This Mother’s Day – my fifth as a mother – will be spent with my curious and joyful daughter. When she’s not busy asking me questions about everything she sees in the world, she’s making up songs about her life or planning her next playdate with friends. While she is aware that we needed medical assistance to have her, she is blissfully unaware of the heartache we experienced before she entered our lives due to our experience with infertility.
We are fortunate we had access to the care we needed to treat this medical condition and had the funds to pay for the care. And we are so blessed that, after two egg retrievals and two embryo transfers, she is here with us today.
But this Mother’s Day, too many South Carolinians who deeply want to be mothers are afraid their dreams will become collateral damage of proposed legislation to ban abortion. Following last year’s Dobbs v. Jackson Supreme Court decision, lawmakers across the country have proposed reproductive restrictions in the name of preserving life – restrictions that may lead to bans on IVF.
Reproductive rights help build families
South Carolina lawmakers were no different; as part of their efforts to restrict reproductive rights, they introduced bills that could severely restrict access to this important family-building procedure. It is incredibly concerning that bills like H3549 and H3552 – both of which would pose a grave risk to both IVF patients and the doctors who care for them – were introduced by legislators in the first place.
If South Carolina lawmakers are truly in favor of helping their constituents build families, we need them to declare that they are unwavering in their commitment to protect access to IVF and the full range of reproductive care that accompanies this life-giving procedure. Families like mine only exist because of IVF, and bills like H3549 and H3552 deeply affect people like me.
Everyone’s journey to parenthood is different. When I talk about the road that led to our daughter, I shorten it and say we did three rounds of IVF: one that worked, one that didn’t and one that ended in miscarriage when we tried to give our daughter a sibling. That story is a highlight reel – one that omits the waiting, the tears, the money, the stress, the loneliness, the picking ourselves up after each disappointment, the hormones, the weight gain, the taking two steps backward for every one step forward and the deep pain of it all.
There were so many Mother’s Days that left me feeling sad, angry and depleted. One year, I went to church and the pastor asked all the mothers to stand up – while I sat there and held back tears. But it wasn’t just on Mother’s Day I felt the acute pain of infertility. I planned two of my younger sisters’ baby showers while I was taking IVF injections to try to get pregnant. At weddings, I was asked how many kids I had. As a thirty-something married woman, this made me feel deeply out of place and left behind – all while I was calculating every decision based on whether it would get me one step closer to becoming a mom.
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State lines shouldn’t decide parenthood
In this moment, I can’t imagine balancing these painful experiences, navigating everyday life, and being concerned that IVF wasn’t available to me because lawmakers in my state took it away.
These are the feelings I channel when I am advocating for others to build their families. I want every would-be parent in South Carolina and across the nation who wants to grow their family to be able to try.
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As a fertility patient, advocate and volunteer for RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, I want legislators to understand that restricting the full range of reproductive health care will prevent people like me from having a chance to become a parent via medical intervention. It is hard to fathom that the lawmakers we elect to office would deny the people of this state this life-changing opportunity of becoming a parent through IVF.
Without being able to create embryos through the IVF process, this Mother’s Day would likely look vastly different for me and my husband. This holiday, I urge lawmakers to recommit to helping people build their families and vow to protect IVF and reproductive healthcare for all.
Kristin Dillensnyder is a former IVF patient who now advocates for IVF access and reproductive rights, and has her own infertility support business. She lives with her husband, stepson and daughter in Blythewood, South Carolina.