We're at the end of the series on reproductive technology. I've given some background, discussed surrogacy, reviewed donor eggs and sperm, and talked about IVF. Each of these technologies has some serious ethical issues and I think it's pretty safe to say that none of them are a pro-life option.
But... what if? What if the surrogate is my sister and we use my egg and my husband's sperm? What if the sperm donor looks just like us? What if IVF is the only way we can have a child and we are as careful as we can be?
You can't go through enough mental gymnastics to make these options work in a way that's consistent with a pro-life ethic. Are there options that are better than others? Of course, it's better to have a surrogate within your own family than an impoverished and exploited woman in Ukraine. It's better to have three embryos and implant them all with IVF rather than 12 or 15 and freeze or destroy the "extras."
While some situations may be better than others, none of them are good. All of them take the wishes of the parents and put them before the well-being of the child. At the end of the day, you're going to do what you're going to do and you don't need my permission. However, I recommend that you very seriously consider taking all of the options we've discussed so far off the table. Don't even consider them. Instead, what about some of these?
The first one is the most radical. Embrace childlessness.
Easier said than done, I know. You want a child, you want a family, and perhaps you've always imagined yourself as a mother or a father. Everything around you is geared towards families with kids, people ask you awkward questions, and you just want to be normal. You want the joy of pregnancy, the little feet pattering around the house, and the tiny hands reaching up for you. You want to look into a child's face and see your own, or your mother's, or your spouse's.
But maybe, just maybe, God has something different for you.
This might seem pretty wild. But, God might have a purpose for you that is better served by you not being a parent. It's not that you would be a terrible parent or you don't deserve children, it's just that God has something else for you. Raising children is time consuming and requires a great deal of resources. By not having children, you can invest your time and resources in other areas. You may find that God has a huge opportunity for you that can only be taken because you and your spouse are childless.
Along these lines, if you already have a child or children and you want to have more but you're unable, work to find peace in your situation. Sometimes couples want a new child in a second marriage. Or, they want their family to continue to grow and they are unable. If God has given you one child, step-children, or children from a previous marriage just embrace them. Don't worry about continuing to build your family - enjoy and cherish the one you have. Instead of using time, energy, and finances striving to build a family through reproductive technology use those resources to love on the children God has already given you.
The second option is probably the most commonly suggested, adoption. I know that "just adopt" is easy to say and not easy to do. Adoption is expensive and often fraught with difficulty. You could end up adopting a child with tremendous challenges or one that is deeply affected by early childhood trauma or neglect. Often an adopted child won't look like you or your spouse, they may not have the same interests, and you may be concerned about not connecting well with them.
This is where adoption is the polar opposite of surrogacy, IVF, and the other reproductive technologies we've discussed. Adoption has nothing to do with the needs or wants of the parents and everything to do with the needs and wants of the child. Does a child want to be stuck in an endless cycle of foster homes? Does a child want to be left in a country that doesn't want them or can't care for them?
No, they don't. Adoptive parents put their own desires aside to meet the needs of the child. That's what makes adoption beautiful.
Yes, adoption is expensive and the process is lengthy. There are no guarantees, and you could give your heart to a child that ends up being taken away in the end. If God has called you to do this, He will give you the strength. And, to be fair, many of the reproductive technologies we discussed are more expensive than adoption. My recommendation? Invest your money in giving a child the home of their dreams, not in securing the child of your dreams.
This next option, the third in this post, I'm going to call "adoption adjacent." And, honestly, there isn't 100% agreement in the pro-life community that this is an ethical option. It's embryo adoption, also called snowflake adoption. As mentioned in the last blog post, there are approximately one million frozen embryos in the United States. Many of these children will never have the opportunity to grow and live unless someone adopts them. While I don't believe its ethical to create an entirely new person to satisfy the parent's needs, I believe it is ethical to give a frozen embryo (a human being that already exists) a chance at life - even if that chance is with an adoptive family.
Once a child has been created, and an embryo is a child, we must do everything we can to protect them. When dealing with an embryo, the only way they can grow and thrive is to be adopted by a mother willing to carry them to term, give birth, and raise them as their own child. This can be a great option for a young woman who wants the experience of being pregnant and giving birth but is unable to conceive on her own. It can also be a great way to rescue a child in need and start, or complete, a family.
Fourth, and finally, just because some reproductive technologies are off the table doesn't mean that you can't use modern medicine to help you. There are plenty of medications, therapies, suggestions, and other things that could help you conceive your own child. Remember, there is nothing wrong with wanting to have a biological child. Only with putting your own needs before your child's.
When going through this process be very careful that God stays at the center, not yourself or your need for a child. If you find yourself becoming obsessive or tying your sense of self worth to your reproductive capabilities, it's time to take a step back. Tell God that you're willing to follow His plan no matter what. Then, commit to doing just that. He may surprise you. He will probably take you somewhere that makes you feel uncomfortable. He will definitely challenge you.
Beauty and peace are found at the center of God's will, not through childbearing. If God has another calling for you, embrace it wholeheartedly.