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A Crisis Infertility Clinic
U. S. A. | APOSTOLATE | NEWS
Melissa Foley’s passion is about showing women that there is an ethical and effective alternative to IVF.

melissa foley
Melissa Foley

This is the third article of the Inside the Apostle series.

It takes a certain kind of grit for a woman to take 288 negative pregnancy tests, six surgeries, three failed adoptions, and two miscarriages—and to keep on hoping for the gift of a healthy baby.  In her own battle with infertility, Regnum Christi member Melissa Foley experienced all the sadness and desperation that one out of ten women endure when their best efforts to have a baby end up fruitless.

When everything is ready but the stork never arrives, it can be tempting to look for extreme solutions. One of those solutions is IVF (in vitro fertilization), which combines an egg and a sperm in a petri dish and then injects the fertilized egg—now a human person in the earliest stages of development—back into the woman’s uterus.

On the surface, IVF looks like a dream come true: who wouldn’t want to give these women the chance to be mothers?  But a deeper look shows that IVF—already an expensive treatment at about $12,000 per cycle—has a tremendous hidden cost in human lives. In the States, each cycle of injections, 24 new lives come into existence, of which four may be implanted and one or two survive. The remaining twenty lives will be thrown in the trash, donated to scientific research, or frozen in liquid nitrogen.

The terribly irony of IVF is that a wanted pregnancy could create an even higher death toll than an unwanted pregnancy. While an abortion may claim the life of one or two babies at a time, a single IVF treatment can create and then destroy lives by the dozens.

And this is why Melissa has made it her mission to “talk women off of the IVF ledge” through a ministry which is also her profession: as a  “Christian infertility coach” trained in the CREIGHTON MODEL FertilityCare™ System, she reaches out to women who are in the same place of desperation she was in, and shows them the solution that gave her three healthy babies.

An IVF alternative

“Doctors recommend IVF way too often without knowing what is really going on with the woman. They tell couples that it’s the only option, but it’s not true. IVF is not your only option. There are alternatives to IVF,” said Melissa, noting that in many cases, infertility is actually the symptom of another underlying problem.

In her experience, that underlying problem was an illness called endometriosis, which is when cells from the uterine lining migrate to other areas of the body, settling on the ovaries, for example, and stifling the normal fertility cycle. Yet, endometriosis can be corrected with laser surgery and medication. Once it is removed, a woman’s fertility can actually double.

It should have been obvious to most doctors that correcting endometriosis would be the first step to restoring her fertility. But in Melissa’s experience, many were quick to recommend IVF, which would have meant forcing her body to have a baby without correcting the underlying problems.

That was until she met Dr. Thomas Hilgers at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the Study of Human Reproduction in Omaha, Nebraska. His expertise in NaPro (Natural Procreative) Technology opened a new perspective for the Foleys, giving them a sense of hope in the possibility of working with nature, not against it, and of finding a solution that would not put them on a path of disobedience to God.

When Dr. Hilgers’ approach worked out and gave them one healthy pregnancy after another, Melissa and her husband Ryan were filled with gratitude. She also began to discover that NaPro methods (such as the Creighton Method) were effective at addressing a wide range of infertility problems beyond endometriosis.

“I was just so grateful for it and I wanted to give back. Anytime there was some quiet time, when we would go on a long drive, that desire and that call to help other couples would keep coming up again,” she recalled.

“I wanted to encourage people and let them know that it does work, that you can have a baby and also maintain your relationship with God and each other,” she said.

A crisis infertility clinic

Over time, that persistent desire led her to launch her infertility coaching outreach, which went live on March 25, 2010, the feast day of the Annunciation of the Lord.

Through her work, she has personally coached many other women who are seriously considering IVF, who have a sense of the ethical problems and risks associated with it, and who are open to looking for alternatives. Even so, in some cases, the desire for a baby is so strong in the women that they consider sacrificing their faith and morals on the altar of IVF.

“Women have that strong, natural inclination to want to give life as the fruit of a marriage. But they need to be able to see that although God gave you that desire, it cannot be ‘at all costs,’ and the end does not justify the means,” said Melissa.

Melissa’s role is much like that of a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center. When a woman is in anguish, facing an impossible choice, driven by fear, anguish, or confusion, she doesn’t just need medical advice. She needs someone to talk to, someone who gets the bigger picture with all of its emotional, moral, spiritual, and medical implications.

As Melissa puts it, “It’s about the whole person, not just her uterus.” 

And reaching the whole person is precisely where Melissa’s personal gifts come in. She is not only knowledgeable about the medical side of IVF and alternative options, but she also has a special ability to listen and relate to people as a sister and a friend. As on the larger pro-life battlefield, one of the most important weapons is authentic empathy, a love that encompasses both woman and baby.

Not every conversation is successful. People have their freedom, plus there are some who feel a lot of pressure from family and friends who see no ethical problems with taking the IVF route.

“They teeter on the edge of IVF for a long time. It’s a very long conversation,” said Melissa, noting that a one-shot counseling session is usually not enough. “Society, their parents, their best friends are telling them, ‘Oh, you should do it.’ It’s so hard for them to know what to say back when people lose patience with them, when they’re crying and upset.”

“I know some good Catholics who have jumped. That’s how strong that desire is,” she said.

At the same time, there have been some success stories, too. Keeping women away from IVF is only half of the success story; the other half is when the wait or the pursuit of alternative methods bears fruit. Although Melissa could not share any particular cases in order to protect client confidentiality, she did mention one case of a woman who had been trying to have a baby for some time and decided to schedule a session with Melissa. The day before her scheduled conversation, she tested positive for pregnancy. When the client shared the news, they both laughed.

“Sometimes God just blesses people’s desire to stay within the confines of morality,” Melissa said.

A battle ahead

The practice of IVF is bound to grow in the coming years. Each year, more than 85,000 American women undergo IVF treatments. Over 250,000 babies have been born through IVF technology since the technique was first tried in the United States in 1981.

At present, there are close to 400,000 frozen embryos locked away in about 365 laboratories across the United States alone. Many others have been quietly discarded. As IVF becomes more sophisticated and affordable, both of those numbers will grow exponentially.

In that context, the need for a faith and science-based outreach will grow as well. Although the IVF machine dwarfs anything that one woman can do, Melissa’s plan is to keep spreading the word that IVF is not the final solution and to team up with a NaPro-trained surgeon.

Specifically, she wants to open up an alternative clinic in downtown Atlanta, right next to the biggest IVF clinic in the area. The idea is not unlike opening a crisis pregnancy center right across the street from a Planned Parenthood clinic.

A battle like that takes a certain kind of grit. It takes hoping against hope, and then fighting through every obstacle that comes up. It sounds like something Melissa Foley would do.

For more information about Melissa Foley’s Christian infertility coaching, or to recommend it to a friend, visit www.melissalfoley.com.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2011-12-17


 
 

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