If you could grow your own baby without becoming pregnant, would you?
That’s the future the Product Design students from ArtEZ Institute of the Arts, Arnhem envisioned as they gave birth to the Par-tu-ri-ent project. The project is focused on the future of childbearing, with, as they put it, the possibility “to grow and design your child in an external pod”. Scared of labor? No problem. Afraid of those unseemly stretch marks? No problem. Not a fan of the morning sickness? No problems there, the Partu-ri-ent project renders these problems and more mere worries of the past.
Not to make light of the project, which in itself is a fascinating idea. The Partu-ri-ent Pod is an artificial womb, where the baby will be fed and nurtured. After 9 months, the baby will be ready to be delivered. The project also discusses a Portable care bag, to be used remotely. By switching it on, you can feel the baby moving and kicking from its pod, and in return the baby would be able to feel the movement of its parents as they carry and rock the care bag. The baby will get its food and nutrition through a feeding device on the Pod, which keeps track of what the baby has eaten and what it needs to stay healthy.There is even a device installed in the Pod that allows the parents to record and communicate with the baby.
For someone unable to carry her own children, this would be an alternative to current available childbearing methods such as surrogacy, which comes with the worries of legalities, or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), which involves a complex series of procedures and treatments that may be too costly for some families. It also solves the problems mothers may face with high-risk pregnancies, thus giving them a chance to choose both their child and their own well-being. The parents are able to personally monitor the growth of their baby, and even connect with it to some extent, all the while not being limited to their own body limitations.
However, the angle that the ArtEZ students appear to be selling in their video is that couples can have the Pod sitting in their home and growing their child, while the parents will be able to “live their lives normally”, and watch the foetus grow in the Pod. While it is true that the parents would have access to their developing child and even be able to see clearly how their child grows, in giving the childbearing role to a pod, the bonds forged during childbearing would change significantly. Not just the bond between the child and the woman who has commited to the carrying him or her for the past 9 months, but also the bonds that grow between the expecting couple, or even the family and friends with the couple. Like the old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”, it is not only the parents who are involved in childbearing, but their entire community. Having the pod at home changes the role of the parent significantly, and in turn, the bonds that could have been forged will cease to exist. The use of the Pod invites a sense of detachment between the child being raised in a pod and the parents watching, quite literally, outside a glass cocooon.
Has science gone too far that we’re actually trying to find more efficient ways to create life while we “go on with our normal lives”? The main gripe most audiences have while watching this video is not with the idea, which could potentially be a glimmer of hope for families who are unable to have children. The problem is the motivation behind this idea. If a perfectly healthy couple were to decide that they want children, yet are not keen on making the commitment to carry the child and decide to use the pod, who’s to say they will not simply pull the plug if they decide to abort? Having the Pod “in the comforts of your home” also invites a lot of ethical problems as compared to having the baby grow under professional medical supervision.
Of course, the Par-tu-ri-ent Pod is simply a brainchild of a couple of students, not a concrete product on the market. If it actually does come to fruitation, the Pod would be a amazing invention for families who want children but are unable to bear them. However, the selling angle of the video leads one to wonder about the direction science is developing, and what it says about the priorities of our society.
Project Homepage: http://www.parturient.artez.nl/index.html