I am writing in relation to a message that was issued by Tullamore Parish, Offaly on Christmas Eve. The message outlined that they were praying for life, specifically for couples “struggling to naturally conceive and who are avoiding IVF treatment”.
It was then outlined that the process of IVF is totally “incompatible with [their] Catholic faith”.
Thus the implication from this message seems to be that, if you deviate from this path and avail of medical science for a much-wanted baby instead, you don’t qualify to be included in the church’s thoughts and prayers.
As an individual who has gone through the emotional and physical turmoil of fertility treatment, I find it abhorrent to read such a statement. Because, unfortunately, no matter how hard my partner and I try to conceive “naturally”, we shall never be one of those lucky couples, despite the fact that we are both young.
And believe me we are reminded of it on a daily basis when we see other couples with their children, or when have to dart questions from other people about when are we going to start having a little baby of our own.
It is hard to put into words the anguish that one goes through when told that they will never be able to have a baby naturally with the person that they love and are committed to.
As well as being very difficult to finance, fertility treatments are incredibly harsh on the body and many months, even years, are consumed by this all-consuming urge to have a child.
Ireland is only one of two countries in Europe which doesn’t fund fertility treatment and it costs thousands to fund. It is a very lonely journey, a journey that I wouldn’t wish anyone to embark upon.
Thus, to read such a condemning and judgmental message only adds a blow to a couple who are already struggling emotionally, physically, mentally.
I find it particularly hard to fathom the callous timing of the publication of the message — Christmas Eve — a time traditionally spent with families, when couples who cannot conceive are all too aware of the emptiness of their own household.
There are many reasons why a couple may not be able to naturally conceive: the after-effects of cancer treatments, genetic factors, etc. In our case, it is a male congenital factor which means we would never have been able to have children without pursuing fertility treatment.
But that baby, once he/she comes along, will be the most cherished and cared-for individual that will want for absolutely nothing in this world.
Because, after all, aren’t the very tenets of Christianity based on love and compassion?
No couple should ever feel like pariahs for wanting and pursuing the means to have their own baby.
It’s time to give these couples the support they badly need and shake off the shackles of judgment and ignorance.