The Pope and I have a lot in common.
We were both raised Catholic. Sure in adulthood our paths have diverged somewhat. Whilst he has really pushed Catholicism to the max, I got married in a Registry Office ... 'nuff said.
We are both opposed to contraception. Although the Pope takes this to a global scale, I insist on it only between the husband and I (and when I haven't been put on it for medical reasons). Indeed I positively encourage it in the wider world; anything to avoid yet another pregnancy announcement.
And I love kids, the Pope ... shall I not go there?
The Pontiff is about to arrive on our shores for a state visit. This has resulted in the newspapers going all out for stories featuring his Holiness - with links to previous, relevant articles. I can't imagine what it was about this headline (from 2008) that caught my eye:
The church has decreed that "most forms of artificial fertilisation were 'to be excluded' on the grounds that they replaced 'the conjugal act' as a means of reproduction". Believe me, the husband and I have conjugalled with the best of them (and more importantly with each other), IVF won't replace the act but hopefully be a hell of a lot more effective.
It appears that there is another issue with IVF, namely that very often there will be embryo's that are surplus to requirements and the difficulty lies in what to do with these. The Vatican's treatise on the subject appears to rule out every possible use for the embryos: their destruction, their donation to infertile couples and their use for therapeutic or experimental purposes.
I can see it isn't an easy decision. Months ago, when I had to sign all the IVF consent forms, my pen hovered over the 'what to do with the embryo's' tick box.
Even if the NHS was willing to put everything I produce back in, I wouldn't have gone for that option. I do want children but, please, not eight at once.
I have thought about donating to other couples, and I haven't ruled it out in the future, but I really think I need to have a child first before I start imagining whether another woman - however deserving - has born the fruit of my loins. Though quite what the Church's objection (beyond the replacement of the fruitless conjugal act) to this is, I am mystified.
Disposal. I would have difficulty flushing a dead goldfish down the pan. I don't think I could consent to this.
Use for experimental purposes. This isn't an easy decision. Even though rationally, unlike the Pope and his minions, I don't think this early cluster of cells is a life, but the idea of experimentation conjures up images of kittens with scart leads in the heads and electric shocks being administered by aliens in stainless steel laboratories.
But how did we get here?
How did we manage to get to the point that my eggs can be grown, harvested, kept in a liquid solution perfectly calibrated to encourage growth, be fertilised by sperm that have been individually quality controlled, left to divide and develop, to eventually be at a stage that then can go back into a womb and produce a perfect child.
It wasn't all theory worked out on the back of an envelope. Every stage was tested, experimented with, failed, tried again, refined and worked on. IVF is only possible because of previous embryos that were experimented on. And the process isn't flawless, there is still work to be done, refinements to be made, more couples who will be helped.
How can I not consent to using excess embryos (should there be some) for tests? Of course I consented.
So despite our uncanny similarities it would be fair to say that on this subject the Pope and I are most certainly not singing from the same hymn sheet.
Another point of difference between Benedict and I is I am not convinced of my papal infallibility.
So tell me do you disagree with me, or the Pope? Have you had to make a decision about embryos? What do you reckon?