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Is Penny Jarvis Right To Freeze Eggs For Her Two Year Old Daughter?

January 12, 2011

Like most loving mothers, Penny Jarvis says she wants the best for her daughter, MacKenzie, 2. However, when you read their story, you would be forgiven for thinking her methods of achieving what she believes to be best for her daughter are more than a little unusual.

MacKenzie was born with Turner Syndrome, a rare chromosome abnormality affecting females,  that causes restricted growth, heart and kidney problems, bone disorders, hearing loss, ear problems and infertility. MacKenzie will be unable to conceive her own child naturally- but she could carry a child created from a donated egg.

So Penny, 25, wants to freeze her own eggs now, so that MacKenzie will be able to use them for an IVF pregnancy in later life. According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the procedure is allowed in this country, though a spokesman for the organisation also told the BBC that it would be very important for both mother and daughter to be given appropriate counselling if they chose to carry out a pregnancy.

As a disabled woman myself, let me say that I have nothing at all against disabled women having children. That is not the problem here. Some quick research on Turner Syndrome revealed to me that most girls with the condition have normal intelligence. So there is nothing to suggest that MacKenzie will ever be too severely disabled to make decisions, or to understand what it means to look after and love a child.

However, MacKenzie is only 2 years old. She will not be ready to have her own child for at least 14 years, if not much longer. Ms Jarvis says she would not mind if MacKenzie chooses not to use the eggs, that she is only giving her daughter ‘options’- but who knows what new medical options will be available to women in MacKenzie’s situation by the time she is old enough to start thinking about having children? And there is one other, simpler, less extreme option that Ms Jarvis doesn’t appear to have considered- adoption.

Being so young herself now, there is a good chance that Ms Jarvis will still be able to go through the procedure of freezing eggs for MacKenzie in 14 to 16 years’ time- when MacKenzie is old enough to decide for herself that she may want to use them.

Ms Jarvis says that MacKenzie’s diagnosis was, and still is, very upsetting for her. These feelings are only natural- many parents of disabled children have experienced similar situations.

The deep feelings that Ms Jarvis has for her daughter are immediately made clear by the fact that she is even considering carrying out such an extreme procedure.  However, from what I have read about the case, personally, I believe that she is thinking too far ahead too early.

I would be very interested to read your thoughts on this case. I’m particularly interested to hear from mothers of girls about what they think they might do in the same situation.

Cross posted here.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Kriss permalink
    January 31, 2011 12:24 am

    Interesting comments.

    I believe Penny Jarvis is already in her 30s and women are not allowed to donate after the age of 35. So if she wants to donate her eggs to freeze, she needs to do this within a pretty short timeframe, and inevitably while her daughter is still too young to understand the implications.

    • fizz permalink
      February 2, 2011 7:10 pm

      Penny is actually 25/26yr old

  2. April permalink
    February 2, 2011 10:37 pm


    As someone who couldn’t have children myself, I believe you should do what you think is right. Whether you’re successful in your attempt and whether your daughter chooses to accept your offer later, you will have done what you can to ensure she has a choice.

    Ultimately, you’re clearly a really caring Mum and you deserve to be applauded for that.

    Your daughter is lovely and lively. Good luck to you both for now and the future.

  3. Denise permalink
    September 26, 2011 3:49 am

    I am a woman born with Turner’s Syndrome and would have loved if my mother or one of my seven sisters would have offered or froze their eggs for me to use. At the time I was diagnosed ,in 1963, we did not have these options and my sisters never offered and I was too afraid to ask them to donate their eggs.Ontario Canada still pays for women to abort babies but I never would have received funding to have my own family.Unfortunately my husband and I divorced in 2008.I would have been overjoyed if these options had been available to me when I was younger.I still beleive it was all meant to be.

  4. Nugget permalink
    August 10, 2012 4:13 am

    Penny Jarvis is a role model to all mothers out there, regardless of the individual circumstances of your child. She is loving her daughter, and for her that means making this decision and on top of that making it public. She is not shamed or embarrassed, she is a proud, loving mother who’s doing everything the best way she knows how.

    As a woman who discovered I had mosaic Turner’s at the Age of 27, I can only thank PJ and her fellow loving mothers who’re out there making awareness of a condition I’d never even heard of.

    The way it was broken to me was thoughtless, inaccurate and cruel.

    I did IVF and was one of the rare ones to use my own eggs. If that had not worked then we would have moved on in one way or another.
    As a mother to a daughter there is nothing I would not do for her to have an option/door open to her in life. And given the technological advances and availabillity in an area (fertility) that is certainly going to be an issue for young MacKenzie I cannot see why her mother would not at least consider this for her.

    What mother, knowing their adult daughter has fertility problems where there will likely be no eggs at all, would not at the very least wish to her hearts full capacity to have the opportunity to have known it earlier in life, where she too may have considered that which the nobel Penny Jarvis is considering.

    Of course MacKenzie may not want to enter parenthood at all, and may choose another route, but that the door is still open on that as an option cannot be a bad thing for MacKenzie’s future.

    The cruelest thing to me about Turner’s Syndrome is something I was spared. I didn’t not know I had TS until I was married and trying to have a family. I can only imagine the implications socially and mentally of knowing from such a young and impressionable age that “you can’t ever have children” as it was put to me at my full maturity.


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