blathering

Fertility and the Royal Family

In case you live under a rock and missed it, the big news this week is that HRH the Duchess of Cambridge has a royal bun in her royal-by-marriage oven (and if you do live under a rock, you might want to prioritize getting out from under said rock because that can’t be comfortable; I’m getting claustrophobic just thinking about it.).

After the news broke, I saw a lot of people on Twitter pondering Kate’s fertility and whether the royal family had made her undergo fertility testing before she married William. It’s plausible.  I can think of half a dozen tests off the top of my head that could have provided some preliminary information on her apparent fertility.  That led me to think about what would happen if Kate had been infertile.

Scenario 1: Fertility Treatment

What would it be like for the Cambridges to pursue fertility treatment?  Would the palace be open about what they are trying or would it be something forever whispered? Fairly or unfairly, William’s genes are the ones that matter, so that would free up the couple to consider donor eggs if there were a problem with Kate’s eggs.   If she were unable to carry a pregnancy to term, could they pursue surrogacy?  I know that surrogacy is handled very differently in the UK, and the surrogate must waive her rights to the child regardless of its genetic parentage, so I doubt that William and Kate would pursue surrogacy at home.  For the purpose of anonymity, I could see them pursuing surrogacy in California with an agency used to handling high-profile clients.  Bringing colonialism full circle, they could pursue surrogacy in India.  It is doubtful, but it makes me snicker at the same time.

If the couple had to use a donor egg or surrogacy, I’m curious how it would be addressed. If it were donor egg, it wouldn’t be obvious and therefore no need for them to address it publicly (although it might be nice), but if they needed surrogacy, how would the public react?  Would they support the heir to the throne having a future heir via surrogacy?  British history is full of pivotal events that were caused by the lack of a legitimate heir to the throne, but until recently, there has never been a way for the monarch and his or her family to handle this challenge with viable science.  It is rumored that the Queen Mother used a turkey baster to conceive AKA the “old-fashioned IUI,” but that was probably the exception.

What is interesting about a royal couple pursuing treatment for infertility is the triumph of science over human frailty (potentially).  How would the history of the UK and maybe even the world have been different if Richard I, Richard III, Henry VIII or Charles II had legitimate heirs?  Or what if Edward VIII had decided to stay on the throne and had children with Wallis Simpson?  What if Mary Tudor had been able to have a child despite her advanced age?  What if Mary of William and Mary or her sister Queen Anne had produced living children after multiple miscarriages and stillbirths? 

It is tantalizing to think about what could have been if fertility treatment had been available “back in the day.”  Yet, for some monarchs, it is a good thing fertility treatment was not available because theirs was a line we didn’t want to continue.

Scenario 2: Adoption or Living Child-Free

The UK has made a lot of progress in attempting to eradicate primogeniture.  For example, it is likely, that if the Cambridges have a girl first, she will be the heiress presumptive, regardless of how many brothers she has who are younger.  The abolishment of primogeniture is a major step for a monarchy; we’ll see how this change plays out.

I’m curious about what happens if infertility treatments fail and the couple decided to live child-free or to pursue adoption.  If they live child-free, that makes Prince Harry the next in line to the throne, meaning that pressure is now on him to find a suitable spouse and have children.  The only problem with this outcome is that Prince Harry, as the “spare,” has likely grown used to being able to do what he wants.  He’s not bound by the rigid rules a direct heir to the throne has.  However, if William and Kate had no children, Harry would be on the hook. One day, he would likely be king.

If the couple adopted, the outcome would sadly be the same because at this time, an adopted child may inherit the parents’ money and property but not any titles or money and property tied to the title.  Bloodline remains all-too important here.  For example, Jamie Lee Curtis’ children are ineligible to inherit her husband Christopher Guest’s title; it will go to a cousin if I recall correctly.

I’m curious how the public would react 1) to the child of a royal couple being adopted and 2) how important bloodlines are to them now.  Would they express outrage at the title or throne passing to a cousin when there is a suitable candidate in the family despite  not being related by blood?

Scenario 3: Kate’s Fertility is Deemed Sub-Par

Let’s say that Kate was required to have many fertility tests performed.  Let’s say she failed.  Or, let’s say that William and Kate married, but when confronted with Kate’s infertility, they discover she won’t be able to create and carry a child.  Would William be pressured or feel pressured to ditch Kate because of her fertility issues?  Would he feel obligated to find a woman with better childbearing potential?  Would the palace recommend this plan?

While the palace may support and recommend this plan, how would the public react? On the one hand, one of William’s jobs is to continue the line.  On the other hand, the 21st Century royal family is hardly in the same situation as previous generations in regards to continuing the dynasty.  After all, the monarchy is rather symbolic at this point.  The fate and direction of a nation no longer rests on who is on the throne.

But would the current royal family see it that way?  Would William stand by his wife and remain married to her despite no children to carry on the line, making Harry the heir?  If they adopted, would he actively lobby for their child to inherit the throne despite the lack of blood relation? 

If William did divorce Kate, how would the public react?  Would they condemn it?  Would they shrug and go about their business?  Honestly, I wonder if such situations would cause a constitutional crisis and possibly the end of the monarchy in the UK.  It seems a little ridiculous to insist on the primacy of the bloodline in 2012 in the same way that the various royal families remaining in the world seem quaint and outdated. 

To put it into perspective, the last time the royal family encountered the crisis of no heir was in the early 19th century after the future George IV’s daughter, the heiress presumptive, died in childbirth.  While he had many illegitimate children, it was unlikely he would have another legitimate one, so her death prompted George’s brothers to marry quickly.  It was his brother the Duke of Kent who produced Princess Alexandrina Victoria, later Queen Victoria.  Queen Victoria was born almost 200 years ago; reproductive science has advanced dramatically since then.

Maybe I’m thinking too much about these scenarios.  After all, Kate is pregnant.  Maybe I’ve been watching too much of The Tudors.   We’re at the point in the first season in which King Henry is exploring ways to divorce Queen Katherine.  Yes, much of his desire for divorce is spurred by his lust for Anne Boleyn, but he also lacks a male heir.  I feel a lot of empathy for Queen Katherine and her many miscarriages and stillbirths, but I also understand Henry’s position.  He was the second monarch in the nascent Tudor line.  If he didn’t have a strong heir, the line and all his grandmother and father fought for would end quickly.  I can’t fault him for looking at his daughter Princess Mary and thinking he needed a son.  And I say this as someone who is a long-time admirer of Elizabeth Tudor, the offspring of King Henry and Anne Boleyn.

For the royals, the pressure to produce an heir is paramount.  After ascending to the throne, producing an heir is the next priority.  It is interesting to think about the monarchy, an old, outdated institution, and ponder how new approaches to treating infertility or accepting different family building options can come into conflict with it.

What are your thoughts on the Duchess’ pregnancy?

More Blather: Post-Thanksgiving Shock Syndrome

Five more posts for NaBloPoMo.  Five.  In the words of one of the most annoying of Daniel’s favorite books: I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

Isn’t it funny the books that get on our nerves?  I am immune, apparently, to the charms of Goodnight, Moon but Daniel loves it.   Thinking all Eric Carle books were as adorable as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, we bought a few more, including The Grouchy Ladybug which soon made us very grouchy when we had to read it although there was a period in which Daniel was fascinated with the skunk in it and pronounced “skunk” adorably.  That ladybug was a grouchy shrew!  Jamberry, so innocuous and sweet with its odd rhymes, was an early favorite of all of ours.  It made it on to the “Do Not Read” list recently when Daniel had to read it for himself, which meant that every.page.took.forever. I confess that I have hidden books, hoping their absence would go unnoticed.

I feel a little churlish griping about books that Daniel loves and our attempts to subvert the reading of them.  Books are awesome!  I love books!  Of course I love that he loves books.  The reality, however, is that the quest for independence is frustrating for all concerned.  Daniel’s frustrated because he wants to do everything for himself, gosh darn it.  We’re frustrated because we want to enjoy story time without a battle of wills as well as still manage to get him into bed at a decent hour without also wanting to run screaming from the house.  Three-year-olds, man.  They are rough.

***

Last night I was listening to the nightly chat between Daniel and Jimmy.  I swear I heard Daniel say, “Talk to me about Plato” and wondered whether Jimmy would launch into an explanation of the Allegory of the Cave, Plato’s relationship with Socrates and influence on Aristotle, and Aristotle’s tutelage of Alexander the Great.  Western Civilization: the Greco-Roman years was happening down the hall!

Then I realized Daniel had said, “Talk to me about play doh.”  Ohhhhh.  Yeah, just a little different than Plato.  Jimmy went on to discuss the delights offered by the fun factory, leading Daniel to request it for Christmas.

Small children are so funny, though.  It honestly didn’t phase me to think that the same child who flung boogers at the wall and who protested eating his vegetables could turn around and say something intelligent about Plato and his theory of Forms. Why not?

***

Today was my first day back at work after Thanksgiving.  Working at a university, this time of year is usually fairly slow.  I have 14 working days left this year.  It doesn’t sound like much time at all, and I know it will go by both insanely fast and painfully slowly.  2012 has been a frustrating year because I feel like most of it has been spent marching in place, never really making any progress.

I’m unlikely to be able to change that outcome in the next 14 days, so I’ll just focus on tying up loose ends and getting done what I can, trying not to regret how little I feel I’ve accomplished this year.

How was your Monday?  Do you like Plato or do you prefer Aristotle?  What amusing things have your children done lately?

Magic Fall: The Blathering

There’s a lot of crap swirling in my head, but when I woke up this morning, I felt cheeky and staccato, so I thought maybe another blathering post was in order.  Brain dump, commence!

  • I took 10 minutes and brought out my Fall decorations last week.  OK, let’s talk capitalization.  I know that technically, you are not supposed to capitalize the seasons, but I think that rule is asinine.  You can get away with not capitalizing spring, summer and winter (even though I bet the majority of the world will think you are making a mistake by NOT capitalizing them) and be fairly certain that readers will understand you are referring to the seasons even though they might think you are a moron.  Fall, however, could very easily be confused with usage other than the season.  Plus, it offends me on some level not to capitalize the seasons.  Let’s agree that on this blog, seasons will be capitalized, rules be damned.  Where was I?  Oh yes.  My Fall decorations.  They are on display, and it makes me happy to see them.  It also makes Daniel happy because he can climb on a chair and grab one of the pumpkin lanterns.  Like his mother, he’s a sucker for Fall and Halloween decorations, especially pumpkins.
  • Speaking of Fall (I rather like my new rule of capitalization), it’s like the trees finally got the message and are starting to change colors en masse.  I love it.  I love pointing out the colors to Daniel on our way to and from daycare.  My campus is really beautiful this time of year too.  Trees in front of buildings are turning flaming red.  The trees around the lake are changing too.  Right now, it’s just a hint of what’s to come, but in a week or two, it will be a stunning backdrop to the water.  I don’t really think I can explain it, but Fall thrills me.  The way the intensity of the sun has dimmed, giving a slight sepia cast to the days; the way the blue sky is so intensely blue but golden as well.  The vivid leaves.  I can feel my body respond and almost hum.  Some energy that courses through the changing environment calls to me.  I feel it and I welcome it.  I feel alive, which is interesting since in a way Fall is the last gasp of a dying year.  I know.  That’s weird.  I’m weird.  I guess Fall makes me feel connected to the environment.  It’s elemental.
  • We bought pumpkins.  We have Daddy, Mommy and Daniel pumpkins as well as a bunch of little pumpkins.  We’ll likely carve the Mommy and Daddy pumpkins and call it a day.  Despite our best efforts, we’re always carving at practically the last minute.  As for the rest of the pumpkins, Daniel has claimed 4 as his; I still maintain hopes of creating something decorative with the rest.  Don’t hold your breath.

    Interesting use of baby pumpkins

  • I had a lot of meetings this week.  I realized that the rest of October and quite a bit of November will be full of meetings as well.  When I told my staff that I’ll likely be in and out due to meetings, my newest staff member asked, “Why do you have to go to so many meetings?”  I wanted to tell her, “because I’m a masochist,” but I didn’t want to scare her off.  I get through the meetings by doodling copiously and irreverently:

    My doodles tend to be seasonal

  • This week I discovered that the construction area along my commute to work is going to be a new Sheetz.  I am thrilled by this because I love Sheetz.  Sheetz is like the anti-gas station.  It’s clean.  It has great coffee and genuine food options.  It’s colorful.  It’s mecca.  I’ve gone from hardly ever encountering a Sheetz to passing TWO on my commute to work.  Someone is throwing me a bone.
  • I started and finished Tana French’s Broken Harbor this week.  This is the 4th book in her…Ireland detective series?  The characters are loosely connected from novel to novel; she often has a minor character in one mystery who goes on to become the main character in the next.  I love her books because they are moody, lyrical and dark; the story grim and gripping.  Ireland is as much of a character as any person.  That said, I didn’t like Broken Harbor as much as the previous three.  It’s definitely worth a read, but it just didn’t work as well as all the elements in the previous three.   If you like UK mysteries, I also highly recommend Elizabeth George’s mysteries.  Very, very good.
  • The State Fair is in Raleigh this week, and we haven’t gone and probably won’t go.  I thought that maybe this was the year to take Daniel to see the animals and eat some fun fair food but then I decided against it because of the crowds and logistical nightmare of getting there and parking.  I also that he doesn’t know the fair exists, so maybe I shouldn’t borrow trouble before I need to.  There’s also the 40+ pesky cases of E.coli that have been reported. Then I felt guilty and decided I was denying him some vital experience but realized that due to schedules, I may have missed our window of opportunity to go.  Now I’m back to trying to convince myself that he doesn’t know what he’s missing and it’s OK.  Also, E.coli.
  • Along with the rest of the world (so it seemed), we watched Felix Baumgartner’s jump last weekend.  Jimmy and I were riveted, and we told Daniel that Felix was making history.  Daniel’s response? “Skip!” he commanded, the same command he utters when he wants us to skip a section in a movie.  The world?  Seriously awed by Felix.  My three-year-old?  Not so much.  Tough audience.

    What’s so special about him, Mommy?

  • The governor of North Carolina was the keynote speaker at one of the meetings I attended this week.  I happened to be sitting on the aisle, and as she passed by, greeting people, she clasped my shoulder and said, “hi.”  That’s my brush with greatness this week.
  • We may have quit soccer due to life.  By that I mean, car trouble, rain, hacking coughs, etc.  There is one more session and then the “skills showcase” next weekend.  My guilt says, “GO!”  My brain says, “Just stop and don’t worry about it.  Life is too crazy right now and Daniel won’t really care.”  Talk me down, people.  Please.
  • We have 3 elderly, increasingly crotchety felines whom we adore.  All I can say is that I hope Daniel takes as good care of us when we’re that old.  Lucky pusses!

How was your week?  Am I insane?