My sister! My daughter!

The first case of mother-to-daughter egg donation sparks controversy.

By Carol Lloyd

Published July 6, 2007 3:15PM (EDT)

Here's something our grandmothers didn't have to worry about -- or our mothers. Actually, we don't need to worry about this, either, but in the funhouse of new family planning, what's possible now seems probable, so even the weirdest mirrors are worth looking into, and wondering about the world we're creating. As reported by the BBC, a woman has frozen her embryos for her 7-year-old daughter, who has a chromosomal condition that will prevent her from bearing children of her own. Some experts say it is the first case of mother-to-daughter egg donation. The child could then reenact the famous scene from "Chinatown" ("My sister! My daugher!") without so much as a whiff of scandal.

It's hard to see donating one's egg to one's daughter as anything but an act of maternal love, but some critics suggest it sets a dangerous precedent. "In psychiatry we are hearing more and more of children suffering from identity problems, and specifically a condition called 'genealogical bewilderment,'" Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, told the BBC. "Could it possibly get more bewildering than this?"

To which I would say the world has always been a bewildering place, and in the scope of things, being born of your grandmother's biological matter seems like a pretty mild cross to bear. Besides, though the group hardly admits it on its Web site, Comment on Reproductive Ethics is an antiabortion group that takes a stand against all artificial reproductive technology and its damaging effects on the child.

But another comment from Quintavalle struck me as worth considering -- no matter that it was coming from a pro-life activist who opposes any tampering with God's handiwork. "We have to stop thinking of women only in terms of their reproductive potential. The daughter could live a full and happy life without having children of her own." While reproductive technology seems to offer women a miraculous range of options, I wonder if we are not also imbibing a subtler, far less liberating message. That anything less than motherhood is tragedy.

Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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