Thoughtful Thursday: Religion

May 28, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday

This weekend I sat down at the breakfast table and noticed an article in the newspaper.

I find this extremely fascinating. Of course, I’m interested in modifications to the IVF process from an IF point of view, and I’m pleased to see the process becoming possible for some who were previously unable to use it. Depending on whom you ask, certain sects of Judaism have firm restrictions on reproductive technologies as well as adoption (which the above newspaper article doesn’t address).

I am also especially interested in the article because I know far more observant Jews than the average person does — friends (primarily from DH’s Orthodox upbringing) as well as some members of DH’s family. I even know observant Jews who have dealt (or are currently dealing) with infertility, though I haven’t talked to any of them about the topic.

However, if I did have such discussions, I’m guessing that some of them would say that they’ve made reproductive choices based on prohibitions and mandates that come from their religion.

I, on the other hand, would not let religion (or anything else) limit my quest. We’re not remotely as observant as the people I mentioned (and I’m not actually even Jewish), but we are still fairly observant compared to most people. Over the past 7 years we’ve had enough roadblocks caused by biology, economics, limits of technology… almost more than I have been able to handle, without the added limitations of something like religion. Plus, DH and I are both governed by logic, and we both see a lack of logic in many religious beliefs as they apply to our modern world and our own lives.

Someone from my now-defunct IRL support group was limited in the reproductive technologies she could pursue due to her husband’s (Catholic) religious beliefs. Last I heard, she has been pursing the same low-level intervention for almost a year now, and to be frank, based on my knowledge of her situation, I don’t know if she’ll ever succeed at conceiving without escalating the level of intervention. She doesn’t share his beliefs, but her actions are confined by his beliefs. I hope it’s not the case, but I’m afraid that ultimately his beliefs will prevent her from ever having a child.

Have religious (or other concerns such as ethical or moral) concerns caused you to make certain choices in your reproductive journey? Have concerns for others’ concerns, such as your partner or family members, caused you to pause or change your own mind?

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15 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Religion”

  1. WiseGuy Says:

    I clicked on the newsitem link to go through it…and found it very fascinating…..

    Through this blogosphere, I know this one blogger who has talked about speaking to and seeking permission of her Rabbi before going through various stages of medical interventions…

    Personally, I do not think that religious aspects have made a huge impact on my reproductive journey.

    My religion does not prescribe anything as prohibited or restricted, and I am glad about it…

    I have grown up in a more ‘open’ and ‘communicative’ environment and my hubby has a more traditionalist grounding. Had there been any restrictions, it would have made my IF journey a greater hell to bear!

    On another note, I recently received two books from my mother (my last Show and Tell), and while reading them, I found some information about when to have sex and when to not have sex, and the evils of masturbation, and what is the future of the kids who are conceived on a, b, c dates of the calendar (our calendar is different from the Gregorian Calendar).I thank my lucky stars that none of my folks on either side are browsing through that book.

    …but that is the crap (best way to conceive, how much to ask a doctor, what level of intervention to use) that was never dished on to me otherwise…

    Let’s come to the other part… After being at it for long, and after my SIL made it look like a cakewalk, my MIL made it out feebly that maybe it was God’s Will that we were childless, and that maybe we should leave it at that, coz there are so many people in the world who lead a fine life even without kids.

    God does not think that I am likely to be a good mother. No sir, God wanted to insult my mother who feels very guilty about being an infertility specialist and a fine doctor who has an infertile daughter. My mother’s misery hurts me even more.

    We were also told by a pundit about some doshas, and prescribed pooja and all…well that is only as far as religion went in. Let there be any opinion, if no divine intervention happens on its own, I am going to be Godplayer again!

  2. Rebecca Says:

    He and I have no religious beliefs, but ethically I believe we would both rather go for adoption – and “save” an already born child – than go with intensive medical stuff.

  3. Nishkanu Says:

    I am not of the type to respond well to religion understood as a set of pre-given strictures, though I understand the comfort that can come from living life this way and do not denigrate it (comfort not because it is ‘easy’ but because of the discipline that it requires from you and the quality of life that can result).

    I did, however, think carefully about the moral/ethical decisions involved around using DE. This caused us to use a clinic on the west coast (contactable donor) instead of one on the east coast near us (anonymous donor), and to use a clinic holding to ASRM ethical/educational/screening standards rather than an agency with who knows what kind of standards for how they recruit and inform their donors. Because we were limited to donors at one clinic rather than shopping different agencies I was not able to get a donor of my (very particular) ethnic background, something I would have otherwise liked to have. I do not regret this for one second though, because I feel a lot better about the little one on the way knowing that its donor gave true informed consent and that we can contact her later if we need to.

    I think it’s important in thinking about how to pursue infertility treatments to define ‘success’ beyond just “having a child of the kind you would ideally want” and also include “while living the kind of life you feel right about.” I have every respect for my traditional Christian friends who said they felt uncomfortable with anything but the least invasive infertility treatments and went on to adopt instead, even though this was not my choice.

    RE your friend and her religious husband, one thing that we realized pretty early on in our infertility journey (when we were having a big fight about under what circumstances we would/should adopt) is that children brought into a relationship have two parents, and that both parents have to feel comfortable with the route that they took to their kids and the decisions they made along the way. This means that unless you are in a situation where you and your partner really see eye-to-eye on everything about infertility, you will always be ‘confined’ by your partner’s orientation and preferences. There are situations I would feel comfortable with (e.g. adopting older or mildly disabled children) that my husband does not feel comfortable with. This means that I was held back by my husband from adopting children I could have had… but that is what a marriage in my mind is about, that you are willing not to just have your own way but build a life that works for both of you.

    For many people, I would think, religion is like this too – about having a relationship with a God where you don’t just get your way or do whatever you think is best but find a way that is acceptable to you and to your God.

  4. Lavender Luz Says:

    The short answer is No.

    At the time, I was mad at God for dealing me the IF hand. So even if I’d HAD religious limitations for treatments we could or couldn’t pursue, I would not have felt that they applied to us. My thinking (to God) was, “you broke it; you fix it, dammit.”

    Audacious, no?

  5. Cara Says:

    Hmmm…this is tricky, for my faith was pretty solid until Emma died. It was her death that proposed the BIG questions like: what is the meaning of life, why does God get to choose who stays and who goes, and when, or does he…etc.

    Since working through what felt like a very arbitrary process I have found my footing again, but I would say that my faith journey has never effected or been a deciciding factor in OUR journey to children.

  6. S Says:

    Have religious (or other concerns such as ethical or moral) concerns caused you to make certain choices in your reproductive journey? Have concerns for others’ concerns, such as your partner or family members, caused you to pause or change your own mind?

    What an interesting article.

    I have to say, as someone who attempts/struggles with being an agnostic (which some could argue is a wussy way of dealing with angsty/spiritual issues with the very existence of G-d), I don’t really give any thought to religion when it comes to IVF and IF.

    DH’s mother/parents is a /are catholic, practising, and officially I believe (its been a while since I read the article) its a no-no because man and woman are supposed to procreate through the act of love via marriage. and if it doesn’t happen…well, that is g-d’s will.

    I find that to be a crock of shit, no offence to any who disagree with my opinion, because if we follow the “man” (tad sexist there) is made in the image of g-d train of thought…then vicariously, what man creates (IVF and IF technologies) is what g-d creates. hence, no problem. yes I know I’m oversimplifying.

    DH’s mum was very upset when DH had his vasectomy. Her words still haunt him to date. She apparently said “What happens if you want to have more babies in the future”. It still haunts me too, to be honest.

    Short answer: No. Religion bottom of list. Wanting live babies is on top of the list. No dice.

  7. Cat Says:

    Have religious (or other concerns such as ethical or moral) concerns caused you to make certain choices in your reproductive journey? Have concerns for others’ concerns, such as your partner or family members, caused you to pause or change your own mind?

    Not once did religion come up during the time we were deciding whether to try IVF or not. We’re Presbyterian and our religion doesn’t have rules about ART, or at least none that I know of. On the ethical/moral front, I felt more torn between IVF and adoption than DH did, though he was only slightly more in favor of having a biological child and said he’d go along with whatever I wanted to do. I’ve always been comfortable with the idea of adoption and taking in a child that’s already here. But, I must admit that the issues experienced by friends who adopted as well as the news stories, however rare, about biological parents changing their minds did work their way into my head. Even if everything goes smoothly, adoption is far from a cakewalk. Ultimately we chose IVF for many reasons, but partly because it was more affordable and quicker than adoption. But we also chose an RE who offered a Shared Risk plan that would refund some of our money if we didn’t get pregnant. Our plan was that it would give us a starting point to save for adoption.

    The only time we thought about religion at all was when we were about to announce our pregnancy to DH’s Catholic family. We wondered how they’d react to the news that we’d used IVF. So far my MIL just keeps referring to our pregnancy as a miracle and no one has said a word about what the Church might think of how we achieved it. Frankly, that’s fine with me. They can think whatever they want as long as they don’t burden me with it.

    Part of me thinks that DH’s aunt coming out of the closet a few years ago has made our IVF news easier for them to take. They’re having to come around to the idea that sometimes the people you love are more important than some church rules. Besides, it’s not for us to judge – God will sort it all out in the end (if you believe that sort of thing).


  8. I love reading your TT’s and I love reading the comments. So much information and lots of food for thought.
    I grew up Catholic, not strict, but we did go to church every Sunday and I did attend Catholic school and went to church every Wednesday. I didn’t and wouldn’t let my religion effect my choice in trying to have a child or having one.
    When I was pregnant with Nae and we thought she was going to either be sick or die, religion didn’t even come up as a topic for discussion. We made a choice to continue with the pregnancy because that’s what we wanted, not because of my religious beliefs.

  9. Kristin Says:

    I am Lutheran and, luckily, they are a lot more liberal in their support of reproductive technology. That said, I would not have let it stop me if I had needed to pursue intervention that went against religious beliefs.

  10. dreamingsoul Says:

    I am a World Religions teacher in a Catholic High School. I have done 6 IUIs, 2 fresh IVFs and 3 donor embryo cycles (currently 26 weeks pregnant with twins as a result of our last donor embryo cycle).
    No, I would not let any man dictate what is right for me and my family. I believe in a god who loves each of us equally, who loves to see how we handle challenges and who gives special medical gifts to talented doctors who can help us conceive. For me, it’s a no brainer.

  11. Mel Says:

    No…it didn’t affect what we did (and we are fairly observant) BUT I can say that religion provided an additional source of pressure. I mean, how many times can you be reminded that you’re supposed to be family building without it affecting you emotionally?

  12. Carrie Says:

    Selfish over here, and nope didn’t think about anyone but ourselves and our ultimate goal of having a child. If we had to seek further treatments, I would also still think about our ultimate goal, and nothing else.

  13. Photogrl Says:

    I, too, am fortunate that my religion is pretty open to ART.

    That said, the MOPS group I attend, makes me feel uncomfortable discussing my treatments. I can’t put my finger on one particular issue or event, but I get a vibe that most of the Moms don’t approve.

    Personally, M. and I are not going to take anyone else’s opinion on what we should and shouldn’t do when we are deciding our next step. But we will be selective on who is in our “inner circle” when we start our IVF cycle.


  14. Religion didn’t come into it for us. We go to a progressive Methodist church now, so they were cool and supportive.

    But having grown up in a judgmental church, I did wonder towards the beginning if I was being punished for being anti-most churches. I think a lot of people wonder if they’re being punished in some way. But eventually I went back to my belief that a loving God doesn’t punish or bless people. Things just happen, and acceptance is key.


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