Friday, November 6, 2009

The problem with defensiveness on the internet

This blog post made me very sad.

The blogger, who used IVF to conceive her children, read some New York Times articles about IVF, and then read a bunch of comments saying that instead of getting fertility treatments, infertile couples should all just adopt.

The commenters at are notoriously toxic. They always have been. They're articulate, but that only makes it worse, because then the comments section becomes mobbed with smart people with disturbingly stupid opinions.

The blogger was justifiably angry. So what is her response?

Every time someone declares that infertile people should accept their lot in life and adopt, they should be required by law to adopt a child themselves. To put their money where their mouth is. Shouldn't be a problem, right? I hear it's a piece of cake.

And every time someone says that infertile people should not-just-plain-adopt, but special-needs-kids-from-foster-care-extra-special-bonus-just-adopt, they should have such a child deposited on their doorstep within, oh, let's say an hour. Sign here, and here, initial here, fingerprint here, notary seal here, aaaaand done. Congratulations! You're a parent! Hey, let us know how it goes. I'm sure you'll do a bang-up job. Really, how hard could it be?

And every time someone who's had no fertility problems of their own says it, someone with as many children as they'd like, conceived and delivered without difficulty, they get the full package. The adoption, the special needs and the adjustment issues, and a stiff electric shock where it'll do the most good. What? Oh, you don't like those repeated high-voltage jolts? Sounds like a lifestyle issue to me. I know you'd like for them to stop, but it's not a matter of life or death, sooooooo...

Yeah! Special needs adoptions as especially awful punishments! Excellent! In several years, my kid's going to be able to surf the internet himself and he'll get to read it too.

If not that particular post, then others. She isn't the first to strongly imply that special needs adopted children are the booby prizes of the parenting world. Or even the first to take her own outrage and pass it on to the next group.

Admittedly, she wasn't the one who inserted adopted children into the conversation. The commenters who insisted that adoption, an act of altruism, was better than fertility treatments, a waste of resources, did that. But hey! Once adopted children are mentioned, that makes them fair game!

I especially love how she upped the ante with 'special needs'. We should save the special needs children for the worst offenders. Because they are a special kind of punishment.

Okay, folks, please take note if you will: if you are offended by something you read on the internet, please make sure that your fiery, indignant response will not cause pain to anyone but the specific people you are angry at.

I can understand the sentiment of "I wish you misfortune!" It's time-honored. That's where curses come from.

However, not everything - or everyone - difficult is appropriate to offer up as a curse.

If I fail to pass my outrage onto the next emotionally vulnerable demographic, it doesn't mean I'm accepting the notion that a special needs adoption is the bottom of the parenthood barrel. It just means I'm nice. I don't have any moral objections to IVF - I don't think everyone should do it, but I'm a big fan of diversity and multiple options. I appreciate that IVF was available to me, in theory anyway, in case I wished to have a child by that route. I agree that no one should ever tell a parent that her route to parenthood was wrong or bad.

But the kids of all methods, conception and adoption inclusive, grow up to be people too.

Also, I'd like to add that electroshock therapy is commonly used as a rhetorical device, sometimes angrily, and sometimes with a humorous intent. People need to get a clue. Electroshock therapy is a very real and very serious course of treatment that has been terribly misused in the past, and is coming back into misuse in the present, and has been/is being the cause of much additional, unnecessary suffering to many already vulnerable people. It is not funny.


  1. Very thought provoking post. It makes me think about my own journey to motherhood. I enjoy hearing the comment you make about diversity of options - none making anyone a "better person" or being a "better option" than any other. Sometimes I feel so selfish for my own infertility treatments, but that's only sometimes and those moments don't last long. I think, like you said, I appreciate that there were other options there for me - such as IVF and adoption - if my own path took me to that choice. I am very happy that I had success with the initial choice that I made of medicated IUI. And I am very happy that you had success with the choice that you made too. Diversity in all things. But with the same outcome of motherhood. Very interesting to think about.

  2. It seems to me that once you make the choice, you find yourself in a specific camp based on your path to parenting. The adopters are all lumped together, the people who take fertility treatments are lumped together, and inside those camps are subcamps based on your method, country, etc.

    This is unrealistic. The process we each go through to have a child is not about camps. Most people don't choose where their child comes from based on which camp they like best. We choose based on our personal needs and limitations. Which type of heartbreak is the least heartbreaking for us, what age range we wish to consider, which risks we're willing to accept.

    The social divisions among us are a false construct. We are all tribal thinkers, but choosing how to have a child isn't what real tribes are made of. Some families switch tribes. People begin to resent the other tribes for 'doing it wrong'. The commenters are truly spectacular, in that many of them have never had fertility problems or have ever adopted and it's obvious they're just pulling their opinions out of their asses.

    I don't like camps, tribes, labels, or boxes. I love my friends. I love my friends' kids and kids-to-be.

    And I admire how you took on the risks, endured uncertainty, heartache, false alarms, and logistical difficulties, and after all of it, you're going to have a baby. That's a joyful thing! Let there be no spoiling of the joy with guilt, finger-pointing, or moralistic (hah!) nonsense.