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When I became a Christian in 1990, I had little idea how my faith would be tested. Two years on, my husband and I realised that the only way we would be able to have children was, as the blunt speaking Australian urologist told us …'adoption or donor insemination'.
It was a bolt out of the blue and we started a journey together that has stretched our emotional and spiritual foundations.
When I realised that my 'dream child' with my husband was not to be, I questioned God. How could a Creator God, a God of Love, allow this to happen? I prayed with Christian friends and debated with those who weren't Christians. My husband does not share my faith but we have a great respect for each other's perspective.
Church circles can be a challenge for those going through the pain and isolation of infertility. There are so many references to 'family' (implying children) and yet there must be a good percentage of people with a private pain or yearning and others who have come to terms with the missed opportunity for family life in its fullness.
Unlike many Christians who opt for adoption, we chose to try DI (donor insemination) as I wanted to bear our children myself. This in itself was a difficult decision.
There are so many references to 'the barren woman' or the 'childless couple' in the Bible and wonderful accounts of answer to prayer with the miraculous birth of a child (Samuel and Isaac to name but two). Donor insemination remains the subject of ethical debate. As a Christian who believes in a God of love, answered prayer and the importance of trusting Him, I had to ask myself, 'What does God think of this?' Am I leaving Him out? Am I like Abraham and Sarah taking their own path to get a child?
Yet even as I write those words, I feel a hint of shame. How could I be so indignant and conceited to think that I could have 'left God out'. The opposite is true. He has been with us through it all, good and bad, and loves us unconditionally.
Of course God knows all about it - my pain and hurt, disappointment and those darker feelings I experienced on bad days when I wanted to blame anything and anyone (including Him) for the injustice of it all.
One favourite Psalm through all this has been Psalm 139. It reminds and assures me of His infinite love and care. He knows every child conceived and His plan for each and every one. I know not just in my head but in my heart and soul that God is so good, that my children are blessed and loved.
I will never forget the sheer joy I felt as a mother when I brought my babies home after months of prayer and waiting. As I watched my son and exuberant daughter celebrating her 7th birthday with a 'Wild West' party in the garden last month, I pondered. How amazing that I have been blessed with two wonderful children. Birthdays are always a time for pondering….
Our children are healthy, confident, happy, well adjusted and very much loved. They are both conceived by DI using sperm from an anonymous donor. Unless you knew the background, you would have no idea of the testing times we have been through to have them. We know we have created a spiritual tie with the donor and we are bringing up our children to know that we created our family this way. As they grow up, we will support the children with honesty and love. If they wish to explore their genetic routes, we will support them.
I can only speak for my own situation and the decisions that we made as a couple. I'm aware that this article might prompt a variety of responses from others, who would have chosen other paths. We can never make assumptions about the diverse nature of families and the way they are composed. Neither should we assume we understand the range of feelings and beliefs about the whole issue of infertility.
We have found it helpful to be open about our diagnosis of infertility and the way we have formed our family. Otherwise a conspiracy of secrets can start to form, where these issues just never get talked about. But again, it is very much down to the people involved. It has to be a personal decision how open to be.
If I was to have my turn over again, would I embrace the journey of infertility and the path we have taken? I cannot say. However, I know God has now given me a peace within and a knowledge that He loves me. I still recall the rawness of the cold diagnosis and wonder how I would have coped if I was still watching and waiting. I do have a special concern for those still struggling with what is still a private grief.
Sometimes we mums can seem to unintentionally exclude those who are struggling with infertility. Several friends who became pregnant while we were still waiting, found it very hard to make the momentous announcement to us that they were expecting their first child. Some even put off telling us and eventually owned up to guilt about the joy of being prospective parents. They ended up almost apologising for 'being pregnant'.
As a suggestion, maybe the best thing if you know a couple are having difficulties is to break the news with less of a sense of occasion. Try not to use the phrase, 'we've got some news....' Suggestions or jokes about choices of Godparents can also seem crass at this moment. I can still recall these gut twisting moments more than ten years on.
Acknowledge that you can't possibly know what your friend is going through but make it clear that you want them to know how special they are to you. Above all, try to be honest about your feelings of awkwardness. If your friend is a close and special friend, they may still try to conceal their feelings of despair in hearing yet more good news. They will try to congratulate and celebrate with you .However recognise that they may shed tears in the privacy of their own home later.
Your friend may well be questioning and wondering why this has happened to them. If they are a Christian, they will have even more questions about the path to take regarding investigation and treatment or how to accept their situation.
We were fortunate. We had wonderful friends through the church who supported us, didn't judge us or ask if we were taking matters into our own hands. They just loved us. The most valuable thing you can offer is a patient listening ear (without suggestions or judgement) and of course, prayer and time.
DC Network. This is a UK based network for parents with children conceived with donated gametes or undergoing treatment with donor eggs or sperm and children conceived in this way. It is a secular organisation aiming to be inclusive to those of all beliefs. The Network is very supportive of families and encourages openness about this issue. The website is very informative and covers a number of aspects of this issue - looking at medical and ethical issues as well as emotional and practical concerns. It also includes a number of accounts of people's experiences in this field - whether parent, child or donor.
"Just as I am" by Susie Poole is a great book for kids based on Psalm 139. It isn't specifically about infertility or DI, but it's really good as a conversation starter on the question, "Where did I come from?". It would suit any family and would make a great present for the baptism or dedication of a new baby. It's hard to get hold of at the moment, but has recently been republished as a board book, called, "God is With Me"
Article written by Carol