Monday, June 30, 2008

Mama Bear

I think I've had my first Mama Bear instincts this week. This post will probably be very rambling, so be warned! =)

It started last week with some google alerts and yahoo group posts termed "Embryo Adoption." The links and discussions took me to various places around the web, where various discussions about embryos and their placement were taking place. But in all of the cases, what was being discussed was embryo donation or worse, embryo sale! It made me so frustrated. It made me realize how protective I am over true Embryo Adoption and our little babies.

It made me angry that they were lumped in to the same category as black market body parts for sale, and anonymous bank donations. We made the choice to do an actual adoption and make the sacrifices required therein, because of our love for our children and our desire to do right by them. In our world view, this way was the only way to go. I understand that others make different choices, but it should be discussed and named differently because it is different.

I am part of a self-enrolled blog roll of IF women. I had been categorized as "Donor Egg/Sperm/Embryo." I wrote to the list owner and asked to be moved to the Adoption roll and she wouldn't place me there. But in every functional sense, this IS an adoption. I won't apologize for or downplay that.

Now both of these things are pretty minor. But I feel like it takes away from the honor we're trying to give our children when we're lumped in to some anonymous process. I want our children to know that they were wanted and loved and sacrificed for before we ever knew them. I want the dignity of this process protected by refusing to mingle it with anonymous donation and with people who sell their children, both of whom I've seen claim the same term of "adoption." I want to insist that they call their processes by their own names. Better--I wish that this was the only way to transfer embryos but I digress.

Then I finally got up the nerve to listen to my Pastor's Mother's Day Message. I'm so glad I didn't stay in the service that day. His message was on Moses. He came to a point in the message where he said that because of Moses' first 5 years with his birth mother, he knew he was a Hebrew. He praised Moses' mother for risking her life to keep Moses safe.

Then he said "Moms, we just stand in awe of you, what God has done and is doing in you and through you for the purpose of giving children a powerful powerful excellent foundation in their life."

Then he transitioned to a story about his own daughter, pregnant with twins and he related this: (transcribed word for word)

"[Daughter's name] there's nobody else in the world, no one in the world, who can do what you have been called to do. No one else in the world can take these babies and give them what you're giving them. And that's true of every mother, every mother who conceives a child--there's no one else the world who can replace you in that process."

That really hit me. I love my pastor dearly. I know him to be a sincere, godly man who has expressed his support for what we're doing. But I almost felt like his words betrayed a certain bias and it struck me that the bias is probably fairly common and our children will probably encounter that their whole lives. And it made me mad for them.

True. I am not involved in the children's conception. So in the very technical sense, I cannot be that person. But I will be their mother. DH will be their father. We will be the ones who provide that "powerful powerful excellent foundation in their life." Meaning no disrespect to genetic and birth parents everywhere, we will be the ones they spend their days with, who tuck them in to bed at night, who take them to school and soccer practice, who provide those "first 5 years" (and more!) and who teach them the ways of the Lord. The same can be said of adoptive families everywhere. I don't really see what biology has to do with any of the true elements of parenting. To be clear-I don't trivialize the roll of birth or genetic parents at all. But I do wish that ours wasn't minimized simply because we lack a certain biological component and it's my fear that general populous bias DOES participate in that, at least subconsciously.

The mama-bear in me was animated as I pictured people pitying our children. Thinking they missed out on something. Thinking they have a second-best existence and second-best parents, and that they are our second-best children. I want to scream that we're doing everything we can to give them the best of everything! And they should feel loved because of that-not ashamed or as though or offerings were mere concessions to make up for shortcomings of biology. I never want them to feel like they're missing out on something. I want everything for them and I want them to KNOW that we want everything for them.

Thoughts like these always make me try to remember what I though in my pre-adoption days. I honestly can't remember (another testament to God--He has filled our hearts so full of this that it's hard to remember a time when they weren't), but it does make me want to get inside people's heads and learn what they're really thinking. It impassions me for adoption advocacy. And that's good, I think.

Speaking of (how's that for a transition?), I really want to become more active in infertility, adoption and embryo adoption awareness and advocacy. I'd love to read and speak, presuming of course that anyone wanted to hear what I have to say. But I don't really know where to start. Am I totally out in left field with this idea? It's a little nerve wracking and feels a little egotistical to think that what you have to say is novel and important enough that others should listen. And it's not even that I think that about me. I just know that I have a heart for these issues and I want, for the issues' sakes, to see their messages furthered and I think that I am willing to do it and at least have a modest talent for it. Any thoughts?

This week is important in terms of checklist steps. Theoretically, our homestudy is being sent in to the court today. I really really hope it goes in this week and I really hope the court's calendar moves quickly! Tomorrow we go to the doctor to talk about all those tests and hopefully he can do them at the same time. On Wednesday, we meet the genetic parents. On Thursday, I go to my OB for a few more tests. So it will be a busy week!

Gotta scoot for now! I hope you all are well!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to my Sweetie-Pie!

5 Years ago I married the love of my life and haven't looked back since. It's been amazing to spend all of this decade (we became a couple in 2000) loving him and being loved by him. Our life and our love is already whole and complete now. I can't wait to see how God in His infinite wisdom and grace expands that to be more whole and more complete. Happy Anniversary, my Love.

We're spending the day just hanging out. We're going to dinner tonight-a treat from our grandparents and my parents, and then on to dessert at the Melting Pot-yum!

It's funny...when we were getting engaged and thinking about family and working through premarital counseling, we said we wanted to wait 3 to 5 years before having children. That desire changed and timeline shortened once we were married but now here we are, exactly 5 years in, about to embark in to a whole new world. We are grateful that we have had this time of friendship, camaraderie, and adventure to build our relationship before the dynamic changed. A selfish part of me will miss having him all to myself! But lucky our kids will be to have him for a dad!

Happy Anniversary too, to Joe and Diana, who quite "coincidentally" were married the same day and year as us, a few hours later and less than 100 miles away from us!

And Happy Birthday to Amanda! I hope you are celebrated today for all the things you are and rolls you fill, including but not limited to new mommy!

Hey at least you all had the courtesy to choose a date easy for me to remember ;) Love you, friends!

Like the new blog look? It's courtesy of Lena (save a few tweaks to shrink the header size) and her free blog templates. I have several blog buddies whose blogs I always thought were lovely. One day I found Lena's blog and found that all that lovely work was done by the same talented person! Thanks Lena, for sharing your talent with us!

I've also got a new picture. I cut, colored and highlighted my hair today. It's something I've always wanted to do but was never brave enough to do (yes, I am in fact a chicken about EVERYTHING). I did mild highlights twice back in college when the hair place I used to work for did them for free, and then I've used a drugstore box of color a time or 12, but I've never had anything like this done. I LOVE the base color. I'm not so wild about the highlights--these particular ones are a little Jennifer Aniston of 1995ish...but I like the rest of it. I really wanted to do it so I didn't look like I had a fried out mess on my head when we have our match meeting next week. My own natural color always turns a nasty shade of brassy at the ends so I feel much more well kept with it all under control. They probably won't care, but I feel much more presentable! I cut off the top of my head in this picture, but 8 gazzillion tries at a self portrait with no tripod or remote later, this is what I came up with.

That's all for now! Bed is calling, which it's allowed to do at 2:30 am!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More pictures!

More shameless indulging in pictures...

I got mom's a-ok to post these. I know several of my blog buddies are photographers and more are mommies so I'm posting these in the hopes of begging your constructive criticisms (as either photographers with technical know-how or mommies with mommy-insight) so I can do better next time. Anyone else is welcome to give feedback too. I'd appreciate it and hopefully BFF will too! We're going to try another day for some sleeping shots. But he was very alert and awake yesterday! pictures below....

These are the same-I just couldn't decide if I liked color or black and white better

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Cutest little feet pic.tures posted below....

I've resisted posting a picture of our godson out of respect for BFFs' privacy. Today I went over to take his one month old pictures! I figured I could post these since you can't see his face. They're two of my favorites from the day. Aren't they the cutest little feet you ever did see?

Another Milestone!

I got the letter from my doctor that Nightlight needs in order to allow us to proceed. I knew my doctor had told us at the last meeting that he didn't foresee any problems with me carrying a pregnancy, but I was still nervous when I called that some phantom concern would have developed between now and when I last saw him. Suffice it to say, I was really excited when the letter showed up.

It's short and to the point but that's how my doctor rolls. The sentence in red (my edit) is what matters! It constantly amazes me that between both DH and I, the only part that works just fine is my "oven," which is "all" we need for this joy of Embryo Adoption. He burdened our hearts for it and fashioned our bodies for it...that constantly amazes me.

I also talked to our Social Worker today. She said she expects to mail off our report on Friday or Monday. Shortly thereafter, BFF and C both contacted me to say that our worker had done her follow up phone interviews with them this morning. She needs one more to go with the report to the court, so it seems that's nearing the end too. And I'm glad I'd forgotten all about that part of the process--recommendations always make me nervous!

In other news, congratulations to William and Glenna, who I mentioned last week. Their little one, Isaiah, has finally arrived in to their arms!

Happiest congratulations also go to Elaine, who received a positive pregnancy test!

Congratulations, friends!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Feeling a little (ok, a lot!) overwhelmed!

I'm not a person who does well with overwhelmedness. It makes me feel very panicky and nervous.

DH and I have not treated with an RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist-basically a fertility specialist). Because we're pretty conservative on what we will and won't consider in terms of artificial reproduction assistance, we never saw the need to see an RE because my OB could do everything we were willing to try. Then when his tests revealed DH's problem, we went to a specialist (the best in the state) for that. But his next steps would have been to send us to an RE too, to do procedures we weren't comfortable with, we basically drew our line in the sand there.

Most people when doing something like a Frozen Embryo Transfer do it with an RE with whom they have an established relationship, so they just call him up and he schedules all the tests and procedures.

We don't have one so we needed to find an RE specifically for the actual transfer, because an OB doesn't do that. But I've only met this doctor once. So I called his office today to see what the next step is. They schedule far out so I figured I could get on the calender. The next step is do a ton of blood work, tests and screenings on both DH and I. He CAN do them or we can have our Primary Care Physician do them. We chose this route because coming from a PCP, they should be covered by our insurance. They're the same tests and should be covered no matter who orders them but we're afraid insurance might freak out if they see a clinic's name on the orders so we're going through our PCP.

So, she proceeds to recite to me all of the tests I need to ask the doctor to order. There are 21 of them for me and an additional 6 for DH.

We'll do 2 of them with my OB because of the nature of the sample's retrieval. So first I had to call and explain to my OB's scheduler, whom I have never met (she's new) and who has no clue about Embryo Adoption or even FET about why I needed to come in for STD screening (joy!).

Then I needed to call our PCP and explain to HIS scheduler why we needed to see him. "Why do you need to see him?" "So that we can ask him to order labs." "How do you know you need them?" "Because another doctor said so." "Why didn't he order them then?" aye yai yai. I think in the end it boiled down to "ok, whatever you say lady-see you next week." So we meet with him to ask him if he can put in orders at the lab to do these 25 other tests. Joy!

I'm just a little overwhelmed. I'm stressed that I'm going to do something in the wrong order or that someone will miss one and we'll have to go back anyway, opening us up for financial risk and extra cost, etc, etc. I'd love it if we lived in California where we could do everything non-medical through Nightlight, and if we had an existing RE and IF insurance coverage where we could do everything else through them. This coordinating everything through so many different agencies is making my head spin.

I'm totally willing to do it. I'm just afraid I'll make a major mistake! I guess it's a feeling I should get used to as we embark on parenting anyway, right? ;)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Baking Tally for the Day

Our house smells sooooo good.

The tally for the day:

5 mini loaves of Banana-Walnut Bread
5 mini loaves of Strawberry-Blueberry Bread
5 mini loaves of Strawberry-Pineapple-Walnut Bread
1 regular sized loaf of Strawberry-Pineapple-Walnut Bread
1 Berry Chocolate Pie (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries! Yum!)

Still to come:
Blueberry Muffins
Strawberry Bread
Grape Muffins (recipe Hattip for these last two-Kristin)

I'd never had (or even heard of!) berry breads (not to be confused with their step-cousin, the fruit cake) but they're just so light and refreshing for summer and are a beautiful compliment to their spicier, perfect-for-fall counterparts like banana, zucchini and pumpkin breads. Plus, I found some low fat substitutions for all of them (fresh fruit instead of sugary canned, all natural applesauce instead of oil, wheat flour instead of white, and an all natural sugar substitute) so they're not even terribly diet-offensive.

Everything except the pie, blueberry muffins (my favorite!) and one loaf of bread is for the church, which is good, because we'd probably gobble it all up if we could!

Anyone want to come over for some coffee and goodies?

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Tickers

I guess I'm Ticker Happy Today :)

I removed this one because it expired (yay!). But it's still cool to count up, so, for posterity...

And then the new ones...

Lots of big news! We're meeting S&B (the genetic parents) on July 2. I don't think we'll have an answer on the match that day but I think both couples will have a strong impression on whether or not this will go or not and I think that will give us enough to know what the next step is (either way).

We're going to Hawaii in August! We were able to sell our frequent flyer tickets from another airline and buy Hawaii tickets...for a difference of 24 cents! We did end up paying hefty fees to change the flights because of DH's job (note: do not EVER book on Hawaiian airlines unless you're 200% positive that you won't change ANYTHING about your ticktes--I guess I got spoiled working with Southwest) so the fees were frustrating but we're still paying less than we would to buy tickets to anywhere farther from here than Norther California. My college roommate is stationed there and has invited us to stay with her and is even insisting on taxi-ing us around. So when else do you get the chance to go to Hawaii with free (or almost in our case) airline tickets and free lodging and free transportation? And since the government is paying the rest (we "stimulated" our vacation savings account with our check as reward for completing our adoption savings), I'd say this will be the least expensive vacation we'll ever take! And in Hawaii no less! So we're trying to map out the activities we'll do. We're excited to see it through the eyes of a local. Though we want to do SOME of the touristy things, we'd much prefer exploring all the natural (and free!) beauty Hawaii has to offer and she knows all the hot spots.

We're looking forward to it as a 5 year anniversary celebration, and as a sort of "Baby Moon" because hopefully there aren't many child-free trips left in our future!

There's not much else new around here. I'm sure it interests you greatly to know that I saved 49.5% in coupons and sales on my grocery bill yesterday? DH and I have sort of a competition with ourselves to see how high we can get the savings by being discriminating and predatory in our shopping. Our record for a "regular" grocery trip (ie not just buying 1 item on special) is 52%. So I came close. It took me about 5 hours to do the work of reading the ads, planning my trip, cutting coupons, organizing my list, shopping, unloading and putting things away, so DH figured I made about $30 an hour if you factor in the amount of money we would have had to make to clear the same dollar amount after taxes...not bad! :)

Today I'll be a baking fool! I have all sorts of summer berries on hand and I'll be making breads for the church visitor's outreach and our small group on Sunday. We're taking it easy this weekend. We had company last weekend which was really fun but we were out and and about a lot so we didn't get a lot of time to decompress and debrief after the homestudy.

I'm sure you're riveted on the mundane details of our life, but I must sign off now and get to work! Hope you all have a great day!

PS: Happy Birthday to Hannah, the first Snowflake!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It's Off

We mailed off our application to Nightlight today! We didn't mail it off at the beginning of the process because we can't really go any farther until the Homestudy is certified. So they will still just sit on it a little while longer but we're still excited to join them. One thing it will get us is access to a group of other Snowflake parents--I'm really excited about that!

I worked until late last night to get caught up on my business orders. I wanted to free myself up so I could go spend time with BFF and Godson and help her as she needs it. Can you believe he turns a month old this weekend?

Anyway, that's all that's new here. Gotta scoot--still have a few more things to do before I'm free :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Homestudy Update

Beware-there are two very long posts below them! After a time-imposed blogging drought, I had a lot to say :)

But here is the update on the Homestudy Visit.

The visit went very well. We went to bed relatively early last night and took a leisurely pace this morning. Our home has never been this clean! She came and took a surprisingly fast tour and then we sat in the living room answering a few outstanding questions she had and going through Nightlight's required questions. Everything went flawlessly (so far as we know).

What happens now is that our social worker will write up her report (20 pages!) and send it along with our references, medical information, fingerprints, etc, off to the court. She said she expects to have it ready to send off by the end of this month. Then the court takes 3-6 weeks to review everything, and, Lord willing, accept it and certify us. Once we're certified, our social worker here sends it to Nightlight. Then we're considered eligible by Nightlight for a match and we wait. If the potential match on the table is a go, we could proceed at that point (provided everything was already agreed upon and such). If that match is not a go, we would enter their regular match process and wait for a family whose desires are similar to our own.

So that's it! We've done all we can do and now we just wait! It feels really good to be done!

My friend Henrietta from Sweden arrives in the morning (and it's already really late) so I have to scoot in order to be up early enough to pick her up at the airport. I'm really excited about her visit!

If you couldn't see the John Piper video, here is the link to it on youtube. I hope it works for you!

Hope you all are well!

Embryo Adoption FAQ

We encourage our friends and family (and strangers, politely), to ask us questions about Embryo Adoption. We love to share any answers that we have, and research those we don't. Here is an FAQ of the questions we are commonly asked. Please feel free to ask us any that you have! No question is too "stupid" and so long as it's respectful and doesn't violate the privacy or honor of our family or the genetic parents, nothing is off-limits, so ask away!

In no particular order:

Q: Are these embryos created for you?
A: No. These are not "made to order." These embryos were created at the impetus of and for the transfer by their original genetic parents. We only enter in to the picture when the genetic parents find themselves unable or unwilling to transfer additional embryos, yet still having some left in storage.

Q: Will you know the gender of the embryos?
A: Nope! Not until 18-20 weeks in to a pregnancy like everyone else :) At the stage of transfer to my uterus, they're simply too small and have not yet developed sex organs.

Q: How many embryos will you have?
A: That depends on how many the family we are matched with has. Nightlight guarantees 6, so if we are matched with a family that has fewer than that, we will actually be matched with multiple families.

Q: Will you meet the genetic parents?
A: Again, that depends on the genetic parents. In the typical Nightlight process, you don't meet, at least not up front. You may choose to meet later on after birth as the child is growing up. We're not opposed to a pre-match meeting, and would agree to it if matched with a family that required it, but it's not one of our non-negotiables that we do (or don't) meet them.

Q: Will you have contact with the genetic parents?
A: Yes. One of our non-negotiables is that we at least know their complete names, contact information, medical history and cultural/racial history if known. We also require permission to give names and contact info to the children when the children are of age, if they have not thus far been in contact. We are required by Nightlight to send updates on the children to the agency so that the Genetic Parents can retrieve them if they so desire. Whether we have contact beyond all that will really depend on the individual dynamics of the match and what both parties want. We want some email contact, at the very least. We think it would be in our children's best interest to at least have some semblance of contact with or knowledge of their genetic parents.

Q: If still have more embryos after a successful transfer, pregnancy and birth, what happens to them?
A: Those embryos remain "ours" (though all children are just on loan to us from God). One thing that we actually love about Embryo Adoption is that our children will have a realistic possibility of having genetic siblings. Most recently created embryos are frozen in 1s, 2s or 3s. We're guaranteed 6 through Nightlight. We would only thaw 2 or 3 at a time, depending on how they were frozen. We'd wait for them to thaw, and then transfer the ones that survived. If we get pregnant, the other 3 or 4 embryos would remain frozen until we were ready to have another child. If none of the first batch survived the thaw or implanted, we could thaw more within a few cycles of the first. If all of the embryos die with no successful pregnancies, we would be matched with another family. If in any case we were left with embryos we could not carry, we would transfer them back to the care of their genetic parents, who at that point would likely find another adoptive couple for them.

Q: Is there a possibility for multiples?
A: Yes. Currently, the frequency of multiple live births in our program is 28%. If the currently pregnant women in the program all give live birth to their multiples, the rate will increase to 31%. (My hubby did all this math--ask him if you have questions). Hubster likes to point out that twins run in his family. =). Twins or triplets would be fraternal. They would be twins or triplets insofar as they would implant and be born at the same time, but they would be two (or three) separate embryos from the get-go (as opposed to one embryo that splits).

Q: How many embryos would you transfer at one time?
A: This depends somewhat on how the embryos were frozen to begin with because you must thaw all frozen in a batch. We would not transfer more than three at a time, but ideally, we would transfer only two at a time because even if both took, a twin pregnancy can be relatively safe. We would not transfer more than 3 at a time because of the risk posed to both me and the children by high-multiple pregnancies.

Q: Could you end up like and Ka.te plus 8? (we actually get this a lot!)
A: Very unlikely. We might end up with 8 children, but not all at once (or in their case, 6 at once). I don't know their story at all. I don't know if they did IVF or Clomid or whatever. I've never seen their show--I've only heard about it several times through our process. For us to end up with sextuplets, we'd have to transfer 3 embryos and have all 3 of those embryos split in to two once en utero. That's very very very unlikely, statistically speaking, even if these were naturally conceived children. And since we'd never transfer 6 embryos at once, we wouldn't get there that way, either.

That's all I can remember. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Editorial: The Vatican to Consider taking a Position on Embryo Adoption

I've long since resisted commenting on the Vatican's Treatment (or lack thereof) of Embryo Adoption, knowing that some of my readers are Catholic, that some are IVFers, and that some are Catholic IVFers. In response to recent news I would like to post as an advocate of EA, with the caveat that I will treat it as sensitively as I can. While I am not a Catholic and we decided against IVF, I respect those who made different choices for their families and hope that I can communicate that, while maintaining my own convictions.

The Vatican, to date, has no official position on Embryo Adoption. I would post a link accordingly, but the Vatican's search engine is down. They have resisted taking a position largely due to conflicting debates among Catholic Bioethicists and Vatican Advisers.

However, the National Catholic Reporter reports that the Vatican Council may make a ruling this weekend. I will be so bold as to proclaim that I hope they take the right position, myself believing that under current conditions there is only one correct position.

Let's deconstruct the arguments of the the top objectors.

First, the Vatican's official position on human life reads:
The human being must be respected - as a person - from the very first instant of his existence...Thus the fruit of human generation, from the first moment of its existence, that is to say from the moment the zygote has formed, demands the unconditional respect that is morally due to the human being in his bodily and spiritual totality. The human being is to be respected and treated as a person from the moment of conception; and therefore from that same moment his rights as a person must be recognized, among which in the first place is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life. ...Since the embryo must be treated as a person, it must also be defended in its integrity, tended and cared for, to the extent possible, in the same way as any other human being as far as medical assistance is concerned.

That position alone is enough to determine what their next logical step MUST be.

The Catholic Church denounces both IVF and Surrogacy, teaching that both violate the sanctity of the marriage relationship by introducing another party for procreation, that such creation violates the dignity of the life of the newly formed person, in the case of surrogacy that it violates the child's right to be born to its own genetic, married mother and father, and that any artificial creation of life removes the power to give and take life away from God.

Springboarding off of this teaching and course of thought is where the objections to Embryo Adoption are based.

Father Tad Pacholczyk, a leading Catholic Bioethicist and adviser to the Vatican, takes a negative position on Embryo Adoption. He says "my own opinion is that it is not moral to do this" (source). Summarizing an oral debate in which Fr. Tad argued the negative, the National Catholic Reporter reported:
Pacholczyk argued that the implantation of an embryo is an intrinsically evil act, because it separates aspects of procreation that should remain united. Procreation, understood as "collaboration between husband, wife and almighty God," he argued, extends from fertilization through conjugal relations to birth, and to skip one of those stages means instrumentalizing the process.

It also results, he said, in a "fissure in parenthood," since "spouses have an exclusive right to become mother and father solely through each other."

"One should not become a parent through any means other than one's spouse," Pacholczyk said. He also argued that since fathers are incidental to the process of embryo adoption, fatherhood "is gravely and intrinsically violated.

As a pseudo-Catholic on matters of the right to life (I find myself far more conservative and active than my own church tradition's action on the issue), I generally have great respect for Fr. Tad and I'm perhaps one of the few Protestants who is familiar with him. However, his general position befuddles me. I have read a much more extensive document on his position, but now after an hour of googling find myself completely unable to locate it again so I will react only to what I can find in print.

My first reaction to Father Tad is that even if everything he says is true, his position does nothing to answer the question of what to do with the embryos (precious human lives) already in existence, regardless of how they came to be, and as such, his position is insufficient.

Additionally, I do wonder about the logical consistency of this argument with the Catholic teaching (an argument with which I agree) that abortion is immoral under all circumstances, including rape. In that case, a woman is impregnated (though not willingly) by a man other than her husband, and the Church would have her carry that child to term and birth it. Father Tad's distinction may be in the complicity of the conception on the part of the mother, but as stated, his argument is full of holes.

Less far-fetched in frequency are children conceived through willing intercourse outside the bonds of marriage. Again, the church would advocate that said child be carried to term and birthed. To be clear, Embryo Adoption is not at all to be likened to a child conceived from rape or even out of wedlock. I introduce the comparison as far as both one of those situations and IVF/EA pertain to a child conceived outside the traditional marital relationship. The church protects one child. It ought to protect the other.

His response as cited elsewhere is, "Today we put preemies into very sophisticated incubators. It’s conceivable that one could do that for an embryo as well." (source). I fail to see how this solution honors the dignity of the life of the embryo more than a womb does and moreover, it still does nothing to preserve the lives already created, who wait in peril for the creation of said "sophisticated incubator."

Furthermore, Father Tad's position seems to contradict his own position on the fundamental worth of the embryo.
The moral teaching of the Church is that the human embryo must be treated as if it were already ensouled, even if it might not yet be so. It must be treated as if it were a person from the moment of conception, even if there exists the theoretical possibility that it might not yet be so...Human embryos are already beings that are human (not zebra or plant), and are, in fact, the newest and most recent additions to the human family. They are integral beings structured for matu ration along their proper time line. Any destructive action against them as they move along the continuum of their development disrupts the entire future time line of that person. In other words, the embryo exists a whole, living member of the human species, and when destroyed, that particular individual has perished. Every human embryo, thus, is unique and sacrosanct."

Condemning these "newest and most recent additions to the human family" to a life (or rather non-life) of indefinite freezing destroys them, thereby violating Fr. Tad's own injunction against such behavior.

Msgr. William Smith, a professor at St. Joseph's Seminary, likens Embryo Adoption to "high-tech surrogacy," declaring it thus immoral. What Msgr. Smith fails to recognize is the distinction that in Embryo Adoption, the mother intends to parent the child. The Vatican even defines a surrogate as
"the woman who carries in pregnancy an embryo implanted in her uterus and who is genetically a stranger to the embryo because it has been obtained through the union of the gametes of "donors". She carries the pregnancy with a pledge to surrender the baby once it is born to the party who commissioned or made the agreement for the pregnancy." (source).

As the Pregnancy Carrying Parents do not surrender the child and in fact parent it, the process is clearly different from surrogacy.

Msgr. Smith takes an even more grave position when he says,
"There is no moral way to implant a frozen embryo into a woman's womb and therefore, unfortunately, the embryos must be allowed to expire naturally in their unnatural state." (source)

Msgr. Smith's qualification of his condemnation of "unfortunately" hardly makes his position any less evil.

Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, lead of the medical-ethics department at St. Vincents Medical Center in New York, agrees when he says that pregnancy resulting from something other than intercourse with her husband:
"creates a situation in which there is in a sense a third biological parent, the 'adopting' mother. This introduces new complications and unfamiliar familial relationships which are in and of themselves problematic."
He agrees that allowing the embryos to die frozen is the only moral response. He writes "They will die as natural a death as possible given the unnatural course of their lives. (source)

Again, one could extend Msgr. Smith and Dr. Sulmasy's arguments to call for the expulsion of children resulting from any "unnatural" state or relation, including rape, incest, extra marital affairs and technology assists. The position is morally reprehensible and unsupportable. On matters of high tech procreation, the scriptures might be vague. On the issue of the value of human life (and the logical extension that we therefore must protect it), there is no obscurity. Additionally, difficulty (as he suggests exists in the relationships) is not justification for sin (in this case, inaction).

Another objection is the argument that the existence of Embryo Adoption could encourage or legitimize IVF. Bishop Elio Sgreccia, Vice President of the Pontifical Academy for Life said "The idea of a systematic organization of prenatal adoption of frozen embryos would, in fact, end up by legitimizing the practice which is substantially at the root of the whole problem." source quoting "The London Tablet" August 10, 1996 (original article not available online).

It may be true that a small majority of couples who otherwise wouldn't, decide to pursue IVF because they know about Embryo Adoption. However, even if you eliminated all those people from the equation, the fact remains that thousands of people go through IVF without reservation and a system must therefore exist to save the children who result from the process. We cannot allow innocent children who already exist to perish because we think their parents should have behaved differently at a previous time to which we cannot revert. The simple fact remains that they're here now, and deserve a chance at life. Their genetic parents will answer to God (positively or negatively depending on your opinion) for their actions in creating them but that does not excuse us from pro-action on their behalf in the meantime. A better response would be to regulate the amount of embryos created and to require immediate fresh transfer of all created embryos. But until or unless we arrive to that point, we must be equipped to save these innocent lives from a system that has failed them.

Just as premarital sex and extramarital sex, are denounced by the church and yet produce children whose lives the church would protect, the church should oppose the destruction of these artificially created children, regardless of their opinion on the original method of creation.

The most curious argument I've heard is the notion that in Embryo Adoption, the woman separates herself from her husband, and herself from her own womb, thereby allowing herself to be used. Brian Caufield, writer for Human Life Review, writes

to separate this inherent capacity [to become pregnant] from the intimacy of conjugal relations goes too far. It not only separates a wife from her husband, by interposing another impregnating party; it separates a woman from herself if she uses her womb merely as an instrument for the good end of saving a life. (source)

Bishop Sgreccia says:
The idea of [embryo] adoption, per se, has an end which is good. Theologians say it is licit, but there is an extremely high rate of failure. It seems that out of 100 attempts to implant, only three or four would work. We know this because of experiments on animals. About 90 percent don't work because when you unfreeze an embryo, it dies. Or it won't implant itself.

Even if it does work, there are no guarantees that the child won't have serious handicaps. The risk of handicap increases the longer an embryo is frozen: one or two years or five years.

Can we really counsel women to do this? It would mean counseling heroism. Many attempts would fail. Also, you would have to do it at certain periods of the month when the uterus is ready. And if the baby is born handicapped, she must still take care of it, because it would be cruel to abort it.

The issue is one big question mark. The point is, we should never have gone down this road to begin with. It is full of problems. (source)
To begin with, the mention of the risk for special needs again proses a logical breakdown with other high-risk cases where the church would call for full-term pregnancy and delivery.

Furthermore, as an Embryo Adoption mom-to-be, I fail to see how I could be instrumentalized against my will. If I am whole-heartedly and with the full consent of my husband, submitting my body and we our marriage to this process, we can hardly be called separated instruments. We have carefully considered the risks and sacrifices involved in Embryo Adoption. However, neither are reason enough to refrain from doing the right thing, in this case, answering God's call and blessing to grow our family and our hearts while also saving children in need.

There are many Catholic theologians who do support Embryo Adoption, among my favorite being Dr. William May, professor of moral theology at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and family. He argues that adoption is about providing a proper home for a child, and the only proper home for an embryo is a womb.(source).

His former student, Geoffrey Surtees, separates embryo adoption from procreation entirely (and therefore the Church's mandates on it) arguing that procreation took place during the already-completed IVF, and concluding
Respectfully disagreeing with Msgr. Smith's opinion on this matter, it appears evident, upon consideration of the many details, that a married couple who steps forth to rescue a frozen embryo through adoption is acting in and with the mind of the Church; indeed, as far as reason and faith are concerned, there seems nothing illicit about such an action. On the contrary: "To rescue and adopt this unborn and raise the child," as the original question stated, is nothing less than an extraordinary work of mercy. It reveals both a profound respect for the sanctity of human life and the powerful witness of love; a witness our culture of death so desperately needs to behold. (source)
I appreciate both of these gentlemens' sentiments. However, I would like to insist that we are not martyrs or heroes. Yes, what we're doing is a sacrifice. But our children are not a project or a cause or a political statement. As much as I believe that saving their lives is the right thing to do both conceptually and specifically, we are no less than completely committed to them as our children wholly loved for that reason alone. We at most consider ourselves obedient and blessed for this opportunity to become parents.

It is my prayer that as brilliant minds and faithful servants discuss this issue this weekend, that the Church would come to the conclusion that despite valid and legitimate objections to their origin, these children do exist and therefore are endowed with a right to life and deserving of our advocacy, protection and service.

Monday, June 9, 2008

A neat video: Adoption is Greater than the Universe

John Piper rocks. That is all.


A Quick Update and An Apology

Hi friends,

I wanted to let you know that I'm really behind on emails. Several of you have sent me really sweet notes and I just haven't been able to have an opportunity to send a thoughtful response (hence the decreased blogging, too). Please forgive my delay! I have appreciated all of your emails!

Hope you all are well! Gotta scoot. The to-do list grows ever longer!

PS: Keep Glenna in your prayers because It looks like birth mom could be going in to labor shortly. Also, pray for Farrah, whose water broke this morning! Come quickly and safely little ones!

PSS: I just read an update about the family who wrote the book I reviewed previously. They now have 12 children, 9 of whom were adopted!

PPSS: Blogger has a new feature. You can add blog links in a list and blogger will automatically post them in most recently updated order. Cool, huh? So if my lists look like they're ever shuffling over there ---->, that's why :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Just checking in...

Just checking in... I've been so busy this week!

We had our last adoption class last night. I am bummed to lose the time with the other parents but I can't say I'm sad the classes are over. They were such a source of struggle for me and a significant bone of contention between us and the agency. We have a mandatory "Infertility Counseling" meeting tomorrow with another person at the Agency and then our last Homestudy visit is a week from tomorrow. Surprisingly, things at the house are going really well. We have it almost completely ready. DH will work on the garage this weekend and I have some ticky tacky things I wanted to do anyway. Next week we have pest control and carpet cleaners coming (both overdue but this provides the perfect excuse) and the gardeners were here this past week and trimmed our palms for the summer and cleaned up the yard so I'm surprisingly not stressed about the impending visit (which is very unlike me!).

Our caseworker will do the visit and she's waiting on one more letter of recommendation and then she'll submit it all to the court. Meanwhile we have to get in contact with my doctor for a letter of "ability to carry a child" and we have to complete our Nightlight Application. Once we turn that and our money in, we'll be able to join the Nightlight chat group with other Snowflake Families, which I'm really looking forward to. I think I'll feel so much more at ease when I can talk to other parents who've been there in this specific kind of adoption.

We wrote our match letter this weekend. That was fun and surreal all at the same time. How do you market a family? How do you say enough to cover the important stuff, but keep it brief enough that you don't bore the reader? I'm not sure that we succeeded, but we're happy with the outcome. I sent it to the caseworker at Nightlight for her feedback-we'll see what she says!

No updates yet on the prospective match. She and I emailed each other quite a bit today. We're trying to see if we can reschedule for 4th of July weekend. Our Anniversary is June 28 and we were half-heartedly toying with the idea of going away from then through the 4th but there are still some variables so we'll see.

Tomorrow night we're having dinner with some old friends. It's a crazy story. Angie and I went to church together when we were in Junior High. Sometime in High School she changed churches and she also attended a private school so we saw little of each other. We both went away to college (she to Texas and I to Los Angeles) and came back swooning over our beaus. As we were sharing about them with each other, we discover that both of them (now our DHs) went to Junior High together here in Arizona! Crazy, huh? They live in Texas now but her In Laws still live here in town so they're here visiting and we'll get to see them. We're excited! Though I've pretty well transitioned in to living in Arizona and considering it home, I still always find comfort in sharing a history with someone when that history is older than 5 or 10 years. For this gypsy, that's a big deal!

That's about all that's new with us! Hope you all are well!