There have been further worrying developments lately in the field of embryo research with British scientists being granted permission to genetically modify human embryos by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Lead scientist Dr Kathy Niakan has said that the research could “fundamentally change our understanding of human biology and give hope to prospective parents….if we were to understand the genes, it could really help us improve infertility treatment.”
This made me think instantly of the old saying, “just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should.” Has our consumerist society gone so far in thinking that when we desire something we have a right to gain it at all costs? Is it truly right to create embryos using artificial methods and then when we have decided not to ‘use’ all of the embryos created due to their ‘inferior quality’ to experiment upon them to increase our knowledge of the beginnings of human life.
People reading this may accuse me of being insensitive, of not understanding the pain that infertile couples experience and how this impacts on their life. If only you knew! I myself am a woman who has suffered greatly for many years from infertility. I understand deeply the raw pain that is felt each month when you realise that no, you are not pregnant again. I have experienced the overwhelming sense of failure that pervades every area of your life as you are not able to even do what you feel you were created for and the shame and embarrassment that surrounds this. I understand how much it hurts not to be able to give my husband the family his heart craves for. I know first hand the range of emotions felt from jealousy to guilt each time a friend or family member announces the joy of their pregnancy. I have felt so many times the dread of being invited to yet another Baptism and known that I have no choice but to endure another episode of intense pain, where salt is rubbed very firmly into my wounds. I have reached the depths of despair when feeling that if I can’t have a baby I would rather die. I know – it hurts badly. But is any of that worth taking up treatment options like IVF where our baby would be created in an artificial way and not through the sacred marital union? Should we invite another person to impregnate me instead of my husband? Should we be undertaking procedures like IVF that create many human lives but destroy those lives not wanted or judged to be inferior quality, that store embryos indefinitely in some strange limbo where they are alive but not able to thrive? No – just because we can do that, doesn’t mean that we should.
For us personally, we have welcomed the Church’s teachings on marriage and procreation. It has changed our lives for the better as since dealing with difficulties in a faithful way to the Church’s teachings, our marriage has been strengthened and our spiritual lives transformed. Quite early on into our marriage, we discovered that we were having problems conceiving a child and were experiencing infertility problems. At first we were tempted as many couples are to take up the standard treatment options available on the NHS and to undertake artificial insemination or IVF. However, after researching what the Magisterium of the Church had to say on such issues, after much difficult soul searching we decided to stay faithful to the Church’s teachings and not to take the treatment options on offer to us. It was a very difficult decision to make, however we decided that we only wanted a child in co-operation with God’s will for us and that the conception of a child should only happen between the two of us as a part of God’s loving union. We did for a time explore fertility treatment in line with Catholic teaching provided through Life Fertility Care. Life Fertility Care were amazing, supporting us as a couple through the most difficult times and our marriage grew stronger and our relationship was nourished as a result of our experience.
We have also had the wonderful benefit of growing closer to God throughout the whole experience and developing a relationship with him through our suffering that we would never have experienced without this journey. We are forever grateful for the strong leadership of our Church and the fact that it does not change over time to match popular opinion. We are grateful that the Church emphasizes the fact that God gives us natural laws for our happiness and well-being. We never managed to achieve a pregnancy in the end through treatment with Life but fully accept that this was God’s will for us and that he has bigger and better plans. We realize that children are a wonderful gift from God and not our right. We feel at peace with the path that our lives have taken, as we know we have followed God’s will for us, and if we had taken the IVF route we simply would never have felt this. We would have loved the baby that we might have conceived with all our hearts but always in the back of our minds we would have known that we had done it contrary to God’s will.
We recognize that the love we experience through our marriage should be shared with others and the wider community, we are trying to give something of our love to others such as the young, homeless, the vulnerable and the aged and sick of our community. We have developed our lives to be full and life giving to others, so that our marriage can benefit society. We have pledged together to always look after our families, especially our aged relatives, we have run youth and young adult groups, we have visited the aged and sick in our community, have helped the homeless and worked tirelessly to protect the unborn. We have learnt more about our faith and are continually seeking to deepen our relationship with the Lord. As a result of our obedience our lives have been transformed.
We have also recently been passed as adoptive parents and are now waiting to be matched with children. We realise that God did indeed have a very special job for us, to be a Mummy and Daddy to children who may have themselves suffered greatly in their short lives. We feel privileged that God would entrust this important task to us and can’t wait to share all of the gifts that God has showered on us with his precious children. I would urge all of those suffering from the pain of infertility to bear with it, to be brave and to work through it, as eventually acceptance and healing does come, you will find happiness again and peace. I feel at last that I may be working towards some of the words from Cardinal Newman’s beautiful prayer,
“God has created me to do Him some definite service,
He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another…..
He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work….
I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments.
Therefore I will trust Him, whatever I am….
He knows what He is about.”