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Monday, July 24, 2006

I'm Selfish, Petty, and Small

The first time they aired the quintuplet episode on Grey’s Anatomy, I was barred from the television. My husband asked me why I would possibly need to watch a fictional woman’s IF and NICU experience when I had my very own painful IF and NICU experience. Because…that’s what you do when you hear that there’s going to be an infertility story line on television, sweetheart. You watch it. Like a car crash. And I like Grey’s Anatomy. It’s my one hour of escape every week. Though...not much of an escape when they cover infertility…

Last night, they aired the episode again and I watched it. I’m pretty wary of television in general because messy topics (such as infertility) cannot be dealt with on any satisfactory level within one hour. And Grey’s Anatomy didn’t let me down. The replacement for the lost baby—a dog! Because adopting a puppy is the natural equivalent to having a baby.

Every episode of Grey’s Anatomy centers on one idea, with the idea spoon-fed to the viewer via voiceovers by the main character. Last night’s theme was “being alone.” One doctor inadvertently kills a patient, but stays with him because he doesn’t want him to die alone. A doctor is left “alone” to care for a baby. A prisoner—who was in solitary confinement—swallows razor blades in order to come to the hospital and not be alone. A woman feels “alone” without a daughter and does IVF to build her family. Of course, since they’re presenting IVF to the general public, it needs to be an IVF quintuplet case. Because the average IVF case that results in one child or twins is not possibly as exciting. Nor do these average cases play into the non-infertile world’s stereotypes of A.R.T.

The quints are born early. Of course, in an earlier episode, the woman admits that she knew the perils of carrying five children at once, but she couldn’t do selective reduction because she already knew her children. Even in the womb, she knew their personalities. And, of course, in this episode, the woman who confidently defended her decision prior to the birth now feels guilty and confused. Her guilt and confusion are never resolved. We are just left seeing the mother in the throes of depression—the obvious message being that if we are dabbling in A.R.T., we should take the King Solomon approach to parenting.

The King Solomon Approach…oh…the bane of all A.R.T. decision-making. The extreme financial commitment and the desire for outcome coming together in the perfect storm of indecision-induced depression. The story of King Solomon is that one day, two women and a baby were brought before him. The women were arguing over who was the mother to the baby. King Solomon ruled that they should cut the baby in half. That way, each woman would get to have part of the baby. The first mother agreed to this decision, but the second mother thrusted the child at her and said, “no, you keep the whole child. Protect this baby.” King Solomon then awarded the second mother the baby and knew that she was the actual mother because she was willing to give up her baby (and her own chance at motherhood) in order to let him live. A true mother would do anything to protect her child. Even give up motherhood.

But then you come to the questions raised through A.R.T. IVF (and other procedures) is so expensive and you have so much invested in the process—emotionally and physically. Therefore, you want to use more than one egg in order to build more than one chance to get pregnant per cycle. But the risk is that all eggs could take and you would be left carrying quints. Our clinic asked us on our first appointment if we would be willing to do selective reduction. When I answered negatively, they told me I would never be able to use more than three eggs in a cycle—the limit for the clinic. I was fine with that, except that you hear stories of people who transferred seven eggs and only had one implant. And you start worrying about the money and trying to make each chance the BEST possible chance. And the cycle continues.

The woman in the episode is painted as selfish because she didn’t selectively reduce and therefore give the remaining children a better chance at health. The doctors in the episode are seen as the saviours undoing the damage caused by that poor, deranged IVF lady. And it hurts. It really hurts to see the non-infertile world commenting on something that is so emotional to me. I couldn’t do it—I couldn’t do selective reduction. And it’s a very personal decision. I wish I could be the King Solomon mother who would do anything for her children. But I’m selfish. I want to be a mother. And I would continue any pregnancy in order to be a mother. Of course I’m saying this in a bubble—there are my husband’s feelings to consider. There are others who would maybe be able to present the situation in a different light. But from where I sit, I don’t see much that divides me from the IVF lady on television.

My favourite show just inadvertently called me selfish, petty, small.


Somewhat Ordinary said...

I can't stand the way the media portrays infertility and ART. It doesn't matter if it is a drama like Grey's Anatomy or the Nightly News. As the months go by and still I'm not pregnant, I seem to see more and more things that just irritate me. It seems like the only thing they can report on or write story lines for are multiple high-risk pregnancies with premature births. I guess the "norm" just isn't interesting. It is a shame because seems like the general population only sees IF and ART in that particular light!

Anonymous Infertile said...

I watched Grey's Anatomy last night also. This was actually the first time I had seen that episode and like you, I felt like I had to watch it for some reason. I think that if my husband had caught on sooner to the topic of the show, he would have changed the channel. This episode upset me on so many different levels. The sad part is that this is where the general public is getting their knowledge about infertility. And, this is why we are getting some of the responses that we do when we tell people that we are undergoing fertility treatments.
A couple of months ago I told a friend of ours about our IF struggles and that we were undergoing fertility treatments. Her response 'oh, you'll probably have triplets.' It took all my energy not to get on my high horse and give her a lesson on infertility and treatment options. The thought that anyone undergoing fertility treatments is probably going to end up with multiples is the viewpoint of the general public because that is what they watch on tv.