Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology

By Jane Haynes; Juliet Miller | Go to book overview

Chapter 16

Afterword

Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer is Professor of English and Comparative Studies at Warwick University.

'Conception', as Hamlet says, 'is a blessing', but not as many people conceive nowadays, amid so much struggle, heartache, physical violation and pain that we might doubt whether the motives driving them are quite rational, whether wanting 'a child' so badly makes sense. The reasons suggested in this book for desperately desiring a child, such as 'cheating death of its finality' (Raphael-Leff) are not reasons at all. If 'failure to produce a child…confronts us with the realisation that we are neither special nor immortal' (Pawson) then it ought to be encouraged, because we are neither special nor immortal and the sooner we realise it the better. Miller takes the contrary view that it is having children that convinces us that we are mortal. There can be little consensus on just why people want to have children because the evidence is both contradictory and impressionistic. Women have been heard to say on the one hand that childlessness causes them to lose their identity, and on the other that motherhood causes their identity to dwindle so that instead of being somebody they become merely somebody's mother. Our children are no less mortal than ourselves and indeed often are or appear more vulnerable, especially if they are sick or disabled, or drinking, driving too fast, having unprotected sex or using drugs. No one feels the finality of death more keenly than the parent who stands by the grave of her child. It is not parents but children who think that they are immortal and wilfully jeopardise the lives their parents struggled so to give them. To have a child is instantly to offer a hostage to fortune, and thereby exponentially to increase one's own capacity for suffering, sometimes lifelong.

ART (assisted reproductive technology) can offer no antidote to the unwelcome spectre of mortality, because it occasions a great deal more death than life, the number of jettisoned embryos and failed implantations being many times greater than the number of live births. Nowhere in this book is it suggested that acceptors who believe that ART will help them cheat the finality of death should be helped to emerge from their delusional state rather than subjected to the miseries of the infertility treatment cycle. From a tacit acceptance of the desire to overcome mortality as rational it is but a short step to accepting reproductive cloning as offering a genuine answer to the problem of mortality which, in global rather than egocentric terms, is no problem at all. Refusal to die is also a refusal to give birth, for the finite space of the planet is already desperately overcrowded, principally

-207-

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Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 - Assisted Reproductive Technology and the Fertility Clinic 11
  • Experiencing Infertility 17
  • Chapter 3 - Clinical Waste 19
  • Chapter 4 - One Man's Story 27
  • Psychological Aspects 31
  • Chapter 5 - Eros and Art 33
  • Notes 45
  • Chapter 6 - Mourning the Never Born and the Loss of the Angel 47
  • Chapter 7 - The Battle with Mortality and the Urge to Procreate 60
  • Bibliography 72
  • Chapter 8 - Myths and Reality in Male Infertility 73
  • Bibliography 84
  • Chapter 9 - Love, Hate and the Generative Couple 86
  • Changing Patterns of Kinship 103
  • Chapter 10 - The Story of Seth's Egg 105
  • Chapter 11 - Seth 109
  • Chapter 12 - Gifts of Life in Absentia 120
  • Chapter 13 - Women's Work 143
  • Bibliography 165
  • Chapter 14 - Egg Donation 166
  • The Shadow 179
  • Chapter 15 - Dark Reflections 181
  • Afterword 205
  • Chapter 16 - Afterword 207
  • Appendix 217
  • Glossary of Terms Used in Art (Assisted Reproductive Technology) 219
  • Index 227
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