"Sex is natural sex is good, not everybody does it, but everybody should..."
~ George Michael
I’ve been thinking lately a lot about sex and family planning in the age of genetic testing, IVF and other advancements. It all started with a conversation I had a few months back with a beautiful, young, Silicon Valley startup founder who is female and fast approaching thirty-six years of age. She told me that she had already frozen her eggs once and was considering doing another round as insurance to her future as a mother. “Right now is not a good time to have a child,” she’d said. “We’re about to consider another round of investment in the company and that means more hours in the office for me.” I thought about it and agreed—to birth a brand new business and a baby at the same time seems like setting yourself up for failure. When I was a young professional though, women didn’t talk like this. We didn’t have the option to freeze our eggs for the future, and even though I’m only five years older than the lovely executive, I entered the realm of professional motherhood long ago, before such technology was considered mainstream.
Next, I ran across an article about Apple and Facebook, which have begun to offer the benefit of freezing eggs to female employees. Wow! How times change. I began to wonder, what would I have done if this had been an option when I was just getting started? I’m not sure. Would I have saved my eggs for later, in exchange for investing myself in my career back then?
This past week, the idea of saving off your eggs, and sperm, was in the news again. Carl Djerassi, the “father of the pill” has been quoted as saying,
"Women in their twenties will first choose this approach [in vitro fertilization, IVF] as insurance, providing them with freedom in the light of professional decisions, or the absence of the right partner, or the inexorably ticking of the biological clock…For them the separation between sex and reproduction will be 100 percent."
The article continues by giving the reasons for this family planning choice, that both men and women will opt to harvest their eggs and sperm in their twenties, before sterilizing themselves. Then, later in life, they’ll use genetic screening combined with IVF to begin their families when the time is right.
I understand the career aspect for women, but why would men do this? I’ve spoken to several twenty something males who’ve answered in a very similar manner—they really can’t afford children. Combine their high student debt with a poor job market and this generation can’t afford a house, much less a child. So saving off their sperm and getting a vasectomy allows them to have a girlfriend, without the fear of brining a kid along for the very bumpy financial ride called Millennial life after college.
Thus it appears that the current generation is all for this idea. IVF is working fairly well for infertile couples, why not wait and use the technology in this way for fertile couples? I think that this is mostly a good idea, but it also lacks the realities of those who’ve found themselves in their 40’s longing for a child, but unable to conceive. IVF takes a toll on the female body, and it doesn’t always work. Miscarriage is painful to the heart and the entire process can suck the joy of living right out from under you. Until it works, and then the pain was worth it. But sometimes, it doesn't work and the couple finds themselves out $40,000 and looking at other options.
Yet I can still see this as our future. With the technology to screen for disease, we’re already running down the path of normally fertile couples using IVF as a means to conceive. Add the fact that both male and female Millennials are interested in postponing parenthood for financial reasons, and it’s not crazy to imagine a world where sex is 100% for fun.
And here’s one more thing to consider…the ectowomb. As author and Transhumanist Zoltan Istvan wrote in his highly successful article on the subject, “So, here’s a prediction: Instead of adapting our jobs to accommodate the demands of biology, we will adapt our biology to accommodate the demands of our jobs. The fact that only women can give the gift of life is an enviable distinction, yet it is also a burden that can make it harder for working mothers to reach the pinnacle of their professions. One way to ease this burden would be to move away from pregnancy as we know it and toward a reliance on artificial wombs.”
Wow! Can you imagine it? Known as ectogenesis, this technology would allow women to be as old as they wanted when they started their families, and avoid some of the hardships of IVF. In addition, men could start a family with a new sense of freedom as well. This is still in the realm of science fiction, but IVF and designer babies were once myth as well.
Many people are against these sorts of technologies and I understand that. Raising children is seen as sacred, why change the way it’s been done for millions of years? But I’m not in the business of maintaining the current moral standards, instead I’m one who looks into the future, asks “what if?” and follows the line of thinking right down the rabbit hole. I myself will not partake in these family planning adventures. I’ve had my children and am in the homestretch at this point in time. But who knows, maybe my “grandchildren” won’t arrive in the traditional way at the traditional time. Perhaps instead they’ll come from an ectowomb when my son is 60 years old himself? Would I love him, or the child, any less? Hell no! Life is life and precious to me, regardless of the path it has taken to get here.