Those children are named Robin, Ariel, Blaise, Casey, Camillian, and Luca. Her third pregnancy was a possible ectopic, after which she began seeing a NaPro doctor. She then had a very early loss, sometimes referred to clinically as a ‘chemical pregnancy,’ and two more ectopic pregnancies before conceiving and carrying Beatrice to term.
These are not dueling interviews, and they are not mirror images of each other. I wanted to share both women’s stories to give the conversation around NaPro more depth and nuance, because it’s so often presented in Catholic circles as a miracle cure, and entirely different from what mainstream fertility doctors can offer. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.
When we came in for the last ultrasound, we suspected we had lost the baby by that point, and right before [the doctor] came into the room, I heard her say, “Okay, so there’s nothing there?” And they were brusque with us when we were crying in the waiting room. I’m sure it’s uncomfortable for people to see that, but what did they think was going to happen? It felt as though they had never delivered the news of a miscarriage before. You’re surprised by this?
Even if it didn’t make any improvement in our medical treatment, [having a Catholic doctor] would mean someone who would take our losses seriously.
How did you go about finding such a person?
So it sounds like this is one of those geographical things. Elizabeth had to drive four hours to get to a NaPro doctor, but you had a choice.
It’s hard to make really strong promises, because women’s health is so under-researched. It’s important not to overpromise, not because the science is unsound, but because women’s health is always under-researched. Progesterone may be helpful. Depending on [your underlying condition] ,some studies have found yes, some have found no. It depends on what the nature of the fertility problem is. It’s certainly plausible it could save the life of some babies, but it’s not a given.
We talked about the side effects of medications, and whether it’s worth the chance to try it. I didn’t notice any side effects of taking progesterone, so there was very little down side of taking it. It might help, and it wasn’t difficult to take it. She said we could always come back and discuss how it was progressing.
It was personally comforting for me [that I didn’t have to have a DNC]. I got take care of my baby till the end. It could be in my family without involving aggressive medical attention.
We didn’t like methotrexate very much as an idea. It would have been licit, but I didn’t like the idea of dissolving the baby. You have to wait longer, and it doesn’t always work.
[The doctor said,] “You could avoid surgery; isn’t that better? You can go home today, and possibly just be done.” We talked it through, and he definitely had a preference for the drug, but he talked through what we preferred. Both options were morally fine and medically effective, and we made the call, and he took good care of us.
That’s a tough thing with not just fertility medicine, but with medicine generally. Sometimes things are black and white, but sometimes there are different degrees of benefit and side effects, and there isn’t a single right decision.
Did you ever receive any specific medical treatment from NaPro doctors that a mainstream fertility doctor would never have offered?
The big (evidence not fully in) treatments we had were metformin for PCOS, and antibiotics for endometritis (which is different from endometriosis). Both of which, from my review of the literature, don’t have enough evidence behind them to make them an obvious right choice. But they have plausible mechanisms of action and (for me) mild to no side effects.
It’s good to remember that there’s not necessarily anything there to be fixed. [Sometimes people speak] in terms of something secretly wrong with you, and NaPro can fix it. We still don’t know for sure. We really don’t know if there was an underlying problem, or if we were just unlucky.
If you feel like every person’s story ends by finding and fixing a problem, you can get emotionally blackmailed, by yourself, even. “I must have a really secret, obscure problem!” I saw that a bit in the miscarriage support group I was in. For the most part, it was really helpful, but [people would go to extreme lengths like] really aggressive elimination diets. I think people do that because they’ve tried everything, and it hasn’t happened, so they have to look harder for what’s wrong.
One thing that helped me is that I have a friend who’s a Dominican sister who cares for people who are fatally ill with cancer. That’s their charism: They care for indigent people who cancer who wouldn’t otherwise have anyone to care for them. Not to cure them, but to care for them. That’s what my job was as a mother.
To care for them without the hope of curing them: That could be my work as a mother.