Recently I saw a documentary celebrating 30 years since the birth of Candice Reed, the first IVF baby born in Australia. It was amazing to see how far we had come – since 1980 over 100,000 babies have been born by IVF – and it was funny to see how society’s views on IVF had changed.
Nowadays IVF is so common, it rarely causes an eyebrow to be raised, but 30 years ago people were talking about crimes against God and nature; there were fears of armies of IVF babies taking over the world; and babies born in vitro were called Test Tube Babies.
Hysterical, right? How things have changed, right? Well I would have thought so, until this week when Italian fashion duo Dolce and Gabbana called IVF children ‘synthetic babies’.
Motherhood was the theme for Dolce and Gabbana’s women’s fall-winter 2015-16 show in Milan earlier this year, and it was absolutely gorgeous. Models in feminine, floral skirts and dresses walked down the runway carrying babies, and Italian model Bianca Balti even took to the runway heavily pregnant.
Naturally, in an interview with Italian magazine, Panorama, the topic of family was raised – and that’s when it all went wrong.
“I am not convinced by those I call children of chemicals, synthetic children,” said Domenico Dolce. “Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalogue … psychiatrists are not ready to confront the effects of this experimentation.”
“The family is not a fad,” Stefano Gabbana added. “In it there is a supernatural sense of belonging.”
Dolce also said, “You are born to a mother and a father – or at least that’s how it should be.”
“How dare you refer to my beautiful children as ‘synthetic,” he tweeted. “And shame on you for wagging your judgemental little fingers at IVF – a miracle that has allowed legions of loving people, both straight and gay, to fulfil their dream of having children. Your archaic thinking is out of step with the times, just like your fashions. I shall never wear Dolce and Gabbana ever again. #BoycottDolceGabbana.”
I totally get Elton John’s outrage. As the mother of two donor-conceived children, it horrifies me to think that there are people who think their existence is monstrous. As a parent, Elton John wants to protect his kids from hearing such rubbish.
(And by the way, the irony of two gay men who were once in a relationship talking about traditional family values is lost on no one!)
So how should we respond? Is Elton right: should we boycott Dolce and Gabbana?
While that was my initial reaction, now I am not so sure.
For one thing, withholding my yearly spend on D&G will hardly make a ripple in their income!
Thing is, I don’t imagine for a moment that Dolce and Gabbana are alone. It’s terrifying as a parent of IVF kids, to know that there are people in the world who are still anxious and fearful of IVF.
I don’t believe that taking the designers out the back and beating the crap out of them is necessarily the answer. They have highlighted a problem, and perhaps we should face that problem head on.
Spend any amount of time with children of IVF and it’s not long before they are seen for what they are: precious babies, loved by their families, our hope for the future.
So, to anyone who is concerned about IVF children and what their conception means to nature, family values or God, I say this:
Meet my two daughters, Greta and Rori, donor-conceived kids born via IVF. They love playing outdoors, going to the zoo and playing dress ups. Greta is incredibly ticklish and Rori loves it when I blow raspberries on her tummy. They laugh, they have tantrums, they are faithful friends and loving cousins. They are as individual as any kids and they are the same as other kids.
And they don’t know what judgment is.