Excerpt from pages 77-80 of Cosmopolitan Conceptions: IVF Sojourns in Global Dubai, by Marcia C. Inhorn, newly available from Duke University Press.
“HUBS: Reprotravel Stories
Fuad was a brooding but loquacious Lebanese man, who told me, somewhat apologetically, that “I talk a lot.”87 A member of one of many internationally “mixed” couples at Conceive, Fuad was seated at the bedside of his Russian wife, Tatiana, who was stunningly beautiful even in a hospital cap and gown. When I asked the less attractive Fuad how he had met his wife, he told me a story that was familiar to me from my prior work in Lebanon. Like 55,000 other young Lebanese men of the “war generation” (those who came of age during the 1975–90 civil war), Fuad had been sent to college in the former Soviet Union through a scholarship provided by a left- leaning Lebanese political party. As a student in Moscow, he learned to speak fluent Russian. Later he married Tatiana, who was a divorceé and the mother of a nine-year-old daughter, Aleksandra…. Through a lengthy and wide- ranging interview, I came to think of Fuad as a “global cosmopolitan”— one of the new generation of educated, middle- class Arab businessmen, whose lives are decidedly transnational, exceptionally mobile, markedly multicultural and multilingual, and at times extremely stressful. Fuad was eager to narrate to me his tale of stress and woe, in which he punctuated the pathos with moments of ribald humor.
On the side of pathos, Fuad and Tatiana had struggled with long- term reproductive troubles. After nine years of “togetherness”— seven of them as a married couple— Fuad and Tatiana had still produced no child of their own. Fuad blamed this barrenness on his dislocation in Saudi Arabia, as well as both spouses’ infertility problems, which he described to me from Tatiana’s bedside….
As I soon came to realize, Fuad and Tatiana were living “betwixt and between” three continents and five countries— the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Russia, and Canada. Thus, deciding where to pursue assisted reproduction was a difficult calculation: “We did a lot of research, and not only on the Internet. We did Internet research about the process, all the IVF procedures and this ICSI. We did our own research on the doctors who do this. She has a beauty parlor in Dubai. She’s a beautician, and so a lot of people come in there, and they told us why they had chosen to come here. It was word of mouth that got us to Conceive.”…
Fuad was a “man on a mission”—to fly across the Gulf in time to deposit his semen in the IVF laboratory and to support Tatiana through her various assisted reproductive procedures. Fuad’s difficult commute between Riyadh and Dubai made the thought of trying assisted reproduction elsewhere seem highly impractical. Although IVF cycles in both Russia and Canada are partially subsidized by the state, Fuad and Tatiana did not have full citizenship rights in either country. Furthermore, they had already experienced long waiting times and the lack of individualized medical attention in previous visits to public clinics in those countries. Coupled with the long flights, travel costs, and lost work days, they decided that reprotravel to either Moscow or Toronto was simply not worth it.
When I asked Fuad whether he considered himself to be a “reproductive tourist,” he had this to say:
At the end of the day, you don’t want to say, “This is it. We give up.” We need to feel that we’re doing something [to have a baby]. But it’s not a straightforward procedure. You can’t mix “tourism” in the title for this. I’m finding that it’s difficult to travel like this. It’s not about the money. It’s about finding the right time. Today I should be working, but instead I’m coming here. And this has happened time and time again. I don’t know how some people can afford it, because medicine and travel are expensive. I can understand if you go to Slovakia, for example. I heard about hot tubs, mineral waters, like a “spa.” Two- to three- day trips there. But this, we’re talking about two weeks of daily injections, for example, and staying without sex. Doing this test, the semen test. So imagine if you are flying! It is madness, and it’s depressing. People usually fly to have fun, not this. It’s not tourism. Even for those who stay in a hotel.””