A man and three women share their stories of infertility and their different ways of looking at infertility treatment...
Marco Cremona – Journey from IVF to Adoption
“Our decision to adopt was very fruitful”
I met my wife when we were in our mid-thirties. After some years of living together, we decided that we wanted children. However, it transpired that there were some medical complications which although they did not absolutely preclude us from having children, indicated that it would be difficult.
With some reluctance we had a single attempt at IVF treatment, but the preliminary indications showed that the chances of success were close to nil so we stopped the process and didn’t follow it to completion. We subsequently looked at adoption as a means of becoming parents.
Our decision to adopt was a very fruitful and positive one, even though the adoption process is 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 biological children.
I know that for them (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 in ways they understand about their origins. Should, at a later stage, they feel the need to investigate their origins we will help them in whatever way we can, though unfortunately, in their case, the chances of success are very small.
Clearly our decision to abandon IVF meant that we had given up on having our own biological children. This isn’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 our needs.
2. Anita Zerafa – From Infertility to A Natural Birth
“My fallopian tubes were closed”
I perfectly know what wanting a child means. Nine years ago, all the 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. How? The doctor couldn’t explain. Yet after six months I miscarried due to a placenta abruption. She was born alive and died in my hands. I had to give it to the medical staff for an autopsy who gave it to me a month later for burial.
When we discuss embryo freezing my mind goes to that terrible month during which my daughter was put in a jar with liquid. I couldn’t bare see her there even though she was dead, let alone putting my own embryos in the freezer alive!
Truly, I never fancied the idea of IVF - I feel the IVF process makes the embryo look like a product rather than a dignified pre-born child; when I realise that the embryo is really a preborn baby, when I thought of the possibility of an embryo dying at thawing stage, I could not consider IVF.
Despite what the doctors said, today I have been blessed with two children.
3. Melanie* - The “number 2” who never came... still waiting
“We have a combination of male and female infertility”
On picking up my son from school, I frequently encountered mothers who discussed their view that they are happy at having ‘one’ and being ‘done’ as regards kids. I would remain silent, since it was not the case with me.
The shock came when we discovered that both my husband and I had problems and we had a combination of male and female factor infertility. With male factor infertility, all the treatment options that work for women are futile and even the ‘normal’ IVF treatment is not effective. The only option was ICSI treatment which is IVF by means of 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 a child does not automatically mean that conceiving the second one would be a walk in the park.
Another thing which hurt us 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 wished 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 also offered free of charge 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 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 were already developing – continued to encourage us in making this decision. This is not always easy – and there are moments in which the pain is felt more sorely – such as when our friends get pregnant with their second or third child or when they share with us that their second or third was ‘unplanned’.
Despite this, 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 to have, 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 that we remain firm in hope and in faith.
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 goes back to the 80s when our gynaecologist suggested that we try sperm donation. He asked whether we wish to have someone donate his sperm from my husband’s family, but I immediately refused. We opted for anonymous sperm donation. The gynaecologist ascertained us that this person was healthy and had good 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 this even though he was always with me when having treatment. He told me that he wished to see me happy but I knew that he was also hurt because this child was not really the fruit of our love. I tried 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 process. We started volunteering with children and eventually we decided to adopt. Today our child has grown into an adult. We have loved her as if she was ours and 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 also later 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. I truly wish that also a society with keep putting the child’s best interest in the centre of these decisions.
May these stories be of support to others going through similar experiences and increase our love towards children whatever their way of origin. Thank you to the mothers of Save The Embryo Protection Act-Malta for their support in getting these experiences of infertility.
*Names in these two cases have been changed as the persons wished to remain anonymous.
Published: May 2018