Animal Husbandry for People
Google offers up 12 million websites on "animal husbandry," so I'd better get started. The phrase "animal husbandry" was the first thing that popped in my mind while I was watching a popular TV show Tuesday morning. You'll see why in a minute.
I don't know anything about animal husbandry, though I do think the name is awfully sexist. As usual, the wife is not consulted. But a quick scan of those 12 million websites reveals that animal husbandry has to do with breeding livestock, and that it's been around for thousands of years. It involves harvesting eggs from a healthy female, artificially inseminating those eggs with sperm from a donor, and then transplanting the fertilized embryos into surrogate females to carry to term. If any of that sounds familiar, stick around.
Animal husbandry is responsible for the juiciest beef, the tastiest pork chops, the woolliest wool, and the fastest racehorses known to man. Without it, we'd be using chainsaws on our chops and pickaxes on our pork. Animal husbandry improves everything from alpacas to zebras. Shh! Don't tell PETA.
Tuesday's show featured a woman who, sixteen years ago at the age of forty, heard her biological alarm clock suddenly go off. It was now or never if she wanted a child. With no husband or boyfriend handy, she opened an account at a sperm bank, which is not a bank at all, but a bunch of guys in cubicles looking at magazines -- the very apex of human dignity.
Her first five (5!) baby-daddy choices were "out of stock" so she reluctantly chose (from a mug shot?) Bachelor #6 to father her child, even though Bachelor #6 will never actually be a father, but rather a sperm donor. You know, like a racehorse. Or a llama. Want to see those family albums?
We interrupt this happy ending to bring you what really happened. The woman gave birth to an apparently healthy baby boy. But years later, the boy was diagnosed with an aortic heart defect inherited from -- you guessed it -- his sperm donor. It turns out that the donor himself had been unaware of his own heart condition at the time of his, er, contribution. Now the woman is advocating for a law requiring sperm donors to report any changes in their health to the sperm bank(s) where they had made deposit(s).
Well, OK, except that there are, the woman says, as many as 60 little time bombs out there, all "fathered" by Bachelor #6, and all perhaps in need of heart surgery. I hope Mr. Right kept a detailed log so that he can notify them all.
The good news is that the 15-year-old fatherless son has had successful surgery and is expected to do fine, with annual checkups. No word yet on his 59 half-brothers and sisters.
Nontraditional childbearing has been around now for decades, so the shock value has worn off. Generations have been (literally) born into this relatively new concept of family, and there is no going back. Originally conceived (pun intended) to aid fertility-challenged married couples to have families, it's now a growth industry, unburdened by such an archaic notion as marriage.
Except for gay marriage, that is, which has expanded the designer-baby universe exponentially. Gay people seem to have surpassed straight people in their zeal for marriage. (They've opted to learn the hard way, I guess.) But if you need eggs, we've got eggs. If you need sperm, we've got sperm. Check out our catalog. You can also pick a donor online. Surrogates are listed under "S." One couple mixed their sperm in a petri dish so no one will know who the baby-daddy is until the DNA test for the divorce court. Classy.
So in the end, we wind up with millions of offspring, and offspring of offspring, who wander in the dark, not knowing who their ancestors were. Who never know their true mothers or fathers nor their aunts and uncles and, sadly, not even their brothers and sisters. Who never know the heroes and histories of their own families, who have no photographs or remembrances of their heritage.
And I'm just talking about animal husbandry, not the human kind.