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Reading "The Infertility Companion"

The chapter I reviewed in my previous post gave overview guidelines for thinking about IVF; The Infertility Companion by Sandra Glahn and Dr. William Cutrer dug into the nitty-gritty details. Their book covers a lot of ground, from the emotional, marital, and spiritual aspects of infertility, to the medical process of diagnosing infertility, to the details and ethics of ART procedures.

In a section about the stories of barren women in the Bible, the following quote struck me: "Faith is not so much believing God will provide a child; rather, it's believing that nothing is too hard for him. And that involves believing that his ways, while mysterious, are trustworthy. He is still good, even if we don't have a biological child. If he knew it were the very best thing for us, he would cause us to conceive." (They were writing specifically about Sarah here, who laughed when an angel of the Lord told her in her 90s that she was about to have a child and who was later commended for her faith.) Throughout this trial, I've often wondered what hope and faith look like specifically in the face of infertility. If I lose my optimism that we will conceive, does that mean I am lacking trust in God? This quote helped me to make a better, clearer distinction. I don't know if God will provide a child for our family, and I don't know what means he will use if he does do so, but I do know that nothing is too hard for him and that all that he does is good. That kind of faith inspires me to keep asking for a child, even against the odds, while knowing that my trust in God will not be disappointed, even if I never have children.

After giving very specific details about various infertility treatments (where I learned that 50% of frozen embryos don't survive thaw - yikes! even more reason to avoid freezing embryos!), the authors asked whether we should do any of the ARTs that we can do. They offered both scriptural and general ethical principles for evaluation. In their chapter on biblical principles, I appreciated the recommendation to make your church part of the decision-making process. Another helpful recommendation is to make the commands to love God and to love others the foundation of all our decision-making (Matt. 22:37-39). They also addressed the importance of respecting the sanctity of human life. These are all principles that I want to apply as we consider IVF.

In the chapter on general ethical principles, the authors offered a construct that evaluates four factors: beneficence, nonmaleficence, autonomy, and justice. In layman's terms, that means asking if something does good, does no harm, respects the persons involved, and does what is right and equitable. Application of these principles yielded very specific recommendations for pursuing IVF:

Couples can do IVF while complying with all the ethical principles if they honor life at the one-cell stage. That means deciding that every embryo must get the best possible chance to live. How can couples make sure every embryo gets such a chance? They begin by allowing to be created only the number of embryos that they are willing to carry to term in that cycle in the event that all embryos implant. ... When and if fertilization takes place and cell division indicates that DNA has aligned, all embryos - regardless of "quality" - are then transferred, each having an equal chance at being carried to term (p. 174).

I am comfortable with that recommendation. Though I am still not completely sure that I want to do IVF, this informative book gave me a clearer handle on the practicals and principles involved.


Amy said...

What great, Biblical, practical advice. I'm glad you are finding some good resources as you are thinking about the possible next step.

San said...

I love how you are processing this. Sending a prayer for you as you seek His face. All the best, Sandra Glahn

GLouise said...

Thanks for posting this! I really like Sandi Glahn's writings and actually have her blog listed on my blogroll!

Let me know when you get to their section on donor embryos...I would love to see the synopsis. I have an earlier edition of this book and it doesn't address this.