Friday, 28 August 2009

Part 3 - Thy Will be done

There are those who say that if you find out you're not able to have children, you should just accept that this is God's Will. Perhaps He wants you to adopt, or to do charity work, or to be the one out of all the siblings who is available to look after your parents when they get old.

I read a comment the other day that some people are given a greater capacity to love other people's children, and that if that's your vocation, you should work on just becoming the best teacher/aunt/confidante that you can. And there certainly is value in looking at things that way - when DH and I got our diagnosis, we made a list of all our options, and "Just be the coolest aunt, uncle and godparents ever" was on that list. But it was right at the bottom, after exploring all other options.

The Pope has also talked about infertile Catholic couples taking up the cross, accepting their infertility and living with it.

And people talk about scientists and people who pursue IVF "playing God" in the laboratory and trying to overrule God's Will.

So why would I continue to try to have children, when it's clear I'm never going to become a mother naturally? Am I doing wrong? Am I ignoring God's Will, or even worse, trying to overrule it?

Well, let's think about this. We have a medical situation here. My husband isn't producing enough sperm. The ones he does produce are clumsy, misshapen little chaps that swim aimlessly round in circles, when they can be bothered to. Meanwhile, my egg cupboard is almost bare.

If someone isn't producing enough insulin, nobody tells them to accept God's Will and embrace their non-functioning pancreas. They're given insulin, blood tests, dietary advice, and everything they need to enable them to live as normal a life as possible.

So why is it different just because it's sperm and eggs that we're not producing in sufficient quantities? If God has allowed a treatment to be developed, why should we not allow ourselves to benefit from that treatment? OK, my life isn't threatened by my inability to have children - though at the moment I often feel as though my sanity is. But that doesn't mean it's not a medical problem, or that it doesn't cause me any pain.

I'm reminded of the story of the devout Christian who took every opportunity to tell people of his confidence that God would provide for him. One day, a great flood came to his village. As the water rose in the street, someone pulled up next to him in a car and offered to take him to safety.

"No," said the holy man. "God will help me."

The water rose to the level of his second floor windows, and as he sat in his bedroom watching the water rise, a boat stopped by his window. The boatman again offered to take him to safety.

"No," said the holy man. "God will help me."

The water continued to rise, until the man's house was almost fully submerged. He climbed out onto the roof and clung to the chimney pot, where he was spotted by the pilot of a rescue helicopter. A rope ladder was let down, and the pilot called out to the holy man to grab hold and climb up into the helicopter.

Once more, the holy man refused, saying, "No, God will help me."

The water continued to rise, and the holy man was drowned. On arrival in Heaven, he confronted God, saying, "I was always faithful to you, and I always trusted in you, but you let me down. How could you let me drown like that?"

And God replied, "I sent you a car, a boat and a helicopter - what more do you want?"

Yes, we have to have faith in God - but we also have to recognise the help that He is offering us, and not turn it down out of some misguided scruple.

We are a committed Catholic couple, who vowed before God and before all our friends and family on our wedding day that we would accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church. Any child born as a result of our treatment will be a child of God and will be born out of our love for each other as much as it would be if we were fortunate enough to be able to conceive without any help.

So I reject the idea that seeking treatment for a medical problem is opposing God's Will.

We've prayed a lot about this decision, and we continue to pray that God will guide us down the right path and that He will eventually bless us with children - if that's His Will.

And so we come to the next point - are we trying to "play God" and overrule God's Will?

Have you seen the odds for success in IVF? We have way less than a 50% chance of this treatment being successful. We will ONLY have a child if God wills it. There is no way that we can force Him to give us a child, whatever we do. Only God has the ability to give life, and we know that it is God, and not science, that should be glorified if we do eventually become parents.

And what about this business of overruling God's Will? Should we just roll over and accept that because it's not happening naturally, we were not meant to be parents?

Think of the prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane:

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine."

This is the prayer that I pray. God knows what we want. And only He knows whether it will ever happen for us. If it's not His Will that we become parents, it won't happen. In that case, I pray that we'll be able to accept that decision and build the life that He wants us to lead. But it's not wrong to pray that He should give us a child, if He is willing. And nor do I believe it is wrong to seek medical treatment for a medical problem.


  1. This is a beautiful, well written post. My MIL and I had a very similar discussion on Tuesday afternoon. I am in full agreement with your take on the situation and couldn't have said it any better at all! Thanks for writing this...I'm saving it!

  2. Thank you for writing about this. I am still struggling, even as we move forward with IVF. Right now I'm dealing with the disapproval of devout Catholic family members on both sides. I feel like you do -- that we are seeking out a treatment to a medical problem.

    Thanks for having the strength to discuss these issues.

  3. I'm so sorry people are making it harder for you, Sonja. I still have a couple of posts to write to complete this little series, and I really hope they'll help you with your struggle - it really took me a long time to make my peace with this decision, but I really think I'm there now. It's going to be tough enough on us, both mentally and physically, without the added mental anguish of feeling adrift from the Church.

  4. This is so true and similar to an argument I had whilst we were on our first Ivf cycle. My Nana said I was playing with nature and should just accept my lifes path as Gods way. That to mess around with Gods way was a sin etc. My answer to that was "it is not natural to smoke , yet you do and when you found out you had lung cancer 4 years ago , no one ever considered telling you not to treat it , you just did it and that I thank God for, the reason I cant have children is because im ill, so why is it so wrong to at least try to put that right? "

    I truly believe God does have a path for each of us , but every path is different . That path may inc an Ivf by turn or it may not but either way if our path doesnt include children the ivf path will simply come to a dead end and cause us to travel along the route thats meant for us . If a baby is a result of IVF God obviously meant for it to happen he just needed us to realise what a true gift children are along the way :)