Today during my radio programme Ghandi x’ Nghid on Radju Malta we discussed IVF. I read part of the testimony of a parent of two children born through IVF/ICSI’. This is the transcript of the full testimony:
- Being told that one or both of the partners is infertile /subfertile is the first ‘trauma’ to deal with. By the time they are told that assisted reproduction is the only way to conceive the couple would have already started going through a number of tests so already the process of conceiving has become a challenge. Something so personal and intimate is now medical and impersonal. Numerous feelings flood the situation and many factors need to be taken into consideration by the couple. For a couple this is stressful. There are feelings of guilt, helplessness and despair. It is a very trying time for any couple in this situation. Relationships can become fragile hence the need for much advice and support to guide the couple through this whole process.
- When a couple decide to go for IVF/ICSI the first major hurdle is actually financing the treatment. Apart from the issue of having to deal with the medical aspect of infertility the couple need money to go ahead with the treatment. The cost of the medication used and the actual procedure involves a large sum of money.
- Culturally being infertile is ‘embarassing’, an infertile couple are considered ‘imsieken’. This adds more weight to the distress a couple experiences more so if the family are unaware of what is going on and keeps passing remarks on when they are going to get pregnant.
A personal Experience
- We went through the procedure twice, both were successful on first attempts and we have two boys born through ICSI. We would have never ever been able to conceive if it was not through assisted reproduction.
- We knew ICSI was the only way we could conceive. We never questioned our decision but as practising Catholics we felt it was important to speak to the lab director who oversees the process . We asked specifically if all fertilised eggs were transferred because for us that was important. We wanted no wastage of embryos and that was their policy as well so ethically for us this was pretty straightforward. With our first ICSI, four eggs fertilised and four embryos transferred. Every embryo was given the same chance to survive one made it – our now 5-year-old boy. With our second attempt three eggs were fertilised, three eggs were transferred only one made it – our now 2-year-old little boy. In both procedures there was no wastage of embryos. Each and every embryo was given the same chance to develop.
- Before every procedure I requested to see the embryos under the microscope. It was my way of having control of the situation. Such a beautiful sight because my husband and I created life.
- A hurdle which I had to overcome as ‘the mother’ of these embryos is the bitter-sweet feeling of successfully conceiving one and ‘mourning’ the others I ‘lost’. As a Catholic I believe that the six celled embryo was life and that life was lost inside me, but never did I feel that I did something wrong in trying to make their existence possible. I gave them the best possible chance.
- I fully understand why the church may view IVF as abortive and probably it refers to cases when there are embryos that are wasted when people undergo Pre-Implantation Genetic Diagnosis, where embryos are screened for genetic disorders and only the healthy ones are selected. Another instance is when IVF is used for gender selection for example. In these cases I see why the Church frowns upon assisted reproduction. However I think she should be more cautious and sensitive when referring to IVF in which there is no wastage of embryos (as in our case).
- I do not think it is fair to expect the couple to bear the Cross of infertility. The symptom of infertility (which is not being able to have a child) needs to be treated and from experience I can say that IVF/ICSI was not offered as a first option and I do not believe it is offered as a first option in any case – it is really the end of the road in terms of treatments and it is offered when everything else fails or when there is clear evidence that due to the medical problems of one or both partners procreation has to be separated from the conjugal act!
- As quoted in The Times on Sunday 1/4/2012, Bishop Grech stated that another objection to IVF was that it did not respect parents especially the mother as it heightened the expectations when the success rate was low. Again I speak from personal experience. Never were my expectations heightened by any professional I met. Speaking to other couples going through the procedure many are actually very aware that the success rate is low. Throughout the procedure I have always felt respected and treated with utmost dignity even in the most embarrassing moments.
- With regards to embryo freezing this was, still is and will probably remain one of the greatest ethical dilemmas for me. I would feel uncomfortable knowing that I have my embryo ‘on ice’ and would want to reclaim it as soon as I can. I have not been in the situation so I do not know what I would have done if I was put in the situation were I could have my embryos frozen. I did not have that option.
- My view is that we are not instilling or encouraging a culture of death because we are debating or trying to legislate for IVF. IVF is ‘ a matter of life’ and with every baby born through that procedure we celebrate life.
Throughout both my pregnancies and both the births of my sons every professional involved was as excited as I was about the arrival of the babies. Their births were truly a celebration of life where life was thought to be impossible and this life was ultimately made possible by God.