A reader recently e-mailed me this thought-provoking question: "Do you wish that you had fertilized more eggs and frozen [the resulting embryos]?" The answer to that is a qualified yes and a resounding no.
The failure of two IVFs certainly does leave one questioning the methods. If we had fertilized more eggs, would I be pregnant by now? Maybe. Would we have gotten two embryo transfers for the price of one (or four for the price of two, as the case would have it)? Most likely. Is it tempting to pursue a different course, to fertilize as many eggs as I can produce in one go? Sure. It's tempting because my idolatrous heart wants pregnancy and children at any cost, thinking that a cuddly baby (or two, or three) would be more satisfying that the joy of loving my Savior through obedience. But by God's grace, that temptation to play willy-nilly with little few-celled human lives in pursuit of my dreams is kept in check by convictions about what God has to say about life and about his sovereignty and goodness.
My reader's question dovetailed neatly with some of my recent musings during my devotional reading. Our pastors have recently begun teaching through the book of Genesis, so I'm taking some time to read a couple chapters in Genesis each morning. It's an interesting read for an infertile. Sarah - barren. Rebekah - barren. Rachel - barren. Of Rebekah's struggle we don't know much, other than the poignant statement that she conceived after her husband prayed for her (Gen. 25:21). (And then she went on to have twins. I can just imagine the comments; "Ooh, twins! Do they run in your family, or did you use mandrakes?") Sarah, desperate to find her own way to fulfill God's promise to make a people from Abraham's descendants, convinced her husband to impregnate her servant girl. Ditto Rachel, who was caught up in a jealous battle with her sister. I used to read these accounts and scoff at the crazy lengths these women would go to for the sake of having children. Then came my own infertility and an increased sympathy for these biblical characters (and a gratitude to God for including their struggles in his inspired word!). But still, their methods seemed a bit baffling. Sharing your husband with another woman just to have a child to which you'd have a very dubious claim? I would never do that! And yet in moments dank and grim, I wonder how I'd look to them*. During this recent reading of Genesis, God has allowed me to see more of my own heart in these ancient women. To my modern mind, the ways that Sarah and Rachel fought against infertility in their polygamous society seem so obviously wrong. To them, I'm sure all of our contemporary assisted reproductive technologies would seem bewildering and unthinkable. The culture is different, the methods are different, but here's the thing: The hearts that desperately desire children, the hearts that are deceitful above all things, those hearts are the same. Those hearts need a perspective of grace to see that the fact that nothing else seems to work does not make it right to go against God's standards in the quest to attain the blessing of children. When I consider what steps to take next, now that two IVFs have failed, I want to remember my early sisters and to see that I am just as capable of the same sinful desperation. In a culture where ART is normal and acceptable, I want to beg for God's mercy to keep me adhering to his principles - particularly the sanctity of human life and of marriage - in the face of the array of options.
So do I wish that we had fertilized more eggs and frozen embryos? Ultimately, no. God has given us convictions that freezing embryos would presume upon the future and would be disrespectful to life made in his image. We might change our IVF protocol, we might pursue different ways and means of having children, but we will keep seeking to trust that God's ways are best. He has laid down principles for my good and for his glory, and I have no regrets in following those.
*Thanks, Mr. Nash. And thanks, Dad, for frequently quoting his poetry to me.