My husband has two adult sons, so when we became a couple I told him that I wanted to have children. He took his time to decide if he wanted that again because his family had been complete before the divorce. But divorce changes a lot and he decided he wanted to start a family with me as well.
After going to the doctors it was clear that we needed to use IVF to fulfill our wish. It would be possible but very unlikely for us to conceive naturally. So after some consideration we decided to take that path. A path that for us included operation, hormone therapy, egg cell extraction and three miscarriages. The losses were devastating and I had to visit a therapist after the second one.
Through this process I became more aware about the world of infertility. I got to know the support of other women and their unconditional love for a complete stranger. Even years after their own losses, they’d still support women going through it right now. I came across the Miscarriage Association, which has helped me cope a lot.
But as it is in the internet, there is always a dark side as well. As I researched this subject, Facebook learned about my interest and started showing me similar content. Much as Amazon would show you “other customers bought” products… I learned that there were people aggressively against the process of IVF.
What blew my mind about this was that the subject of IVF could bring together even pro life and pro choice followers against it. It was quite confusing to see.
As the argument goes, apparently couples trying to conceive through IVF are especially selfish, contributing to overpopulation and it is absolutely unbelievable why they wouldn’t just adopt. The accusation is that we desperately want our genes to be given on, instead of just taking in one of the many children without a home.
As if adoption meant that you could walk into a shop and take your pick. Most of these arguments centre around the “waste of money” of IVF which could be used towards the expensive adoption procedure. But the financial aspect of having children is only one of many.
Before my husband and I finalized our decision about IVF, we discussed all options – he jokingly offered me to adopt his adult sons – and came to the conclusion that we’d like to try IVF first before anything else. But even then we had adoption as our Plan B. But why did we decide to go for IVF anyway?
To me it was important to go through the experience of pregnancy. I wanted to feel this basic female experience of your child growing inside you, to see it on the ultrasound, to hear the heartbeat, to follow it’s progress through all the months and prepare for our baby to enter our life’s. I wanted to see the face of my husband and my family light up in happiness as I told them that I was indeed pregnant. I wanted to go shopping for baby supplies with my friends and discuss which name to choose. Instead of that I have had a share in another basic female experience: pregnancy loss.
Other couples have other reasons to choose for IVF. Some of them have been trying for years to become pregnant naturally and faced the disappointment of a period every month. Others have had the heartbreak of miscarriage repeatedly – up until three of them are considered normal in the medical community and no follow up testing is done. Some of them have medical issues that make it impossible for them to conceive or carry a child to term. This is why couples that try to conceive via IVF often have had a lot of painful experience already before they get to this point.
All of these experiences make the matter deeply personal and sensitive. I remember all the tears I have shed in this process, one time breaking down in the doctor’s office. The IVF process itself is incredibly hard on the body and mind. This is not a small matter, that anyone does light-heartedly.
And adoption is a complete other issue with its own obstacles and difficulties. Many will not be eligible to adopt or there will never be a child that fits into their family situation. And this is as it should be, because the interest of the child should always come first. I live in the Netherlands where adoption inside of the country requires you to foster the child for a year during which the biological parent(s) can decide at any time to not give their child up for adoption. There are very few children given up to adoption in the first place.
For adoption outside of the country there are regulations of that specific country to consider as well – which would make it difficult for many unmarried or homosexual parents to adopt. You may have to stay over for months on end. There may also be an age restriction in your country or the country of the child. These are just few of the issues that you may face.
To foster a child in the other hand requires you to be able to part with them when they can go back to their parents. The emotional bond will not be broken, but you are not able to care for the child in the way you’d wish: decisions about medical issues or education are up to the biological parents. It’s also possible that the biological parents decide to cut off contact with you completely and you might never see the child again. This is not something everyone can do and neither should it be suggested in a flippant way.
What truly bothers me is that adoption and fostering are only brought up to couples with infertility issues. Not to couples who have many children, for example. No one tests how eligible biological parents are and they can have as many children as they please. No one is saying that they are contributing to overpopulation and why didn’t they adopt or foster a few children. Adoption and fostering should not only be thrown around as an alternative to medically assisted pregnancy. They stand in their own right, with their own issues and their own benefits.
If you wouldn’t dream to tell a couple that their biological children are overpopulating the world, don’t say it to parents of children conceived via IVF. Having children is always a selfish choice and I do agree that some parents might be doing IVF longer than is healthy for them. But fertility is interwoven with identity and what we think about ourselves and what we planned our life to be like. The pain of being childless or of having lost your child is something that will always stay with you and deeply affects you. I wish there was more empathy and less ignorance around this matter.
For those who think that a child’s life starts at conception, IVF freezes the process, as well as discards many possibly viable babies. When you’ve been affected by infertility you learn how many pregnancies are lost so early that the mother never knows she was pregnant – she considers it a period. Those are far more than will ever be lost during the IVF process. I am relatively young and healthy and one hormone treatment has ever resulted in maximum 6 viable embryos. Other women have far less. In one cycle the doctor’s here might put up to two embryos back into the body. The rest is frozen. I can go back and use them if I want siblings for my children.
These embryos are only a few days old, literally a cell separated a couple of times.
Doctors in european countries usually decide to never put back more embryos to prevent a pregnancy with twins or more. Because of this the question of terminating a few of the children if the mother has fallen pregnant with more than 3 almost never comes up. Even putting back 2 embryos is only done in exceptions. If you want to lament the possible children that could’ve resulted from embryos that are destroyed in the process, you are simply wrong. Without this process there would be no embryo. IVF heightens the chance of pregnancy and those embryos very likely would never have existed without it. Like in a normal cycle many egg cells will become fertilized without ever becoming a viable pregnancy. IVF does not create any more than would result from a normal sex life, rather there are far less.
In conclusion I’d say that empathy with couples going through IVF is very important, many of them have been through heartbreak and many of them will go on to adopt, regardless if they are successful with IVF. The question of adoption is considered far more frequently for couples with fertility issues than for those who are not. There should definitely be more more awareness around adoption and fostering, so that more loving households can take in children in need. But don’t have these discussions only on the backs of couples with infertility issues.
If you are struggling with infertility issues, please visit the Miscarriage Associations Website and find support.
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