrams, but they can't understand how one woman could supply the egg and the other supply the womb?), there is another person who was being dragged down the sensationalism road, with the Georgia bill and Nadya Suleman waving to them from the sidelines and they're suddenly pausing, refusing to walk another step and even muttering to themselves, "so normal people do IVF too? Celebrity chefs like Cat Cora? And she has singletons?"

I think at the heart of it is that our language cannot keep up with advances and people have a tendency to think small. I mean, unless you're going to head down the incredibly offensive road of "Irish twins", we don't have a term that describes this type of twinship. And lest you believe the definition of twinning refers only to two children born simultaneously from the same womb, the dictionaries are already far ahead of the game, explaining that twinship can refer to anything: "two persons or things closely related to or resembling each other." They just stop at imagining all the possible permutations.

I mean, first and foremost, we need a word for you: for siblings born of a few months apart and in two separate wombs. And then we need a term for siblings who enter a family within months of each other--one via adoption and the other via a pregnancy. Or two siblings who are from embryos created during the same cycle but transferred years apart.

Listen, Cat, you're creative with the ingredients; but bloggers are creative with words. Let readers suggest new words we could introduce to the lexicon for these situations.

Of course, your situation reminded me of one of my favourite blogs, Uterus x 2, and their subsequent story, Finding Chaos. Carey and Steph did dual IVF cycles that resulted in twins and a singleton born 4 1/2 months apart. I asked Carey if she had any advice for you, since they have been in this same situation.
Well, I'm all about the SCHEDULE. We live our lives by a set schedule (especially in those first few months) and it gives us so much time to get things done knowing when the babies sleep and eat. Plus, it makes for happier babies - they thrive on it. Some may think we're a little too scheduled, but it works for us. When one baby eats, feed the other - even if that means waking them up.

I think it's important to avoid the "mine" and "yours" trap that can happen when both moms give birth at nearly the same time. Does that make any sense?

As for being pregnant at the same time... well, that's tough. Hard to get your needs met when your partner is all pregnant and miserable too! But it was really awesome to know what each other was really experiencing. We were 4.5 months apart.
See, that is great advice. That's what you should focus on. I mean, that and your other two children and wife. Oh, and the cookbooks, television career, new restaurant you're opening, and your organization, Chefs for Humanity, that "is an alliance of culinary professionals and educators working in partnership with U.S. and global organizations, providing nutrition education, hunger relief, and emergency and humanitarian aid to reduce hunger across the world." Because that's the type of person who does IVF--someone who has the energy to think outwardly while having the fortitude to think inwardly. Oh, and can wield a syringe to her stomach just as well as she yields a knife to carrots.


P.S. I'm really sorry I rooted against you in the chocolate challenge. I am such a whore for Alinea and pastry that I got blinded by seeing Alex Stupak. Perhaps, as JK Rowling would say, he's part-Veela. Regardless, the next time the episode reairs at 3 a.m. and we're still up talking about my feelings, I'm going to root for you.

cross-posted on BlogHer


Io said...

This letter gave me the warm fuzzies. When I read about this I thought it was the coolest thing ever. Hooray Cat and Jennifer Cora!

Kymberli said...

My heart needed a great boost like this one. I love that you posted this because I otherwise wouldn't have known so much about Cat Cora (I personally prefer the original Japanese episodes of Iron Chef that still air on the Fine Living Network). Huge congrats to Cat and Jennifer. THIS is what it's all about.

Fertilized said...

Like always, I learned something new and loved it. Thanks for sharing this

Jess said...

I also think that we need something for "twins" conceived the same day, but then one is born after that resulting pg, and the other is born years later via FET. Twins like any other non-id twins, but not twins in most other ways, more like siblings, yet....same conception date.

I so agree with the need for a new term, cause, well, my kids are by no stretch twins, what with no genetic link, not sharing a bday, and being born 6 mo apart....but they're also sort of not-found-in-nature either. Even by the dictionary's liberal idea of twins, mine still don't work. They do not resemble each other (hahahaha) and are not closely (genetically) realated.

I get so many "It's like twins!" that I almsot find it's NOT like twins. It's NOT twins. But no, it's also not like your 9-12 mo seperation of children, either.

Baby Bunching calls it "twiblings" when kids are born close (ie 2 under 2) but that term makes me feel slightly ill and doesn't do the special other part of these situations justice.

Carey said...

We've always jokingly referred to our trio as Lesbian Triplets!!

Steph just chimed in and said she's heard of 'virtual twins' in some psych journal article used to refer to kids raised as siblings who are less than 9 months apart.

Rebecca said...

I love you, Melissa.

Renee at A Baker's Dozen ( has two sets of kids that she refers to as 'virtual twins'. In each case, she was pregnant at the same time a child entered the family via adotpion, I think in both cases the age differences are only a few months. I like the term a lot :)

Mrs. Olson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. Olson said...

I have always been a Cat Cora fan, but this is too cool! Congrats to them!

PS I spelled Cats name wrong in the previous post, so I thought I should repost :)

Artblog said...

Never heard of her over here, but definitely an interesting situation :)

If I were a lesbian I don't think I'd like to be pregnant at the same time. Its kind of special one at a time, you get spoilt more and then think of the sleepless nights with two babies at once :)

N said...

Yes. Yes yes yes.

I'm SO excited for them. And so pleased to see stories of normalcy reaching the media.

Chickenpig said...

Yeah Cat Cora! I wish I could have had my husband carry one of our kids, but then I would have had to listen to him whine for 9 months. :)

There are definitely some advantages to being a lesbian :)

I think "virtual twins" is a good term. However, the only kids that are twins are twins. I have taught in the class room cousins of the same age raised together by grandparents since birth, and actual twins, and the twins acted like...well...twins. And if my mother in law tells me one more time that her raising two boys born a year apart was "just like" me raising twin boys, I'm going to smack her.

Flying Monkeys said...

I knew there was a reason I always root for her on the Iron Chef.

Congratulations to her family!

itsazooaroundhere said...

I love this post!! Thank you Cat and Jennifer for being so open about your story, especially when we need you most.

Thank you too, Mel.

Somewhat Ordinary said...

Thanks for posting this. I didn't know anything about this and I also find it very heart-warming!

Kristin said...

What an incredible story! I got all kinds of warm fuzzies reading this.

Jen said...

You've reminded me that I need to start watching Iron Chef again.

That is such a beautiful way to make a family.

Aurelia said...

I'm glad that she and her partner did this. I often refer to being honest about IF as being similar to "coming out" and really it is.

And it's not Irish Twins, and I don't know what I'd call it, although I agree with Chicken Pig that it is different than traditional twins.

But Irish Twins were an actual cultural phenomenon, and still are in some places, and as an Irish Catholic who honors her history, for good or for bad, I don't have a problem calling it what it is. Irish Catholics did this. It happened for generations, causing an incredible array of unique socio-medical issues within the women who bore them and the children who grew up in these families, and the phenomenon provided a wealth of evidence for birth spacing and defects and disease research.

So I'm not offended by the term, as long as it refers to the actual real event, and not a different one.

Still don't know what this term could be? Hmmmm

..soo.see.. said...

oh yay and congrats to cat and jennifer! i think it's beautiful and wonderful that she's been open about this in the midst of all the other shenanigans you mentioned. thank you for sharing this.

as for coming up w/ a term, wouldn't WE be able to do so? like run a poll or something of the sort? if we come up with a term and use it enough doesn't the dictionary pick it up? like the word "bling" or "tween"?

Amanda said...

Wonderful letter and so right on all points!

And what a bunch of idiots to not understand that there is no difference between what this couple is doing and what so many other couples are doing. Expanding your family is expanding your family regardless of how it happens.

Congratulations to them!

millie said...

I've always been a big Cat Cora fan and this just sealed the deal. Congrats to her family!!!

How could you root against her in the chocolate challenge? Really????? I like Alinea as much as the next gal but srsly?

docgrumbles said...

okay, so celebrity chefs seem to generally speak up when they have fertility problems or use ART. let's see, we have Jamie Oliver (had a clinic receptionist ask for an autograph while holding his jar of semen if I remember the story right), Gordon Ramsey, and now Cat Cora that I know of.

Yay, TV chefs!