Vie. Abr 19th, 2024

The grief of infertility can be all-consuming, but also hard to fully grasp for anyone who has blessedly never experienced it.

It is an unusual grief, a grief about lives not yet begun rather than lives that have come to an end. It often asserts itself most powerfully in moments of joy: the laugh of a toddler in a park, the smile of a mother-to-be at a baby shower. It can haunt you when you are living through it and stick with you even if the day comes when you are lucky enough to be called Mommy.

For years, I lived with that grief. Today, I am called Mommy. I am a person of faith, and I believe children are miraculous blessings. I am also of the mind that science is one way that miracles are made possible in this world. Even in the darkest of hours on my long journey to motherhood, hope existed for me and my husband in the form of in vitro fertilization.

As a result of the recent Alabama Supreme Court decision permitting would-be parents to sue for wrongful death over the negligent destruction of I.V.F.-created embryos, the hope and miracles that I was blessed to experience are at risk for families whose clinics have suspended treatments. To the extent that Alabama’s laws have now been interpreted in such a way that I.V.F. is at least temporarily unavailable, I am hopeful that policymakers in the state will take rapid action to put policies in place to protect it.

As a political pollster, I often give data-driven advice to elected leaders, warning of the consequences that could befall them if they do not carefully navigate contentious issues. While the latest debate over I.V.F. is a potential electoral land mine for Republicans, G.O.P. leaders from the House speaker, Mike Johnson, to Donald Trump have already gotten the memo — an actual memo was sent to Republican candidates — that I.V.F. is such a popular innovation that even a large portion of pro-life America finds it worthy of protection.

At the same time, you need not be a religious fundamentalist to consider the embryos produced by I.V.F. as having significant meaning, or the question of their disposition to be unbearably fraught.

I am one of those patients who has thought deeply about the tensions between the life-giving potential of I.V.F. and the complicated bioethical debates around the embryos created through that process, wrestling with the tough questions of what I might do if the process led to embryos I could not reasonably carry. I have come away a strong advocate for ensuring families can overcome the adversity of infertility and bring life into this world through this treatment if they so choose.

My husband and I met and married in our 20s. We had discussed and agreed that we would eventually like to be parents. After a few years, I told my doctor I was concerned that we hadn’t conceived yet. I remain furious at myself to this day for accepting his dismissal of my concerns. “Just relax. It’ll happen.” It did not. As so many women do, for years I blamed myself. My job is too busy. I travel too much. I’m too stressed.

When we were both 33, my husband and I decided to seek answers. It was both a blessing and a curse that our diagnosis was clear and incontrovertible. We were told that becoming pregnant would be difficult and would require surgery followed by I.V.F.

Knowing the odds were against us, we nevertheless held out hope and started treatment. After a year with nothing to show for our efforts and an ensuing pause during which we considered alternatives, suddenly a new egg retrieval gave us the incredible blessing of six embryos. The first embryo resulted in a few weeks of joy with a positive pregnancy test, but that happiness curdled when an early ultrasound revealed my pregnancy had ended in what is known as a missed miscarriage. Our remaining embryos each led to a different form of heartbreak: negative tests, early miscarriages, flickering heartbeats on ultrasounds that had gone out by the next appointment.

Compounding the pain was the fact that each time I went to an embryo transfer, I looked hopefully at the little blastocyst on the monitor and thought: I love you, and I hope to meet you soon. Whenever I would get the bad news that a pregnancy had ended, I felt powerfully that I was saying a very real goodbye.

When you are in the thick of infertility treatment, life can sometimes feel like a series of devastatingly hard choices, miserable doctor visits and earth-shattering phone calls. I simply cannot imagine what it would be like to be the hopeful Alabama parents-to-be of those embryos, hearing the news that their dreams had been shattered by an unauthorized person pulling them out of a storage freezer.

As I try to put myself in their shoes, I can easily imagine how they saw those embryos as more than mere cells in a dish suspended in their development and frozen in time. I do not for one second fault the plaintiffs for considering their embryos to be their children, awaiting their moment to be born, now irretrievably lost.

At the same time, I cannot imagine that those plaintiffs, who had built their dreams of family on this incredible technology, wanted their quest for justice to lead to the closing of this door to other families like them.

There is a reason such large numbers of conservative and pro-life Americans believe that I.V.F. is worthy of protection. In a world where so many on the right bemoan declining birthrates or the state of the American family, the ability to unlock the gift of life for those who desperately seek to bring it into this world is a powerful force for good. In just the past five years alone, the number of Americans who know someone who has undergone fertility treatment has risen significantly, so it also most likely follows that more people than ever know a child in their life who is here on this earth as a result of fertility treatment.

Years ago, I was told it would be challenging, if not impossible, for me to ever have a child. In a matter of days, I will give birth to my second daughter, a sentence that still remains incomprehensible to me. As I write this, sleeping just upstairs is my firstborn, Eliana, whose name means “God has answered.” Every time I look at her beautiful face, I am grateful for the answer to my years of prayer. I do not take a moment with her for granted. And I do not take for granted that it is only through a miracle — of faith and science in tandem — that I am called Mommy today.

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