Today I have the distinct privilege of bringing a unique voice to the discussion about in vitro fertilization (IVF). Katy* is a wife, mother, Catholic, and a regular blog reader who emailed me a few months ago with a story to share. As I read the email, I was humbled and rocked to the core that she would entrust me with a part of her story, and I knew immediately that it deserved a wider audience. She was gracious – and brave – enough to agree to share it with you here today.
I am requiring that all comments and discussion on this piece, both here in the combox and on social media, be of the highest caliber of respect and civility. This is an emotionally fraught topic, and this is a charged political and moral landscape we are navigating. And … this is a real family’s journey, and a real woman’s story. She deserves our attention and our respect. To that end, I will be moderating.
Now I’d like to invite Katy to tell you her story, in her own words:
“Hello, my name is guilty”
I truly wish I had read your posts about IVF four years ago.
For a few months now, I’ve been reading/following/loving your blog.
I feel compelled to share my story, because even though you don’t know me, I feel that certain kinship that can only come from reading someone else’s blog and becoming somewhat acquainted with their life. So here it goes.
I was raised Catholic and my family is devout, but not in a forceful way, so I never even got to go through the typical teenage rebellion. Religion was always just part of who we were, and I was glad to carry on the Catholic tradition in adulthood.
I had a boyfriend whose family was VERY religious to the point of homeschooling and rejecting the Novus Ordo mass entirely, nightly rosaries, etc. That time of my life helped my faith develop, but then after we broke up and I met my now-husband, a mostly disinterested Methodist, I drifted into a much less strict version of practicing Catholic. I still attended church, but I wasn’t involved.
Fast forward to finding out we were infertile. Of course, I knew the Church’s stance on IVF, but I chose to willfully ignore it.
A control freak at heart, I refused to believe that God had my best interest in mind.
I have felt called to motherhood since I was a little girl and I absolutely could not fathom a world in which I was not a mother.
I didn’t want to wait. I didn’t want to have faith. I wanted my way, and I wanted it then, because I was 27 years old and my biological clock was ticking so loudly it kept me up nights.
Only now do I see how ridiculous I was being.
Thanks to the severity of our infertility issues, we were giving a 1% chance of conceiving naturally (who comes up with those stats, anyway?) and were advised against wasting time and money on IUI. The doctor recommended that we immediately pursue IVF.
Now, I did sort of try to be sensible…you know, to “sin a little less.” I inquired about only fertilizing a small number of embryos so that there wouldn’t be “leftovers.” The doctor thought I was crazy, just another wacko religious person, but she agreed to work with me. Then the estimated cost made it so the whole thing had to be put on hold anyway.
A few years later I stumbled upon a clinical trial which provided IVF to participants for free. The big catch: you had to play by their rules, so no requesting a limited number of embryos be created. Blinded by my manic need to become a mother, I signed my name on the dotted line and entered the study.
I felt both elated and guilty.
It’s a guilt I’m still lugging around today.
As part of the study, we ended up with 8 embryos. I did one round of IVF and transferred two embryos. I was pregnant with twins for 8 amazing weeks before my first miscarriage. The second embryo transfer (2 embryos again) resulted in another pregnancy, but a single that time. I miscarried at 7 weeks. Of course I felt like I was being punished. I know it doesn’t work like that, but still, that’s how it felt.
I waited two months and then did a third embryo transfer with a single embryo. After the two miscarriages I was kicked out of the clinical trial and no longer forced to abide by the study protocol of transferring two at a time (a note for your article: most fertility doctors refuse to do more than two, and my current doctor along with many others strongly advises against more than one. The cases you hear like Octomom are thankfully not the norm. And those doctors usually have their medical licenses revoked. What they’re doing is still not OK… but it’s not like they’re all just throwing in ten embryos at once and then resorting to selective reduction, at least not usually).
I once again become pregnant. That one stuck. My beautiful daughter was born in June of 2014.
Motherhood has been everything I dreamed it would be. My daughter brought so much light, love, and happiness to this world that it’s impossible to put into words. Family members fight over who gets to babysit her. She is so smart, so kind, so good.
She is by far the best thing that ever happened to me, and it absolutely kills me that she was conceived in sin.
I struggle with this every day. The line I read equating the children of IVF to victims, like children of rape? Oh, that one stung, but it was so necessary. You’re right, of course, but the truth hurts. (She is referring to an older piece of mine where I was emphasizing that the dignity of the human person is immutable, that no matter the circumstances of one’s conception, the child is only and always the innocent victim.)
I’m sure you already know about God’s fantastic sense of humor, right? Right. So I had 3 embryos left after my daughter was born (3 miscarried, 1 never took, and she was the 5th one).
I knew I would need to have them all because despite my egregious disregard of Church law in doing IVF at all, I still fervently believe that life begins at conception and that those three little souls would absolutely not be destroyed or donated to science.
But then when my daughter was 8 months old, a surprise happened – a spontaneous unplanned pregnancy. That 1% chance of conceiving the doctors gave us? Yeah. About that…
My son joined our family 17 months after his sister. Sometimes the craziest things are true.
Now I am pregnant once again, but this time with the 6th embryo, while the other two wait in storage until we’re ready for another go-round.
No one will be left behind in the freezer, but I admit it’s so hard.
There are the storage fees, the constant worry… how will we be able to afford another round of IVF? (I had insurance coverage for a brief shining moment, which I used to get pregnant with this one, but now I’ve lost my job and that insurance lapses in February). How will we afford five kids? Am I getting too old? (I’m 32 now). Can I even have that many c-sections? (Both my kids were emergency c-sections, and this one will be scheduled).
I wish I had never done IVF.
I wish it so badly. When my faith was tested, I failed, and yet I was still given the most beautiful and miraculous gift that I surely don’t deserve.
I used to keep a diary but I don’t anymore, which is why I’m pouring this all out on you. I do have a blog, but since my readership is mostly fellow IVF veterans, they’re all left-leaning and would never understand my regret.
I’m terrified to write about any of this publically.
I don’t regret my daughter for a second, but I do regret the methods.
I wish I had known.
I wish I could rewind and redo all of this knowing what I know now.
I just hope that you’ll pray for me. It’s very early in this third pregnancy and I’m so nervous (especially with my history), plus I’m constantly worrying about how we will survive the future we’ve created for ourselves.
I am trying so hard to put my faith in God but like I said…I’m a control freak! It’s so hard to let go. I always feel like I’m the one who needs to keep this ship sailing.
Also, if you have any excellent reading or resources for “Woman who Regrets Doing IVF But is Also Joyous to Have Become a Mother”… please send it my way.
*(Katy, whose real name was changed for privacy purposes – is a brave and beautiful mother, and her courage in sharing this story is a testimony and a gift to us all. Please join me in accompanying her family and her current pregnancy with your prayers.)
(UPDATE 3/28/17: *update: FYI, our beautiful author Katy has been to Confession, thanks be to God. And y’all are wonderful missionaries of mercy to suggest it so enthusiastically. Pope Francis would be proud.)