Salon Series: What to Expect When You are not Expecting

What happens to the embryos that remain after in vitro fertalizion? How does embryo adoption effect the concept ofmotherhood? This month’s Salon Series will explore:

What to Expect When You are Not Expecting: Motherhood and Responsibility in Embryo Adoption.

When: Feb 28th from 7-8:30 pm
Where: Langton Labs 32 Langton St. SF, 94103 Just 3 blocks from Civic Center Bart!  
Cost: Free. $5-15 is a suggested donation to the Bay Area Doula Project.
Accessibility: Langton is wheelchair accessible (but the restroom does not have grab bars).  Babes in arms are welcome. Please email if you have any questions about accessibility. 

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Approximately a half million frozen human embryos are stored currently in fertility clinic cryopreservation tanks across the United States. People with remaining embryos after in vitro fertilization can decide to discard their embryos, donate them to research, or donate them to others for procreation. This talk examines how motherhood is understood and reconfigured through relationships created between potential mothers in the context of embryo donation for procreation. Based on qualitative interviews with thirty embryo donors and sixty embryo recipients through a Christian embryo adoption program, Risa Cromer will explore how notions of responsibility drive both donor and recipient notions of motherhood. In many cases, embryo adoptions do not result in a viable pregnancy for the adopting woman. And, yet, attitudes and actions toward the remaining embryos are described as “maternal responsibility” not just to other women or the embryos themselves, but to broader notions of “life.” By examining how participants in embryo adoption feel and act toward remaining IVF embryos, this study sheds light on broader political concerns about mothering in the context of genetic dis/connections and competing notions of personhood.

Risa Cromer is a scholar, educator, and activist. The theme of her professional and personal life has been expanding her toolkit in service of the reproductive justice movement. Over the past decade, she has grown this toolkit through experiences mobilizing communities as a field organizer for Planned Parenthood, supporting dozens of women as a full-spectrum doula with The Doula Project (New York) and Calyx Doulas (Portland, OR), holding space for Backline callers to feel however they may about their pregnancy experiences, learning alongside her college students, and collaborating on various research teams investigating women’s health issues. She is currently a doctoral candidate in cultural anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her dissertation research concerns “life” politics in the United States with a focus on frozen embryos that remain after IVF. She studies in New York, resides in Portland, and travels to California occasionally for field research. She cherishes the moments in her running shoes, on her yoga mat, and biking down an open road for they remind her, in all that she does, to take it one breath and one step at a time.   

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