Is Penny Jarvis Right To Freeze Eggs For Her Daughter?


by guest
13th January, 2011 at 8:42 am    

This is a guest post by Sarah. She blogs here.

Like most loving mothers, Penny Jarvis says she wants the best for her daughter, MacKenzie, 2. However, when you read their story, you would be forgiven for thinking her methods of achieving what she believes to be best for her daughter are more than a little unusual.

MacKenzie was born with Turner Syndrome, a rare chromosome abnormality affecting females, that causes restricted growth, heart and kidney problems, bone disorders, hearing loss, ear problems and infertility. MacKenzie will be unable to conceive her own child naturally- but she could carry a child created from a donated egg.

So Penny, 25, wants to freeze her own eggs now, so that MacKenzie will be able to use them for an IVF pregnancy in later life. According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the procedure is allowed in this country, though a spokesman for the organisation also told the BBC that it would be very important for both mother and daughter to be given appropriate counselling if they chose to carry out a pregnancy.

As a disabled woman myself, let me say that I have nothing at all against disabled women having children. That is not the problem here. Some quick research on Turner Syndrome revealed to me that most girls with the condition have normal intelligence. So there is nothing to suggest that MacKenzie will ever be too severely disabled to make decisions, or to understand what it means to look after and love a child.

However, MacKenzie is only 2 years old. She will not be ready to have her own child for at least 14 years, if not much longer. Ms Jarvis says she would not mind if MacKenzie chooses not to use the eggs, that she is only giving her daughter ‘options’- but who knows what new medical options will be available to women in MacKenzie’s situation by the time she is old enough to start thinking about having children? And there is one other, simpler, less extreme option that Ms Jarvis doesn’t appear to have considered for MacKenzie- adoption.

Being so young herself now, there is a good chance that Ms Jarvis will still be able to go through the procedure of freezing eggs for MacKenzie in 14 to 16 years’ time- when MacKenzie is old enough to decide for herself that she may want to use them.

Ms Jarvis says that MacKenzie’s diagnosis was, and still is, very upsetting for her. These feelings are only natural- many parents of disabled children have experienced similar situations.

The deep feelings that Ms Jarvis has for her daughter are immediately made clear by the fact that she is even considering carrying out such an extreme procedure. However, from what I have read about the case, personally, I believe that she is thinking too far ahead too early.

I would be very interested to read your thoughts on this case. I’m particularly interested to hear from mothers of girls about what they think they might do in the same situation.


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  1. sunny hundal

    Blogged: : Is Penny Jarvis Right To Freeze Eggs For Her Daughter? http://bit.ly/gJxkEp


  2. Is Penny Jarvis Right To Freeze Eggs For Her Two Year Old Daughter? « Same Difference

    [...] Cross posted here. [...]




  1. Elizabeth Eva Leach — on 13th January, 2011 at 8:52 am  

    Women of child-bearing age without children are under huge pressure to have children, pressure that comes from parents, partner’s parents, and society at large. For this poor girl, that pressure has started far, far earlier.

    Not only are there are other options for including children in one’s life (adoption, caring for a partner’s children, fostering, relatives’ children), but there are ways of living without children. The negative effects of the pressure to procreate–on individuals and on couples–is one of the great untold stories in our militantly pronatalist society.

  2. Suzie — on 13th January, 2011 at 9:10 am  

    To be cold blooded about this, if Penny Jarvis is set on this course of action it would seem more sensible for her to do it now rather than in 14 or 16 years time when she will be 40 or so and eqg quality will have declined. (And there is always the risk she could be one of those unlucky women to go through an early menopause.) Also, it could be more difficult for the by then mid-teens MacKenzie to see her mother going through the process of egg extraction than to know frozen biologically-related eggs are available should she wish to use them in the future.

  3. Ange — on 13th January, 2011 at 9:23 am  

    I’m struggling to see why this is any of our business. I personally would not want my grandchild to be my biological child, but I’m sure MacKenzie will be perfectly capable of making up her own mind.

    Young couples have always been under pressure to start producing progeny, even if it’s just teasing from aunties and uncles at their wedding. I don’t think that MacKenzie will be feeling under pressure, she is after all only 2 and I doubt that her mother will be telling her much, if anything about it at the moment.

  4. earwicga — on 13th January, 2011 at 9:40 am  

    Ange, I feel the same as you. Surely parenting is all about giving options. This is one most of us wouldn’t be in the position to consider. Good on Penny Jarvis!

  5. Kismet Hardy — on 13th January, 2011 at 12:06 pm  

    Every woman has the goddess-given right to be a mother. How she goes about is her business and hers alone

  6. chairwoman — on 13th January, 2011 at 12:07 pm  

    Ange, I too am with you, and also feel if they are going down this road, it would be wiser to harvest the eggs now, while they are more viable.

  7. Dr Paul — on 13th January, 2011 at 12:55 pm  

    I can see why Mrs Jarvis wants to make the move now, and I think that she should be free to do so.

    Mrs Jarvis rightly says that it’s a precautionary matter, and not one of expectation of being a granny. One hopes that other people in this situation will be as fair as she is.

    One could have a situation in which a woman who has had her eggs stored in this way wants to be a granny, but her daughter doesn’t want to have children. The former could use the egg storage as a means to put moral pressure on the latter: ‘I went to all the bother to have my eggs stored for you, and now you don’t want them; how inconsiderate you are.’

  8. Awakening Tempest — on 13th January, 2011 at 1:07 pm  

    You wrote and in your own words quote “I have nothing at all against disabled women having children” and if this is the case – then why write about this.

    We live in a age doing this is possible but still new – but that does not mean by discouraging this one case will stop it all together in this country – This science has just taken off and not yet common.

  9. sarah — on 13th January, 2011 at 3:16 pm  

    Awakening Tempest: I don’t have a problem with disabled women having children- nor would I have had a problem with Ms Jarvis doing what she wishes to do if MacKenzie was a teenager. As I said, I just think she is thinking too far ahead too early.

  10. Cynical/Realist? — on 13th January, 2011 at 3:25 pm  

    I’m struggling with the point of your article. You don’t seem to have any actual issues with the daughter’s potential child being technically her half-sister.

    So what’s your issue?

    Yes, the mother could most likely wait and freeze her eggs later. But why take the risk (of something happening that means the mother’s eggs are not suitable in 1 or 2 years let alone 14)? If you are of half a mind to do it, do it now, and then you can change your mind later.

    Yes, adoption would be a very good option potentially. But that’s not an easy option to take either for many reasons. The mother’s actions do not remove that option anyway. She may still very well counsell her daughter to go for adoption. But there is still the stored-egg optiuon then too – it could just be a backup.

    Yes, of course ‘who knows’ what advances in medical science may be able to offer the daughter in 20 years time (or whenever she begins to consider children). But you’d be a brave gambler to risk that happening wouldn’t you? Say no suitable advances happen and the mother is no longer able to donate in 20 years? What does she say then – ‘oh, I though about it but gambled medical scence would have solved it by now, sorry’.

    The mother has take a step to give her daughter just one additional option when she comes to consider children. This doesn’t prejudice against the other options. But it is does provide an extra one. If you have no issue with it being the mother/grandmother’s eggs then there is no issue at all.

  11. Don — on 13th January, 2011 at 5:29 pm  

    Seems only sensible to prepare now to give her child options in the future.

  12. skidmarx — on 13th January, 2011 at 5:30 pm  

    I too thought that would be the issue. While others may have doubts about whether it is right for them to mix up the generations in such a way, it should surely be their decision.
    Yes adoption would probably be an option, but like it or not many people want kids they are biologically related to and never have to face the suggestion that “You’re not my real mother/father”. Obviously in this case there would still be some explaining to do, but again, it’s their decision.

  13. AbuF — on 13th January, 2011 at 5:41 pm  

    None of this ever seemed to bother Ancient Egyptian royalty… nor skidmarx…

    Oh, wait…

  14. laura — on 13th January, 2011 at 6:14 pm  

    I have a daughter with Turner Syndrome also. She is 19 and was diagnosed aged 12. Up until then we didnt have any idea there was anything “wrong” (as often is the case with late diagnosis) When learning about the infertility side (and there are many more serious aspects of the syndrome) my first thoughts were can she have my eggs. Something i looked into but was one year too late, the cut off point for egg donation in the UK is 35 years old. So Penny is best doing it as early as possible.
    If i had gone ahead, i really wouldnt have minded if she used it or not, just that the option would be there, as she has no sisters that could donate.
    My daughter is not disabled and has a normal life, she is 5ft tall (had growth hormone) and is of average intelligence (in fact probably more). My daughter has said she would have rather had my egg than a strangers. I think every woman would like the option to experience carrying a baby (although my daughter does realise adoption will be more likely, as TS girls can have a weaker heart) but some successfully do carry. Penny just wants every option open to Mackenzie.

  15. sarah — on 13th January, 2011 at 10:30 pm  

    Thank you very much for your comments Laura. I didn’t know about the age limit for egg donation. Very useful information. Best wishes to you and your daughter.

  16. earwicga — on 13th January, 2011 at 10:41 pm  

    Laura – from what I have been reading on the internet, it seems that in 2008 there was a ten year limit on storing eggs which are not meant for one’s own personal use. (I’m not sure why an arbitary ten year limit is there as the stored eggs don’t detoriate.) Has this been changed?

  17. laura — on 14th January, 2011 at 3:28 pm  

    earwicga, im not sure at the moment, when i looked into it there was only a 10 year limit on storing eggs, but as i couldnt go down that route never enquired further. and sarah thank you and same to you .

  18. laura — on 14th January, 2011 at 3:34 pm  

    also on the subject on infertility side of turners … it is known (although very rare) that some ladies do have eggs but these can disappear (like v. early menopause) and so do actually have a child. Most girls are either born with no eggs or they “disappear” in their early years. my daughter does have ovaries but are underdeveloped (streak ovaries) and she never had a period. Therefore TS girls have to start taking estrogen at about 13 years of age to mature their breasts, bones, and womb and then projesterone is introduced (the contraceptive pill or hrt) to give them periods to help maintain a healthy womb, bones etc. Their bodies are at post menopausal stage without.
    I try to spread awareness of TS as much as possible, and hope you dont mind me doing it on here.

  19. halima — on 14th January, 2011 at 7:57 pm  

    It sounds sensible to me, and given the difficulties of the procedure, I think the mother is to be praised, few mothers would be in a position to consider this option, and even less would be prepared to do it.

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