Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Opening A Can of Worms

Fertility issues are so deeply personal and unique to each family's situation that I have purposefully stayed away from that topic (for the most part) on this blog. I have written about it only twice in almost 4 years. The recent fallout from the 'Octo-Mom' situation in California has brought so many feelings to the surface--and cast fertility treatment in such a negative light--that I feel compelled to address it.

As I have mentioned before my husband and I discovered very early in our marriage that conception was going to be very difficult for me. I was diagnosed with PCOS and it was determined that my body did not ovulate regularly (if at all). Since the production of eggs is essential to the conception of children, medical assistance would be required if my body was to become pregnant.

We prayerfully struggled with what God's Will was for our family. We both desperately desired to be parents, but we did NOT want to 'take the reins from God' and attempt to manipulate the outcome of our family life. We approached each step of the journey with much thought, consultation and prayer. I won't attempt to outline the place God brought us to on each of the specific issues (for the sake of privacy and because I do not want to send any sort of message that our decisions were 'right' and others are 'wrong.') I will mention, however, that if you have never walked this road, it can be easy to overlook the many slippery slopes concerning how far is too far in assisted reproduction.

My sister-in-law, Amy, had some of the most comforting words for me during our contemplation of our options. She drew a parallel between my use of medication to conceive and any other use of medication to help one's body do what it was designed to do. Your body is designed to fight infection, afterall. When it doesn't do you hesitate to use an antibiotic to help your body do its job? Do you just lay down and decide this infection must be God's Will to take your life?

We elected to use medication to remind my body how to ovulate. The first few times we tried, it did not work. The medication that finally worked, really worked and my out of sorts ovaries overdid it a bit. The result was three precious children.

We did not use IVF, primarily because we were hung up on the issue of what to do with leftover embryos. As pro-lifers, we firmly believed all embryos would be our children--and therefore might find ourselves with an extremely large family. It is a dangerous game to start playing 'what ifs' because changing the variables changing everything. Yet, I cannot help but ponder the predicament we would have been in had I been forbidden to get pregnant again due to my heart condition and we had leftover embryos to implant, donate or destroy. (I actually know of someone this happened to who had to employ a surrogate to transfer their remaining eight embryos over 2 pregnancies. None of them took.)

Then there is the issue of adoption. This strikes particularly close to my heart, as I have such a burden for foster children, but through much prayer, God did not draw us there initially. So far, He seems to have the plan for our family to involve supporting the greater system of fostering teens, rather than bringing them to live in our home.

I confess that I feel really guilty about this quite often. Do people perceive that we wanted to 'design our own babies' as opposed to adopting potentially damaged goods? I would really like to foster, but for now, that door is closed for us. I must trust that just because something is a 'good thing' doesn't mean it is a 'God thing' at this season in my life. I am reminded that we each have different paths through this life. God calls us to different things. I know our hearts. Should that be enough to bring me peace?

I have spent the last 5 years watching people's twisted expressions as they ask questions about how our triplets came to be. Their body language and their words often convey their own beliefs about the road we travelled. It is particularly offensive when I am asked if my children were 'natural' or 'a miracle' (through smiles) or did we 'use those drugs?' (with an uncomfortable expression) as if one somehow negates the other.

I am taken back to the Psalms and the reminder that God, and God alone, knit my children together in my womb. He designed them--not me. He breathed life into their bones and He has a plan to achieve glory and honor through their lives. That knowledge is enough for me.


Cheri (aka "The Mom Lady") said...

Insensitive people abound - and I often find myself being one through omission rather than COMMISSION. But I did take offense when people asked, when was pregnant with our third child, within a year of our 2nd one's birth, if it was planned or an "accident". I learned to deflect their curiosity (and my own hostility at being asked such a blatant personal question) with a simple, "God knows what we need more than we do". And left it at that.

"Thorny issues" with fertility and how to obtain children is as "old as the hills" (or more acurately, as the Bible). I'm just glad I didn't rely on any handmaidens to get MY children! ;)

That 3rd pregnancy was twins, they were born at 27 weeks and we did indeed lose our Ben which was sad for us in one way but joyful in another as we knew where he was and with WHOM he was so were comforted.

Unknown said...

I do love your sister in law's advice. Well put. And I agree this is such a personal issue and applaud you for speaking out on it so wonderfully.

And I loved Cheri's response to people who ask ("God knows what we need more than we do"). I will have to borrow this one.

It used to really irritate me as well when people ask these types of questions but now I just shrug it off and keep on going. There will always be those sorts of people out there that will never understand nor have the desire to learn or understand. I just take it as a learning and growth experience for myself.

Loveday's Day said...

I read your blog everyday. Although I have never commented. I feel I must on this issue. After 10 years of infertility and insensitive remarks (although they meant well). I had a child (IUI baby) - a much loved child, who will be leaving for college soon.

10 years later I adopted a child. I thank God for both of these children who both were prayed for even before they were born. I have prayed and thanked God for the different way He answered my prayers.

I love both of my children and I feel God blessed my prayers. I wish we could all remember that if you can say something nice (or positive) please don't say anything at all.

Please keep the blogs coming.

The Adairsville Triangle said...

This is the first time I have posted a comment after a very long time of reading. I was too angry not to. Someone actually said those things to you? My question would be do they have children? I would think not because surely they would know the whole pregnancy/child birth experience is a miracle. Lord knows we take different avenues to get there and I think that is part of His plan. Your babies would not be, as well as mine, if not for His Will. That IS the miracle. Who do they think they are? I would have to walk away praying about that person just so I didn't lose my religion on them. What a mean-spirited person to say such things. Your children are beautiful and ARE, as all children are, wonderful gifts from God. He hand picked you and your husband just for them..what a wonderful miracle that is. PFFFTTTT on anyone who thinks differently!

Marta Jeremy Emily and Abigail said...

It is a good thing to struggle and wrestle with the big questions of life. Each of us has a unique situation and the right choice for one family is the wrong one for another. It is helpful to continue to seek God's will in our lives, and not just assume that the choices we have made, or plan to make are in His will, just because things seem to work out. The act of saying "I don't know it all and need God's guidance each minuet to make correct decisions" is the humility that God seeks in our lives. And also to admit if and when we are wrong or took an impulsive step without God's blessing. Thank God that He is able to bring good out of our mistakes as well. :)

Blessings as you continue down this road!

Mindy said...

Unfortunately, I think people don't think about how what they are saying sounds to others sometimes.

While I didn't have the same issues as you, I find myself being very defensive ( or feeling it - I try to respond kindly) when people say things like "You FINALLY got a boy", or "Your husband must be so excited to FINALLY have a boy". We were happy with our girls -- and thought we were finished having kids with the three of them. And while we are elated to have B we weren't "trying for a boy".....As if girls in some way are inferior....
I guess people just don't think....

Kathy said...

Very well said. As a "later" in life mommy, I have been asked some rude questions about whether or not we were able to have children (in the 10 years we were married but childless). I always struggled with how to answer them. We chose to wait awhile, is that so unusual? I think sometimes people don't realize how rude they sound. You did what was right for your family and no one should make judgements on that.

Jennifer said...

I love this feedback--especially as it has opened my eyes to ways I may inadvertently be hurtful to others in different circumstances.

It is such a reminder that we all can be guilty of speaking to fill the silence without stopping to think about the hurtful impact our words may have.

Bill and Jenn said...

Next time someone asks you if your children are "just a miracle" or "did you use drugs", I hope you tell them BOTH. Because all children are miracles... regardless of how they came to be. :)
We have a cousin with triplets that gets the same questions... Sad.
Love reading your blog. Thanks for sharing your heart.

Sitesx6 said...

Thanks for this post. I've been feeling the same things as I watch the news about the Octo-mom.

We had four very hard years of infertility and would never have gotten our twins if it were not for the miracles of fertility drugs and other treatments. However, we were VERY responsible, because, like you said, we didn't want to get into a position of having to make choices later that went against our beliefs all in our qwest to have children.

We had to do IVF and the Dr. said I had a better chance with the more embryos we would put in, however, then he suggested we reduce should more than 2 or 3 "take" NO WAY! We said we 100% would not do reduce ever, so that he should ONLY PUT IN as many as they were comfortable with me carrying. He said it would greatly reduce my odds of getting pregnant by only putting 1-3 embryos in, and I said, "So be it" ....we trusted God and refused to go against what we believed just to get pregnant.

We had triplets, but lost one early on in the pregnancy. I'm blessed to have twins (age 10 now) and I'm so thankful for our choices to be responsible back then with our fertility. We have no regrets now because of it. I can't tell you how many "Christian" friends told us to "go for it" and put as many in as we could so some would "take" and we would get pregnant. ( I made 21 eggs so we could have transfered a bunch to increase our odds.) I even had Christian friends say they would "reduce" if it came to that.

Anyway, thanks for opening this converstion up. There are so many emotions that go along with fertility issues, but people do need to be responsible.
Kelly S.

Amy said...

Beautifully written. I basically went down the same road you did. I have had the same questions even though I did not have a multiple birth. It's funny you should write about this today...the President's decision yesterday concerning stem cell research and embryos has been on my mind in light of our former struggle with infertility and the issues raised concerning the options that were available.
You are so right...God, not science, breathed life into those children...and that knowledge is enough.
Love, Amy @balmingilead.typepad.com

Sarah said...

So well said...as usual!
I think that some people's curiousity gets the best of their "good manners"...and some people are just plain rude. I know that I have had my share of insensitive comments too, dealing with miscarriage and just because I have 5 children, but I think some people just don't know...anyone who has had fertility problems has a whole new level of understanding and deep appreciation for the GIFT of children. That's how I come to peace with it.

Anonymous said...

As a PCOS patient who went through infertility issues/treatments and ended up with triplets like you, I have gotten many horrible comments, looks, etc... throughout the years. It can be very hurtful and bothersome. I, too, have learned to focus on my beautiful children and not someone's negativity. We are both so blessed. :)

Kether said...

Thank you for this post, particularly for the last part about God, and God alone, knitting the babies together in your womb. We have one child, but have lost many others and we finally decided to do injectable medications. I have been very open about the process with everyone I know (mostly because of the comments people were making about whether or not I was going to have more children and the whole "you're not getting any younger!" line of comments...), and have found that many people have strong opinions about the use of FSH and other ART and I have to learn to be ok with that. But I also need to remember that my decision still rested in God's hands. I have no idea of the outcome, yet, but I know that wherever God leads, I must go.

Vicky said...

Beautifully written! You have such a gift with words. I'm sure this will be a post that your children treasure. Thank you for sharing your story.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a beautiful post. I too struggled with the whole fertility treatment issues until someone told me the same thing your SIL said. In the end, I still wasn't able to have biological children after drugs and such, but have two wonderful adopted children. I wouldn't have it any other way. And yes, there are always the comments....one lady asked me once "did I want to adopt or did I have to?" My answer was "Both!"

Bailey's Leaf said...

First, I'm mortified to know that people would ask the details of your conception. Clearly not their business, but apparently they felt otherwise.

Secondly, thank you for sharing your story. This whole having babies thing is complicated stuff. So many people have surprises and we were surprised-- just in different ways.

(Feel free to hop on over and read in depth on labels of Adoption and Bailey.)

We always knew that we wanted to adopt. I did get those mama pangs to have a baby by birth. With Bailey, I became pre-eclamptic and she died. Never once did I question God. I know that through her death, family genetic information was found and shared. As a result, other babies have been born that may not have been. (One cousin had suffered several losses prior to finding out and being tested for the genetic problems.)

My blood clotting disorders couldn't be fixed. That's okay. For us the call to adopt was only stronger.

11 months from the time that we lost Bailey, K- came into our lives. Her birth status was not necessarily the most desirable, but what a walking testimony of God's love and protection!

In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren speaks in Chapter Two the idea that "You Are Not An Accident." Your babies may have gotten a little medical intervention to help them along, but just as God knows the numbers of hair on their heads, He knew exactly who their parents were to be. You couldn't imagine life with them staggered in ages or with only one or two.

You trusted in God to provide a family to you. Isn't it so wonderful how much you have been blessed? :)!

Kylie and crew. said...

Thank you for sharing this part of your story! I have just recently finished reading your whole blog...it was like reading a book. It's so evident to me that you and your husband are people who seek the Lord's will in your life! I'm thankful that HE blessed you with the three children you have...I love to learn from you as a mama and wife. You have such a call on your life and a gift to gracefully talk about challenging issues. Thanks you for being a "blogging" mentor to me as I walk through parenting a 2 yr old. You are an amazing women.

... said...

Thank you for sharing your thinking on these issues. You did it in a very sensitive and non-judgmental way. I especially liked your sister-in-law’s parallel about medication and your ideas on IVF.

I must confess that I am one of those who have asked « that » kind of question (maybe with « that » kind of body language). Most often, my intent is simply to find out how God leads each one in their reflection and choices. Since my children came easily, I am not always conscious of the emotional charge these questions have for those who’ve had to struggle. I will try to go on asking the questions - because we all need to know from those who have lived through it and have something to say, like you!– but hopefully in a much more sensitive way!

Confessions said...

Thank you for your vulnerability and honesty!! Somehow I came across your blog shortly after my own diagnosis with PCOS. We are set to deliver our first little one next Thursday! God is faithful, even in my unfaithfulness. How applicable Psalm 139 is in the life of this child inside me, as well as my own life and how God knit me together, PCOS and all. Thank you for such a reminder.

Timmarie said...

I love reading about your life raising 3 precious children. You take your role as a wife and mom humbly and seriously. You put forth maximum effort to raise your children in the Lord.

All this to say, I think all of that should be a much bigger focus than how they were conceived. They are 3 precious miracles.

Hannah E. said...

You shared your insight into a delicate subject so beautifully. You never come across as anything but completely humble too. It is clear that you share these things in order to be helpful to others and to glorify God, and I really appreciate that about the way you write. It's obvious you're not about defending your "rightness" - if that makes any sense! I loved this post.

Linda said...

You did a beautiful job sharing this.

Melanie said...

I have followed your blog for some time but this is the first time that I have felt compelled to comment...since after all I don't know you. I am a single foster mom about to adopt a foster daughter which I have had for over 2 years. I made this decision with much thought and prayer too. I often see those same thoughts in people's eyes, have had therapist recommend my foster daughter go to a 2 parent home after having known only me as her mother for years. I've seen those "are you crazy" looks, trust me. I am comforted always by knowing that this is what God intended for MY life and my foster daughter's. I can also tell you that as a foster parent we also love all of you in the trenches ministering to those in group homes and without permanent or foster families. Everyone has a calling in life...that certainly doesn't mean that everyone has to understand everyone else's, just accept it and support them.

On a much lighter note our children are near the same age and I have taken some of the things that you have done and implemented them into our lives. One of the biggest is the ABC Bible verses. We started on Jan 1 and we have now completed through F. My daughter loves it!!!

God Bless!

Hillary @ The Other Mama said...

Very well put.
I have a dear friend who has triplets and we were pregnant at the same time. I'm sure you know the stares and dropped jaws she received. Her husband had a melt down in the Babies R Us parking lot when they were trying to put all 3 baby carriers in their car and the "helper" kept telling him how hard it was going to be, etc... He turned around and said, "We WILL BE ABLE TO DO THIS! IT'S A GOD THING!"
I think she probably just dropped the issue, there!
And when they were small (over the keeping them in the house stage), she said that she couldn't go to the mall/ grocery store with them because people asked her questions or stared all the time. I know it has been tough, but you made the right decision and are doing a great job!
keep up the great work!! God has amazing things planned for each of their lives!

Mitzi said...

I'm late to post on this one because I usually just read blogs when I get a chance.... meaning I catch up several weeks at a time. This one hit home because we are getting ready to do FET with our leftover embryos from IVF 6 years ago. We kept waiting until we were in a financial position to do it, as we want another child, but it is expensive. The economy has hit us hard, so it is really a sacrifice to do this and our friends and family (mostly Christians) can not understand why we will not destroy the remaining embryos, but are choosing to act out of obedience and try to get pregnant. Thanks that it seems like there is someone out there who, like us, sees embryos as life.

TheHouse said...

My husband and I have found ourselves in the same situation. We don't feel led to IVF, and when it seems like the only option left to us, we find ourselves frustrated.

But thank you for so eloquently writing the way many of us feel regarding ART. I am in no way against it, nor do I believe my views are "right" while others are "wrong." I just know that God, through prayer, gave us specific parameters.

Gill Family said...

I just found your blog from Kelly's feature of you :) We are struggling with infertility as well right now.. as we are going on three years of unsuccessful attempts and two miscarriages.. I'd love more insight into your journey with infertility if you wouldnt mind! amanda.gill83@gamil.com