60 Minutes presents a live interview with Jodi McMahon about IVF and gender selection.
Interviewer: Jodi, thank you for talking to us tonight, in our live online chat room.
Jodi McMahon: Thanks for having me tonight, I'm looking forward to the questions.
Interviewer: Now we will go to the questions from our guests.
OpenMinded asks: I am sure you have come up against negativity, can you explain to us why you made the decision to go this way?
Jodi McMahon: Because it wasn't working naturally and I was running out of time. We did try all the old wives tales and they didn't work so it came down to this choice.
Dalewalker asks: I'm sorry I didn't really understand from the story why it is so important for you to have a girl?
Jodi McMahon: I guess it was just a deep down desire that I have, and I assumed I would have girls and boys when we decided to have our family. It's hard to explain but it was just a feeling we had and we chose to follow our dream.
WATCH: The full interview with Jodi McMahon
john.l asks: What is the clinic called and how much was it?
Jodi McMahon: The clinic is called HRC which stands for Huntington Reproductive Centre in Newport Beach California. It was approximately $30,000 to go over and that is rounding it up. That is the first time we went and includes the procedure, airfares, accommodation etc.
igloo1000 asks: Jodi, I applaud you for your journey. I have just discovered that I am pregnant with my fourth daughter and was inconsolable for a month. We desperately want a boy to balance our family. What made you choose this clinic above those in Malaysia that offer this service significantly cheaper?
Jodi McMahon: I think we did our homework and the Americans and specifically this clinic HRC do different types of testing. Our embryo was tested for more than just the gender. We felt if we got more testing done it would a more successful outcome, than just testing to gender. Not saying the other one is better or worse, but I think you get what you pay for and we decided that was the way for us to go.
mumof3boys asks: Was it daunting going overseas to complete the process ? Did you have a supportive OBGYN in Australia ? I am a mum of 3 boys and I would love a girl. Would you recommend going overseas ?
Jodi McMahon: Yes it was very daunting. Yes I had a very supportive doctor in Australia he was my GP. Yes I would definitely recommend going overseas. Having support makes it much more easier and I know of people who have gone over with no support and not told anyone about it.
priscilla asks: Hi Jodi, missed the start of the story so didn't see if they covered off what happened to the male embryos from your IVF cycle, were they donated or destroyed?
Jodi McMahon: I had no male embryos. We used another technology along with the testing of the embryos called Microsource which sorted the sperm to girl and boy before it was put to the egg. We then had nearly all girl sperm and that's why we didn't get any boys.
louise asks: Hi - A really interesting story. I thought the ban on gender selection was being currently reviewed - has a decision been officially handed down?
Jodi McMahon: I've never seen a review, they say every year they will do so but I've never come across it. I get their newsletter emailed to me every month and so far I've not seen anything. The newsletter tells me what they are reviewing, their plans etc but I've not seen anything on gender selection.
lennox2 asks: Hi Jodi, could you complete any of the process in Australia ?
Jodi McMahon: I think you can, you have to find a willing IVF clinic and as far as I know they are hard to come by. Sydney IVF won't help unless you go to their clinic in Thailand. If you go to America you can do the pre-testing here if you have a willing gp, but you need to know what you are doing. Most people don't know where to start.
Gabbi asks: How long does it take to be accepted as a patient?
Jodi McMahon: You just basically phone or email and have a consult, fill out paperwork, they would check you history and health etc. From day 1 of contact to the day of flying out would be about 3 months, and that's if you want to do it quickly. Most people I know of take about a year, by the time they do their research, talk to a few clinics to decide where they want to go. I think anywhere between 6 to 12 months would be doing it without rushing.
nactually asks: Are there any rules about WHO can have this procedure at the Californian clinic?? IE - is it only for balancing big families etc??
Jodi McMahon: You need a majority of one gender, if you have one boy you can't go over to get a girl, you would need to have more than one boy (or girl). They also do normal IVF services for people who can't get pregnant naturally.
sk26 asks: Do you think you'd have felt the same if you had all girls and wanted a boy?
Jodi McMahon: I think I would, but unless I was in that situation I can't be 100% sure but I think I would. I wouldn't have taken 7 girls to 1 boy, I would have gone earlier !
hello123 asks: I am not trying to sound disrespectful but being a person who may not be able to have a child, don't you think you sound ungrateful for the seven boys you have, which maybe seven more than I can ever experience?
Jodi McMahon: I think, it's a totally different subject. I'm not ungrateful for the boys I love having them. I don't prefer girls over boys, I just wanted a mixture. However I do believe this is a different subject.
Viktoria asks: Why not adopt and improve the life of a little girl who already lives somewhere? You get a girl in the family, and help someone who otherwise might not be so lucky.
Jodi McMahon: We did try to adopt just after Billy was born. Billy was our 5th. However we had too many natural children so were not allowed to adopt.
jen45 asks: I find it really hard to understand gender selection, when I am a childless woman who has undergone 8 cycles of IVF with no luck. Can you understand the pain I feel and my anger to you wanting to chose the gender of your child? I would just like to be able to conceive a child, no matter what the gender.
Jodi McMahon: Obviously I can't put myself in your shoes so I don't totally understand. We had the opportunity to do what we did and we took it. It's a hard question to answer and I'm so sorry you can't have your own children. I guess we chose to use the technology that suited our particular situation.
JosieG asks: Jodi, I think you wonderful! Truly do. Have you found your biggest critics to be women who are infertile?
Jodi McMahon: Yes !! Also people who have the pigeon pair (one boy and one girl).
sk26 asks: I know other families with lots of sons and they are happy/satisfied with what they have been blessed with, why was having a girl so important to you?
Jodi McMahon: It was just a desire that wouldn't go away. I think people assume they will have both boys and girls when they have children. Everybody is different and unique so everyone feels differently.
cinderella asks: Was there anything that concerned you about the procedure that weighed on your mind before deciding to do it?
Jodi McMahon: Leaving the boys when we went over the first time. I left it up to the people who knew what they were doing, I didn't over-think it but I did my research. If I had thought about everything that could go wrong it would have stressed me out too much.
AmandaR asks: Hi Jodi, how long did the whole process take and did Australian doctors help work out your ovulation cycle? Well done to you. I have three boys and would love a girl. My husband and I are very impressed with what we saw tonight. Thank you.
Jodi McMahon: It probably took me 12 months to research and organise it all but the actual time from start of medication was about 2 weeks here in Australia and 2 weeks in America. I had my local GP helping rewrite scripts and doing pre-testing but the American clinic worked everything out and they give you a schedule to follow.
thetones asks: Just one question. It would seem that you have the right motives, but do you think that smoe people/couples would go for gender selection for the wrong reasons? and if so, what can be done to ensure that gender selection is not abused?
Jodi McMahon: Yes I think some people can go for the wrong reasons. I believe we went for the right reasons. When we had our 7th son it was absolutely hilarious. I had got over the "poor me I can't have a girl" then it was oh gosh another girl. I do believe if they brought it into Australia they could set rules. My thinking is that you should have 3 of the same gender before you qualify for gender selection. One reason for that is that the 4th baby includes things like a bigger car, bigger house and things like that. So it's a big decision not to be taken lightly. Rulings such as psychological tests would be helpful to ensure people are doing it for the right reason.
tamlyn asks: Jodi, how did you start the process, find the doctor etc - it is something we are interested in - have 3 healthy boys but would LOVE a girl!
Jodi McMahon: I started on the internet but there is actually gender sites you can go onto .. one is called Gender Dreaming and it is a general chatroom for this subject. People will throw out a question like we are doing here and then someone else will answer it. There are also clinics that have websites and contact numbers. The 60 Minutes site has Dr Potter's details listed. He is the IVF Specialist I went to.
bobby2222 asks: Did you talk to the boys about the process to have more siblings?
Jodi McMahon: We always said when we get our girl, when we get our girl at each pregnancy. When that didn't happen we said what we were going to do. Obviously the little ones didn't understand but it was discussed with all the boys.
AngelaP asks: Do you get to choose how many embryos are implanted?
Jodi McMahon: Yes within reason. They do recommend for you age - if I was 30 they would have said I only needed 1. I was in the older age bracket at 36. We only had one healthy embryo at the time but if we had two, we could have had two. You do get to choose within reason. You can choose what testing you want and we chose GNS and it tests all the chromosomes all 24 of them. So in theory, we tested everything we could test and had a lesser chance of having something to transfer. But if we got tha something, we had a higher chance of pregnancy. If we had of chosen to test for say gender and downs syndrome, I would have had 3 eggs to put back in and only one was healthy. So, when the 3 came back we had one healthy which is Addison our girl, then we had our abnormal one which was missing chromosomes which was discarded. Then we had Frosty that had triple copy of every thing (instead of a pair). They kept her going to retest. They could also tell where the problem came from. The problem came from me so she had 10% chance of correcting herself. If it had come from Andrew she would have had a 45% chance. That's why we didn't put her in with Addison and chose to freeze her. Then if showed to be healthy we would go back and get her which we did.
rstyle asks: Genuine question as to how you have afforded to have so many children and then the additional expenses of these procedures?
Jodi McMahon: I don't know who we afford all those children we just do. We don't smoke or drink we don't by junk food. We go camping instead of holidaying at Resorts. It's just something you do. As for the procedure I saved for a long long time as it was something I wanted so badly I saved every little penny. I probably saved for about 8 years for this. We kill our own meat as we live on a farm, we have our own milk and chickens (not that you have to go out and buy a milking cow), so that helps too. And, we chose not to live in the city where it's more expensive.
long4agirl asks: Jodi, I admire your courage! How many trips to the US did it involve to have Addison, and how did you manage that with 7 other children?
Jodi McMahon: We were lucky, we had one trip and we were successful the first time. We didn't take the boys with us when we got Addison. The second time wasn't as expensive as we done "the hard work" to get the embryo. We had good support from family and friends and my eldest would have been 16 and Cody and Billy were a bit lost but we spoke to them every day when we were away and the others were fine. We had great support too.
PGD_Mummy asks: Do you regret telling your story of gender selection because of the negative reactions from others? We kept our IVF/PGD journey to conceive a daughter a secret because of the fear of being judged.
Jodi McMahon: I don't regret it, if I were younger I might have been a bit more intimidated by the negativity. I feel the more it is out there the more people will not judge it. It will always be a debate whether it's right or wrong and it's got nothing to do with someone who disagrees, it's the choice families want to make for themselves.
Lullu asks: How do you emotionally prepare yourself for such a drastic measure? Did you ever think that maybe it wouldn’t work? And how many times were you prepared to put yourself through it to get a girl?
Jodi McMahon: You don't prepare yourself, you just can't, you have to think positive that it will work, keeping in mind you have to be realistic. Yes I did wonder if it work. At first I assumed it would work because we could naturally conceive and then as the journey began we hit brick walls along they way thinking it wouldn't work. Our first brick wall was that only one of my ovaries was working. The next brick wall was only 6 eggs due to only one ovary working. Then only 3 of those eggs fertilised and then only one of those was good to put in. So we got knocked down a lot. Some women will get 30 eggs and have nothing to put back, it's the biggest gamble whether it's gender selection or IVF. To get a girl, we could only afford to go once that was it. Although when we got there and getting knocked off our pedestal with this and that, I decided I would go home, get a loan and go back. So basically we could only afford to do it one time. I just didn't want to get to 50 or 60 and wonder "what if" I gave it everything I could.
Mumof5girls asks: After all those beautiful boys how did it feel to finally have a little girl? Was it everything you dreamed it would be?
Jodi McMahon: To be honest she is just still a baby but it's wonderful to have a bit of pink and she is no more loved or no less loved than the boys, we have something different now and it's a lovely change to have our girl. One of the boys commented to Tara that Addison gets much more attention because she's breast fed. I don't prefer girls over boys it's got nothing to do with that we just wanted children of both genders. People ask if we had a girl second, how many would we have had and we had decided 4 to 6 children. So we would have still had a large family.
Interviewer: I am sorry we are out of time, do you have anything else you would like to share before we finish tonight?
Jodi McMahon: I think I said this earlier, people who have the desire just want to have the choice. It will always be whether it's right or wrong but it is is a personal choice that should be available in Australia. If the Health Committee don't want designer babies, they could put some rules together. It may happen one day, I hope so. Thank you for having me tonight and for the questions.
Interviewer: Once again thank you for joining us, and goodnight.
Interviewer: This concludes our chat with Jodi McMahon, Sunday April 1, 2012.