Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Reacting to 23 Weeks & 6 Days

This post may be an emotional trigger for those with experiences related to miscarriage and premature birth. Do not proceed in reading this if that could be you. This post also contains spoilers to the story.

I'm going to do my very best to tread lightly with this post, because this post is about someone else's experience. I am trying not to judge, but let's face it. I'm human; I'm judging. So, in advance, I totally admit that I do not know this couple at all, other than the news pieces written about their story with IVF and having a super preemie baby. However, this couple opted to share their story publicly, and I am reacting to what was shared. I'm using this blog to be raw and honest about my feelings related to my infertility, and this news story brought tons of emotions, including judgmental ones, to the surface for me.

Radiolab is one of my favorite radio shows. I recently found a piece from last fall that covered a couple's experience with having a baby born very prematurely. The piece is called 23 Weeks and 6 Days and can be found here. The Radiolab piece is based on a series that the mother, a journalist, wrote here. First, Kris Kringle and I listened to the episode together, and then I read the mother's work, which has a lot of photos accompanying it.

Any story about a baby born that early and that small is an emotional one, and I know parents have to make difficult decisions about the baby's care, which is what most of the story is about. However, it was a complete footnote that this couple conceived through the use of a donor egg, after failed attempt after failed attempt of other unnatural methods of conception. It wasn't even mentioned that IVF is meaningfully correlated with preterm births and complications. It was a completely lost opportunity to educate about that very important concern related to babies created through artificial techniques. Regardless of one's feelings about the ethics of IVF, these correlations are real and have implications for individual families and for society as a whole as we see our health care costs increase.

It was also another example of how our mainstream culture believes babies are commodities, things to "achieve" at all costs. At one point in the radio show, the father described how they had to "force" his sperm into the donor egg, and in the article written by the mother, there's a photo of her holding up a holding up a photo of three little lives (5 day old embryos) in separate petri dishes. She comments on how one of them would become her daughter. She also said, "We knew we were manipulating nature in our determination to have a child. Later, when things went wrong, we’d wonder if we’d pushed too hard." They also talk about the possibility of a child with a disability being as bad as the child dying, stating that the odds were split 20/80 between 1) the baby being perfectly fine or 2) being disabled or dead.

The story also talked about the "will to live" that their little baby had, and I can't imagine how insulting and hurtful that has to sound to parents who had a baby with similar complications that didn't make it. It implies that babies that don't make it don't have a "will to live," and I think that's a terrible thing to say, let alone not true.

There's no denying that my Catholic faith has largely helped me shape my views on conception and parenthood (which have changed over time), and from the story, you can tell that she and her husband simply have very different views on both topics than I do, and of course my opinion doesn't matter to them and their family, as it shouldn't. I'm just not reacting well to a story based on world views and parenthood premises that I don't agree with, and it's hitting me extra hard right now because of the infertility we're experiencing. This couple ignored every sign from the universe that they weren't meant to conceive a child, yet they did anyway, and they have a healthy little girl. Life's not fair, I get that, but it makes we wonder, "Why not us?"

So, yes, this couple made choices/decisions that I already know we'll never make, at least in terms of trying to become parents. They also made choices/decisions around the medical care of their tiny baby, which I pray we never have to make. They have very different understandings of parenthood, life, etc., and that's part of life itself. I just didn't have pleasurable reactions to these pieces of the story. I'm very glad that their super premature baby has made it to age 3 without many complications/setbacks, and I do believe that God has a hand in this little girl's story, just as he does in every person's life, regardless of how they were created or how long they live.

I'm trying to figure out what I learned from this story. I don't think I learned anything new, which is unfortunate.

Have you heard/read this story? What were your reactions?

1 comment:

  1. I hadn't read/heard this story before, but my reactions now are the same as yours. It's so hard to watch other couples go through IVF (and in this case, use an egg donor) and get the baby they always dreamed of. But I know in my heart that I'm doing the best possible things for me, my body, my future children, and my marriage by avoiding IVF at all costs. They definitely overlooked all of the negative consequences of their decision to do IVF, and probably many they're still not even aware of. More than anything, they need our prayers, which is hard to do, considering they have a baby now, something we both still lack. But at least we're going about it the right (and best!) way! We've got to keep faith that our Napro path is the right path. :)