Catholics on Motherhood and IVF

I had a post going about Catholic motherhood, but then I saw this opinion piece this morning about how the family who were victims of that horrible mistaken embryo transfer thinks that the Catholic Church should reverse its decision on IVF.  I read that they were Catholic when I heard about the story the first time and my ears went up a little but hey, lots of Catholics don’t follow Church teaching on contraception and the same is with IVF.  Did anyone else see this?

One thing is for sure, the Church re-explaining its stance on ART was definitely not a personal attack on this specific family – as the author states there have been Church documents explaining the theology behind this for quite a while now.  There was probably just general confusion after this widely publicized story, and rightly so.  I feel similar frustration when people tell me “Oh, so and so did IVF and they’re Catholic.”  ::sigh::  There is a lot of general confusion on this teaching and clarification is obviously necessary.

Also, the document referred to (Dignitas Personae) points to the improper generation of a human being, not the human being itself.  I know I’m going to upset people here, since couples who do IVF have been suffering and would love more than anything to have a child of their own genetics – and I have personally felt that same suffering, but this is akin to saying that rape denies the resulting child the proper perfect generation.  That statement says nothing of the dignity of the resulting person.  As Christians we don’t believe that the ends justify the means.  Means are equally important.

Biological motherhood is a beautiful and glorious thing, but it is not the end all be all and point of our existence.  Despite any insensitivity we sub/infertile women feel in the pew on Sunday, if the Catholic Church believed and taught that, then any and all treatments would be licit.  But it doesn’t.  There is something beyond motherhood and our own desires that matters and that is God’s creation, the sanctity of life.

This is the ultimate proof that Catholics are not about filling the pews but about something bigger.  Principles, true theology beyond our own desires.  This is why we should be weary of churches that promote motherhood at the cost of the sanctity of life and the unborn, without concern for how it happens.

Anyway, did you see this article?   What did you think?

I am intrigued that  a couple who believes in life at conception would be OK with freezing their babies.  I wonder if they would think differently if another couple had mistakenly received their frozen embryo and aborted, as they would have had every right to do?  God bless them for their generosity, but their personal experience clearly points to a flawed system that no amount of rules and precautions can protect against.

Not meant to be? Discerning parenthood

“I think clearly God is telling you guys you’re not meant to be parents right now.”

I was catching up with a friend the other day and this was what she came up with after I had filled her in with the going-ons of our life these days.  All I could think of in response was,

“Well, duh.”

I wasn’t upset she said that, because it is probably the most direct and obvious statement of the truth I’ve heard in a while.  In fact, if I were to get upset, I guess the response would be purely an emotional one, more along the lines of “Well why doesn’t God listen to ME because I WANT to be a parent right now” and not actually refuting the truth of what she said.  That would be besides the point.  Her statement still rings true.  It stings and is hard to swallow probably because yes, in my situation, it is true.  I don’t believe God could be making a mistake right now.

I have to remind myself as a married couple we have been called by God to be open to fertility, not necessarily to be parents on demand – which very well may have been our desire.  I think back to how we discerned to no longer use NFP to avoid pregnancy and I remember the decision vividly.  While the decision was complex and personal, it was blatantly clear we no longer had just financial reasons and while neither of us had graduated and had certain jobs, we would have been in a position to properly care for a child had one come along in 9 months.  I’m slightly embarrassed to say that it was not that we had a strong pull that now was the time for us to become parents, although part of me wishes it was so I could have more clarity on our move from here, its just not true.  And in hindsight, I would consider it a blessing that it didn’t happen that way for us.  It was only that our just reasons to not share our fertility with each other were gone, which thankfully, is more than enough reason to not use NFP.  While one great benefit of NFP is that it can help you target your fertile time to achieve pregnancy, NFP’s main purpose as far as morality is concerned is to help those with just reasons to avoid pregnancy.  I do not believe the Church teaches anywhere that NFP is meant to be the default condition of all married couples.  What it ultimately came down to for us was that we knew by using NFP to avoid pregnancy, we were literally holding something back from one another.  Yes, we had not contracepted and done anything immoral, but we were both conscious of the fact that we were not entirely giving ourselves to one another.  For just reasons, our fertility still remained guarded.  And over the course of a few months, it became clear to each of us, first separately and then together, that we weren’t being called to hold back from one another anymore but to take what came.

Take what came.

What came is that we discovered that the opposite of a call to avoid pregnancy is not a call to pregnancy, which unfortunately, many people of varying degrees of fertility believe.

1664 Unity, indissolubility, and openness to fertility are essential to marriage. Polygamy is incompatible with the unity of marriage; divorce separates what God has joined together; the refusal of fertility turns married life away from its “supreme gift,” the child

This is why the comment,

“Perhaps God’s just telling you guys that you’re not supposed to be parents right now”

is so funny to me.

What else could God possibly be telling us?  We have given him ample opportunity for Him to bestow on us the ‘supreme gift’.  Just as I don’t believe He makes mistakes with “oops” babies, I know that if we give Him the openness of our fertility, He’s not up there saying “Oh crap!  Those little guys missed the egg again!  Sorry Moonheads, I’ll try harder next month!” In fact,  I believe that only by giving Him the openness of our fertility after responsibly discerning parenthood can we be certain that our desires aren’t getting in the way of His will.  Just like we can’t accidentally become parents, we can’t accidentally not become parents.

Which then brings me to the statement which I do find rational disagreement with,

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

I’ve stated the call to not use NFP to avoid pregnancy is not necessarily a decision to become parents.  God gets to make that decision.  For us, God has made the decision to not make us parents so I do believe I should approach our journey to continue to be parents with the utmost prayer and selflessness, which of course is not an immediate decision.  I’ve talked to other women who felt, much like I did, that the first year of not postponing pregnancy felt more like a year of being a mother without a child, rather than just a woman with no children (which is in reality more accurate).  I believe that it was because somewhere in there, in either my anguish to hide the fact that I wasn’t pregnant or in order to try to keep hope alive and prepare for what still may have come statistically,  I made the decision that I was to be a parent.  At this point I’ve realized I have no power to make that decision.  (I will add in here for those who wonder that my husband has remained level headed and not had to play these mind games with himself.  One difference of how infertility affects men and women!) The fact that God is so clearly not making use of our biology, is a large, harsh, but realistic sign to me that perhaps not only am I not to be a parent right now, but not at all.  Maybe we are supposed to fulfill our desires to become missionaries or some other non-traditional way of serving others, as opposed to parenthood, at least at this moment.

In order to “just adopt”, I would want to be sure that God is calling me to parenthood, which does not necessarily follow from not being able to have children biologically and in fact may be a large sign that we’re not.

I must also add that while adoption may not necessarily be the conclusion for all infertile couples for a variety of reasons, I do believe this period of being open to fertility is quite necessary as a step towards adoption.  I don’t know of any couples that have used NFP to avoid pregnancy while pursuing adoption, although that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  God can use this time to plant this seed, prune us and see if we are called to parenthood.  However, that of course means that the time of working through the grief accompanying infertility is also necessary for adoption.

In short, I’ve learned (the painful way) that being open to fertility is not necessarily the same as discerning parenthood and that for some people, the painful way is how discerning parenthood has to happen, because God does not accidentally leave those childless.

On goaltending

Thank you for your kind comments.  A long Saturday morning Skype conversation with the hubs averted the derailment of the sanity train – at least this time!  [Note to self that not exercising for 3 weeks may also not be good for my mental health.] In case it ever appears that I have it all together, let it be known that I don’t.

I did want to share a funny story.  This weekend, while I was holding back tears after a friend asked if we stopped trying – because if we’re not pregnant by now we must have stopped, right? – and then quickly changed the subject as if the question had never been asked when I answered that yes, we were still trying (maybe I just imagined the whole thing?),  my husband was answering his own questions in Mexico and with way more pizazz!

I don’t know all the details of the situation, but he was at dinner with other people in the program and there was a conversation about kids.  Everyone was chiming in with their “We want 1.5 kids” when my husband responded “Oh yes, we want an army” – an answer that he likes to give because, well he would welcome an army of children and he enjoys seeing people’s reactions who have just professed to have a fear of children.  He can be obnoxious like that, but he likes to answer with humor rather than preaching.  Of course, the response, as always is “Well, what about Alison though…does she want that?” because as we know, all women hate children.  “Of course she does.”  And then came the next question,

“So then, are you guys going to pull the goalie?”

At which point in the Skype conversation, I started hysterically laughing.

Apparently my husband responded in his gangster wanna-be way, “Oh, the goalie’s been done pulled!”

Have you heard that saying before?  Pulling the goalie?  Really?  Hilarious.

I couldn’t help but think later that that phrase isn’t very accurate for NFP couples because, well, there was never really a goalie to begin with.  So I started brainstorming phrases to respond to next time people ask if we “pulled the goalie”.

–  The goalie didn’t even get to practice with the team!

–  The goalie never even showed up to the game!

–  You guys play with a goalie?

–  What’s a goalie?

–  Anyone who uses their hands is cheating.

–  We don’t play with a goalie, our offense is that good.


Ok, that’s all I got.  Perhaps I have taken this analogy too far.


…or maybe I didn’t take it far enough!  Got any others?

Free BC?

This article makes me sad, but I guess its not really that different from the uphill battle we already face.  It just makes it feel a little steeper.

I recently went grocery shopping with my friend at Whole Foods to get chicken and veggies that were sold without hormones and pesticides.  All while she’s ingesting a tiny pill jam packed full of hormones everyday.  I resisted pointing out the irony, as she already knows my stance on contraception.  I don’t know if I’ll be as strong the next time.  I do want to be a peacemaker but I could cut the hypocrisy with a knife.

This is the same girl that I listen to routinely complain about her nausea and lack of sex drive.  What else can I say?  Are the other options really worse?  And when I explained the next steps medically recommended for us to try to have children, she remarked that “taking a little pill everyday is so much easier”.  Yes, yes it is.  Unfortunately, that little pill won’t give you a baby.

Of course, then she could just pop in an IUD, which sound even more terrifying.  Its interesting that while she will take the pill, at least she draws the line at an IUD.  I guess everyone has their limits of what’s ‘natural’?  I don’t know how a woman could ever make the decision to put one of those in their body.

The things we do to have control.