Storyline’s Todd Frankel introduced us to a St. Louis couple who long to have a baby but, after losing their jobs and struggling with infertility, wonder if they can afford in vitro fertilization. Baby-making, however we do it, has an impact on our wallets, both directly and indirectly:
The Myricks’ struggle is part of larger problem: America is simply not having enough children. Here’s Frankel:
“Births have slowed so sharply that researchers note that future economic growth could be stunted by a smaller labor pool. Immigration is often seen as a fix. But the downturn crimped supply lines for both babies and new foreign faces. The change was so dramatic that the Census Bureau in 2012 was forced to revise the 2050 U.S. population projection it made just four years earlier, dropping it by 9 percent, to just under 400 million. The languishing economy has caused people to doubt if they can afford to be parents.”
In 2013, the general fertility rate for women ages 15 to 44 came in at 62.9 deliveries per 1,000 women. Teen birth rates also hit a record low to 27 births for every 1,000 teenagers, a 10 percent drop from the previous year. That’s one reason why pundits have hinted at increasing incentives for Americans to have children.
It’s basically the Wild West, writes Florida writer Justine Griffin, who sold her eggs for $5,000 to a couple who could not conceive. Compensation for these exchanges, she says, can range between $4,000 and $50,000. Here’s more:
“The idea of donating eggs — injecting myself with hormones and undergoing an invasive surgery, all for someone else to have a baby — seemed a little far-fetched to my family.
A couple who lived half a world away plucked me out of an online library of hundreds of women who were willing to donate their sex cells to strangers. Each of us had been broken down by our general attributes. My specifications, a fertility agency would later tell me, were desirable: 25 years old, green eyes, 5-feet, 10-inches tall, blond hair, a 3.6 university grade point average and a burgeoning new career.
Those same specifications are what make my parents beam with pride.”
Ron Brinkley of the Dallas Morning News takes us into the pregnancy of a Texas couple, Joe Riggs and Jason Hanna. A professional surrogate mother will carry their twin boys.
“The men had been planning and saving for a family even before planning their wedding. Because they saw surrogacy as their “first and only choice” for having children, they would need approximately $100,000 — fees for an egg donor, a surrogate, a fertility clinic, medications and attorneys — and that would take time to amass. To learn more about the process, the couple went to dinner last April with the office manager of a Fort Worth fertility clinic, where the specialties are in-vitro fertilization, donor-egg technology and surrogacy. A friend of Riggs’ and Hanna’s had employed the clinic’s services and connected the men to the manager. She had some time-sensitive information: A particularly extraordinary woman, a 35-year-old in Fort Worth, was about to have her third surrogate child and would be ready for another pregnancy in four to six months. She was, the men were told, the ultimate surrogate: tall and thin; healthy deliveries; no mental issues. If they didn’t act now, it would be almost two years before they would have this chance.”
Writer Paul Ford and his wife had twins using a high-tech fertility procedure. Afterward, they were left with two frozen embryos — and, as Elle puts it, “a whole new understanding of the meaning of parenthood.”
“So in one of the surprises of my married life, my wife and I became custodians of about 200 cells that reside in a freezer at a clinic in New York City, not far from Times Square. They were bathed in a special solution and slow-frozen, with care taken to avoid the formation of ice crystals. This is called cryopreservation. They are surrounded by liquid nitrogen. We pay $100 a month, $50 per embryo, to store them. We don’t have pictures of them, but I imagine they look much like the first two. Around a tenth of a millimeter in diameter. Kind of big, actually.”
The New York Times’s Ruth Padawer profiled a 45-year-old woman who became pregnant with twins — but could only keep one baby. Reproductive medicine has created a paradox, Padawer writes: “In creating life where none seemed possible, doctors often generate more fetuses than they intend.”
“As Jenny lay on the obstetrician’s examination table, she was grateful that the ultrasound tech had turned off the overhead screen. She didn’t want to see the two shadows floating inside her. Since making her decision, she had tried hard not to think about them, though she could often think of little else. She was 45 and pregnant after six years of fertility bills, ovulation injections, donor eggs and disappointment — and yet here she was, 14 weeks into her pregnancy, choosing to extinguish one of two healthy fetuses, almost as if having half an abortion. As the doctor inserted the needle into Jenny’s abdomen, aiming at one of the fetuses, Jenny tried not to flinch, caught between intense relief and intense guilt. ‘Things would have been different if we were 15 years younger or if we hadn’t had children already or if we were more financially secure,’ she said later.”
Atlantic writer Jean Twenge noticed women on Internet message boards, asking for advice like: Should I start scaling back my career? Should I aim to have fewer children? They believed pregnancy wasn’t viable after 35, a claim Twenge investigated. “Fertility does decrease with age,” she found, “but the decline is not steep enough to keep the vast majority of women in their late 30s from having a child.”
“The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830 …
Millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment. Most people assume these numbers are based on large, well-conducted studies of modern women, but they are not. When I mention this to friends and associates, by far the most common reaction is: ‘No … No way. Really?’
Surprisingly few well-designed studies of female age and natural fertility include women born in the 20th century — but those that do tend to paint a more optimistic picture.”