Oh, boy! Do I have a story to tell you!!
But first...two disclaimers:
- I totally have Krystal's permission to share this story with you.
- This post will likely anger you. Either you will be enraged by my point of view (sorry 'bout that!) or you will join me in my own outrage. Nobody leaves this place without singing the blues! :-)
If we've been together for a while, you already know all about my journey through the desert of infertility. You know what? No one really takes you very seriously when you look back on that struggle while, at the same time, there are eight children making all sorts of noise telling each other to be quiet right in the next room. (Only seven of them are mine, if that makes any difference.)
Truth be told, even I have a hard time taking my story seriously anymore (though, believe me...it seemed pretty serious then!) because I've watched my daughter Krystal fight the infertility wars for more than four years. Frankly, this is a show I would give just about anything not to have to see. And while my problem was easily solved once we knew what the problem was, we have known since Krystal was a teenager what her problem is...but that doesn't go far toward fixing it.
She has a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which you can learn more about here. In short, it is a hormonal disorder that has a long list of possible symptoms...and potential complications. Including infertility.
Now...I don't want to cause a big flap over the treatment or non-treatment of fertility issues. I have dear friends who weigh in on both sides of this argument, and you wanna know what? It's not a hill worth dying on. No one is going to heaven or hell based upon her position on this. It simply isn’t a doctrinal issue.
My Mary...then and now.
I saw a doctor when we couldn't figure out why we hadn't been able to get pregnant; I see a doctor when I am pregnant; I take my kids to the doctor when I think they need something more advanced than mommy-care.
When I felt my foot bone snap, I didn't invite the deacons over to anoint it with oil and then watch to see if the bone healed miraculously. No…I went to the hospital, and I asked my prayer chain friends to join me in praying for swift healing.
When we fell under heavy conviction that we had defied God by getting a vasectomy after Jamie was born, we ultimately found a doctor who would repair the damage we had done.
All this to say...I think doctors are a wonderful blessing from God. And Krystal and Nick have been seeing a reproductive endocrinologist for a while now because, without pharmaceutical assistance, Krystal just doesn't ovulate. You need that if you’re going to have a baby!
The tricky part is that the difference between not ovulating at all and ovulating to beat the band is, evidently, a thin, biochemical line. So Krystal got to the doctor yesterday to discover that she has three ripe follicles...and two more that might be close enough to come out and play. (That's five, in case you were an English major also.)
After taking attendance, the nurse who was getting Krystal's preliminaries together looked at my daughter and asked, very matter-of-factly, "Would you be willing to selectively reduce?"
Allow me to translate that for you:
"If we are able to help you get pregnant this cycle and you are blessed with more than a couple babies, would you consider KILLING SOME OF THEM?!"
OK...I'm not a complete cave-dweller. I know this takes place. I know it happens every day. But there are just some phrases I never expected to have uttered in reference to my potential grandchildren!
Mind your step there…I don’t want you to trip over my soapbox. A broken foot hurts!
After the nurse left the room (and after a barrage of incredulous and sarcastic text messages), the doctor came in and canceled Krystal’s cycle. By this, I mean that the doctor isn’t going to do anything to help them conceive this month…and he went so far as to order her not to attempt this stunt at home (because some eggs are poppin’—doctor or no doctor!).
[As a basis for comparison, last cycle there were three mature follicles…and no pregnancy. So the odds of ending up with high-order multiples here is pretty small.]
Would the doctor have proceeded with the cycle if Krystal had indicated a willingness to selectively abort? It seems so. He did mention that it’s an unpleasant experience to do so. (I had no idea that the momma is awake and watching the whole thing on ultrasound! Unbelievably awful!) But it’s pretty clear that Krystal’s life-affirming answer cost her a lot of wasted time, money, and emotional upheaval this month.
That’s my girl!
Remember Samuel Armas, the 21-weeker who held hands with his surgeon?
Do you remember Bobbi and Kenny McCaughey—the parents of the septuplets born in Iowa in 1997? This is a couple who was told that they were foolish not to “selectively reduce” the number of babies Bobbi was carrying. Here’s what I love about this story: God already knew He was going to bless them. His plan was that, against all medical odds, all seven of those babies were going to live! If they had followed the advice of doctors, maybe the three babies selected to live would have been born healthy…or maybe the McCaugheys would have lost all seven. But God had plans to give them a miracle, and they never would have known it if they had allowed fear or worldly “wisdom” to direct their decision.
What a powerful thing to remember…no matter what we’re tempted to respond to with fear rather than faith!
Bobbi once responded to an interviewer’s question about selective reduction by gesturing around at her children and saying, “Well, come to our house, and tell me which four I shouldn’t have had!”
Thanks to intensive pre-natal care and advanced ultrasound, Bobbi knows exactly which of her children would have been “reduced.”
Our new granddaughter Sammi Jo, at 13 weeks in the womb...and at 1 week out!
Now I sit here at the end of my post, where I usually try to offer some sort of summation to wrap things up. Sometimes (and by that, I mean often) I get a little off-track somewhere in mid-blog, so I like to feel that I’ve brought it back around before I leave you confused. But today, I don’t really know what my fine point is…
In part, this was a rant. (Thank you for flying with us today!) I’m so heartbroken and weary of watching month after disappointing month go by with no baby for Krystal that I’m just mad! I’m angry that a doctor can refuse her the treatment she has paid for because “We’ll trust God to work out the details” doesn’t really line up with the field of reproductive endocrinology.
Furthermore, I’m irritated that medical personnel think they have the right to take it a step further and try to dictate what happens in the bedroom of grown-up married people. Excuse me!
I think I also just wanted to be able to publicly point at Krystal and Nick and say, Yes…there you go…here are people who live what they say they believe! And I’m proud they’re on loan to me!
But at the same time, I’m so sad for all those mommies and daddies (and grandmas!) out there who have chosen to follow medical advice on this one. Some choose to selectively abort out of ignorance (how?!), and some know exactly what they’re doing. Some have life-long guilt over the decision, and some claim that they believe they did the right thing. But all of them have lost something.
I have a dear friend who had her own terrible struggle with infertility, and she and her husband finally reached the step of pursuing in-vitro fertilization. They are so dead-center about the lives of their children that they provided for their unborn babies in their will! If something tragic had happened before they were able to implant every last frozen, tiny baby, there was someone who had agreed to carry those babies and give them a chance at life. Wow! That's the stuff, right there!
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You,
For I am fearfully and wonderfully made…
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
Psalm 139: 13, 16
Sorry...I just had to have one more grandbaby picture!