I've been wanting to write this blog for a while, but it's taken a long while to gather my thoughts on this into a coherent prose! I've been doing a lot of reading lately about this topic, as it's pertinent for us at the moment. Isn't it funny how you only really think about certain topics when you find yourself in the situation yourself. I mean, I've known several couples go through IVF and I've just prayed for success for them and that's about it. Now I am about to embark on the process myself and I've had a few months of battling with myself over whether it is the right thing to do. Is is the right thing for a Christian to do? To put it another way, is this what God wants me to do?
Google "IVF for Christians" and you get quite a disheartening response. Page after page of negative answers. IVF is ungodly.... If God wanted you to have a baby, you'd have conceived naturally.... Wait on God, for His perfect timing...There is nothing in the bible on IVF..... The bible says God knits us together in the mothers' womb.... You shouldn't force God's hand or go against His ordained will... and so on and so forth. Most of this comes from people who claim to be christians (yet are in my opinion zealots and are giving christianity a bad name) and have never been in this situation and so really, their opinion matters little to me. But some of it comes from pastors, religious leaders, influential people. Isn't that sad? Is that really how these leaders want to minister to couples who likely already feel very low self esteem, confusion about God's love for them and are trying to balance their desperate desire for a child against their religious beliefs? Don't people realise that to be asking these questions, christian couples have already put a lot of thought, and a lot more prayer into their decision?
I know that I have. And I want to put down my thoughts, which are where I am at right now, after a great deal of thought and a great deal more prayer. Not everyone will come to the same conclusion as me, but I felt there was so much negativity and judgement out there that I hope to give an alternative view that may help someome else struggling with this decision.
Firstly. The desire to have children is God given. He places that desire in our hearts, indeed he tells us in the very first book of the bible to "go forth and be fruitful, multiply on the Earth." Why then would God place this great desire to be a mother on my heart if He did not want me to persue all possible means to fulful it? Yes, there is "always adoption" and I am open to that possible route to motherhood in the future. But, I also have the drive and desire to birth and feed and raise my own child, which is the most natural desire in the human heart, and has only been made stronger in me by the birth and death of my first son. I cannot turn that desire off and "just adopt" and to attempt to do so would be unfair to any potential adopted child.
The fact that IVF is not mentioned in the bible is a nonsense argument. Neither is chemotherapy. Neither are any modern medical interventions, because (drum roll please...) they didn't exist when the bible was written. Telling an infertile woman to pray and wait on God for healing if He sees fit is no different to telling a cancer patient not to pursue chemotherapy, and to instead wait to see if God will miraculously heal them. I believe God could, and sometimes does bestow miraculous healings. But if He did that for every human on the planet they would no longer be miraculous, would they? Instead, He gave us the intelligence and desire for knowledge that has lead to medical advances which allow us to heal each other. How then is choosing not to use these skills in keeping with God's will?
Yes God knits us together in the mothers womb, and He will do so with IVF babies the same as naturally conceived babies. So what if He begins knitting them in a perti dish? Are IVF babies any less a miracle? Are they not more of a miracle?
One particularly disturbing and upsetting piece I read argued that IVF is on a par with abortion. Because, in this pastor's view, "multiple embryos are created so that the best may be transferred back to the woman and the rest killed" This is not really truth. Yes, the aim is to fertilise multiple eggs in the hope that at least one will become a healthy embryo and ulitmately a baby. The rest are not "killed" Any remaining healthy embryos are frozen for later attempts for siblings, whilst any not suitable for freezing are not suitable because they have naturally stopped developing and would also have done so if fertilised naturally. This is real crux of the matter in my eyes. What happens if after your family is complete, you still have remaining frozen embyos?
I think the answer lies in where you believe life begins. Where is a soul bestowed upon us? Or put another way, when do we stop being a ball of cells and instead become human? I have come to the conclusion that that point is conception. I can't picture any precise point in human gestation where that transformation happens other than the point at which sperm meets egg. In which case, those embyos, whilst not human yet, have the potential to become so. Now, not every fertilised egg becomes a baby as we know, but I do believe that we have a responsibility towards the embryos we create through IVF. That is, I could never allow any "extra" embryos of mine to be discarded. Nor could I allow them to go for research. So that leaves me with the choice of donating them, or keep having them transferred to me and potentially wind up with a bigger family than we planned! I guess we cross that bridge when it comes, if it comes. Most couples do not end up with lots of "spare" embryos anyway and I would consider myself very lucky if we had to make that decision.
As for waiting on God/not forcing His hand. Well, this point I can take. And this is where prayer comes in, and listening to the real answer, not convincing yourself of the one you want to hear. Am I, by persuing IVF, potentially missing out on the outcome God had planned for me? Possibly. But, that argument could be applied to any decision we make in life. Remember, God gave us free will. He wants us to make our own decisions and persue our own goals. Do I believe Bertie died because it wasn't God's plan for me to be pregnant yet? Of course not! But, I do believe that if I knew what God knows and saw what God sees, I would want what He wants for me. Hence I pray for His guidance when making major life decisions. For me, personally, I feel God is telling me to go for IVF. Ever since I started really seriously asking God if this was the right thing to do, doors have been opening for us with regards to IVF treatment, and so I feel at peace with the decision to do it. Another couple may feel God telling them this isn't right, and that is OK too.
Each couple needs to make their own decision on this, after careful thought and prayer. But I do feel strongly that as christian friends, supports, family and leaders, it is very important to have an educated and balanced view, and not to add to a couple's burden of worry and stress by passing judgement on them for persuing fertility treatments. It is up to the couple, ultimately, to decide how far is too far in following what science and medicine can do for us. I know in my mind what I will and won't do with IVF and this isn't the place to share it as my opinion will differ from someone else's. I am fortunate in that nobody has been judgemental or nagative about my decision so far (to my face anyway) but I have been careful about who I have told for fear of such judgement. Feel free to comment below if you think it appropriate, but as ever I will remove any offensive comments.