Why We Said No to IVF–Before We Were Catholic

“Have you guys every considered IVF?”

Over the last ten years, we’ve been asked this question a number of times. And, since I have a heart for resolving others’ curiosity, I figured I could answer it in a public way.

The short answer: No.

The truth is, we never really got to a point to be able to consider IVF before discovering it was immoral.

Several years ago, I somehow came to be in possession of an issue of the magazine Christianity Today. I don’t know if we got it in the mail as a teaser or if someone gave it to me, but I opened it up and came across an article about IVF. It kind of blew my mind.

But let me take a few steps back.

Even before this article, I was always uncomfortable with the idea of IVF. I wanted to conceive a child with my husband, not with a lab technician. IVF seemed to be stepping outside the normal means to conceive a child as a desperate attempt to get something I wasn’t entitled to having. For me, having our own child by way of artificial reproductive technology (ART) just never outweighed conceiving a child within the unitive act of marriage.

Now–back to the magazine article.

The article laid out the basic process for IVF and I found it shocking. I no longer have the article, but what was detailed went something like this: The woman is given drugs so that several of her eggs mature at the same time. Eggs. Plural. The process is so expensive, that more than one egg has to be fertilized to increase the chances of conception. The eggs are taken from the woman and semen is collected from the man. The eggs and sperm are ultimately joined in a petri dish (in vitro is latin for “in glass”). Conception takes place and the embryos are allowed to develop for several days. And then begins the process of determining which fertilized embryos should be implanted into the woman’s uterus. The “strongest” embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus while the others are destroyed or frozen. The woman is observed to see if the embryos implant. It may be that more than one do. In that case, she and the doctor may decide to to use “selective reduction”. At some point during the early part of the pregnancy, after the embryos become fetuses, the doctor will determine which are the less desirable ones. These are terminated by way of a needle filled with potassium chloride inserted into the fetal heart.

So. For someone that knew the science behind the start of human life, this article was, like I said, mind-blowing. At the time, I had no idea that IVF routinely involved the termination of fertilized eggs. Not that freezing human life seemed like a better idea.

“Why did you bring up being Catholic?”

Right. Why did I make a point to say we ruled out IVF before becoming Catholic? Too many times, people simply think it’s because we’re Catholic that we haven’t used IVF or any other ART. And when I say that, I mean people imply, unintentionally, that we somehow didn’t use our own brains when making this decision. Rather, it’s like they think we would jump at the idea of using IVF if only that curmudgeon of a Catholic Church would just let us.

And, hey, there might be people that feel that way. Which is perfectly reasonable. With something as complicated and deeply profound as the unitive act of marriage, coupled with the intense sorrow of infertility, it can take a lifetime to even start to come close to complete understanding.

But that’s not us. We get it. We’ve done our homework. We know the Church is teaching what is right. We’re sad we’ve been unable to conceive. We’re not sad about not using IVF.

So, that’s it. We will not be using IVF, or any other form of ART, to conceive a child. Children are a gift and we know that we’re not entitled to this gift. We also know that infertility isn’t something actively willed by God. His permissive will may allow it, and we fully trust that He will take our sorrow and work it for good.

…provided we also suffer with [Christ] in order that we may also be glorified with him

-Romans 8:17

For Friends & Family: We would like to state that this post is not intended as a judgment on anyone who has used IVF. All human life has value and should be cherished, regardless of the means by which it entered the world. We actually are not aware that anyone we know has used any form of ART. 

Sources & Helpful Links

A Catholic View of Reproductive Technology

In Vitro Fertilization

Good Intentions: Why IVF is Wrong

IVF, Custody Rights & Family Law
(the state deciding who’s a parent…because that will end well)

The Problem of Evil and Suffering

How can The Church Deny the Right of Women to use IVF?

The Hardest Teaching of Them All

Paleo AIP and Me: Part 1


As many already know, I’ve been on some form of a restrictive diet for a few years now. I wanted to write a post that explains how this all came about; to share why I’m doing this to myself, how it’s helped, and what it’s been like for me. Sometimes I feel like people don’t understand, so I figured a blog post would be the perfect opportunity to share my story. And a note, when I use the word diet, it doesn’t mean I’m restricting calories to lose weight. In this case, the word diet means simply what I eat.

How it All Started

I had been on the “endo diet” for nearly two years, and was pretty frustrated overall. Two years of not eating dairy, wheat, red meat, pork…the list goes on…and yet, no improvements.

At a friend’s birthday party, I met a woman who would become a good friend. She found out about my autoimmune disorders (psoriasis and endometriosis) and told me about this diet. All my husband heard was “bacon” so we had pretty much jumped on board before we even made it home that night.

The Diet

It’s Paleo but with an auto-immune protocol (Paleo AIP). I was willing to try anything; it’s not like upending my life with a change in diet was new to me.

Paleo AIP

Paleo AIP

A friend sent me this meme when I first jumped on board, and it’s pretty much accurate. Paleo AIP consists of good quality meat, lots of fruits and veggies, and good carbs. After an elimination phase, you reintroduce foods back into your diet one at a time so you can figure out what foods are causing issues. A good reference for what you can and can’t eat during the elimination phase is this chart from Autoimmune Paleo.

Fortunately, my husband was going through boxing training at the time I wanted to start this, so I had his full support during the 28-day elimination phase. Plus, after not eating red meat for most of two years, eating Paleo was like a dream. Everything tasted so good!

The Results

It took two cycles before I saw any results, but two months after going Paleo AIP my psoriasis subsided and I had no PMS-associated pain. None. After 21 years of horrible pain at the beginning of every cycle, I now had no pain. It was like a miracle. I didn’t even care about the dreaded CD1 (cycle day one when you find out you’re not pregnant)–I was freakin’ ecstatic to not feel like I was run over by Mack truck the day my cycle started.

Eventually, my psoriasis ended up going away all together. I’ve had psoriasis in some form since 2003; tried topical treatments over the years and ended up learning how to tolerate it and keep it under control. But no more! Now I can wash my hands at a public facility and not deal with the soap irritating my wrists or wear a black shirt with confidence. It’s awesome.

How It’s Been Going

A few months after starting this elimination diet, I did some traveling and that really undid all my hard work. I was in Keystone, Colorado for a few days, and then after that I was in Mexico City for a week. I tried my hardest to keep eating the right foods for me, but sacrifices were made. Not to mention, I rushed the reintroduction process so I’m not a 100% that some of the foods I now eat are things I should be eating. Although my psoriasis stayed away, the pain at the beginning of my cycles came back.

In May 2015 I had surgery to remove endometriosis, and I am hopeful that the procedure, combined with my new eating habits, will result in pain-free cycles from now on.

In August 2015, I restarted the 28-day elimination phase of Paleo AIP. The chart below details my progress regarding reintroduction.

How to Support Me

You might not know it, but this has all been very hard on me. Food is the center of most social situations and gatherings, and to have this taken away has often left me feeling rather alone.

On top of that, sometimes people think I’m being ridiculous or that what I’m doing isn’t necessary. That ends up leaving me feeling even more alone. Just know this: There’s no way I would ever take such drastic measures if it wasn’t necessary.

Plus, the last thing I want in social situations is to have all the attention focused on me. And when you go out to eat or are invited to someone’s house for dinner with as many eating restrictions as I have, it’s next to impossible to not have everyone concerned with me. My number one goal in social situations is to meet the needs of everyone else and not actually have any needs of my own. Now, to be fair, that’s not exactly healthy. And, so, maybe all this has been a blessing. I’ve certainly had to learn how to tell others what my needs are, and then actually let them meet those needs.

And finally, the most difficult thing about the diet, is that it’s a constant reminder that Kelsey and I have been unable to conceive. There’s a connection between food, autoimmune disorders and fertility. Every time I can’t have a bowl of cereal, enjoy some chips and salsa, have an ice cream cone or just eat something where I don’t know all of the ingredients, not only am I sad not to take part in the enjoyment that is eating with others, I’m also sad because I can’t have children in addition to the eating restrictions. I feel like I don’t fit in anywhere because of the infertility, and then the eating restrictions just pile right on top of that, leaving me feeling like even more of an outsider.

So, how can you support me? Well, first of all, just know that we love to hang out with friends. All I need is friends who are okay with me possibly not eating at a restaurant or bringing my own meal to dinner at their house. If you can put aside your good manners and desire to cater to me as your guest, and I know that’s difficult, then I still get to feel like I’m a part of the world instead of a hermit 24/7.

Part 2 of this post will be a collection of recipes that I gathered from every corner of the internet and actually use at home. The post will be a good way for me to keep track of the recipes all in one place, not to mention if anyone else is interested in what this diet looks like in practice, they can take a look and get a good idea.

Part 2: The Entrees 

National Infertility Awareness Week 2015: A Catholic Perspective

blog graphic One in six couples will experience infertility at some point in their marriage. Infertility is medically defined as the inability to conceive after 12 cycles of “unprotected” intercourse or 6 cycles using “fertility-focused” intercourse. A couple who has never conceived has “primary infertility” and a couple who has conceived in the past (regardless of the outcome) but is unable to again has “secondary infertility”. Many couples who experience infertility have also experienced miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

 This week, April 19 – 25, 2015 is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We, a group of Catholic women who have experienced infertility, would like to take a moment to share with you what the experience of infertility is like, share ways that you can be of support to a family member or friend, and share resources that are helpful.

If you are experiencing infertility, please know you are not alone. You are loved and prayed for and there are resources to help you with the spiritual, emotional, and medical aspects of this journey

The Experience of Infertility

In the beginning of trying to conceive a child, there is much hope and anticipation; for some, even a small fear of “what if we get pregnant right away?” There is planning of how to tell your husband and when you’d announce to the rest of the family. It is a joyful time that for most couples results in a positive pregnancy test within the first few months. However, for one in six couples, the months go by without a positive test and the fears and doubts begin to creep in. At the 6th month of trying using fertility-focused intercourse (using Natural Family Planning), the couple knows something is wrong and is considered “infertile” by doctors who understand the charting of a woman’s pattern of fertility. At the 9th month of trying, the month that, had they conceived that first month, a baby would have been arriving, is often the most painful of the early milestones. At the 12th month mark the couple “earns” the label from the mainstream medical community as “infertile”.

As the months go by, the hopes and dreams are replaced with fears, doubts, and the most invasive doctors’ appointments possible. As a Catholic couple faithful to the teachings of the Church, we are presented by secular doctors with options that are not options for us and are told things like “you’ll never have children” and “you have unexplained infertility”; by our Catholic doctors we are told to keep praying and to have hope as they roll up their sleeves and work hard to figure out the cause of our infertility, with each visit asking, “How are you and your husband doing with all of this?”

We find it hard to fit in. We have faith and values that are different than our secular culture, but our small families, whether childless (primary infertility) or with fewer children than we hoped for (secondary infertility), make us blend in with the norm. We have faith and values that are in line with the teachings of our Church, but our daily life looks so much different than the others who share those values and that makes us stand out in a way that we would rather not. We are Catholic husbands and wives living out our vocation fully. Our openness to life does not come in the form of children; it takes on the form of a quiet “no” or “not yet” or “maybe never” from God each month as we slowly trod along. Our openness to and respect for life courageously resists the temptations presented to us by the secular artificial reproductive technology industry.

Often times our friends and family do not know what to say to us, and so they choose to not say anything. Our infertility stands like a great big elephant in the room that separates us from others. Most of the time, we don’t want to talk about it, especially not in public or in group settings because it is painful and we will often shed tears. We realize it is difficult and ask that you realize this difficulty as well. We will do our best to be patient and to explain our situation to those who genuinely would like to know, but please respect our privacy and the boundaries we establish, as not only is infertility painful, it is also very personal.

One of the hardest experiences of infertility is that it is cyclical. Each month we get our hopes up as we try; we know what our due date would be as soon as we ovulate; we know how we would share the news with our husband and when and how we would tell our parents. We spend two weeks walking a fine line between hope and realism, between dreaming and despairing. When our next cycle begins – with cramps and bleeding and tears – we often only have a day or two before we must begin taking the medications that are meant to help us conceive. There is little to no time to mourn the dream that is once again not achievable; no time to truly allow ourselves to heal from one disappointment before we must begin hoping and trying again. We do not get to pick what days our hormones will plummet or how the medications we are often taking will affect us. We do not get to pick the day that would be “best” for us for our next cycle to start. We are at the mercy of hope, and while that hope keeps us going it is also what leaves us in tears when it is not realized.

Some will experience infertility with a complete lack of cycles. Some couples won’t even get to experience the benefit of being able to really try to conceive because of this harsh reality, which is a constant reminder of brokenness for those experiencing it. The pain and anxiety that comes from a lack of reproductive health can be crippling.

And yet others, despite hormonal dysfunction and health issues, will experience the cyclical nature of infertility through conception itself (or recurring conception). These couples go on to lose their children (early, full term, or shortly after birth, and anywhere in between) either once or many times. If you know that we’ve experienced a loss (something we may or may not have the courage to share), know that we are grieving. It wasn’t “just” a pregnancy or “just another” pregnancy that was lost; it was our living baby that died. And we are more likely to be traumatized by the cyclical nature of our infertility because of our losses. We do not get to choose that our cycles will mimic our losses. We are at the mercy of hope.

Our faith is tested. We ask God “why?”, we yell at Him; we draw closer to God and we push Him away. Mass brings us to tears more often than not and the season of Advent brings us to our knees. The chorus of “Happy Mother’s Day” that surrounds us at Mass every year will be almost more devastating than the blessing of mothers itself. We know that the Lord is trustworthy and that we can trust in Him; sometimes it is just a bigger task than we can achieve on our own.


* Pray for us. Truly, it is the best thing that anyone can do.

* Do not make assumptions about anything – not the size of a family or whether or not a couple knows what is morally acceptable to the Church. Most couples who experience infertility do so in silence and these assumptions only add to the pain. If you are genuinely interested, and not merely curious, begin a genuine friendship and discover the truth over time.

* Do not offer advice such as “just relax,” “you should adopt,” “try this medical option or that medical option” – or really give any advice. Infertility is a symptom of an underlying medical problem; a medical problem that often involves complicated and invasive treatment to cure.

* Do not assume that we will adopt. Adoption is a separate calling and should be discerned by every married couple irrespective of their ability to conceive biological children. Infertility does not automatically mean that a couple is meant to adopt.

* Do not assume that if we try to adopt that the process will be successful. Many adoption attempts fail and don’t result in a couple receiving a child placement (temporarily or permanently). Some couples are flat out rejected from attempting to adopt by different agencies and governments. Just like adoption is an incredibly intrusive and emotionally charged issue that is part of a separate calling in the journey to “parenthood”, it isn’t always a possibility for infertile parents. Do not assume we can. And be gentle if we are trying. It’s extra painful to be infertile and not be able to adopt. And we are likely so hurt that we can’t bear to share the details with everyone.

* Ask how we are doing and be willing to hear and be present for the “real” answer. Often times we answer, “OK” because that’s the easy, “safe” answer. Let us know that you are willing to walk through this tough time with us. Frequently we just need someone who is willing to listen and give us a hug and let us know we are loved.

* Offer a Mass for us or give us a prayer card or medal to let us know you are praying for us. Just please refrain from telling us how we must pray this novena or ask for that saint’s intercession. Most likely we’ve prayed it and ask for the intercession daily. Please feel free to pray novenas and ask for intercessions on our behalf.

* Be tolerant and patient. The medications we take can leave us at less than our best; we may not have the energy or ability to do much. Please also respect us when we say “no, thank you” to food or drinks. We may have restricted diets due to our medical conditions and/or medications.

* Share the good news of your pregnancy privately (preferably in an email or card or letter and not via text, IM chat, phone call or in person) and as soon as possible. Please understand that we are truly filled with joy for you; any sadness we feel is because we have been reminded of our own pain and we often feel horrible guilt over it as well. Please be patient and kind if we don’t respond immediately, attend your baby shower or don’t “Like” all of your Facebook updates about your children. Again, it is really about us, not you.

* Help steer group conversations away from pregnancy and parenting topics when we are around. We like to be able to interact in a conversation to which we can contribute meaningfully.

*Do not exclude us from your life because you think we may be uncomfortable. It is actually more painful to be left out because of the cross we’re carrying, and we know that doesn’t make a lot of sense to our families and friends. We will excuse ourselves from events or situations if we must, and please let us do so gracefully if the circumstance arises.

* Do not ask when we are going to “start a family” (we started one the day we got married).

* Do not ask which one of us is the “problem” – we are either fertile or infertile as a couple.

* Do grieve with us if you know that we’ve experienced a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death (or many). You may not know what to say to comfort us, and that’s ok. Let us grieve at our own pace and on our own schedule without guilt or explanations, even if we have living children. Do not offer platitudes for why you think it happened, how you think it’s part of God’s plan for us to suffer, or any number of things you think might have been wrong with the child. It was our living baby that died. Let us grieve, pray for us, and if you can, let us know you care by being there for us in our grief. Let us know that you remember that our baby lived, no matter how short of a life.

* Do not say things like “I know you’ll be parents some day,” or “It will happen, I know it will!” Along the same lines, please do not tell us stories of a couple you know who struggled for years and went on to conceive or to “just adopt and then you’ll get pregnant” (this one actually only happens a small percentage of the time). Only God knows what our future holds, please pray with us that we are able to graciously accept His will for our lives.

* Do not pity us. Yes, we have much sorrow. Yes, we struggle. But, we place our faith in God, lean on the grace of our marriage, and trust that someday, whether here on earth or in heaven, we will see and understand God’s plan.

Because this topic is so difficult for so many women and men, the best thing our friends and family can do (and indeed strangers we encounter who may be aware of our struggles) is pray for us. We are grateful for those who offer their prayers and support in a gentle way. Your support is invaluable to us.

Lastly, remember that compassion means “to suffer with”. We didn’t sign up for this to happen. We can’t control whether we overcome this. And we’re doing our best to navigate the murky waters and maintain our sanity and our faith and our relationships with our family and friends through it all. We truly need your support and love to accomplish that. Please, please suffer with us and be Christ to us. No other understanding of our cross will be more merciful or more loving than if you put yourself in a situation to sympathize or empathize with us. The pain of infertility is exacerbated by the fact that it draws us into ourselves. We need your help to remind us in the most difficult moments that we aren’t alone, God didn’t forget us, and that we have something precious to offer through the fruitfulness of our marriage even when it isn’t manifesting in the children we so desperately want to hold. Together, we can offer up our shared suffering for Christ. It’s a powerful witness to both of our faiths to travel this road together and we’ll manage it better with your help than if we have to travel it all alone.

This post was made possible through the collaboration of 430 members of a “secret” facebook group of women and men struggling with the pains of infertility in all of its forms that accepts the Catholic teaching on moral law. Together we are stronger. And in having the conversation, we are breaking the silence.

If you are experiencing the pains of infertility and would like to join a “secret” facebook support group, please let me know and I will happily add you to our discussion.

Infertility Awareness 2015

Through being part of a large group on Facebook dedicated to those struggling with infertility who follow the moral law as defined by the Catholic Church, I have learned that April 19-25 is Infertility Awareness Week.

To help in spreading awareness I decided to create graphics that focus on infertility. I got a lot help from members of the group with the content, and then used photoshop to put everything together.

Humor.  It’s how I deal with most everything.  Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes it’s bad; but I’m a work in progress.  Some of the graphics below might rub you the wrong way, especially if you haven’t dealt with infertility yourself. My apologies in advance if they do.  My intent is to provide an avenue for others to put themselves in my shoes.  Some days I am sad, some days I am stricken with deep sorrow, and other days I might be jealous, angry or even full of acceptance for my current situation.  It’s all a part of the journey.

These graphics are free to share.

Joy, Pain & Friendship

IMG_3074My husband and I celebrated ten years of marriage on April 2nd.

That milestone brought with it various emotions and contemplations, but this post isn’t about that. This post is about those yearning for marriage but have yet to find that special person, or a past experience with marriage has wounded them deeply.

I know what it’s like to be bombarded daily, sometimes even hourly, with situations and images of something I desire deeply, and yet don’t have, all the while wondering if it might be something I will never have. My husband and I have knowingly struggled with infertility for eight years.  Something as mundane as a parent holding a child in their arms while they go up for communion at Mass can trigger a whole array of emotions for either or both of us.

But last Thursday my heart was with those going through a different struggle: Those who grew up imagining themselves as a husband or wife one day, but now they’re wondering if that will ever happen.  What once was a happy occasion, a friend’s engagement announcement, is like a knife to the heart. What once was a time to celebrate, a friend’s wedding, is a long ordeal of trying to hold back tears. What once was just a cute photo, a friend’s anniversary selfie, is a cause for jealousy and pain.

As time marches on your isolation continues to grow.  You love your friends, but going out with couples makes you feel like your singleness is on display with a spotlight.  And if there’s time to hang out with your friends without their spouses, well, the conversation usually focuses on the daily happenings of married life.  All you can say in response to try and relate is, “Yeah, my parents went through that in their marriage.” And the excruciating awkwardness if you’re at an event where you’ll be meeting strangers is nearly unbearable. The “So, are you married?” has to be followed by a painful and deafening “No.”

And it’s not that you want to take away anyone else’s joy. Knowing the pain of wanting to be happily married, and yet not, you would never wish this on anyone else.  But unfortunately all your good will doesn’t erase the pain that photos, anniversaries and conversations can cause.

For my friends who desire to be married with every fiber of their being, I in some small way can empathize, because I have felt all these things, but just with a different struggle.  And I know that in no way am I aware of all the pain felt by you. I only share what I have come up with by trying to imagine myself in your shoes.

So, when my Facebook page is full of photos from our anniversary date, or of our wedding from long ago, I know that you have a whole mix of feelings, some of them very dark. But here’s the thing I want you know: I don’t judge you for those feelings. I won’t tell you that you don’t have the right to your feelings, or that somehow I’m entitled to my joy and you should keep your feelings to yourself. No. Our lives here on earth are about community, and I welcome all of you. And not just the you that is perfectly at peace with what life has brought your way; no, I welcome you exactly where you’re at.

Hey Job–You Stole My Line!

Actually, I’m stealing Job’s.  The first reading for Mass on Sunday, February 8th was Job 7:1-4, 6-7:

Has not man a hard service upon earth, and are not his days like the days of a hireling? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hireling who looks for his wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn.

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and come to their end without hope. ‘Remember that my life is a breath; my eye will never again see good.

We arrived at Mass a little early.  My husband went to light a candle for someone, while I sat in the pew.  I organized the pew rack, then I kneeled to pray, and then I read the readings for the day.  When I finished this passage from Job, I looked up to the tabernacle and said, “Job’s words are my words.”

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