"Embryo Culture: Making Babies in the Twenty-First Century" by Beth Kohl

I would recommend this book to anyone interesting in childbirth. Kohl is a funny, witty, intelligent writer. The book is written both from her own excruciating experiences with IVF, as well as a more impartial voice of facts and statistics.

I learned a LOT reading this book. For example, there were several pages devoted to Jewish views on ART (artificial reproduction technology). If a Jewish mom and a Jewish dad have their embryos implanted in a surrogate, the baby born will need to be baptized Jewish because religion is a matrilineal process, and technically the surrogate is the actual mother. Also, some Jews are anti-sperm/egg donation because it could result in, brain fart: what is that word for sex with a sibling? To my credit, it's not one I use very often! It could result in that if the kids end up marrying each other, which is clearly anti-Jewish law.

Other stuff I learned: one reason Catholics are generally anti-IVF is because of the strain it puts on a couple's marriage. There are other reasons, like the belief that "the marriage act" is the only legitimate way to conceive, and also that the way men usually give semen samples (masturbation) is immoral. I didn't know this was the Catholic take on things.

I also learned some extremely frightening things about China and abortions, but I don't even want to go there.

Mostly, I appreciated Kohl's personal transformation. She was very open about how her opinions about life changed through her years and years of IVF. She comes from a Jewish background faithwise, and is liberal politic-wise. (I google searched her name after reading the book because I was curious to see if she ended up using the last frozen embryos to have another baby, but the only places I could find her were on lists of contributors to liberal democrat politicians. She donated something like $25,000 to President Obama's campaign!). And even though her "transformation" leads her to opinions that are still far more liberal than my own, I sincerely appreciate her honesty. Whereas she had participated in the pro-choice side of an abortion rally earlier in her life, she realizes the absurdity and messed-upness of her spending tens of thousands of dollars, hours, and emotional energy units (whatever those are) in the infertility clinic, while millions of others willingly destroy the life she so covets.

I especially like her final conclusion about embryo donation, which I find to be the most honest thing in the whole book. She says she totally endorses embryo donation, after all, it is the scientific research and advances in technology that allowed for her to have her children at all. She willingly supports it, just not with her and her husbands' own frozen embryos. She's unable to part with something with such great potential. I really appreciate her understanding of the sanctity of life, not because it parallels my own beliefs very closely, but because she is a liberal who looked at the world with logic and came to much more "conservative" conclusions. It's pretty rare to hear the perspective of people humble enough to admit they were ever wrong about something, especially something as big as that.

The book is serious, though. It's not a light-hearted fluffy read. It will get you thinking, a lot. There were some graphic passages I skipped. In the end, the book really instills a deep respect and sympathy for people who do IVF. It sounds so hard. But Kohl unequivocally expresses how glad she is to have done it, and that she has her three daughters because of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Add a comment!