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I Should Add IVF to My Spellcheck Dictionary...

As promised, here comes a close-up photo of our current thoughts about IVF (this post) and adoption (post to come).


On many levels, this is the most appealing option to us. Why? It gives us the best chance at having biological children. If we had a successful IVF, I would get to experience pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and all that jazz. (Although I have recently learned that you can breastfeed adopted children. Who knew?) And successful or not, IVF could give us some more answers about what is causing our infertility. We would have concrete evidence of whether or not Aaron's sperm can fertilize my eggs, whether we, as husband and wife, can conceive. On a more practical level, we have phenomenal insurance (thank you to my employer, our church!) and we would have very minimal out-of-pocket expenses. We pay a minimum copay for medications and doctor visits, so my guess is that we would shell out at most a couple hundred bucks for a procedure that costs tens of thousands of dollars. Whether we do IVF or not, I am so aware of how blessed we are to have such provision! God has been very kind to us in that way.

Those are the pros to IVF. The cons are both ethical and practical. IVF is a very intense, invasive procedure. I would be flooding my body with medications, hormones to suppress and to stimulate my ovaries, to cause me to ovulation, to increase progesterone levels. It would involve anesthesia, bed rest, minor "surgery" for retrieval and transfer. Those things alone give us pause as we make the decision about whether to pursue IVF. And then there are the greater ethical concerns that we have. In a typical IVF, the clinic fertilizes as many eggs as possible. My doctor said that about 70% will actually fertilize, and then only some of those embryos will actually start growing. They pick the best one or two of the growing embryos to transfer back to the womb, and the rest are either frozen or destroyed. Believing that each embryo is a sacred human life, we would not destroy any. We are also not comfortable with freezing any, because it seems to us too much like presuming on the future. We could say that we would use all of the frozen embryos eventually, but what if unforeseen circumstances prevented that? What if, God forbid, one of us died before we had a chance to transfer all the frozen embryos? It seems to us like the best application of God's word (like James 4:13-17) is not to freeze embryos. Eliminating the options of freezing or destruction means that we would have to approach IVF like prayerful gamblers. We'd pick a target number of embryos to transfer (1 or 2), then work backwards to figure out how many eggs to fertilize. Maybe we'd try to fertilize 4, only 3 would actually fertilize, and only 2 would actually start growing. But we could end up with 4 embryos to transfer, which makes a high-risk, high-order-multiple pregnancy a distinct possibility. Or we could end up with no embryos, going through the whole procedure and using up insurance money with nothing to show for it. Is it okay to "play the odds" like that with human life? Or is it a permissible use of the knowledge God has given to us, as long as it is done with respect for life? We're just not sure yet.

In general, IVF seems to us akin to "eating meat sacrificed to idols" as taught in 1 Corinthians 8. We believe that Christians can pursue IVF in good conscience, but we still have not figured out if our consciences are okay with it. I know that I need to be highly suspicious of my own heart, because my desire to have children, to be pregnant, and to give birth is so strong that it could overrule my conscience. We are inclined to do IVF, but we want to consider it very soberly and to get lots of counsel from others and wisdom from above. We want to apply Ephesians 5:15-17: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." Please pray for us along those lines, and give us any input you have.


Anonymous said...

Hi Andrea, I have been meaning to email you forever. Annika gave me your blog address- I don't know if you remember me (at Westwood my name was Elizabeth/Liz Nunes) but we attended some WFC and church functions and talked once in awhile...I was also a kind of mentor/prayer buddy to your brother when he was bout fourteen, I think...

ANYWAY, I won't go into my whole story right this moment, I just wanted to tell you that there are two programs you might be interested in- one is an embryo "adoption"'s based on Christian couples who believe every life is sacred and therefore will not ever destroy any embryos...there are SO many women who've had to have ovaries removed because of cancers and whatnot...they do IVF but with "adopted" embryos. It's called "SNOWFLAKES"...I will find the site for you.
The second may or may not be something you're interested in- it's an organization that Steven Curtis Chapman founded.
It's for Christian couples and families who want to adopt but may not have the financial resources. They understand that even many two-income, financially stable couples still may not have a spare thirty grand laying about. (Imagine that)

Although I have been pregnant, I still feel that I understand your struggles. It's so hard to be our age when people pop out babies as often as WE seem to change our socks. You love those little pseudo nieces and nephews...but at the same time, when you hand them back to the latest girlfriend who is now drifting away because SHE has a baby and you do not...your arms physically ache for what is not in them.

Wel, I said I wouldn't babble and I've already moved on from "comment" to "novella" so I better stop. Please email me any time-
Seriously, I mean *any* time. I know some days just walking through the grocery store and seeing someone who seems so very burdened by their child(ren) can set off a crying jag to rival those on a soap opera's season finale. Other friends will be there for you but I truly "get it".
Godspeed and grace to you and your husband, (who I thought was Justin, until Annika told me otherwise!)


Kris said...

It is such a difficult and individual decision. I often question whether we pursued IVF because I felt we were doing the right thing or I WANTED to feel we were doing the right thing. No advice- only you can decide whether this is right for you. I hope your good counsel and prayers help you make a choice that puts your mind at ease.

GLouise said...

You are very wise to think and pray about IVF before deciding 100%

Not every IVF cycle leaves you with extra embryos. I do remember that only about 30% of couples end up deciding what to do with any "extras."

Feel free to email me anytime if you have any questions! I think you mentioned you were reading Sandi Glahn's book, which is a good one.

Jean said...

Thank you for your blog. We too, are looking to meet people who have seeked God with their whole hearts on the matter. We are prayerfully considering IVF.