Thursday, December 22, 2011

Where do YOU draw the line?

Three years ago if $15,000 fell in my lap I would not have thought twice to do IVF.  Today, while it is still tempting I cannot get beyond the moral implications.  This is one of the many reasons we started the Creighton Model even though we are not Catholic the basic principles still speak loudly to me.

I have been asked why I would not do IVF.  Obviously the cost is a huge factor for us.  We definitely could make it happen, with savings and cutting back on things we could afford it, but what a huge waste of money (potentially.)  The most pressing reason I would not pursue IVF is the disposal of possibly viable embryos.  They do not retrieve and fertilize 1-2 eggs.  I recently heard one woman's story of IVF that they retrieved 13 eggs, fertilized 8 and implanted 3.  Do the math, what happened to the other 5 embryos?  Trash? Frozen? Donated?  Either way, those are 5 potential gifts of Heaven, and what becomes of them?

Here's my bottom line on IVF:  If it's what you wish to do, so be it, I will not judge, it's just not a choice we feel we should make but if it's right for you, then do it.  If we could do IVF and only retrieve 1 egg, know it would "hatch" and become a successful pregnancy, yes, I would consider it. 

The other line I struggle with is where do we interfere with God's hand?  I have heard that with the Creighton/NaPro methods the Catholic church frowns on ART (assisted reproductive therapies) because it removes  God's will in conception.  (For any Catholic readers, if I am wrong, please feel free to set me straight, these are things I've read online.)  If we are making babies in test tubes, is that really God's will?

What I cannot "figure out" for lack of a better term is where do we draw the line before we get to the test tube?  If we are created in the divine image of Christ then if we are born without the ability to become pregnant for any reason are we also "fiddling" with what God's hand would have planned? 

Example: I was born with a congenital shortening of the blood vessels on my right ovary causing that ovary to possibly be considered "useless," stage 1-2 endo and some hormonal abnormalities am I disobeying God's will by taking Clomid or having surgery to remove the endo?  God made me that way, endo included.  Am I attempting to create life without God?  If I was knitted in my mother's womb perfectly in His image then would I not be meant to be infertile and meant to NOT correct those things that could/are keeping me from becoming a mother? 

Granted, I understand that if there is a medical condition that can be treated we should do so, I'm not saying to pray over a broken arm and hope it heals.  What I am saying is that if I was BORN this way (infertile) should not just accept that it was how God made me, again, in His divine image?  Am I breaking His heart with every Clomid I take? 

On the other side of that coin is my always enduring thought that I was meant to be a mother.  That God created me to be a mom.  This could just be my way of trying to negate what God's will really is for me by saying my "heart" was meant to be a mother.  And, if my "mother's heart" came from God, then why would he also give me infertility? 

I've never really had faith that I would have a child though, to completely contradict what I just said. Now, that doesn't mean that I don't have "a mother's heart" and want a child.  But since we realized this wasn't going to "just happen" for us, I've never held the hope that we would actually get pregnant.  The automatic thought I have is always "it's just not going to happen for us."  I wanted marriage, badly.  And even in those dark hours of break ups and single life I always knew I'd be in love, married and happy. I just had to give it time and let God's hand move.   I have yet to have hope in these dark hours. 

Obviously this has been heavy on my mind and heart lately.  This Advent season has been so the most painful so far.  I'm not sure why but I tend to think it's because I turned 34 this year, and know my time is quickly running out or that every passing month is a step closer for me to realize this is not going to happen and to give up.  Infertility is hard enough January through November, but Christmas is simply heart breaking.  Our house is decorated, there are presents bought and wrapped and none of it means anything to me.  I would give up every Christmas present, every sugar cookie, every special Christmas only nibble to hold my child in my arms. 


  1. Hmm...I hope other Catholics will chime in on this, but my understanding of the Catholic objection to ART is not that by invoking science we're countermanding God's will. It's a little more specific than that. The idea (comes from the pastoral letter Humanae Vitae) is that children have a natural right to be conceived as a result of the loving act of union between husband and wife. (Obviously, many children have this right violated every day - because their parents are not married, because they are conceived in rape, etc. Unfortunately, experience bears out that that's not good for the child.) There are lots of therapies that use scientific intervention simply to provide a more, ah, fertile environment for the spouses' loving union to produce a baby - whether that's taking proxeed to improve sperm quality or clomid to induce ovulation or whatever else. The difference is when the act of conception itself is performed in a lab by scientists, rather than the parents.

    I certainly understand that the experience of infertile couples is that the reality is a lot more gritty. (I.e., how "loving" is the union when it's all about timing for ttc?) So I think - and most Catholic IFers refuse to take this subject up with me :) - that there are a lot of things we could do that are not properly ordered, short of ART. At the point at which we've thrown out any idea of a "loving marital union" in favor of sex on demand and life as a medical guinea pig, I think there's a problem. The Church doesn't really address this, because while the big principles can be understood by anybody (with a little pondering), to understand the nitty-gritty, you'd actually have to be there. And those nitty-gritty decisions will be a little different for each couple anyway. But I think spiritual directors should be asking infertile couples, "Are you willing to torture your spouse and let the rest of your life and your personality atrophy to become a mother? If so, you need to STOP." A single-minded pursuit of any of God's gifts to the exclusion of others and to the point of eclipsing God Himself is the definition of disordered - it puts the priorities in the wrong order.

    Now, for those from other religious and philosophical traditions, those principles may shake out a little differently; I'm assuming here that people will follow my line of thought if they hail from the same value system. But even if not, I think infertile couples would all be well served to think in advance about what they're willing to sacrifice to have a child. There are other parts of our lives that are valuable!

    OK, I got a little off-topic and long-winded there. Sorry!!

  2. I watched an interview with Dr. Hilgers, Creighton/NFP guru, and he said the central reason why the Catholic Church rejects IVF is that it's abortive in nature. So, that's exactly what you said, IVF creates and then destroys embryos. And it's also forbidden since conception happens outside the woman's body. However, GIFT is allowed since conception theoretically occurs in the fallopian tube. But the process for the woman is exactly the same as IVF, and I think not so great for the woman in question.

    I'm sorry you're feeling so down. I've recently come to terms with our infertility and discontinued treatment. If any of the available treatments guaranteed a pregnancy, I'd spend the money. But, anything less than 100% is gambling my hard-earned cash, so it's not worth it to me. I'm not sure I've completely accepted a childless life but I've started focusing on the good things a childless life can produce and that's made me feel a lot better. Keep the faith; the Lord is watching out for you!

  3. Such a great, thought-provoking question you pose.

    I'm still praying for you!

  4. Thank you for the prayers everyone and for the insights. You are all in my prayers as well.