Myself and many women like me, who've grown up privileged, educated, single, childless, career-oriented, and feminist, have also figured that we'd get around to having kids eventually. Unlike generations of women who came before us, we have the option of delaying the babymaking process until we've taken care of other business we might want to accomplish, like advancing our careers and finding people with whom to have and possibly raise said babies. Many men are considering those factors too, putting off fatherhood as a result. It is a good thing that we have those options. But what happens when a whole bunch of people decide to have kids later in life? According to the latest issue of the New Republic, delaying parenthood might have further-reaching consequences than we realize.
One day's worth of breast milk from a new mother barely reached the first line on a four ounce vial. The freezer that held the thin, yellowish milk was nearly empty, too—the first breast milk donation bank in the Northwest was not officially open for business last week when I stopped in.
The still-humble milk bank, housed in a small room on the second floor of Adventist Hospital in Southeast Portland, will be the 11th official non-profit breast milk bank in the country. In a toy-filled waiting room next to the birthing wing of the hospital, lactation specialist and organizer of the Northwest Mother's Milk Bank, Peggy Andrews, recalled what it was like back when she breast-fed her children in the late 60s, "Only three percent of women were still breastfeeding at three months. And it was pretty much just the hippies." In her time working in hospitals, Andrews says the culture has completely changed—in Portland, 90 percent of women breastfeed their babies, as do 72 percent of women nationwide.
And what has been integral to mainstreaming the image of breastfeeding? Andrews immediately points to media. "Media has played a very positive role in presenting breastfeeding in a positive light, like talking about world breastfeeding week and showing breastfeeding moms on TV. Forty years ago it would embarrass male news commentators to even say 'breast.'"
Personally, I had never heard of world breast feeding week or, to my memory, seen a breastfeeding mom on TV but, come to think of it, that's probably because I don't own a TV.
More on the milk bank below the cut!
Whenever you're feeling down about the grim economy, stop and consider for a moment that your ovaries are tiny goldmines. Over 5,000 American babies each year are born from eggs "donated" to in vitro fertilization clinics or couples -- but in reality, those eggs are rarely donated. Instead, as you've probably gleaned from the backpage ads of alt-weeklies, some families are willing to pay big money for egg donors. The average payment for a US egg donor, according to researcher Harvard researcher Deborah Spar, is $5,000.
But strangely, until now, it has been illegal to pay women who give eggs for research rather than reproduction. This month New York state okayed cutting checks to women who undergo (often difficult) weeks of hormone treatment to donate eggs for stem cell research.
The state expects a backlash and it's getting some from bioethics and religious groups. But the legal change raises the question of whether it's okay to pay women for their eggs at all - and if so, why have different rules for research eggs and babymaking eggs?