news item: so what’s your point, exactly?

I suppose it’s a bit short-sighted of me to complain about someone else’s obvious bias in an article while I write what is, admittedly, an obviously biased article. But I’m one-fifth of this website and I’m going to take some liberties, damnit!

Josey alerted me to this, uh, I guess it’s a news item about a family who wanted one more baby and used fertility treatments that resulted in the birth of quintuplets. A cute human interest piece, right? A bit sensationalized, because while we here all know that it’s pretty rare for fertility meds that are used under the care of responsible medical staff to result in five implanted embryos, the rest of the world still seems largely unaware, and so stories like this make more headlines than the sort of everyday fertility journeys of most of us, such as the stories of the ladies featured in Faces of ALI (which you should most definitely check out if you haven’t already).

The article in question, though, isn’t a straight news piece about the family’s journey through infertility. It’s a snarky wrapper around the author’s obvious disdain for the invasive medicalization of fertility treatments. I can just hear it echoing in the back of her head: “why can’t you just adopt one of those orphans who is already born and needs a home?” (RAGE.) She certainly had some feelings about the couple in the story considering, and then deciding against, a “rare opportunity” to adopt a newborn. (They “prayed about it”? How pedestrian!)

Given all of this, I suppose it should shock no one that the piece is titled Five More Reasons To Love Drugs. I see what you did there!

Here’s a fun quote:

Although my brain won’t allow me to imagine what life with quints might be like, I do love babies and feel that reproductive medicine absolutely has a place in our world. However, I’m afraid that assisted reproduction provides a supercharged emotional element conducive to overbreeding.

NO WAY. THAT IS EXACTLY WHY I DID IT! Ordinary fertility wasn’t enough for this adventurous thrill-seeker and a “supercharged emotional element” was just what I needed to kick things up a notch. My life is all about one-upping people and, of course, making sure that there’s more of my genetic material out there than yours. Discovery Channel reality show, here I come!

The world-at-large is generally ill-informed or misinformed about infertility and loss, so I’m not particularly shocked by this article’s existence, although I have to say, it really does start to go down a winding rambly road and then drop off pretty suddenly toward the end. Is this just a vehicle for the author’s irritation at the prevalence and occasional success of fertility treatments, perhaps thoughts she hasn’t even reasoned through well enough to form a cogent argument around them? Hmm.

One more:

Stories like this are common: The ovaries of a woman are stimulated via drugs producing multiple eggs. The woman is inseminated and guess what? All of the eggs are fertilized. The couple can’t bear to reduce the number, so another multiple birth begins.

THAT IS NOT COMMON. Many doctors will cancel or convert an IUI cycle to IVF if multiple follicles look promising to avoid things like five eggs being fertilized and implanting. IVF, sure, multiple eggs are fertilized, often as many as possible, but they’re not all transferred. Know your basic facts before using words like “common” to describe this situation (the family in this story didn’t use IVF, by the way).

Here’s an update on the kids on their fourth birthday, by the way– and I’ll add that they seem like a really mellow, down-to-earth family, for which those parents have my undying admiration and respect because I have TWO kids and we watched about three hours of TV today (cringe).

So while it’s a bit of a stretch, I did manage to formulate a few discussion questions for this particular journalistic gem…

* * * * * * *

What is the lowest common denominator of what you will accept for infertility-related journalism?

* * * * * * *

As for me? I think a little open-mindedness and understanding goes a long way. If you have to write about a sensationalized story like the birth of quintuplets then please remember that commenters are going to concern-troll the crap out of it (“that’s so irresponsible; the babies could be born early and could be sick!”) so maybe balance it out with a little fairness. Maybe five healthy kids born into a loving family who are capable of caring for them isn’t a complete and utter travesty deserving of a laughable and degrading “how you came to be” story.

Also– please don’t make up medical facts, journalists of the world. If you want medical info to add to your articles, ask us. We have PILES OF FILES.


  1. I couldn’t have said it better myself, Jules! This article just enraged me when I read it, mostly b/c of the erroneous assertion that REs routinely let couples do IUI cycles with 5 mature follies. My clinic was shooting for 2, and 3 would have triggered a serious discussion before proceeding. I just hate when journalists sensationalize IF stories even further with incorrect facts. GRRRR. Not to mention the writer wasn’t even a GOOD writer (like you said, no cohesive train of thought or wrap up to the article at all!). GAH. Is it too much to ask to have more REAL stories featured like Faces of ALI?!

    • I love Faces of ALI for exactly that reason!

      It’s one thing to focus on an outlier, and it’s another entirely to deliberately treat that outlier like a frequent and representative member of the group. The first is shortsighted and ignorant, but the second is those two things PLUS harmful and lazy.

  2. That articles disgusts me. It’s not even about fertility treatments; it’s just place for the author to gleefully deride this family and their choices. We didn’t pray about our choices, but we would never mock someone who did. It’s bs media sensationalism: ‘they had five babies! Everyone else will do the same!!’ Ugh, I can’t even be articulate about this right now.

    • I actually had a brief Twitter conversation the other day with some other ALI blog buddies about some of the “sillier” things we tried. My friend was talking about a local witch giving her a concoction to drink; for my part, my cousin sent me some “magic” necklaces to wear. Hey, we both got pregnant! Couldn’t have been the drugs, must’ve been the magic 😉 but either way, we all have things that help us sort out and organize our emotions around this whole crazy dance, and I personally will sometimes grab hold of anything that stops the insane hormonal spinning carousel. Necklaces? Sure, they’re cute.

      Not to minimize anyone’s experience of/with prayer. I’ve never been a hardcore pray-er myself, but for some it’s a profound and spiritual experience. And I think we all reach out for something profound and spiritual, whether it be prayer or necklaces or a drink that tastes like, as I’ve been told, “dirt and raisins.”

  3. ARRRRRGGGGGH! I don’t even know why I clicked over and read the article based on your analysis. (And apparently, I don’t read emails anymore either? Mrrrrrp.) Anyway – I am so sick of this shit. So fucking sick of it. The language used in this “article” is so insulting, so derisive, so designed for page views and flame wars in the comments. The “Where did I come from?” conversation is FUCKED UP.

    There are LOTS of resources out there for how (and if) you can talk to your children about the circumstances of their conception. Here are but a few (these are all 3rd party reproduction resources):

    *PLEASE* link us up with other resources about talking to your kids on this issue!

    • AND IT’S NOT EVEN A GOOD ARTICLE. I’m sure all the copyeditor alarms were going off in your head, although perhaps you couldn’t hear them over the din of general RAAAEEGGGG. It was all “Hey, here is an issue I’d like to discuss! Let me start with an example of a family. Now I’m going to drop in and seriously draw out a really problematic and rude hypothetical. Now I’m going to end this article like it was a totally different type of op-ed, having truly discussed and resolved nothing. What?”

    • I hadn’t even really considered the issue of talking with your kids about their “coming to be” stories. That’s a good avenue to explore, actually! I guess because mine are still little it hadn’t popped into my head yet. Soon enough, though…

  4. I haven’t read the entire article yet; only the fabricated discussion of a mom and dad telling their 14 kids (really?!) the story of how they were conceived/born. It’s so incredible insulting! I don’t know if I can read the rest. Seriously, is someone going to give this journalist a clue and suggest where she went wrong?

    • Yes, exactly– because 14 and 7 are the same number! Clearly 7 kids is so ostentatious and presumptuous a family building notion (which it wasn’t anyways; they were going for 3) that we might as well call it 14, or 100, or 13,857.

  5. So as I finished the last sentence of the article, my brain was in the middle of spontaneously saying “what was your point, dude?” when I realized that was the title of your little post here – EXACTLY. What was the point?! That “conversation” was so condescending and hurtful. The whole thing was so poorly written. I personally have a bee in my bonnet about medical professionals who risk higher level multiples using ART (proceeding with SO many eggs) because it is such a risk to mom and babies, but as you point out Jules, that is not “common” or the standard. Ugh,

    • Part of the trouble is that this is all reinforced in a cycle (a fertility discussion with a cycle metaphor? Tell me more!)– people don’t talk about IF, so we don’t realize how many people we know who have been through it, so when we reference IF in our heads we’re just referencing the stories we’ve heard. I think we ALL know who Octomom is, so we all know of at least one example of someone whose doctor was an unprofessional asshat, but we might not know that 13 other people we know from work, daycare, the neighborhood, that park we go to, music class, or friends-of-friends have kids through IF treatments. (I leave out adoption here only because it’s often less invisible, like some people talked about back in our “choosing to pass or not to pass” discussion here: ) So if you don’t know about the common IF experiences of people around you, you’ll immediately reference Octomom in your head. Then it’s just a leap, skip and a jump to “I know two people who have done IVF– Octomom and that lady in my step aerobics class. So half of all people who do IVF run a SERIOUS RISK of octuplets!!!”

  6. margalit727 says:

    So, based on everyone’s comments here, I do NOT plan to read this article. I know it will get me too worked up and pissed off. I have NO patience for ignorance and it sounds like this article and the “journalist” who wrote it have an abundance of it. I will say that, regarding the “where did I come from” discussion, we have always tried to create a “culture of normalcy” with our kids: We have explained to them that “Mommie’s tummy broke,” that they were made from eggs that came from MY body, mixed with part of Dad (they’re not ready for the sperm discussion part), and put into T’s tummy and grew into babies there. T delivered them, and they have seen video of their own births. They they grew in T’s tummy, and that that is not the most common thing, but that there was nothing at all wrong with it, because my “tummy broke.” They’re not at all phased by it, and gladly tell people about it. Is this too much honesty?

    • I think “too much honesty” is so totally subjective– it sounds like you went with the level of honesty you felt comfortable with and felt your kids were developmentally ready for 🙂

      Skipping the article is, uh, not a bad thing. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword to rant about a terrible article in a forum that also draws attention to said article… I tried my best to humorously summarize it in a way that leaves the reader thoroughly satisfied with NOT reading it!

  7. Ya, not reading the article. As someone who was desperate to have a child and against medical advice went ahead with an IUI with 5 mature follicles. We did get pregnant, and promptly lost that pregnancy. My RE was very VERY specific about what was OK. I had to sign a waiver about selective reduction before she would move forward. It is NOT the norm, but I’m old and my chances of one catching were slim, let alone all 5. Had there been more than 5 it would have automatically converted to IVF.

    Articles like this just perpetuate the problem of undermining what ART is and can do. They do nothing to educate the general public on what those seeking ART have and go through. Just reading this pissed me off enough to know I’d like to write the author and let him/her know what an ass they are. Journalists are supposed to be objective….this doesn’t sound that way at all…

    Explaining to my daughter how she was conceived is not something I ever thought about. She was conceived through love and hope and prayer. Just like any other child, right? Sure there were some drugs and some extraneous people involved, but really it was love that brought her to us and we couldn’t be more grateful to have her. This part kind of makes me want to read the article, but I know I’ll just get more and more angry with it. OOOH This just aggravates me to no end!

    • And that’s another thing to consider– when people DO do an IUI with 5 mature follicles, there are still some nuances to the situation that make it impossible to attach a hard and fast rule to. Your age, your fertility history, your body’s specific needs, EVERYTHING. And I think I overlooked that myself, so I apologize. 1 in 5, for you, was not an automatic high risk for multiples. (I’m sorry you lost the pregnancy, as well.)

      I saw a YouTube video once about a couple who used treatments (if I recall correctly) and got pregnant with twins, except the two eggs EACH DIVIDED and they ended up with FOUR BABIES. So that can happen too!

  8. I require Octo-Mom to be mentioned in my choice infertility-related journalism. Preferably in the title. Then I know it will be a real laugh riot.
    Thanks for posting about this- however frustrating, I guess we can only strive to raise the bar when we see how low it’s fallen.

    • It’s additional drive to raise the bar, that’s for sure, but man, this wasn’t even well-written-but-misinformed dreck. It was JUST BAD.

      I think we should all make bingo cards for ourselves when reading articles about ALI. Mine will include “Octo-mom,” “concern trolling” and references to the Duggars.


  1. […] week with a breakdown of the news item, “Five More Reasons to Love Drugs,” in “so what’s your point anyway?” She makes some great points about the obvious bias of the writer who made some pretty snarky […]

  2. […] weeks ago, Jules highlighted a “news article” about how us infertiles are just wildly overbreeding, and that some day we are going to have […]

  3. […] few weeks ago, I emailed the head ladies at PAIL in response to the ‘news article‘ Jules shared. More than a few readers were bringing up a hint of their answer to the […]

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