It’s almost Mother’s Day, a time when we celebrate mothers in all
shapes, sizes and forms — from birth mother to foster mother to adoptive
mother, Jewish mother, Italian mother (etc., etc.); we celebrate Mamas,
Mamacitas, Aunts who ought to be included in the group, godmothers and
my personal favorite, grandmothers. According to the laws of one state
and measures proposed in a handful of others, I suppose I too could be
considered a mother.
As the cliché goes, thanks to the wonders of modern science, I’m the owner of a few wonders-of-modern-science frozen embryos. As biological motherhood has evaded me for years now, this option was suggested when it became apparent pregnancy would not be as easy as 1-2-3. These multicellular diploid eukaryotes are precious indeed, not necessarily for what they are now but for what they could be. But they are not people, and I can tell you that I am not yet, despite my best efforts, a mother.
Or am I?
Can I register for my “pembryo” at a baby store? What would I purchase? After all, I could not actually set up a play date or a nursery for the pembryo, despite its personhood designation. And how would friends and family refer to me? At PetSmart, when I drop my dogs off for boarding or grooming, they call me a Pet Parent. Look at that, the definition of parenthood is clearer for an owner of pets than it is for the owner of a pembryo. Would I be a Pembryo Parent?
If this all sounds ridiculous to you, it’s because it is. If someone wishes to adopt an embryo, they can do that without corrupting the definition of “person.” Embryos represent possibilities and for many lucky parents-to-be, even probabilities of life. But they are not, by themselves, alive. No amount of legislating on this Mother’s Day — or any other — can change that.
Lindsay Ellenbogen is a former congressional aide and founder of the Sara Start Fund for Foster Youth, which helps former foster youth get a start on their professional lives.