A man and three women share their personal stories of infertility, their different ways of looking at the treatment available for infertility, and their journey from disappointment to infertility acceptance and hope.
Infertility Story 1: Marco Cremona , Journey From In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) To Adoption
“Our decision to adopt was very fruitful”
My wife and I met when we were in our mid-thirties. After living together for some years, we decided that we would like to have children. However, it transpired that there were some medical complications which, although not absolutely precluding us from having children, indicated that it would be difficult to conceive.
With some reluctance we made a single attempt at IVF treatment, but the preliminary indications showed that the chances of success were close to nil. So we discontinued the process and subsequently looked at adoption as a means to parenthood.
Our decision to adopt was a very fruitful and positive one, even though the adoption process was a challenge in itself. I believe that the joys and struggles of parenting adopted children are practically identical to those experienced by other parents and after seven years it really feels like our adopted children are our biological children.
I know that for our children (as for anybody else), ancestry will be important; it is only natural that they would want to know their origins. They are now seven years old, and we tell them about their roots in ways which they can understand. Should, they feel at a later stage the need to investigate their origins we will help them in whatever way we can, even though unfortunately, in their particular circumstance, the chances of success are very small.
Clearly, our decision to abandon IVF meant that we had given up the chances of having our own biological children. This wasn’t easy to digest as the natural instinct is to have your own children and it is a strong instinct. However, I believe that in our case, the instinct to become parents was stronger than the instinct to have our own children at all costs. Thankfully, adoption provided the opportunity to satisfy that instinct.
Infertility Story 2: Anita Zerafa , From Infertility To A Natural Birth
“My fallopian tubes were closed”
I know perfectly well what it means to want a child. Nine years ago, all the medical tests I went through showed that my fallopian tubes were closed. The only option I was given from the medical team was IVF treatment. No one mentioned adoption.
Surprisingly, after a few months I got pregnant. The doctors couldn’t explain how it happened. Sadly, after six months I miscarried because of a placental abruption. The baby, a girl, was born alive and died in my hands. I had to hand her over to the medical staff for an autopsy. A month later, they gave her back to me for a burial.
When we discuss embryo freezing my mind goes to that terrible month during which my daughter was put in a jar with preservation liquid. I couldn’t bare see her there even though she was dead, let alone consider putting my own embryos in the freezer alive!
Honestly, I never fancied the idea of IVF – I feel that the IVF process treats the embryo like a product rather than a dignified pre-born child. When I realised that the embryo is really a pre-born baby, when I thought of the possibility of an embryo dying at the thawing stage, I could not consider IVF.
Despite what the doctors had told me, today I have been blessed with another two children who survived and are alive.
Infertility Story 3: Melanie* – The “Number 2″ Who Never Came… Still Waiting
“We have a combination of male and female infertility”
Whilst picking up my son from school, I frequently encountered mothers who discussed their personal view that they were happy having ‘one’ child and being ‘done’. I would remain silent, since I did not feel the same way. I wished for another child.
It was a shock for me when we discovered that both my husband and I had problems to conceive. We had a combination of male and female factor infertility. All the treatment options that might work for female infertility are futile. Even the regular procedure of IVF treatment is not effective. The only option was intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment which involves IVF using a single healthy sperm that is directly injected in the ovum.
We were shattered at the news of having what is called ‘secondary infertility’. People around us frequently asked us ‘when will you have another baby?’ or ‘will you not give your son a little brother or sister?’ Little did they know what we were going through. People find it difficult to understand that having one child does not automatically mean conceiving the second one would be a walk in the park.
Another thing which hurt is when people tell us ‘at least you have one’. Yes, we are constantly aware of the gift we have received when our son was conceived. Yet when you wish to have more children; when you had already arranged for your work schedule to be family-friendly; when you feel you can financially provide for a larger family, it is extremely difficult to understand and accept the reality of not having the possibility to do so.
One may ask why we did not opt for IVF/ICSI treatment especially since in Malta it is offered free of charge even to couples who suffer from secondary infertility. We do have friends who went for IVF treatment and supported them all the way. We are happy that nowadays their children play with ours and are also thankful for the happiness that these children brought in our friends’ lives. However, we felt that in our case we had to take a different decision.
After thinking and praying about the different possibilities, we decided to leave this matter in God’s hands. I am aware that some people may not understand our decision especially when the technology that can help us lies at the tips of our fingers. However, the awareness of having been already blessed once , even when our conditions had begun to develop , continued to encourage us in making this decision. It is not always easy, and there are moments in which the pain is felt more keenly , such as when friends become pregnant with their second or third child, or when they share with us that their second or third was ‘unplanned’.
Despite this painful experience, we try to remain firm in trusting that our God is a God of surprises, a God whose plans for our lives go beyond what we plan for ourselves. We believe that despite not having the large family that we wished for, he can still fill our lives with beautiful things and extend our maternity and paternity in different ways. Our hope is that we do not get discouraged in difficult and challenging times, but remain firm in hope and in faith.
Infertility Story 4: Nadia* , From Sperm Donation To Adoption
“The gynae asked us if we wish to have sperm donated from my husband’s family”
My story with treatment for infertility goes back to the 80’s when our gynaecologist suggested that we try sperm donation. He asked us whether we would like to have someone from my husband’s family, to donate his sperm, but I immediately refused. We opted for anonymous sperm donation. The gynaecologist ascertained us that the donor was healthy and had good physical characteristics and the process started.
Both the first and the second try were unsuccessful. My husband was very supportive but a certain sadness started to accompany me as I realised that my husband wasn’t really involved in all of this even though he was always with me, while I was having the treatment. He said that he wanted to see me happy but I also knew that he was hurt because this child was not really the fruit of our love. After the third and the fourth insemination treatment, I started feeling like an “object .
Together, we decided that it would be best to stop the treatment. We started volunteering to help with children and eventually we decided to adopt a child. Today our child has grown into an adult. We have loved her just as if she was our biological daughter although were always sincere about her origins. This decision made more sense in our relationship as we could really say that this child is ours, not mine and Mr.X’s.
It was only years later after having taken our decision, when I listened to adults’ experiences conceived through sperm donation that I realised the negative effects this kind of conception can have on the person. I felt the need to ask God for forgiveness. And I truly wish that even as a society we would place the child’s best interest in the centre of these decisions.
The second and fourth story where brought to you through Save The Embryo Protection Act-Malta.
*The names in these two cases have been changed as the persons wished to remain anonymous.