On September 27th, a baby boy was born to a Catholic couple in Ohio. Why was that news? Not because their baby boy was conceived using IVF, but because the implanted embryo wasn’t theirs. It belonged to another infertile couple whose fertilized eggs were mistakenly implanted.
With all its inherent controversy, this story – which received national coverage — invited readers to stare in disbelief at the terrible collision of two families’ dreams, just as we often do at a horrific highway accident. Look at that tragedy, we were prompted to think. How devastating for the families. How heartbreaking. And then, having seen all there was to see, we were expected to accelerate past the suffering and get on with our lives.
Why not? Was there a more appropriate response?
Actually, yes. Unlike gapers who block roads for no greater purpose than to satisfy morbid curiosity, when we slow down to look carefully at this story, we learn important things about the challenge of infertility and the powerful witness of those who face it.
Infertile couples are all around us. One in every six couples of childbearing age is currently struggling with it. Because of the perceived social stigma, and society’s tabloid fascination with other people’s suffering, most of the struggle goes on silently and secretly. Infertile couples crave community to fight off isolation and compassion to offset grief, but rarely do they find it. Even at church. So, they cling to their spouses and hope that God hasn’t abandoned them.
When the Catholic couple discovered they were pregnant with another couple’s child, they faced a terrible choice: abort, or carry a stranger’s baby to term. An impossible, gut-wrenching decision no longing-to-be parent should ever have to make. What did they decide? “At the end of the day, there’s a life coming,” said Sean Savage, the surrogate-father-to-be. “Even though it’s in an unusual way, it’s still a gift.”
Despite their deep desire to have a baby, they chose to trust God’s purpose over their need. They decided to live into their faith in God’s goodness in the midst of their nightmare.
On the surface, that’s a shocking response to a head-on collision between the dream of parenting and the reality of a fertility clinic error. “Why me?!” seems much more likely. But, the struggle with infertility can be a blessing-in-disguise when it tests – and strengthens — our faith, and when it gives us an opportunity to live what we believe.
The Savages faced an impossibly difficult situation and chose to rely on grace, one day at a time, for nine painful months. According to the news coverage, they made it.
Other infertile couples can, too.
How can you help them?
First, remember that childlessness can be – but isn’t always – a choice. Even those with children sometimes struggle to conceive again. And, infertility stories are painful. So, as with a multi-car accident, get involved only if you plan to offer help. If you have nothing to offer, keep moving.
Second, encourage your local church and community leaders to provide support for infertile couples. It’s possible to educate, extend compassion and build community at virtually no expense – and with great results. Be a part of bringing blessings into the lives of those who long for them.
Third, if you know a couple struggling with infertility, remind them that they are not alone. Encourage them to talk with friends, family, counselors or other congregants. Do whatever you can to give them hope and help them heal.
That’s a much better response than just driving by.
Find more resources and cause for hope at PregnantWithHope.com
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