When a lesbian couple I know pursued one of modern medicine’s assisted reproductive technologies (ART), it raised a lot of questions. Two wives; one pregnancy. People had trouble filling in the gaps.
“Do they know what race the baby will be?” a mutual friend asked, guilelessly, regarding the donor sperm. “Is it, like, a grab bag?”
And that wasn’t even the prizewinner. When the birthing mother announced her pregnancy, a coworker responded: “Was it an accident?” (A pretty intrusive question, even if it were biologically possible.)
More than 1 percent of all American births now involve ART, which includes fertility drugs, artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, and other related treatments. It’s not a matter easily discussed—a recent study found that 61 percent of infertile couples hide their struggles from family and friends—and for good reason. Clearly, the general public is still getting used to an era in which the birds and the bees sometimes wear lab coats.
That’s why I’m hoping this month’s feature on one particularly unique birth story can shed more light on the science involved in ART as well as the financial hurdles and emotional issues that inevitably arise. Sarah Palmer and Jonas Hansson generously shared the ups and downs of their parenthood journey with us, seven years of what writer Berit Thorkelson aptly describes as “trying and testing, loving and fighting, researching, spending, worrying, and boldly hoping.”
Even as ART becomes less taboo, as with any reproductive-related inquiry, it’s best to stick with the dictum of only broaching the subject if you’re absolutely sure the parent is amenable. Otherwise you might end up the unwitting star of a YouTube series my friends and I joke about making, called “How *Not* to Make a Pregnant Woman’s Day.” The most recent potential episode involved an acquaintance asking my friend, “Twins? Did you do IVF?”—compelling her to impart a three-word biology lesson on the aging body’s tendency to release multiple eggs: “No, I’m just old.”