Friday, July 11, 2008

A touchy topic

So I'm watching Oprah. I should know better, but it's on the t.v. at my parents' house so I started watching. Not surprisingly she's talking about a subject somewhat related to infertility (I feel like every time I happen to watch that show it's about infertility... or dogs) and, of course, it started out about how great sperm donation is. Then, to my huge surprise, she brought on four women who were conceived with sperm donation and not all had great things to say about it (there "other" side is rarely presented, so this was shocking). Some talked about being deprived of the basic right to know their history and who both of their parents are. One woman even said, "I felt like I was a product." That makes me sad.

Also today, my grandmother, out of the blue, brought up that one of her friend's daughters had twins through IVF. Knowing she was telling me this story as either a way to offer me hope or just to show she can relate to me, I kindly told my grandmother that it is against the Church's beliefs and not an option for me. My grandmother doesn't know; she's been Catholic all her life, but I don't expect her to be up to date on the Holy See's stance on reproductive technology. It's never affected her or anyone close to her, and I doubt she spends too much time familiarizing herself with any of the Church's laws, for that matter.

This all made me think about something that's always bothered me, and one of the reasons I started this blog - the fact that the Catholic voice is often, if not always, left out of discussions about infertility. I know that most people in this country aren't Catholic, but it amazes me that the Catholic side of the infertility issue is never brought up in the media. It is completely ignored. Shows about IVF never mention that many people are opposed to the procedure. The "other" side on a show like that is the fact that it's so expensive, or whether couples should give up. It's never about the moral implications, how a woman's health issues fail to be addressed, the fact that it often has a low success rate, or - God forbid! - that many embryos are destroyed in the process.

We all know the reason why this side of the debate is ignored - it is a very sensitive issue due to the millions of children who have been conceived this way. If we imply that it is morally wrong, then we are giving the impression that we are judging these families and saying these children shouldn't have been born.

It's a very tough topic, but I believe the failure of anyone to talk about this is, at best, alienating Catholic couples with infertility and, at worst, helping to misinform Catholic couples who don't know the Church views it as illicit, or why the Church does in the first place (it's not just a "rule" we have to follow, it actually makes really great sense). I know, it's actually the job of the Church to teach these couples and many priests, marriage prep couples and lay ministers are unfortunately doing a poor job at this on the parish level. But it's also the responsibility of the media to include all sides as well.

If I hadn't been Catholic, or if I hadn't been pro-life, I might have been one of those women who did IVF. I now know how dangerous that would have been for me. Through NaPro Technology and pro-life doctors, I have discovered that the medical issue causing my infertility could, if left untreated, lead to diabetes or a heart attack at an ealier-than-normal age. If I had done IVF three years ago, my PCOS and insulin resistance may never have been discovered. I'm not saying women who undergo IVF are never diagnosed with something. Some are, but many are not. It is often used as a band-aid, to the disservice of the women who really need to know what's causing their infertility.

I've been hesitant to post a lot about IVF in the past (which is unlike me because I'm very passionate about it). I guess I, too, have been afraid to offend others, or worse, their children. The issue came up when we started the support group at my parish. Of course we wouldn't discuss IVF or similar procedures, but how would we approach the topic if women who have done the procedure or were considering it came to the group? I think we decided to hand out something that stated our stance on the issues at the beginning of a meeting (we haven't had too many women attend our meetings yet, so it hasn't been a big issue).

I think our first priority is to educate other Catholic couples about the topic. But I also hope that one day the moral implications of assisted reproductive technologies will be considered by the pro-life community at large (as well as the issue of contraception).

Well, sorry to rant. I hope this doesn't offend anyone. I know how badly those of us with infertility want children. I KNOW. But I also believe strongly in the value of every human life, no matter how early on in life it is (and I don't think it's merely a personal choice; if that were the case, I'd have to call myself pro-choice). I just hope more women can find out that there's another option and that IVF isn't the only way to go. And I hope that one day NaPro Technology can become more widespread and that with diagnosis, surgery and medication, there won't be as much of a need for IVF or similiar procedures. Now those of us who are NaPro patients just need to get pregnant, and help out those stats!!


  1. IVF is indeed a touchy topic! I know whenever the Church's stance on it comes up, people are usually shocked, then horrified, then angry. I've been told multiple times that I would change my mind about IVF if I experienced infertility. A lot of people refuse to believe that there are Catholics who are infertile and yet adhere to the Church's teachings on IVF and the like.

    It's difficult for me to discuss as someone who hasn't struggled with infertility. The last thing I want to do is hurt anyone, especially someone who's already hurting. Obviously I don't go around randomly telling people I don't like IVF, but occasionally it comes up on messages boards, and it's frustrating. People ask what others' opinions on it is and then get mad if anyone says anything negative. Sigh.

    Anyway, thank you for this post!

  2. You're so right - and also, this post highlights how important our role is as NaPro patients and as Catholics who are struggling with IF and who are sticking to the Church's wisdom in rejecting IVF. Just another way God is using us for His glory hopefully through this journey He leads us on. Thanks for the thoughts.

  3. Absolutely!! I always feel a little "mad" that us NaPro women here are still struggling like this... doesn't God know that if He helped us get pregnant, it would help out His cause?!!

    But ya know how I've always felt? I TRULY believe that to be Catholic and IF (and follow the ethical and moral example of the Church) is so much harder... and while we are often stereotyped as "not wanting children as badly" as someone who does IVF, I feel exactly the opposite. How much must we all love life, and the future life of ALL of our children, as to NOT take part in a procedure that would put ANY life we created at danger? It takes much more courage, and perseverance, imo, to be a practicing Catholic infertile.

    I also agree with you that the Church's stance on this makes perfect sense. It doesn't to some people, and I don't see what's so difficult about it! Basically at the root of all of our values is the dignity of life, and that only God has the right to make or take a life. (Pro-Life, Anti-Death Penalty, anti-stem cell research from aborted babies, and anti-IVF all fall right into place.)

    I did see part of that Oprah episode a while ago... and I'm glad they finally showed how these ARTs can affect the children that result. I've always wondered how I would feel if I found out I was an IVF baby... not only would I have lost a twin (most IVFs transfer 2 embryos), but how many other "siblings" of mine were destroyed in the process... and what if it had been me who was destroyed? Plus, how would it affect me psychologically to know I was not created from a natural act of love between my parents??

    Good for you to share your feelings on this matter, and to speak up for the Church's perspective. And no, you are not condemning anyone who has used IVF or has been a product of IVF... just as Catholics don't condemn anyone who has had an abortion. Instead, you just want people to know that there are other (and better) options out there.

    (NOW, God, please let us become NaPro Success Cases!!)

  4. i saw the same show when i was packing yesterday. argh.

    i'm so glad that you posted on this topic. i just wish that more women knew about naprotechnology and dr. hilgers, it would save so many so much heartache.

  5. If you go through life hoping to offend no one, you won't be able to be courageous enough to take stands like the one you've taken.

    Thanks for writing this. You're right: not enough people know the church's stance on IVF.

  6. How important it is to have young Catholic women discussing modern day issues of society. I too am struggling to conceive a child with my husband and being a Catholic am morally opposed to IVF, although it is very difficult to explain this to my doctor. It is so refreshing to know there are other women who maintain a strong Catholic faith in a secular world.

  7. Thank you for this. We are back on the "fertility" discussions this weekend, praying what our next step will be. We have never considered it, never will. But the Catholic infertility issue is something very few tackle.

  8. Thank you for your post! Your post, along with everyone else who has posted on this, is truly a gift for me. A woman at work came up to me all excited telling me that I had to watch Oprah. She is a good friend of mine (and Catholic) and struggled with infertility when she was younger (she is in her 40s now.) Anyways, she tells me that Oprah discussed infertility and tried to reassure me by saying "There is just so many options out there now for you. You have to watch the show." Well, without even watching my heart sank as I knew it probably had to do with IVF and other similar technology out there. I have told her that I cannot do IVF and she respects my decision, but I can tell she doesn't understand why. I totally agree with the posting from "this cross i embrace." It's as though people think that I don't want children that badly, if I won't do everything possible.

    I truly believe being a Catholic and struggling with infertility is a HUGE cross to bear. My husband and I actually visited with a priest to discuss our situation and he had never even heard of Pope Paul VI Institute. No wonder so many of us feel so alone! How does the Church expect us to follow the Church's teachings, and not have support and resources?! (By the way, I gave the priest the website for more information. He actually is in charge of seminarians, so I hope he shares the information with these future priests.)

    I have come to the realization that we are all being called to be disciples and to go out and spread the Good News. We may be laughed at and ridiculed, but that is when we are living Jesus' ministry to the fullest. We walk the road to Calvary with Jesus in this struggle. We are called to be witnesses to our friends, family and even our doctors. It is scary at times, I will admit. I have moments of despair and great anxiety, but that is when I look to the crucifix and all I can utter is "Jesus, I trust in You." Sometimes that is all that I can get out because I feel so overwhelmed and weak.

    Thank you all for your postings. I am so grateful that God led me to this blog. You have all given me strength in this cross that we all bear. I come here to read when I need reminders that I am not alone, and that I must stay strong in my faith. May God bless you all.

  9. I guess I have a different take on things.

    Being a Protestant and Infertile is exceptionally difficult particularly because we DON'T have a central authority that defines positions. The answer? We just don't talk about it. And in the absence of teaching, then when some issue does come along, we're left to fend for ourselves and forge our own way.

    I am extremely pro-life and we ruled out IVF too, but I could confidently do that because I worked for Right to Life for many years and so I am educated on the issues. Had I not had that exposure and particular passion to educate myself on this issue, I may have ended up at a very different decision simply out of lack of exposure to the issues.

    I guess in a way I envy you in having a church tradition that takes authoritative stances on things. When it comes to all things Pro-Life, I've learned that my closest kinship comes form my Catholic brothers and sisters.

    I encounter few Protestants who take a willing stance again IVF. (In fact, I'm the only one I know).

    I'd like to see awareness about its moral problems raised too but I don't think the answer is "because the church said so." But I join you in your desire to see the issue exposed. =) You go girl!