So the MPs voted in favour of three “parent” babies and the whole thing makes me very uneasy. Don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why people have been campaigning for this and I really hope that I do not offend anyone with this post. Mitochondrial disease is an absolute horror. I have witnessed the destruction and heartbreak it wreaks first hand. I would not wish that on anyone. I fully empathise with them. I feel the same way about a myriad of other life limiting and life threatening conditions. Anyone who has spent a lot of time in a children’s hospice does. However, the idea of a baby made up from three people’s DNA does not settle well with me. There is no other description, it makes me very uneasy. Let me explain.
Firstly, I know what it is to desperately yearn for a baby. It took five very long and painful years and failed fertility treatment to have Moo. There is nothing like the heartache that infertility can cause. It literally tears you apart with yearning. It’s agony.
Secondly, I know what it is to find out that you have a devastating genetic disorder. I lost Ziggy because I have OS-CS and passed it to him. My variant is lethal in boys. My daughter’s tenuous grip on life is the direct result of the disorder. There is no guilt quite like the irrational one that consumes a mother who carries a deadly gene.
Thirdly, I wholeheartedly support IVF, pre genetic diagnosis (PGD) and ICSI. These medical advances have helped millions of women have the children they yearn for. I realise they are not natural and, without them, these families would not be created. PGD, by definition, filters healthy embryos from unhealthy ones and would have been my port of call had I not got pregnant with Moo naturally.
Here’s where I have a problem. Those medical procedures still rely on nature taking its course. It is still down to one woman’s egg being fertilised by one man’s sperm. When you start taking eggs from two women and mixing bits, it is no longer nature taking its course. It’s a man made embryo and that just can’t be good.
It shouldn’t be about “giving people a choice of how to build their family”. There are already plenty of choices. Parenthood has never been and should never be a right. It seems that people seem to think that having children is a right, not a blessing. The thing with blessings is that not everyone is blessed and those that are should look at the miracles they have and be utterly grateful for them. The thing with rights is that people take them for granted.
What would you tell the child? Would you tell them? I find it hard to imagine keeping a secret like that from any child but how would it make them feel? “Mummy and Daddy made you with a little extra bit from another lady.” That would be one heck of a conversation.
Then there are cases like me. I am what is called a spontaneous genetic mutation. My OS-CS could not have been prevented. When I got pregnant, like a lot of mothers carrying the faulty mitochondrial gene, I had no idea that I had it. Not only that, but when I got pregnant both times, the gene had not been discovered so my babies couldn’t be tested for it anyway.
Imagine going through the hell of IVF, this three parent baby procedure, getting pregnant, breathing a sigh of relief, only to be devastated when something else is diagnosed? You just can’t bombproof conception. No one is immune from things going wrong, even when you’ve been through hell to get there.
I would have walked through all manner of fire to have a baby. I would have done just about anything. I was waiting for approval for sex selection when I fell pregnant with Moo. Girls were meant to mildly affected by OS-CS (HA!) so they were a safer choice. I was approved but already pregnant with a girl. Had PGD not worked, I would have tried donor eggs, then maybe surrogacy, because I knew that my husband was resistant to adoption. There were options. I get that people don’t want to use donor eggs, they don’t want to use a surrogate, they don’t want to adopt, but, to those people, I would ask do you really want to be a parent? Being a parent isn’t just about passing your genes down the line; it’s about the job you do, the love and care that you give, it’s about cherishing another human being and helping them find their place in the world. Using donor eggs still involves pregnancy and the miracle of birth, if that’s what you crave. Embryos created from donor eggs are influenced by what you eat, how you feel, just like any other baby. They would not survive without your care.
As for us, I found that I couldn’t have children. My two pregnancies were miracles in themselves. There are other options for getting pregnant or having another child but I just don’t yearn for a baby the way I once did and I think all children should be yearned for like that. I fully appreciate the strong willed, funny, loving, complicated miracle that I was blessed with every single day.
The thing about all these terrifying conditions and the agony they cause is that, in the most horrific way and in the great scheme of things, we need them. The human race is a great mammalian weed and these disorders controls the population. Not only that, but it also forces us to look inward, at our lives, and feel utterly blessed. I would not wish the pain of a life limiting condition on anyone, least of all an innocent baby, but mixing DNA between three people just isn’t right, no matter how small the third contribution is.
The thing is that no one knows what the future brings and when Man starts messing with the natural process of things, I get very uneasy. You can’t design a baby, that term is just ridiculous, but as someone who is genetically imperfect, the idea that you can swap one woman’s unhealthy gene with another’s just makes me quiver with unease. Once you cross that line, where it could lead, with the wrong people in charge, is quite scary.