February 07, 2008

"We the infertile people"

Yesterday I received a comment on this blog, where a woman demanded that I cease speaking out against reproductive technologies because, until I have walked a mile in her (infertile) shoes, I can't possibly imagine the hell of infertility, and therefore I can't appreciate how any and all means of getting out of that hell - including repro tech - are clearly acceptable.

She assumed that if I am speaking out against repro tech, then my knowledge of infertility and repro tech must be purely academic. And if my knowledge is purely academic, then I have no right to express my opinion, which is so offensive to those who have actually walked the "road of hot coals".

I thought about this comment for some time. In the past, I have not made personal comments on this blog about myself, and part of me did not want to get into that. I disagree with the view that a person is not entitled to speak about something just because he or she has not experienced it himself. That kind of mindset would lock us in narrow and separate worlds.

Nonetheless, I finally decided to clarify a bit about my own situation, because it just so happens that I do know for myself the pain of infertility. My husband and I have been trying to have children for many months now. We have watched other couples we know - friends, family, coworkers - have babies, and more babies, and more babies...while we are still coming home to our two pets.

No, it is not easy. In fact, it can be very difficult, and yes, I have cried a lot.

In our own case, I still have hope. We are now being seen by a fertility specialist, and we are undergoing tests to find out what the problem is (or are - if they can be found). It is stressful, embarassing, awful...every time I go into that clinic I completely tense up and hate every minute of it, and yet it is our hope.

However, my views on repro tech remain the same. If in vitro or other repro technologies turn out to be our only hope, then we won't do it. We will try to adopt. That can, of course, be long and difficult and expensive too. Well, we may try to be foster parents too, I am open to that.

And whatever else happens...we trust in God and what he has planned for us. I do believe that things happen for a reason, and that everything, even pain and suffering, can be made to work for the good. My husband has been incredibly supportive through it all, he is truly a solid and great man.

It is certain that infertility is a great suffering. Sometimes I feel like a social outcast because I struggle with having children. Sometimes I feel like a leper...and I wonder, if it is my fault, am I ruining my husband's life, do I even deserve to be with him? What will my mother in law, who is eager for more grandchildren, think of me if she finds out that it is me? I just want to hole up and hide.

On the other hand, it is good to put things into perspective. I am currently reading a book about Africa by a Polish journalist who lived there for 40 years. He describes the terrible poverty, the wars, the famine, the dire living conditions. Those still exist today. People struggle with so many things in the world. In the West, people's suffering is mostly hidden within big houses, behind smiling faces, and we do not see it. Everyone seems happy, and we feel like the only ones who aren't. But the fact is, suffering is a fact of life.

In my opinion, the best way to deal with suffering is to take a step back and to realize that our suffering is NOT worse than a lot of other people's. People all over the world are terminally ill, they are dying, they are divorcing, they are losing their loved ones, they are losing their homes, their countries, they are hungry, they are persecuted, they are in war-torn countries fearing for their lives...in fact, in comparison with most of the world, WE are the lucky ones, in many other ways.

I still believe that the answer to the pain of infertility is NOT to transfer the suffering onto the children who are created - that is NOT our right, even as "infertile people".


Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry that you have gone through infertility as well. It surprises me that you have the feelings that you do if you have, but each person views things differently I guess. Maybe you'll feel differently if your infertility stretches longer than a few months...maybe not. I know for me that when when we first started to struggle with infertility, I thought I would never do IVF. Not because of any religious reason, but rather because it seemed like such a gamble while adoption seemed a little more of a guarantee. However, after nearly 5 years of trying to get pregnant, something changed. It might have been my desire to experience pregnancy or the feeling that I just wanted my own biological child to raise - but something did change and we went through IVF and conceived on our first try with twins. My twins are nearly 8 months old now.

However, I understand you have to do what you believe is the right thing to do, and if you don't like IVF, then so be it.

I haven't read your whole blog, so maybe you've touched on this already (if you have, I apologize), but I'm also surprised that your willing to go through adoption considering the child would not be biologicall yours. Will you have it be an open adoption, if possible, so that the child you adopt gets to know his or her biological parents? Just curious.

Veronica Thomas said...

Hi Anonymous,

Well, my hubby and I have been trying for so long that one of my coworkers is on her third maternity leave since we started trying...and believe it or not, her children were not even planned....yeah, it hurts.

The reason I would be willing to adopt is because I am not against children being raised by someone other than their biological parents, IF there is no other alternative because of a true crisis situation. That doesn't mean I don't think that biological parents are best. I wouldn't take a kid from biological parents who ARE willing and able to raise the kid!

The children who are being put up for adoption already exist. They are not wanted by their parents. Their parents will not keep them even if I don't adopt them. So, I am not creating the problem. If anything, I can be there to help those kids, who are in need.

As for open v. closed adoption...this is all theoretical because here in Canada, all domestic adoptions are open. That's one of the reasons lots of people choose international adoptions, because there is less contact with the parents...

In any case though, I would choose an open adoption. Not because I particularly want to. I don't really relish the thought of having another "mother" in my adopted child's life. I worry about the negative influence she could have, and the emotional tug-of-war...

But yeah, I would still do it, because I think it would be best for the child. When you think about it, this kid was taken from its parents for various reasons out of its control. However, it will still wonder about its biological mom and dad, and even its biological siblings, and would probably want to know them...even just to understand him/herself. So if it can make the kid feel better about him/herself and his/her place in the world, then it is worth it to let them experience their biological family.

Plus, I also think that the parents would feel better to know what is going on with their child. If I adopt, I will probably keep wondering...if the conditions had been better, would the mom have kept her baby? If I had given her enough money instead of taken her child, would she have raised it?...I've thought about that. In any case, I've read about women who regret giving their children away...and even if they don't, these are still their children. A lot of women would probably be very glad to know that their children are doing well, and even to have some sort of relationship with them.

Bottom line, I don't want to be a family breaker...I have a lot of compassion with the kids who need help through adoption, but also with their parents, who are in a tough situation that forces them to give up their own flesh and blood. And here I am, happy to step in because I can't have children...but I don't want to be the bad guy and prevent them from communicating or knowing about each other, just because I have emotional needs and want a baby that is fully and only mine - something I can't ever really have (though I shouldn't say that since I am not yet giving up hope).

Anonymous said...

You have every right in the world to make choices that are right for you. You also have the right to disagree with the choices others are making.

I don't think you have the right to tell others that "repro tech" is wrong for anyone who has chosen that path. IVF has bio parents raising bio children and in the case of donor gametes many couples are chosing donors who are willing to have contact, similar to open adoption.

As far as children's rights go there are SO more pressing issues to deal with like the many many abused and neglected kids in bio families. I don't get why repro tech is such a focus for you if what you care most about are children's rights.

Repro tech is not the problem, lack of basic human kindness, responsibilty, etc., is the much bigger problem.

I don't really "get" why you are so focused on reprotech as being such an issue in the midst of today's societal breakdown.

You talk about fathers being passe. THAT has been happening for a few decades now and sperm donor scenarios are such a small percentage of the reason children end up fatherless. In fact most sperm donor kids DO have a father. You may argue that he is not the bio dad, but about 50% of kids with dads are being raised by a step dad who is not a bio dad either. So isn't divorce a bigger problem than sperm donation??

You have every right to your opinions, I just fail to see the point of your blog if children's rights are you main cause.

Anonymous said...

Tell me this, what do you think about donor FET's? Those embryos are already made, for better or for worse. Without couples willing to undergo an IVF procedure, they have no other options but to be destroyed or given over to research. It's still "repro tech" but that procedure gives the only option for life in that situation.

Anonymous said...

Children being put up for adoption are most times very much wanted by their biological parents! Adoption plans are made not because firstparents don't "want" the child but because they feel they cannot give the best care.

Anonymous said...

Your ignorance is appalling. Thank goodness you live in Canada. I guess you're selective about which medical procedures you'll have for life. Save a life? Spare a life? Create a life? What's the difference? Personally, my husband and I are doing IVF and have made a commitment to transfer all of our embryos (of course not all at once, and of course without genetic testing), everyone is entitled to their opinion it's just that you are SO hateful in the expression of yours. Consider this....

There is man trapped in his truck surrounding by a raging flash flood, he is praying to God that God will save him. A helicopter flies over and drops the basket to save the man, he waves them off "no, no, God will save me." Then the local fire department starts tying off to wade out and rescue him, but he waves him off "no, no, God will save me." He drowns. He's in heaven talking to God, "why didn't you save me?" God says, "I sent you the helicopter and the fire fighters and you refused them all." God gave this guy 2 options, either one would have been "right" and both were from God. I see no difference between IVF and adoption, all though I could make a successful argument that IVF is more biblical. It does say to go forth and multiply.

Veronica Thomas said...

Hi anonymous,
So many objections and bones of contention! I can't respond to them all at once, there just isn't the time. But I will try to deal with them all in future blog postings.