Sic! Everything you want to find out about the process is clearly explained on the blogsite www.eggsurance.com2

In France, choosing to freeze one’s eggs remains a personal decision. So much the better. The fact that an employer can meddle in the lives of women is quite disturbing.

Mastering fertility is a personal issue and has nothing to do with planning a career, inasmuch as being a mother isn’t in itself an obstacle to having a career. Considering it could be is an affront to femininity and to women’s capacity to evolve in both family and professional life.

If certain women feel they need to choose between the two registers, they can consider freezing their eggs to reassure themselves, but this is not a decision which should involve the social Other. It can only be a choice which pertains to the subject.

In France today, no employer would contemplate making such a proposal. It just wouldn’t be acceptable, our way of life and the way we make choices about our private lives would resist it, even though employers must take into account that a pregnant woman has certain rights which must be respected. Nothing new here.

Cancer and fertility

In the Elle issue of February 5th 2016, an article “Élise, le bébé de l’espoir” (“Élise, the baby of hope”)3, recounts an important event, the birth of a little girl, following a pilot program in which cancer and fertility specialists worked together. A platform created in 2012, “Cancer and Fertility”, offers women who are undergoing treatment that might affect their fertility the possibility of preserving their eggs or ovarian tissue.

Thus Celine, whose medical history is discussed in the article, gave birth to her daughter Élise three years after having been diagnosed with cancer, an announcement that had overcome her with anxiety. She says she summoned the strength to fight and to hope for recovery in order to have a child someday and re-establish the law of her desire. The freezing of her eggs enabled the couple to fulfil its dearest wish.

Indeed losing one’s fertility is experienced as a castration in the Real. One reads about women who prefer to forego healthcare rather than accept such a loss. The anti-cancer treatments are thus perceived as a poison killing life itself. That science enables women and men affected by cancer today to preserve the possibility of a child is a good example of the fruitful collaboration between oncologists and gynaecologists.

To this day, little Élise is the only child born in France in such circumstances. The vitrification of Celine’s eggs before she underwent chemotherapy was successful, thus giving a definite hope to those people who could be capable of childbearing in the aftermath of cancer.

Unfrozen Babies4

However, what is more surprising is how a Christian association in the United States recently launched a program enabling the adoption of frozen embryos. These surplus embryos are usually stored in suspended animation during the process of IVF when the couple that benefitted from the IVF technique doesn’t need further embryos. After a few years, these frozen embryos generally die or are given to another couple that cannot bear children. These donations are anonymous and free. At least this is how it works in France, where donors and recipients are equally protected by a purposefully impermeable barrier.

The idea of that embryos could be adopted comes from a woman called Marlene, who at the age of thirty six, was told by her doctor that she could no longer bear children even with IVF; her ovaries were worn out. She had reached menopause. She then had the incredible idea of adopting frozen embryos whose no longer needed by their rightful owners. The idea of embryo adoption was taken seriously, as Marlene explained: “I stuck to adopting, because for me an embryo is a human being from the moment of its conception, and not an object which is donated.” The first Christian adoption agency was thus created and named Nightlife, which went on to put Marlene in touch with adopters and parents of surplus embryos through their program Snowflakes.

The idea attracted a couple who was happy that its twenty embryos (that had been frozen nine years ago) would be finally given a chance to “live their lives”. Out of the twenty, a single embryo was unfrozen and Marlene became pregnant with baby Hannah, “the first person in the world that was adopted as a frozen embryo which spent nine years at minus 196 degrees”, as Hannah (today aged seventeen) declares herself. She feels chosen by God for having emerged from such an adventure alive. She wanted to give names to each and every one of the embryos that hadn’t survived, designed a beautiful chart with the names, and framed and hung it on the living room wall. Hannah however clarifies that “I believe in God, of course, but that does mean I’m deranged”. Thanks for clarifying that, dear Hannah, because at the end of the day there is nothing forbidden in delirium. Lacan made room for it in his time: “Everybody is mad, which is to say delirious”5.

However, one may wonder how the interest of a few could become a universal rule, as homosexuals and single parents are excluded from the program, although, relying on the sources cited by the article, over a million families have donated surplus embryos to Nightlife under the auspices of its Snowflakes program.

Delirium therefore does have a purpose: preserving the homogeneity of the agency and its roots in the Christian religion. Genitor and adopting families stay in touch throughout the child’s education. It is a new way of growing up in four parent families, if any, but one where God occupies the protective function of the Name of the Father even if it is somewhat delusional. In fact, considering frozen embryos as living beings simply awaiting the opportunity to live their lives provides an unlimited jouissance of giving life while negating the Real of death. Science is putting its knowhow at the service of a delusion of birth. And there is no way of knowing where the denial of the real loss which is inscribed in our genetic or cultural make-up will lead us. The frozen/thawed embryos are among the objets a of our era, which produces children joyfully (if not continually), in the best of all worlds and in a symbolic order where the God of love works miracles…

Had science programmed the multiplication of children from the same genitors, to be raised in complete self-sufficiency? There is no way of knowing yet. No doubt we shall have to wait for this new generation of genetic siblings born from thawed embryos to mate for the purpose of childbearing… As long as God does not lose track of his children6 … Am I delirious?

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5 Lacan J., « Lacan pour Vincennes ! », Ornicar ?, n° 17/18, 1979, p. 278 [orig. trans.]
6 Translators note: “Tant que Dieu n’y perd pas ses petits…” carries connotations of another French phrase “une chatte n’y retrouverait pas ses petits”, implying a state of disorder along with its connotations of God as the Name of the Father.

Translated by Arunava Banerjee