IVF: Playing God or Trusting God

All I want is a baby... One to love and nurture, one to raise and hold. But everything else has failed. All the treatments and medicines have failed to make that dream a reality. Then the doctors come in with their advice... "We think in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is your best option for getting pregnant and having a child." 

But I'm a Christian and my mind starts racing.

How far is too far? Am I trying to play God? What about the "extra" embryos?

From the first time we hear the word infertility, it's normal for our minds to jump ahead to the "worst case scenarios" and start to work our way back to the current reality. I have talked with and watched many friends go through this mental exercise. They just found out they are having trouble getting pregnant and just started into the world of fertility treatments and are already trying to make a decision about something that, for most of us, isn't going to be reality for many months or years, if ever. That's how I reacted too. We hear so much now about IVF babies (which is a great thing) that as soon as the doctor utters the words "infertility" we leap to the extreme option and try to make a decision on if that is something we will run from or stand behind. But really all we do when we jump to that place in our mind is add the whole journey's worth of stress onto our shoulders of today.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
— Matthew 6:34

I reached a point in our decision making where I had to realize each decision was enough to bare on it's own. I had to take things one day, one treatment, one decision at a time and face the next decision when, and only when, we got to it. So if you are not yet at the IVF point of decision making in your own journey, please just keep your mind and heart open to all the possibilities, including IVF and adoption, and keep praying through each decision. If you are reaching that point, and IVF is on your near term horizon of options to try, I hope and pray this will help you think through your decision to come to the answer that is right for your family.

My sweet infertility sisters, those questions and fears you have found yourself facing are ones many of us face. You are not alone in working through them. My husband and I had to face these same questions during our journey. It's a topic that has repeatedly come up in conversations with friends going through their own struggle to start a family. So I want to address it. Please note that what I'm about to discuss is simply the answer my husband and I reached, through a lot of prayer. I first and foremost encourage each of you to not take our answer at the end-all, be-all. I encourage you to please prayerfully walk through your own decisions and seek God's word and peace through each step of your journey. I firmly believe that when we are in His word, the Bible, and are prayerfully seeking His will, He will not lead us astray. They are personal choices that only your family can decide with God's sovereign guidance. 

My husband and I stayed open to the idea of IVF from the very beginning and prayed through each step of the way up to and including IVF. We are certain that, for us, this was the path God intended for us to use to begin our family and bring our little girl into our lives. As we prayed through each decision, we were overcome with incredible peace about continuing down the IVF path. Sure, we were nervous about the actual procedures, the unknown, the medical stuff that lay before us, but we were completely peaceful about stepping that direction and pursuing it. IVF may or may not be the right option for your family, but I have no doubt that if you are praying through each step of this process, you'll know with certainty when you get to each point.

So what makes is so difficult, as a Christian, to pursue IVF? There are a few questions and issues that seem to come up again and again when I hear couples contemplating their choices. They are the same questions my husband and I had to wrestle with too. So let's look at some of them...

Are we trying to play God?

I get where this question comes from, but let's face it... we cannot come close to even trying to pretend to play God. God, and God alone, is the giver of life. One of my fertility doctors summed this up perfectly just after we did our last embryo transfer. Right at the end of the procedure, she asked if she could pray with us. So right there in the operating room, still laying in a gown on the table, our doctor led Rob and I in a prayer. In that prayer she thanked God for the opportunity to help couples conceive when they were facing tremendous odds, thanked God for the miracle of science and medicine that gives couples a chance they likely would never have. But she then recognized that the miracle of life still firmly resides in His hands and asked God for the miracle of life for us. (Interestingly enough, that was the IVF round that God blessed us with our little girl.)

Science is a wonderful gift from God. But science can only get you so far; it can never replace God. IVF cannot create human life without God's intervening with the miracle. Similarly, you can prescribe someone prescriptions and treatments for a debilitating disease in order to slow their decline or make them more comfortable, but only through God's sovereign power can the sick actually be healed. No doctor, prescription, or science can sustain or contain life it if isn't ordained by Him first.

I knew you before I formed you in the womb; I set you apart for me before you were born.
— Jeremiah 1:5
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
— Psalm 139:16

What about the other embryos?

It's a quite ironic twist huh... are we violating the sanctity of life in searching to create a life? It's a tough question. 

There are usually several options offered in the IVF process regarding the "extra" embryos, the ones that aren't transferred. Because we firmly believe in the sanctity of life, we made the decision right up front that we would freeze any extra embryos that made it to freezing. We were definitely opposed to donating the embryos for testing. Another option, that some might pursue is embryo donation - in which you actually donate your embryo to other couples trying to conceive. When you get to this point, educate yourself on all the options, ask a bunch of questions, talk to your doctors, and pray through each step. Again... If you are praying and feel confidently led into the IVF process, God is going to be in the details too. We wrestled with this part of the decision a good bit and finally had to step out in faith that we felt very strongly that God was leading us into this process. At some point, we had to just put some of those questions that may never have a "right answer" into His hands and simply trust Him and His guidance. In our three rounds of IVF, we never had any embryos that made it to freezing. So many have offered condolences that we don't have any "snowflake babies" waiting to be transferred, but in hindsight, that was God's hand at work in the details of our IVF. It was His provision. We never had to make the really tough decisions of what to do with the "extras" because God was involved and in His sovereignty, we never had any extras. We stepped out in faith, following His lead, and He took care of the rest.

Again, that was the answer and provision He gave us, for our journey. Yours may be different, your outcome may look different, your questions may be answered differently. But... No matter what, I have full confidence that if you are earnestly seeking His guidance through this process, He will be in the details too. God doesn't leave loose ends. He completes His work, sits back and says "It Is Good." The same God that created the heavens and the earth is the same God that will walk through the infertility journey with you and will direct each step of your path, if you allow Him.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.
— Proverbs 16:9
Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.
— Proverbs 16:3
Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.
— Proverbs 3:6

But above all else, put Him first in everything you do and every decision you make. In doing that, He will align the desires of your heart with His perfect will. With Him leading every step you take, you can confidently make the decisions that come with infertility. He will never lead you astray.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
— Psalm 37:4

If you have been through this decision making process yourself, we would love to hear how you made some of your decisions. How did you see God's hand preparing the journey for you? Please leave us a comment and let's have an encouraging discussion of some of these really tough questions.