With Hollywood luminaries like Sandra Bullock, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, and Hugh Jackman going the adoption route, and other late-life parents risking medical intervention to see their own genes replicate in a biological birth, the debate continues about what is best, for the individual, our culture, and the planet.
A few months back, I was invited to appear on CNN Newsroom with Don Lemon to talk about transracial adoption. Being that I am a doctor of psychology and the mother of two (biological) biracial children, I walk the issues everyday. Then last week, I was on HLN’s Showbiz Tonight commenting on celebrities who spend thousands of dollars and risk complications from medical interventions while undergoing in vitro fertilization. The two subjects got me thinking. When a loving couple or single parent faces infertility, which option really is best?
Of course there is no one right answer. Adoption and in vitro fertilization both carry financial, medical, and family dynamic risks.
Let’s start with economics. The average cost of in vitro is nearly $15,000 per cycle and adoption costs anywhere from five to forty-thousand dollars. But wait. Before you consider in vitro a bargain, know this: many cycles of in vitro are often required to create a pregnancy that goes full term. The success rate is 15-20% for women aged 38-40, and for women over forty, it is as low as 6%. Then there are the medical complications that can rack up more costs. Laparoscopy used to extract eggs carries risks related to the anesthesia. Then there’s the risks of infection, bleeding, damage to the bowel, bladder, or a blood vessel. Surgery to repair damage can also be costly. Bottom line: Adoption is cheaper and less physically risky.
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When the news of Sandra Bullock’s recent baby adoption broke with the morning sun, a smile as long as the Louisiana bayou broke out on my face. Here was little Louis’s precious face on the cover of PEOPLE and on every morning television show, nuzzling his glowing mommy. I know that feeling, that intoxicating smell of a milky baby’s breath and sweaty chick-fuzz. And the flip-flops of love and worry that tumble in a new mother’s stomach. My very first emotion was happiness for Sandra, especially in this time of pain over her husband’s bad behavior.
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Any wife who has been cheated on knows the visceral effect of embarrassment in her social circle. The gossips in the peripheral of her every move sing muffled chants about her role in the affair or why she bothers to stay in the marriage. But when that everyday wife appears in person, the tongues quiet and public smiles replace the wagging tongues.
A famous wife knows an entirely different kind of public embarrassment. She looks no further than her super-market aisles, the local radio, or the national news for the openly wagging tongues. Our hearts bleed for Sandra Bullock, Elizabeth Edwards and Elin Woods, and so we moralize, we bemuse, and we give advice as if these women were our own sisters. The media and general public feel safe in gossiping about famous people because they seem so far removed. We are reminded that their problems are much like ours, although often on a grander scale.
But what must the experience be like for an innocent wife who lives a public life? How can she tolerate the negative limelight now shinning on her family? Embarrassment often plays a role in people’s moral sense. It helps them “do the right thing,” but what if the scandal was not their fault? And what if their decision to save the marriage goes against the jury of public opinion?
The best answer to these questions, is to avoid. To emotionally survive the public humiliation, famous women must cloister themselves in the world of most intimate family members and wait for the media tide to change. Elin and Sandra are certainly doing that. And when they do eventually move forward they must defend against feelings of embarrassment by maintaining the fantasy that few people read those tabloid rags, anyway.
Case in point, a couple years back I was introduced to Christie Brinkley at a charity event. Our introduction came a few years after a media blitz concerning the infidelity of her husband with their young babysitter. When our mutual friend introduced us she attempted to find common ground for us by telling Christie that I had recently gone through a painful break up with the father of my children. Christie, immediately, clasped my hands and exclaimed, ‘Oh Honey so did I! And you wouldn’t believe what happened to me!” Then she proceeded to give me details of her husband’s bad behaviors as if I had never been in a supermarket in my life. Clearly her very efficient coping strategy was to maintain the illusion that few people knew. I commend her for that. It’s a high level survival mechanism. Compartmenting is the way our brain avoids being flooded with painful thoughts than can cause destructive behavior.And, by the way, I played along with her fantasy and acted astounded by her news.
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Not so long ago, women who had sexual relationships with men who were legally bound to another woman were considered social outcasts. Our language clearly illustrated the sexual double standard that existed. While he was a gentleman who “stepped out” of his marriage, she was a whore, slut, or home-wrecker (as if he had never laid hands on the wreaking ball, himself.) My favorites are “Mistress” and “Kept Woman” because they, at least, imply some outlay of financial resources indicative of an emotional connection.
In cultures throughout history our complicated human social structures have always made room for extra-marital affairs. During the sexual repression of Victorian England where a high status woman faced scandal if even an ankle were exposed, the brothel business boomed. It is estimated that the ratio of prostitutes to males over the age of 18 in Victorian England was 12-1. And most of those young women died early from STD’s.
Sadly, the same tragedy is living itself out in the Indian/Asian sex slave business today. One of the shameful growing pains of feminism is that high status women are delaying marriage (often to the age of 30) to pursue a career, while keeping their hymens intact. The result is a lack of available sexual partners for men who are still required to marry a virgin. Today’s version of Victorian England? Millions of impoverished girls being sold into brothels by their own families.
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Back in 2003 when glamorous Hollywood leading lady, Sandra Bullock first laid eyes on Jesse James, a tattoo-covered motorcycle enthusiast, the rest of the world collectively raised their eyebrows. But Sandra, apparently, was in love’s delusional la-la land, telling people that there are church going family men who fool around on their wives, so appearances can be deceiving.
In the case of Jesse James, appearances seemed to have been accurate. When she met James, he was already on his second marriage, this one to a porn star who would go to jail for tax evasion. He had two kids with the first wife and another child on the way when he shifted his focus from his pregnant wife to the bigger prize, Sandra Bullock. Today, after five years of marriage, the former body guard and star of Discovery Channel’s “Monster Garage,” has issued an apology to his wife and children, while a sexy tattoo model (who knew such a career existed?) is blabbing to the media about her hot affair with Mr. Sandra Bullock.
So, what’s a girl to do when a man targets her and then showers her with love and lies? Answer: Read his rap sheet not his lips. If the trail he took to get to you is lined with the bodies of disappointed women, your only job is to stop that bad boy before he reproduces.
It’s an old adage, but if you want to predict someone’s future behavior, look no further than their past behavior. As Sigmund Freud so brilliantly observed, “human beings have a compulsion to repeat.” Or, as modern relationship experts prefer to word it, “Leopards don’t change their spots.”
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