Category Archives: family

In Vitro Fertilization: From Science Fiction to Reality to History

It was not that long ago that “test tube babies” only existed in science fiction. I remember my shock when, in 2007, one of my students at Wellesley College told me that she was an IVF (in vitro fertilization) baby. “The technology couldn’t be that old, could it?” I thought. In The Pursuit of Parenthood: Reproductive Technology from Test-Tube Babies to Uterus Transplants, historian Margaret Marsh and OBGYN Wanda Ronner demonstrate that IVF — in which an ovum or ova are removed via surgery from a woman’s ovaries, fertilized with sperm in a petri dish, and the resulting embryo or embryos are reimplanted in her uterus — has long since come of age, and deserves historical analysis. The sisterly duo present a lively, panoramic history of IVF and its associated reproductive technologies and social arrangements…

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Give Thanks for Crossing Guards

“Wait on the curb, kids. Wait until I say you can cross.” Janice, the crossing guard at Fairmount Avenue, stepped briskly into traffic, waving her sign and yelling “this means stop!” at the stray car that ignored the red “STOP” octagon she wielded.

“Okay, kids, now you can go.” I crossed with a troupe of elementary school children on their way home from school, and stopped to chat with Janice, as I often do…

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Washington Post op-ed: What Michelle Obama’s Miscarriage Teaches Us About Modern Pregnancy

“In her new book, “Becoming,” Michelle Obama reveals that she miscarried her first pregnancy, and went on to conceive her two daughters by in vitro fertilization. In an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, the former first lady described feeling “lost and alone” and like a failure after she miscarried. She didn’t realize that early miscarriages are very common, ending about 20 percent of confirmed pregnancies.

“Obama’s revelation underscores a striking irony. Although the past two centuries have witnessed dramatic growth in knowledge and control of reproductive processes, that wealth of knowledge has simultaneously obscured what used to be commonly understood: Many pregnancies simply do not work out.”

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A View from Inside the Suburban Mom Movement

Before 2016, conversations at school pickup time in my affluent suburb nearly always revolved around kids’ activities and home remodeling. We stayed away from political topics mostly; it seemed impolite to provoke a fellow PTO member.1 If anyone temporarily put up something as unaesthetic as a lawn sign amongst their manicured shrubs, it said something like, “Chatham Lacrosse,” or “Congratulations Logan! Rutgers Class of 2020.”

But during the week of the 2016 presidential election, new lawn signs suddenly sprouted along our sleepy one-road, four-block “downtown.” “Chatham Moms for Hillary” faced off against “Chatham Moms for Trump.”…

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Are Our Smart Devices Turning Us into Dumb Humans?

Are all of our “smart” devices training us to be “dumb” humans, too-often indistinguishable from mere machines? As click-through contracts and “like” buttons increasingly channel our social and personal relationships into algorithm-guided paths, are we losing something crucial about ourselves and our relationships? Is our very humanity at stake? In their new book, Re-Engineering Humanity, law scholar Brett Frischmann and philosopher Evan Selinger sound the alarm. I share their concern, so I am glad to see them taking on the problem in a rigorous and thoughtful way.

Full disclosure: Brett and I are friends, and we have discussed these ideas periodically since he first started research for the book. Brett knows that he can count on me to give him a hard time from a feminist perspective, for the good of the work. So here goes…

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Let’s Say “Happy Holidays” and Share Hope, Joy, and Light in the Darkness

“Merry Christmas!” It was the standard December greeting in the New Jersey town where I was raised. New Jersey is diverse as a whole, but it is made up of a patchwork of small towns, many of which have historically been ethnic enclaves. I took for granted that dried pasta had its own aisle at the grocery store, and when I moved to the Boston area as a young adult, I was shocked to have to hunt down spaghetti in the “ethnic” section. My classmates in the New Jersey public schools were mostly Catholic and mainline Protestant. Perhaps three-quarters were observant, and the rest were like me, Santa-and-Easter-Bunny secular Christians. There was one Jewish student in my grade, and during grade school each December her teacher invited her mother to our classroom to give a fun lesson about Chanukah and hand out dreidels and chocolate coins.

The first time I heard someone suggest that it was not polite to say “Merry Christmas” indiscriminately because not everyone celebrates Christmas, it was a revelation…

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Let’s Question All Versions of the Myth of Perfect Motherhood

I would call it a “pet peeve,” but the stakes are higher: I can’t stand policy arguments based on inaccurate or misrepresented historical facts. My latest peeve-trigger? Claire Howorth’s cover essay in Time magazine, critiquing “The Goddess Myth: How a Vision of Perfect Motherhood Hurts Moms.”

Now, I agree with much of Howorth’s criticism of the unrealistic standards of contemporary motherhood. It’s a main theme of my forthcoming book, Miscarriage and the Quest for the Perfect Pregnancy. But she and I part ways over the role of medicine and public health in our current conundrum…

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