Column: Seeing the benefits of IVF

Published 11:13 am Wednesday, April 3, 2024

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Growing up, I didn’t have a large extended family.

Beyond my parents and brother, I had two aunts, two uncles, one grandmother and three cousins. Of those eight extended family members, only two lived in the United States—one aunt and one cousin on my mom’s side. The other six—my grandmother, both uncles, one aunt and two cousins—lived across Canada.

Thanksgiving was always a small affair. Six people, maybe seven if my cousin had a girlfriend at the time. Christmas was even smaller. Five people with a phone call to the Canadian side of my family on Boxing Day.

And I would have continued to have a small family if it weren’t for the magic of IVF.

In the summer of 2014, my Uncle Darrell married my aunt, Annie. After trying for a while, Darrell and Annie underwent IVF in 2015, resulting in my cousin, Payton. She was the first child born in my family in twelve years.

When they decided to try again, they once again turned to IVF.

I remember the day in 2018 when my dad got the phone call from Uncle Darrell with some big news. We all assumed that the phone call was to announce a new pregnancy, until my dad’s eyes bugged out of his head. He retreated from the room and I followed.

My dad kept congratulating his brother. Due to his shock, I thought maybe they were having twins, but the longer I watched him, the more I wondered. He was flabbergasted. Bamboozled. Twins wouldn’t warrant all of this. Could it be triplets?

“Three?” I mouthed to him, so I couldn’t be heard.

He shook his head back and held up four fingers, mouthing the word, “Quads.”

My aunt, Annie, gave birth to Heidi, Nathan, Carter and Julia in October of 2018. In a single day, I went from having four cousins to eight cousins.

In the past five years, I have enjoyed photos, videos and Facetimes from Darrell and his kids. Now, the kids all have distinct personalities. They walk and talk and have hobbies and interests.

The Simms family has been blessed with five additions due to IVF, and I am incredibly thankful for it.

When I heard the news about the Alabama Supreme Court decision regarding IVF, I was deeply confused. I wondered if they seriously thought that ruling wouldn’t have unintended consequences.

Days later, IVF clinics started halting services, and I don’t blame them. If you declare that frozen embryos are children and that the destruction of them is akin to murder, you’ve criminalized the IVF industry. Plain and simple.

I thought of my five cousins, all born through IVF. I thought of couples like my aunt and uncle. What would they have done if they couldn’t access IVF care? What would their life even look like?

As if the journey of building a family wasn’t uncertain enough, the very process to bless families facing infertility now has an uncertain future. It’s ludicrous.

Since then, I have interviewed women in Alabama that have undergone IVF to build their families. Over a warm cup of coffee, they shared their struggles and joys. They laughed and cried as they explained how IVF gave them the world.

I heard the stories of Nora Jane, a four-year-old who loves to sing Stevie Wonder while her father plays the piano, and how the baseball-loving Judah and Parker reacted to the birth of their baby brother.

Today, I am honored to be able to tell their stories.