Fertility Lessons from an Iowa Pork Queen
Editor’s note: I consider all of my contributors “unsung heroes”, they are oftentimes pioneers at what they do, and they all are generous and brave. Kris is a new contributor and an important voice connecting the world of reproductive technology and adoption. Please enjoy her post as she tells a wonderful story about how her early life connected her to this important issue. — JB
How did a Iowa farm girl get into the fertility business? I was raised on a farm in western Iowa outside a small community, Dunlap, Iowa. My ancestors on both sides of my family came from Holstein Schleswig area of northern Germany in the 1800’s. They established communities in Iowa and named towns the same names as the towns they left. Farming was the family business with my great-grandparents, grandparents and my father. Sadly to say, the small farm business is not able to support families in this time. My mother continues to own many acres of good farm land that is rented to a local farmer.
So how did this equate me for knowing about the donor world? Actually, one of my early memories was the bull sperm truck coming down the lane. We lived half a mile from the road, so anyone coming down the lane was interesting. I would follow the workers to the barn where my dad had heifers all tied up in the stall. From my viewpoint, the heifers were getting a shot in their bottom, but actually it was the transfer of bull sperm. This usually happened in the fall to early winter so that a spring calf could be born. My dad also had a herd of Jersey cows that had the biggest uterus of cattle, and they were gestational carriers for other breeds. The biggest uterus was able to give birth to a meatier, healthier calf. At that time in my youth, I did not know how this observation was going to benefit me in my career.
I was a lifelong 4-Her, belonging to the boys’ 4-H club, so I could show cattle. I took roles in the local club including president and all of the other offices. I also was a county and state representative for Crawford County, Iowa. Of course, don’t tell anyone but I was actually an Iowa Pork Queen. The 4-H Club gave me many advantages, including leadership and camp counseling. I served as a camp counselor for many of the 4-H camps throughout the years. I made very good friends and prospered in my given responsibilities.
Of course, being a child of the ’60s, I was here to save the world. I received a social work degree from a small college in Iowa, Graceland College. I then had many experiences that led to more successes in the future. I will write about some of that experience in a later blog, but for the benefit of the donor world, in fast forwarding, I started working at a fertility clinic in Kansas City in 1986, after working in adoption since 1972. I remember my first day at the clinic and they asked me to see patients that were going through donor insemination. You can imagine my amazement that families could not receive any information about the donor sperm that they were about to receive. The hairs on my open adoption neck raised, and I became, of course, a pain in everybody’s side regarding the needed information for families.
I remember asking my Dad about information that he received regarding the bulls that came into his heifer herd. He stated, “Well, I received volumes of information including three generations of feed rate, butcher rate, with meat to caucus, and the generations of offspring so that there would not be any inner breeding with the cattle herd.” At that time a light went off, and I made a promise to myself that I had to be part of making a change for human beings.
If the cattle industry can know everything about the sperm coming into their herds, then surely human beings can know of the history of the human sperm that was coming into the family.