apple, facebook, and fertility preservation

I haven’t written about infertility treatments in a long time. It’s not that I don’t think about them. I do, but it’s a topic that is settled in a pocket of my brain, as I’m no longer living through the motions each day. Yet, sometimes, there are news stories and other current events that pop up and put infertility treatments back on the front burner for me once again: like this one about Apple and Facebook paying for their female employees to freeze their eggs.

I read about it when the news first broke yesterday, and then I watched a segment about it on NBC last night. It was during dinner, and I think I surprised Joey a little bit when I blurt out: I don’t support this.

I’ll admit that I don’t know what the thought process was behind this choice. I wasn’t there when either company decided to offer these services to their female employees. So, perhaps the idea behind it is noble. However, it doesn’t feel that way – not to me, a young woman who has lived through the depths of hell when it comes to infertility. To me, it’s a “noble idea” masking a hidden agenda: Please delay your childbearing to focus on your career.

I love my career. I enjoy working, and I think I’ve achieved some success in doing what I love. Yet, we (as women) truly don’t need to hear another message like this in our lives – that delaying our family building for our work is the only way that we can achieve success as working women. Maybe this isn’t the message that was intended to come across, but it certainly is the underlying one. It serves as a reminder that we can’t have both. We can only have one or the other.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Companies like Apple and Facebook are powerful enough to stop this kind of message that implies there has to be a choice between one and the other. Why can’t these organizations, instead of focusing on career vs. family, support their female employees in a quest to have both? Why not, instead of offering women the choice to delay parenthood, empower them to be the best working moms they can be – if that’s the direction these women choose?

We must stop suggesting that women can’t do anything and everything they want to do. We can! We simply need the support to do so, and groups like Apple and Facebook should be behind us. Yet, instead of supporting us, it feels as if they are unfairly swaying this conversation – intentionally or not.

These two companies also have the power to heavily influence the public and their employees’ perceptions of how fertility works, and the second message they are sending with this initiative concerns me, too: Egg freezing is the golden ticket to having children later in life. That’s 100% untrue. We know this, but only because we’ve lived through it. Aging ovaries are just one of the many causes of infertility. You can freeze your eggs until you’re blue in the face. It doesn’t mean that your uterus will work in 20 years or that you will be able to carry a child. It doesn’t mean that your partner’s sperm will be strong or agile enough to fertilize those eggs. There isn’t even a guarantee that your eggs will survive the thawing process.

Egg freezing does not guarantee conception, implantation, or a successful pregnancy. Are Apple and Facebook relaying this information, or the percentage odds that go along with it, to their female employees who choose to take advantage of their program? Do outsiders who are reading these news articles and considering employment with either company understand the intricacies of the human reproduction process enough to make an educated decision about their family building? I highly doubt it.

I fully support fertility preservation for those situations that truly warrant this type of medical intervention (i.e. cancer patients). However, I don’t appreciate organizations encouraging women to delay family building because it suits their agenda – especially when these organizations don’t provide women with all of the facts about fertility first, and especially when these organizations are two of the loudest voices at the dinner table.

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3 thoughts on “apple, facebook, and fertility preservation

  1. Mo says:

    I’m not 100% sure I agree with you T. I think all of your points are valid. However, it’s an interesting step in the right direction in terms of promoting awareness of fertility preservation (however imperfect that process still is), and combating the pressure women put on THEMSELVES to concentrate on their careers. To say it’s imperfect is an understatement. But it’s an interesting step to combat an inherent gender disparity that will most likely never 100% be overcome. I’m not saying it’s good. It’s definitely INTERESTING.

  2. I’m also not sure that I agree either. If we were in a situation where Apple and Facebook were trying to decide between funding egg freezing or policies that support women as full human beings (with all of the messiness that entails, including the need for time for life functions like bearing and rearing children) and not just worker bees, then I would absolutely vote for the latter. However, this isn’t an either/or. Given that very few corporations in the USA pay more than lip service to being family-friendly, it seems to me that this isn’t actually an either/or at all. To me, having a corporation provide funding for fertility treatment is always a good thing. I agree that egg freezing isn’t always the best option for individual women, but I also don’t see women rushing out to self-inject and have a minor surgical procedure just because it’s free, unless they have already made the decision to delay reproduction. So, I view this as a tiny first step along a very long journey that corporate America needs to take.

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