Book launch: The Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society Series presents ‘Egg freezing, fertility and reproductive choice: Negotiating Responsibility, Hope and Modern Motherhood’

Last week on Tuesday the 24th November we hosted a joint webinar with the University of Manchester and Emerald Publishing. The focus of the webinar was twofold, firstly to launch centre member Kylie Baldwin’s book, ‘Egg Freezing, Fertility and Reproductive Choice: Negotiating Responsibility, Hope and Modern Motherhood’ (Baldwin, 2019), which was published as part of the Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society Series and secondly, to discuss the field of reproduction research, the special series and how to go about publishing with Emerald. The panel was made up of the series editors Dr Petra Nordqvist (Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives, University of Manchester), and Professor Nicky Hudson (Centre for Reproduction Research, De Montfort University) and included Dr Kylie Baldwin (Centre for Reproduction Research, De Montfort University) as well as Jen McCall (Senior Editor at Emerald).

The special series ‘Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society’ was born out of discussions between the editors and from the desire to create a publishing platform dedicated to reproduction research distinct from the broader topics that often surround it. By bringing together scholars from a variety of disciplines, including, but not limited to the social sciences, humanities, law and health the editors described how they hope to foster interdisciplinarity and contribute to knowledge and thinking around reproduction in a critical academic context.

The series welcomes proposals for monographs, edited collections and short form books. To date, in addition to Kylie’s book, the series has published two other outputs Sappleton (2018) and Kroløkke et al (2019) and over the next 18 months has further exciting titles forthcoming on topics including:reproductive ageing, commercial surrogacy and migration in Russia, anti-abortion activism in the UK, solo motherhood and donor conception, donor sperm and subversive practices, and reproductive governance.

In addition to discussing the special series, the webinar also gave Kylie Baldwin the chance to talk a little about her book and the practicalities of research and writing for publication. Kylie’s book situates egg freezing as a tool of fertility extension and genetic conservation, which helps women maintain the ability to engage with genetic kinship making. Baldwin positions the technology as inherently socially situated and seeks to challenge the common view presented in the media that women use egg freezing in order to delay motherhood to focus on their career. Drawing on themes of responsibility, neoliberalism, risk management and the sexual politics of reproductive aging her book provides some of the first insights into social egg freezing in a UK and American context. In a recent review of Kylie’s book, Heather Griffiths notes:

“The book aims to better understand how women who freeze their eggs ‘determine and negotiate their mothering desires’ (p.21) and, more significantly, how this is ‘mediated and constrained not only by wider socio-political and market contexts but also their intimate encounters with (non)reproductive partners’ (p.21). As Baldwin argues, the narrative around women ‘delaying’ or ‘putting off’ motherhood is not only ‘inaccurate’ but ‘hurtful and deeply neglectful’ of the socially constructed ‘constellation of factors which exist beyond the control of women as individuals’.

To try and understand what motivates women to freeze their eggs, Baldwin interviewed 31 women who she described as ‘pioneering users’ – those who already had or were considering freezing their eggs.  She asked them how they arrived at their decision, how they perceived the risks and benefits of the procedure, and how they experienced the medical side of the process.

The book provides a chronological story of these women’s experiences, beginning with a discussion around their motivations for choosing egg freezing, charting the often long and emotional decision-making process. This is followed by their experience of the physical and psychological impacts of the procedure itself, documenting the often messy and uncomfortable medical procedures women endure as they embark on what is essentially the first half of an IVF cycle. The findings section concludes with a shorter reflection as participants explain how social egg freezing impacted their lives and future relationships.

The emphasis throughout the book is that, rather than being irresponsible by delaying motherhood, these women are experiencing a ‘social infertility’ as they struggle to build the life they envisaged for themselves and their future children. Paradoxically, Baldwin finds that these women engage in social egg freezing precisely in order to adhere to normative constructions of responsible motherhood, as it gives them more time to create the stability and security they feel they need in order to start a family.”

(Reproduced with permission from Heather Griffiths and The Sociological Review, for the full review, please see here).

During the webinar Kylie recounted her experience of navigating the (sometimes) uncertain terrain of writing her monograph, and the tools she used to tread her path, drawing on the works of respected scholars as a point of reference, including Lowe (2016), Nordqvist and Smart (2014) and Brooks (2017).

A salient consideration for Kylie during the planning and writing of her book was how to situate it in context with other emerging works on egg freezing, she also described how she wrote her book with a particular audience in mind ensuring accessibility in both content and access, not only for academics but also for informed publics. The open research and open access movement, and the impetus for knowledge to be made available for all, is even more pertinent than ever before and to this end, she credits working with both the series editors, and the editing team at Emerald Publishers, whose central focus on author care supported not only the inclusivity and accessibility of the tone and the content of the book, but also an individual publication strategy. In publishing her book in paperback, and open access available here, Kylie’s book contributes to more equitable knowledge production and more meaningful impact by being accessible to not only an academic audience but potential users of egg freezing, as well as those who support, deliver, provide, manage and govern reproductive technologies.

I think Kylie has not only achieved what she set out to do, publishing a book that speaks to and is available to a variety of audiences, but in sharing her thoughts on the processes around planning and writing her book, she has also made writing and publishing more accessible to those interested in doing so. The full recording of the webinar and Q&A which includes information on navigating the route to publication including preparing and submitting a proposal, the publication process and marketing can be found here.

By Jessica Turner

References

Baldwin, K. (2019). Egg Freezing, Fertility and Reproductive Choice: Negotiating Responsibility, Hope and Modern Motherhood. Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.

Brooks, A. T. (2017). The Ways Women Age: Using and Refusing Cosmetic Intervention. New York: NYU Press.

Griffiths, H (2020). Book Review: Egg Freezing, Fertility and Reproductive Choice by Kylie Baldwin, The Sociological Review [Online] Available from https://www.thesociologicalreview.com/book-review-egg-freezing-fertility-and-reproductive-choice-by-baldwin/ (accessed 27/11/2020).

Kroløkke, C., Petersen, T. S., Herrmann, J. R., Bach, A. S., Adrian, S. W., Klingenberg, R. and Petersen, m. N. (2020). The Cryopolitics of Reproduction on Ice: A New Scandinavian Ice Age, Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.

Lowe, P. (2016). Reproductive Health and Maternal Sacrifice. London: Springer.

Nordqvist, P., and Smart, C. (2014). Relative strangers: Family life, genes and donor conception. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sappleton, N. (2018). Voluntary and Involuntary Childlessness: The Joys of Otherhood? Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing.

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