It’s hard to understand

Today was supposed to be when they’d do the embryo transfer, the final part of the procedure that starts the waiting period before they do the pregnancy test. Instead of sitting around worrying whether or not it worked, I’m sitting around worrying if we’ll be able to start over again in a few weeks and licking my wounds after hearing a bunch of pregnancy announcements this week. TGIF indeed.

One bright spot in this mostly overcast week was Justin’s acceptance into med school. I’m proud of my little brother for his hard work, perseverance, and most of all, his faith that God would guide him through this process. And he’ll continue to depend on the Lord to give him wisdom about which school to go to (I’m sure he’ll get accepted at several) and to give him strength for surviving the rigors of med school and residency, hopefully minus any Grey’s Anatomy-type drama.

Being a good journalist, I figured I should report some medical news (albeit more than a week late) regarding Dr. Robert Edwards, the co-creator of in-vitro fertilization who was recently awarded the Nobel prize for medicine. Being a good hypochondriac, I thought I’d share what I found out about endometriosis cysts and IVF, which, from what I could determine after 15 minutes of Google research, seems to confirm what my doctor said: A cyst can cause complications but for the most part doesn’t appear to affect IVF outcomes. Since Dr. Edwards’ award probably has greater news value and broader appeal than journal articles about cysts, I guess I should focus my discussion on the former topic.

Dr. Edwards, a physiologist, and his now-deceased colleague, gynecologist Patrick Steptoe, developed techniques for fertilizing human eggs outside the body in the 1960s. Their work led to the birth of the first “test tube” baby in 1978 and about 4 million IVF babies since then.

Called a “milestone in the development of modern medicine” by the Swedish institute that awards Nobel prizes, IVF has sparked ethical debates about issues like the storage and destruction of human embryos since its introduction and continues to draw ire from certain religious groups such as the Roman Catholic Church, which stated that Edwards’ award was “completely misplaced.”

Now I’m no ethicist, and I don’t feel up to the task of delving into that moral morass, though it’s interesting to read Christian forums like Stepping Stones that discuss these ethical considerations. Obviously we wouldn’t be doing IVF if we thought it was wrong, and we’re trying to make God-honoring decisions as we go through this process. What caught my attention regarding this news about the Nobel prize wasn’t the morality of IVF or the question of whether or not Dr. Edwards deserved the award, but how it brought infertility into the media spotlight and elicited some negative remarks about those who choose to go through fertility treatments. As what you would expect from the NY Times readers’ comments section, the responses to their article on Dr. Edwards contained several inflammatory statements about infertile couples, such as “they should just adopt” and “maybe infertility is nature’s way of controlling population levels.”

These types of comments demonstrate a lack of understanding and empathy, which unfortunately isn’t confined to the world of anonymous comment threads. I’ve got tons of ideas for another blog post all about the well-meaning yet dumb things people have said to us regarding our infertility, so I won’t blab on much more about it. But I wanted to include a quote from a commenter at the Stirrup Queens blog (and you thought me talking about my uterus and ovaries was bad; wait ’till you read what these ladies have to say about their female parts). This is part of Megan’s response to the post, “Will a Nobel Prize Change the Way People View IVF?”:

Perhaps this event will lead to more discussion, less mystery, and in some people an acceptance of a practice that’s lasted long enough for children of IVF to become parents themselves. But to a majority of people (ie, the people who likely don’t have any issues with infertility) it’s still mysterious and “different” and they’ll quite possibly continue to carry negative views on something they’ve never experienced and don’t fully understand.

I know that many people can’t understand the pains of infertility because they haven’t been through it, or possibly don’t know anyone who has. There are certainly some people I can’t completely empathize with because I haven’t experienced their struggles. I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer; I haven’t lost my husband; I’ve not had an unplanned pregnancy and faced the heart-wrenching decision of raising my child in difficult circumstances or relinquishing them for adoption. All I can do is pray for those people and strive to be sensitive to their grief, and that’s what we ask of others who have not had trouble conceiving.

Thankfully, there is One who can truly empathize with us because He knows us better than we know ourselves. And that brings great comfort to all who are hurting – that is, everyone.

Published by jennhesse

Coauthor, Waiting in Hope: 31 Reflections for Walking with God Through Infertility. Content director at Waiting in Hope Ministries. Wife and boy mom x3.

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