Last week when I poured out my heart and soul to you about the infertility my wife Christine and I are facing, I knew it would elicit a great deal of feedback. But you guys just overwhelmed us with your thoughts, prayers, and personal stories about your own experiences regarding the decision about what to do regarding our desire to have kids. Read the many responses in the comments section of that post and I'll share even more that we received via e-mail in just a moment.
First, I'd like to provide a quick update.
We went to another local reproductive endocrinologist yesterday to go through one more round of testing on both Christine and I just to make sure the grim possibility of conceiving a child of our own is truly zero. We are big believers in the power of God to produce a miracle and would never say anything like this is impossible. If a 90-year-old woman named Sarah can get pregnant by a 100-year-old man named Abraham, then by golly who am I to doubt that a healthy couple in their mid-30's can't get pregnant?
The doctor we met was very kind and thorough in his analysis of our situation. This next week will be vitally important as it will determine where we go from here. On Monday, I have an appointment to have my sperm checked out for the THIRD time for viability. This office has a machine that electronically counts the good from the not-so-good sperm and applies a percentage to each of the kinds of quality sperm. If there is even ONE really good sperm in there, then we have a shot at having our own baby via IVF and other modern treatments. That is one of the next steps from there.
Interestingly, this office has a "money back guarantee" option with their IVF cycle if it does not take the first time. Since these procedures can cost upwards of $12,000-15,000, that's nice to know. We are happy to take out a loan to pay for this for our opportunity to have a child of our own. But first things first. We need to make sure my sperm will work or else we'll be looking at the alternative options I previously blogged about.
The longer I've thought about this, the more comfortable I am becoming with using donor sperm from either my own family or an anonymous donor. A baby is a baby regardless of where the genetic materials come from. It's just amazing the many ways to make that happen with modern technology and I'm thankful to have these options. I can't imagine how couples in previous generations dealt with these kinds of heartaches.
After obtaining a new sperm sample on Monday, we have a follow-up visit next Wednesday to see where we go from here. If the sperm is good, then the doctor may want to proceed with the IVF cycle. However, there is a new procedure called ICSI that can take even a lower-quality sperm and force it into an egg to see if it will fertilize. That's a bit more expensive, but cost is not the issue. We'll worry about paying for it later.
I'm not totally ruling out foster parenting or adoption altogether, but let's just say the option is not as appealing to me for a variety of reasons that have come to light since I began researching it. Anyone who goes through that ordeal and survives deserves a medal for putting themselves out there for the sake of an unwanted child. Again, the door is not closed on that, but we're gonna try other options first.
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for all your prayers and support through this trying time. It's funny, you get your health in order by losing weight and doing something with your life. But then you run into something like this and it makes you question what you could have done to deserve this. I know we're not alone and that's comforting to know there are others who struggle, too. But it doesn't make it any easier to comprehend.
I'll update you again when we get the test results back next week and decide what to do from here, but I just wanted to share my gratitude for your willingness to be open and honest about what you thought. God bless you all!
Here are a whole lot more comments we received via e-mail:
Jimmy & Christine,
I'm sorry to hear that you and your wife are having problems having a child. You yourself know my history of miscarriages and problems with my daughter's pregnancy. So I won't dwell on it. I am just wondering one thing though, did your doctor say anything at all about your diet maybe affecting your reproductive organs? I'm not dissing low carb, not even about low carb. I'm thinking maybe Gluten or another substance in foods that some human bodies are extra sensitive to.
Or, maybe even your body (I'm not blaming you, just thinking out loud to give you ideas) does not release the "Wake Up Juice" as I call it to wake up the dormant sperm. I think it's called Seminal fluid. It literally wakes up the sperm. That's the only way to describe it. Ask your doctor, or maybe you already have, about whether or not you are making it in your body. Or are you making enough of it?
I just wish you the best in this. I know it sounds cliche, but blood doesn't make the father, the heart does.
I just read your post about you and your wife’s fertility struggles and I wanted you to know that I’ll be praying for you. Never underestimate what the Lord can do for you, my friend. My husband and I have a five month old daughter and she was my seventh pregnancy. I had six miscarriages in a row. A very holy man used relics of St. Therese of Liseux to pray over my womb and ask her to intercede to Christ for us. Even as a person who considered herself devout, I did not think it would work.
I was sure after six bloody and painful losses that I had received my answer and that it was “no” on having children. A month later we conceived number 7 and Bronwyn Therese was carried to term...plus two weeks! We have since found out that I have a rare blood mutation that can make one more susceptible to miscarriage. There is a treatment protocol for it but we did not discover it until after Bronwyn was successfully gestating—point being, she came to term on prayer and faith alone. I was not receiving the appropriate treatment at the time. I will pray specifically for you and your wife at evening prayer tonight, I know how terribly painful it is to want a child and to remain childless.
I don’t have any particular advice because God created our reproductive lives wrapped in a certain degree of mystery—but one thing I will tell you is don’t trust reproductive endocrinologists (in fact, trust them less than doctors who still prescribe low calorie low fat protocols for obesity). They have a lot invested in telling you things are hopeless. We were told by the number one reproductive endocrinology clinic in the world, that our only chance of a healthy birth was to do IVF with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).
As faithful Catholics, we discerned that we are called to honor and understand the Church’s teachings on reproductive technology so we refused. God rewarded our faithfulness--as it turns out, with my blood condition, I would have likely miscarried all of the little lives they created and implanted, and I would have been at risk for DVT, which could have killed both me and what ever child I was carrying.
There are natural and alternative medicine approaches to raising sperm count and since you have conceived once, you are not completely sterile. There is always hope in the Lord and don’t be afraid to think outside the box when it comes to your own reproductive health. Treat this “problem” the way you treated your obesity problem. I know some people who have successfully raised very low motility and/or low count through acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Doctors don’t know WHY these things work except that it seems to and in females there have been some pretty convincing studies done at Harvard concerning Eastern medicine and reproduction. The studies say pretty clearly that it WORKS but they have no idea by what mechanism it works.
All this is to say: don’t buy that IVF and/or donor sperm are the ONLY ways in which you can get pregnant. I don’t mean to raise false hopes, only to point out that reproductive endocrinologists are not God.
I also have experienced among the women I met who struggled with IVF what I call “the Phoebe Factor”---I have one good friend who was told that her husband’s sperm was so poor that they needed to do a procedure called ICSI. In addition she rarely had periods and had severe endometriosis like your wife. Desperate from being told that things were so bleak, she went through several miscarried IVFs and finally conceived her twins, Heidi and Aaron, after months of bedrest. Even then they were premature and spent time in the NICU. Gina became pregnant with Phoebe only a few months after Heidi and Aaron were finally brought home with no help at all.
She and “the Phoebe Factor” represent a phenomenon I’ve seen over and over again in this world of infertility—human’s continually procreate despite what the best doctors say the odds are. Which means that they don’t know as much as they think they do.
In the course of this nightmare, we did a lot of research and reproductive endocrinology is an ethically bereft specialty that makes a lot of money playing on human emotions. I don’t know what the answer is for you and Christine (aside from prayer, prayer, and more prayer) but I will warn you that the objections you have to adoption (another highly corrupt field, so very, sadly) are even more true of artificial reproductive technology. In addition to red tape and disappointment, Christine will go through hell physically and you will both go through hell emotionally. You still won’t be guaranteed a child even with donor sperm, no matter what they tell you. If she is inseminated through IVF—make sure you understand fully what is happening to her body (and the risks the hormones they use incur) and to the embryos that are created in their laboratories. Also, know the risks to your offspring as well—IVF babies are often born prematurely and are very small.
An EXCELLENT book on this topic is Coming to Term by Jon Cohen. Jon is a medical journalist (a very good one) and he and his wife endured infertility. Like those who have coped with obesity, he was shocked to find what has been masquerading as science in the name of reproductive endocrinology, which is code for cash on the barrel medicine (until very recently no insurance would cover ART...being able to set your own fees independent of HMOs and insurance carriers means BOO COO bux for docs). He is a non-practicing Jew so he does not share the same ethical objections we have to artificial reproductive technology but he comes to the same conclusions as we do about the ethical bankruptcy in the field.
Also, though it is not a vocation to enter into lightly simply because one is having trouble conceiving, think again about adoption. There are some Christian agencies doing good work out there. We lost 15K to a corrupt agency in the course of our journey so we know of whence we speak to a certain degree. But on the other side of our unsavory experience, I have friends who were led to very grace-filled adoption agencies. God be with you both.
Sorry it's taken me so long to comment on your posting regarding IVF from last week, but I wanted to put some thought into my words before I rambled something off quickly.
Look, these are my own personal feelings and if you know me by now, they're true and without motive--with me what you see is what you get, so here I go.
I think the fact that you'd consider your father as a donor is quite honorable. I do not find anything weird or strange about it whatsoever. But to me, that's just gravy--an added bonus of having a donor who shares your DNA.
Here's my thinking--(now, keep in mind, I know you, but not intimately; we share a deep love of Atkins and the low-carbohydrate way of life and all of its life-giving mechanisms, and I only know Christine from your YouTube videos); but being an intuitive person (which helps me in my writing, as you know...) I feel like I do have an understanding of what both you and your wife are all about--and that's why I think it's imperative that you and Christine have children, no matter what.
No matter who the donor is, no matter what means are necessary, I think you and your wife (who just by the way she looks at you so lovingly during the videos tells quite a story in itself) have so much love and knowledge to give to however many children you have, it would be a terrible waste not to.
I know you both would be absolutely wonderful, loving, and responsible parents--not just from a spiritual point of view, either, but from a health aspect as well. You'd both be trend setters (what? not feeding your children cereals? how revolutionary!!) and you'd probably inspire a lot of young parents around you.
There, I've said it. That's my opinion. If I've offended you or your wife in any way with my words, please forgive me--I speak from the heart and say what I mean and feel.
I wish you both lots of success in this endeavor.
I just wanted you and Christine to know that you are in my prayers. I know this has to be such an emotional time for the both of you. I know that God is sovereign and He will direct your path. Remember Abraham and Sarah though… all medical reasons told them they could never conceive and look what God did. I wanted to email you instead of posting on your comments cause I just wanted to privately lift you guys up. I do hope that you get a second opinion though, maybe see if you can find info on a Christian specialist even that will work and pray with you guys about what God would be leading you too.
I also wanted to pass along another tidbit of info. Two of my nephews are adopted from Russia. My SIL and her husband (it’s B’s sister) have been unable to conceive as well and while she was deemed fine, he refused to be tested for his own reasons, so they were left at adoption or INV. They found a Christian International Adoption agency that was incredible and the entire process for both boys took less than a year. The agency is Gladney and if you guys want I can see about getting more contact information for you. Both of the boys are as sweet as they can be. Both adopted around 1 year of age. The oldest is now 8 and the younger is 6.
The neat thing is that both boys have been told from the beginning about their adoption, but they have made it so special… they love learning about where they are from, and feel extra special because my SIL explained to them how they were specially chosen for that family. Just like God chose’s us and adopts us into His family.
Anyways, I know that you guys are in wonderful hands (HIS). We’ll be lifting you and Christine up that God would make His will for your lives abundantly clear.
You are an incredible couple...
There were many years in my life, when I longed for a child, my own family. Now I have 4 grown children, and they are what's most important to me in my life.
That being said, I would like to answer your offer on opinion of using your father as a donation. I have to say that the thought of that grosses me out. However, what I think is really of no importance here. What is important is what you and Christine are comfortable with, and what you decide for yourselves is your best course of action.
As you know, I work for an insurance company in Massachusetts, where infertility treatment is mandated for insurance coverage. So in-vitro fertilization is fairly common here. Things can go wrong. I do feel that you are the kind of man that could live with his decision if the undertaking produced a child with disabilities as a result of the conception method. I would ask you to ask yourself if you could come to terms with this possibility during the decision making process.
Thirdly, my strongest opinion is that you should spend at least one or two years trying to find a physician that can determine the cause and possible treatment of your condition . (I was absent that day in medial school, :P), but common sense tells me that extremely frequent urination and immobile sperm could possibly be related to a body chemistry issue that may be treatable. I would like for you to be absolutely sure that you have explored all avenues available to you in a sufficient manner before you make your decision. I realize that costs are a factor in this pursuit and may limit that course of action.
Good luck any may God bless. I will care about you and support you in whatever direction you and Christine choose to take. I am a great believer in the concept "The Good Lord Works In Mysterious Ways."
Hi Jimmy and Christine!
After reading your recent post I tried to comment and couldn't so here goes my thoughts.
First off, based on some of the comments there are some gene pools you just don't want to go wading in.
I haven't read of IVF or fertility drugs anywhere in the Bible. It is my thought that childless couples were put on this earth to provide for parentless children no matter what there age. Siblings are frequently separated and never again see each other until they are adults. That is just sad.
Perhaps, if you are not sure you could love these children you could try foster care first. If you were to take a family of siblings it could be possible you wouldn't be trying so hard to get pregnant and it would happen for you. After all if you were pregnant once it isn't totally impossible it will happen again.
Good Luck to you, however you choose.
Dear Jimmy -
No beans for two or three years? What would happen if didn't get any Vitamin C for three years? This analogy may not be as far fetched as it may seem to you. There is room in your low carb diet to include a few raw dry beans/lentils/wheat/barley/millet brown rice - a teaspoon of all combined is only 5 carbs or so -
And I wouldn't have taken the time to write this if I thought it was not important for you. These seeds have important functions - and to remove them from your daily diet totally - is a mistake. Less is often Moore when it comes to diet - so I would not dismiss the small amounts as being without useful effect.
I suppose writing this is a waste of time - but I had no other choice but to convey something that might help your problem - and give you the choice of using it or not.
You do not need to reply - I know your a busy guy.
I am a daily reader of your Livin' La Vida Low Carb blog, and thank you very much for all you do to get this important nutrition message to the world. I want to respond to your confession of the problems you and Christine are having in conceiving a child. It is so sad these days when couples who want children cannot have them while others who conceive a child can legally pay a doctor to dismember their baby and throw it in the trash because they don't want it. We live in a very sick world.
I want to talk to you as one Christian to another, because I know you understand the importance of living life God's way and not the world's way. Bringing a child into being not through an act of love the way God ordained it but through artificial means achieved in a laboratory is the world's way, and even though it can seem like doctors want to do this to help infertile couples, all artificial means are really part of a broader view of reproductive technology that seeks to free man from reliance on God and to control human reproduction to do whatever we want with our bodies.
Abortion, artificial contraception, in-vitro fertilization, artificial insemination, cloning, embryonic stem-cell research, genetic manipulation--it's all part of a mindset that believes we are just evolved matter and we can do whatever we want to our bodies and our world. Your intentions are the best in the world--married couples are supposed to want babies, but nothing matters more than making it to heaven, so please don't use sinful means to conceive a child.
I'm Catholic if you haven't guessed, and I want to share with you our very beautiful teaching on the human person and human sexuality. If you are open to deepening your understanding of how God meant us as men and women created in His image to live our lives and enjoy His gift of sexuality as He intended us to, here is a link to a website on Theology of the Body, explaining Catholic teaching on human sexuality as developed by His Holiness John Paul II of recent memory. The link contains an article by Christopher West, who lectures nationally on Theology of the Body, on in-vitro fertilization and why it is not consonant with God's plan for us. The way God made us is so wondrous--I hope reading about this helps you to love and serve God more fully than ever.
I know you are thinking about artificial insemination instead of IVF, but it's the same difference. I know adoption is expensive and a long process (friends of mine just brought back a beautiful little boy from the Philippines), but please don't resort to immoral means to achieve your very laudable desire to be a father. Jesus tells us we will all carry a cross if we want to follow Him; maybe this is yours for the time being. Please keep praying to God for a child by any means He allows. I will pray for you too.
Jimmy - just read your blog. There's quite a lot of evidence which has found specific nutritional supplementation can enhance sperm counts/sperm quality/fertility. Have you looked into this? Obviously, there's no guarantees here, but my advice is to consider it (if you haven't already, that is).
Sounds like your endo is very entrenched in the medical model, and I suspect you're right to get a second opinion. But I also can't help wondering if you might get 'better' advice from someone who is willing and able to take a more holistic view. My suspicion is that you might benefit from advice from, say, a naturopathic physician, perhaps with a special interest in fertility. Diagnosis and management of nutritional and/or hormone deficiency would certainly be worth a go, I reckon. These situations are rarely as 'cut and dried' as some doctors would have us believe they are.
I feel for you guys. I really do. In the end, this is a huge decision and you have to go with your heart, but since you asked for opinions, I'll give mine.
I'd reconsider adoption. Adoption is a gift directly from God, and it’s a great thing. It’s not the opposite of pregnancy. It’s the opposite of being alone! It's a wonderful process that parallels our relationship with our heavenly father (He adopted us…thanks God!) and will allow you to understand God in a way most of us won’t get to because of this experience.
In reality, adoption is YOUR (not Christine's) only true option because even if you go the sperm donor route, you will be adopting your father's child. One way or another YOU WILL BE adopting someone else’s baby. (again, this is a good thing. Yaaaaaay for adoption)!
There are so many babies already out there that need homes and you could be their miracle...their one in a million shot. I see this as a huge opportunity to be the loving arms of God to a child that may never know the loving arms of anyone.
This may or may not hit home…but think about the cats you’ve had. Have you ever once thought “I just don’t love you as much because you aren’t “my” child”?
Again, just my thoughts but in the end you have to go with your heart. I’m sorry for your pain and I’m praying for you today, buddy.
I read your post this morning and can only offer sympathy and support for what you and Christine are going through. My husband and I have spent the last 5 years trying to have our second child and have suffered through many miscarriages and treatments on the way. My problem is PCOS which low-carb has been helping, but there still are no guarantees and our time is running out. I am already 40 and my husband is 45 and we are emotionally drained through this process, and financially strapped. Our insurance covers none of the associated costs of the fertility treatments we have been doing for the last 3 years.
But I digress. I think you have to decide for yourselves whether you want to be pregnant, or to be parents. We had looked at adoption as an option before my daughter was born (after 4 years of trying and treatments) because we wanted to be parents and knew that children are a gift from God and love comes from Him too. So a child born of my body or a child born of my heart, the love would be the same. We were eventually blessed when we least expected it (My husband's Dad had died from a very short and painful round of cancer 2 days before I discovered I was pregnant. It really was a surprise.) and did not have to go the adoption route. Now we are too old to have a baby placed with us, and cannot afford the cost of foreign adoption. So I am trying to come to terms with having only one child. It may be that this is God’s plan for us and I am learning to accept it.
So, really what I am trying to say with all of the ramble is, Jimmy, you have a good and generous heart. Whether a child comes to you through Christine’s body or through another way, he or she will still, always be your child and you will love him or her without there ever being a difference. Trust God on this. He knows what he’s doing when it comes to love.
You should check out this site. I know that some of the back posts have had information that could help you recover your quantity and quality.
Hey Jimmy and Christine,
Okay, here's an old lady coming to pester you again! By the way, Christine is my daughter's name-she's a miracle baby I had at 39 and she plays flute, clarinet, and guitar and wants to major in music and lead a church music program. Okay, enough about my kid!
To the matter at hand, When My husband and I were in our mid-twenties we decided it was time for a baby (got married at 20). We did try, and it was fun, then I finally got pregnant and miscarried early on. I went through testing-seems I don't produce enough progesterone to support the pregnancy in the first trimester. Ok, we can fix that the doctors said. Super!
But I never got pregnant again! Then we tested my husband-oops! Does the term "clinically sterile" mean anything to you? Oh yeah, he had a few sperm, but they were not good swimmers and there were so few the docs said, "Forget about it." We both
went on fertility drugs, which really messes with you-mind and body, and tried different things with the docs to help using my DH as the donor-every month, I cried. (Feel your pain, Christine) My husband was not happy with the idea of my being pregnant with someone else's sperm-just bothered him on a primitive level. So I had to accept that. The only thing left was adoption. That is easier said than done, right folks?
Okay, I tried to get on every list out there, nothing happened. I had about given up when I got a call from the hospital where I worked. Seems a patient of mine had remembered me when he heard of a girl that needed a good home for her baby due in a few months. He was a wonderful Christian man and he helped those in need in his church. So that is how I got my oldest, now 22. I thought he would be an only child even though I was on every list in town.
Then one day in a Bible Study class, I met a girl whose in-laws had retired and were running a pregnancy outreach in North GA. She said most of the girls keep their babies but sometimes they would want to find a good family to adopt them and so they kept a list of Christian couples wanting to adopt. I got on their list and within a year I had my second son, who is now 18.
Here's the kicker, Christine, you can relate. Even though I now had 2 beautiful boys who I loved more than life itself, I still had a strong desire to be pregnant just one time and bring a life into the world. I prayed for God to take away the desire because it made me sad sometimes and I appreciated so much having the boys I just couldn't help feeling what I felt. So I ask God to either get me pregnant or take the desire away. Two months later, I was pregnant. At this point, we had been married 19 years and I was 39 when I had her. What joy!
I want to make several points here:
1. My husband was a very healthy 25 year old and there was no reason for his sterility-so don't listen to the idiots that have never faced this who are trying to say you aren't healthy, it's all that dieting, etc. It just happens, so there. It's best not to talk to people who haven't been through the same things because they will drive you crazy and you'll want to punch their face! (sorry, forgot I was a nice little old Christian lady there for a minute!)
2. My DH and I can tell you from experience that you feel no different between your adopted kids and your biological ones. We love them all the same-don't care where they came from. One caveat--if they are biological then you have to take responsibility for how they are, when they are adopted you can just say, "gee, who knows why they do that, maybe their biological parents were like that" (LOL-takes the onus off your genes!)
3. Trust your feelings about a situation and trust God to do what is best for you. If you feel artificial insemination using a donor is okay, then do it. If you don't, then don't. Pray, ask for guidance, and listen to your heart.
4. The people we got our middle child from are still running the pregnancy ministry in N. GA if you want I can get you in contact with them.
I love you guys, your hearts shine through all you do. God bless you!
I too am from the Christian community...A friend of mine Ron Stoddart has a ministry that places embryos for adoption. He was always concerned about the embryos not used by those using IVF.
It's called the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program and this may be an option you may find helpful.
See, this is why I always brag about how I am the luckiest man in the blogosphere to have such a varying group of compassionate, caring, and educated readers to help out on virtually any subject. THANK YOU to everyone who has written to us with advice and encouragement as we travel down this road. We KNOW we are in good hands and that the eventual choice we make will be the right one for us. Keep praying! :)