The first time we stepped through the doors of our Fertility clinic, Matt and I were optimistic and excited in knowing there could be a solution to our problem.
Over the following year, I grew in admiration toward the staff because they were helping couples appease their longing for a child when hope was lost, and they were doing it with great success. During each visit I would stare at the framed magazine article on the waiting room wall that showed our doctor’s award-winning achievements. I felt honored as a patient, which gave me tremendous confidence that IVF would work for us….and it did.
On our second trial, we successfully had healthy boy/girl twins.
After some much-needed soul cleansing and boomeranging back into the Catholic Church, I realized the wrongness of IVF. The production of life in a laboratory in lieu of the marital act of love within a marriage makes it a complete discourtesy to the bond between a husband and wife and a total disregard to the sanctity of human life.
Now, each time I step through the doors of the Fertility clinic, I experience an emotional waxing and waning. The anticipation of more twins sends an exhilarating warmth through my soul, and the love that I hold for these children fills me with joy and strength, contrarily, I cling to a deep remorse that I can’t let go of due to putting my children through this cold and inhumane fertility method, just so Matt and I could fulfill our desire to become parents. It brings me great sorrow when I consider the nine of fourteen children we’ve lost because of this. I pray that I don’t to add to that list with the three that remain.
At this moment, I’ve just realized that my calculations were incorrect in my earlier post “our path to more children: embryo transfer today!” I did not count the eight children we created and died before their fifth day. My mind is still wired as our society’s; to think of them as nothings, trash, non-existents, instead of the human beings that they are.
Also, I want to shed light on the calculations of a typical IVF success rate, which do not include the total number of children created. Clinics use the number of live births (sometimes clinics won’t wait for the live birth data, or to increase their percentages will use the number of pregnancies instead) divided by the number of procedures performed (cycles or embryo transfers).
In 2013, the year I underwent IVF and birthed our twins, our clinic executed 198 IVF cycles and had a success rate of 100%. Wow, you might say, but these calculations are extremely misleading. Let me show you why.
For instance, in our situation, my success rate calculation is as follows:
Matt and I created 14 embryos, with 8 dying before their fifth day. Prior to this most recent embryo transfer, we transferred 1 embryo, but my pregnancy ended with an early miscarriage. With our next cycle we transferred 2 embryos and achieved 2 live births (our twins), so the 2 births override the first failed cycle, therefore, my success rate is 100%. After this recent third cycle, if we achieve one live birth, our rate remains 100%, if we achieve two again, then our success rate will be 133%.
Now, for a hypothetical example.
A couple creates 10 embryos, 3 don’t survive to their fifth day, they transfer 2, and freeze the other 5. The woman has an early miscarriage, both children fail to survive. Then they transfer 3 embryos, and 1 survives to birth. They decide to discard the remaining 2. So two cycles and one live birth equals a success rate of 50% (but a death rate of 90%).
Does this make any sense? No. Would anyone use this method, let’s say…for a graduation success rate at a high school? Would they not include all the drop-outs in their calculation? That would be falsifying the data, right? Yes.
That is precisely why the IVF success rate formula is inaccurate and false. They leave out the total number of children created, as if they never existed and produced for nothing. It is inhumane!
The children we produced through IVF, at the very least, deserve a part in this equation, so here are my revised calculations using this formula (total births divided by the total number of children created):
Again, we created a total of 14 children: 8 children did not survive to the fifth day, 1 did not survive after being transferred into my womb, 2 babies currently reside in my womb, 1 remains in the artificial limbo chamber, and finally our twins. With all of that said, our success rate is 14% (death rate is 64%; our remaining 3 are still alive). If the two children inside me are born, our rate will increase to 29%, and if our last one survives, we would be at 36%.
These are the true numbers, but re-calculating our success rate does little to pacify my soul. In our situation, no matter what happens during this IVF cycle or the next the weight of death will always be more than that of life.
All of my despair and shame stem from this discernment.
Another note of importance is our clinic has grown so much since our last IVF trial that they underwent an expansion. Basically, that means my children have more Popsicle companions. Being fully aware of this makes me divert my eyes to the floor anytime I meet with our doctor, but thankfully, not for very long.
Additionally, I no longer venerate the staff, rather, I would like to grab their sweet smiling faces and shake them back to reality telling them that you may think you are doing something good, but have you ever thought that you are playing god here? Do you know how you are manipulating human lives? You are freezing and discarding children similar to manufactured turkeys during Thanksgiving season.
I can’t blame them though. As Jesus said, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” They are all good, tender-hearted people. I sense their genuine care for every couple that walks through the doors. They adore my twins that tag along with me to some appointments partly because they know they helped create them.
They remind me of the employees at Planned Parenthood who actually believe that what they are doing is for the well-being of those in need. For Planned Parenthood, it might be to help a woman prevent pregnancy or end a crisis pregnancy. At our Fertility clinic, it’s to grant the desire of children to an infertile couple. In a sense, both positions of assistance are seemingly good-natured, but at what cost? Is the cost of even one human life worth it? Emphatically, NO!!, yet, our culture keeps telling us, Yes.
The culprit of this belief all boils down to the contraceptive revolution. Once we accepted the idea of recreational sex, enabled by the use of birth control, it was only a matter of time before we viewed pregnancy as a disease and the beginning stages of life as biological waste when inconvenient. Many women view the children growing in their womb as their property, as something that’s growing and taking up precious space in their body, ruining their dreams of a successful career, hindering their lifestyle. My body, my choice, right? Wrong.
Yes, the child is growing in your body for sustenance, but that child is her own person, made up with the same genetic material on the day of her conception as she will have as an adult. She has her own rights, and we have no authority to take her life, only God does.
The same is held true for these frozen embryos. Viewing them as property instead of human life makes for an easy decision to discard them when they are no longer wanted.
I perceived my embryos in this way when we began our treatments and I have complete remorse for doing so, conversely, I question if I would have given birth to my twins without this fertility method. Although, I trust that God gives us His graces despite our faults.
“But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21)
On the day of our embryo transfer, while being prepped in the exam room directly next to the limbo chamber, I couldn’t help but brood over the hundreds of children stuck in there, waiting for a fateful choice of life and love, perpetual coldness or final destruction. I often pray that their parents choose wisely and that of life.
Also, our exam room received an upgrade since our last trial with a giant screen that showed a live view of our embryos under the microscope before placed in a catheter, which injected them into my uterus.
When I saw my two children on the screen, even in their little scientific, microscopic, embryonic state, I felt a deep longing to hold them, love them, rub noses with them, kiss them, and tell them that I was infinitely sorry for keeping them locked up in that cold, stagnant, limbo chamber for so long. It’s no place for a child, no matter how small.
Yes, each time I walk into our clinic, much of my thoughts are conscience-stricken, vice versa, and seemingly hard to believe, I’m extremely grateful for the gifts that I’ve been given, and exhilarated for the road ahead prospectively paved with more little ones under our roof!
It’s a constant tug-o-war, but my joy wholeheartedly exceeds my guilt.