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From In Vitro Fertilization to NaPROTechnology

In 1993, I began working in a fertility clinic. Since the demand was so great, I imagined I was undertaking work in a prestigious institute of great importance and benefit to others.

Tadeusz WasilewskiReproductive medicine — treating infertility — is a highly sophisticated area of medical science. I began to deepen my knowledge of the field and view the problem through the eyes of my patients. I saw what a tragedy infertility was for married couples. Psychologically, people unable to conceive children are like cancer sufferers. They feel like invalids in their family, in their society. They avoid the subject. Remarks such as “What? Not pregnant?” or “No child yet?” pierce their heart like shafts. This is not what they want to hear. They weep quietly somewhere in the privacy of their home. They suffer. Helping such people means year-round work — twenty four seven. Those unprepared to make this sacrifice cannot work in this field. I always tried to carry out my work with love, candor, and sincerity. I sought to gain my patients’ trust. I knew this was necessary in the treatment process, regardless of the method used. After all, I was dealing with living people, whose illness caused them tears and suffering. They hurt both physically and mentally. At the same time, I worked with the skill and competence demanded by my profession. Triumphing over infertility require nothing less.

Professional advancement

Working in the IVF field means associating with experts all over the world, for infertility respects no borders. Conventions, congresses, and symposiums allow for the exchange of information and professional experience; but they are also occasions to travel and see the world. IVF work also means big money. Obscenely big money! People will sacrifice everything in order to conceive a child. They will work at their jobs for years, only to spend all their earnings. They sell their cars and houses, get into debt — just to triumph over their infertility; to have that yearned-for baby.

Every day I received more and more telephone calls, sometimes as many as twenty a day. When I was successful, people were happy. When I was unsuccessful, my patients came back for another series of expensive treatments. I began to realize I could talk to them. They trusted me. In addition to telephone calls, I received dozens of letters informing me of the birth of the child. The happy parents would describe the child to me; tell me the color of its hair, its eyes. They sent me photographs. Often the whole family would visit me after two or three years, with bouquets of flowers, to show off their child and thank me for it. How could I not believe in what I was doing! How could I not believe I was doing something useful! I felt fulfilled as a person, as a physician, as someone who was helping his fellow human beings on the planet — people who suffered.

I made rapid advances in my profession and became well known. I honestly believed I was doing something good and useful. The money, the prestige, the knowledge that I was forty-seven years old and reaching all my goals — all this pushed me further in this direction. My milieu consisted of those who carried out the IVF program or those who wanted to have the program carried out, for they suffered on account of their infertility. Every day I read dozens of articles and monographs on the subject of treating infertility and the possibilities of this program. Although I came from a Catholic family, I took no interest in the question of human existence and God’s part in it. I lived a tradition without delving into its meaning.

Turning point

It was early 2007. My wife and I were returning from our vacation in Slovakia. Something was happening to me that I could not humanly explain. I suddenly began to perceive life in a new light. I felt it pulsating within me. I saw my work through the prism of two arboreal crowns. One crown was green, in full leaf, alive. It represented the children to whom the IVF program gave life. The other crown was sear and leafless. It represented the children to whom the method denied the chance of further life. Such was the in vitro program. I always knew that a number of human beings had to die in the process of realizing this program; but this particular evening it was as if the scales had fallen from my eyes and I was seeing it through the prism of life — in all its vibrancy.

A few days later I opened the newspaper. What did I see? Of the thousands of words forming the newspaper columns, there were barely three that concerned life. And yet these were the very words my eyes alighted on; and it seemed to me there was an aura about them. I felt this was neither happenstance nor an illusion, but rather the action of supernatural grace.

Spring came and the lawns of our housing estate turned green. On crossing from one pedestrian path to another, I felt a horror of walking on the lawn. I caught myself at this! I was afraid of destroying the living creatures hidden among the blades of grass. And yet in the IVF program I was destroying life all the time!

Then one day, as I was experiencing all this, Father Pio appeared to me in a vision. I felt a spiritual shock. I realized I had to change my life. After that, Father Pio appeared to me several more times, but only in my dreams. There was an extraordinary sense of reality about what I was experiencing. Without mincing words, Father Pio told me what I must do. Though he allowed me my free will, he did not spare my feelings.

It was then that I began reading books about Father Pio. I read them all at a sitting. I learned that St. Francis of Assisi could not walk on the grass either. He too was afraid of harming life! I was convinced God had touched me, and I was delighted. But I was at a loss what to do. How not to pass up this unique chance of following God’s will? How was I to walk this path, which He was pointing out to me? One night, a voice woke me in the night. “Trust in Jesus!” it said. Though the voice was not of this world, it was real nonetheless. I heard the words clearly — repeated three times. I sat up in my bed — in the dead of night. But it was not terror I felt, but rather curiosity. What did all this mean? After a while I became aware that my ear — the one into which the voice had spoken — was aching badly. The pain lasted about forty seconds. Later, when I began to doubt that all this had happened, the earache I had felt while wide-awake convinced me this had not been an illusion, but rather a real occurrence.

Finally, I went to the director of the IVF institute and told him I was thinking of resigning. “I cannot work in the IVF program.” I said. “I can no longer work with life and “accidentally” destroy it.” I kept my feelings to myself, as he would no doubt have laughed at me. He told me I was tired and should go away somewhere and have a rest. The idea of a rest after my vacation comforted me. Though I was certain I could not go back to this work, I wanted to get away for a while and consider my options.

My wife and I went to Slovakia again. One evening around six o’ clock, we drove from our hotel to a church located about twelve miles away. The priest there had six churches under his charge and said Mass at a different one every day. We knew which church he would be at, but didn’t exactly know where it was. It was almost six in the evening — dark and foggy. I was driving at less than twenty miles an hour. Suddenly a white dove appeared in front of the windshield and led us for about 500 yards — to a turn-off we had to take in order to get to the church. If I had been the only one to see the dove, probably no one would believe this story; but there was someone else in the car with us — a gynecologist friend.

The return of the prodigal son

On returning to Poland, we drove to Jasna Góra, to the shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa. I knelt down. I did not care if people were coming or going, or if a thousand people saw me. I have no recollection of how long I prayed. My tears fell in streams. On raising my head, I realized I was kneeling by a pillar on which hung a picture of the prodigal son being welcomed by his father. I smiled through my tears, for I saw it as another sign from God. Clearly, he accepted me despite my past — despite my involvement in the “life for a life” technology, which is the IVF program.

From Częstochowa we drove south to Zakliczyn to spend a few days at the convent there. My conversations with the mother superior, Sr. Cecilia, proved very beneficial. Though I was already certain I would no longer work in the IVF program, she strengthened my trust in God. On our parting, she handed me a little book by St. Josemaria Escriva entitled The Way, the Furrow and the Forge, saying: “Read an excerpt from this book every day and do as it instructs.” I treated the instructions as daily signs. I read, and I walked, and I acted. I read, and I walked, and I acted. This was a real experience of the living God, whom I did not see, and yet whom I heard.

On March 31st I tendered my resignation from the Institute. I would no longer work in the IVF program — I told the director. He replied: “There are many doctors in Poland who would give their right arm to have your name. Eighty percent of the patients coming here come to see you. Think what are you doing?” At that moment I placed my whole trust in God. I resigned my post at the clinic and, along with it, the sizable monthly salary that could buy me a top-line car every month. I took off my smock, handed over my paraphernalia, and said I would never be a doctor again. I had no desire to be one, since I did not wish to destroy life. For sixteen years I had been treating infertility, been engaged in this highly refined area of medicine, and yet I was unable to heal anything.

My wife and I made a pilgrimage to Israel. The Holy Land — the fifth Gospel — proved extremely beneficial to me. I walked in the footsteps of the Holy Family. We spent three weeks there with two priest friends of ours. I related to them — to one especially — everything I have related in this testimony. We sat together and I wept. He wept too. Then he celebrated Holy Mass, at which I, feeling the palpable presence of God, received the Eucharist and found the strength to consider what I would do next. I trusted God and allowed Him to lead me.


That fall, my gynecologist friend called me up — the one who had been with us to Slovakia and also seen the dove. She asked me if I knew what naprotechnology was. Of course I did not, but I told her that if this were not a dirty word, I would try to discover what naprotechnology was. It turned out it was a field of medicine devoted to the healing of infertility, to eliminating infertility among married couples requiring this help. It was an authentic field of medicine — not a cooked-up one. I was delighted, since it turned out that there was still potential for my acquired knowledge and experience. I could still put it to use. It was no trick to take off my medical smock and drop everything so as to save my soul. I suppose God would have asked me one day: “Well, what of your talents? You failed to use them for the benefit of others.” Neglecting one’s gifts is also a sin.

In 2008, Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, the creator of naprotechnology (natural procreative technology), organized a convention of naprotechnologists in Rome. There, along with a few colleagues from Białystok whom I talked into going with me, I became convinced of the value of this field of science. I was convinced this was a genuinely scientific method, which made use of all the modern tools (diagnosis beginning with sperm analysis, study of medical records, physical examination of the woman, ultrasound scanning, hormone analysis, endoscopic analysis (laparoscopy, hysteroscopy), and fertility assessment); a method that had recourse to gynecological surgery to eliminate abnormalities, if such existed, i.e. to remove adhesions and endometrioses and restore oviduct viability. Above all, it was a method that did not override the woman’s natural reproductive functions.

Dr. Hilgers proposed a technique for interpreting various abnormalities occurring in the woman’s organism so as to enable treatment while observing the progress of the menstrual cycle. When, after these medical procedures, the cycle returned to normal, the woman’s fertility was restored, and thus natural conception and pregnancy could follow as a matter of course.

The first test-tube baby was born in 1987. That same year Dr. Hilgers began his research, which gave rise to the term “naprotechnology.” God presented the world with two methods of dealing with infertility. Man chose the IVF program. But Hilgers insisted, ”No, I will not carry out this program. I will respect life and look for other ways.” And he developed natural procreative technology. The Venerable John Paul II, who was then pope, assisted Hilgers financially. Every year he issued checks to him in the amount of several thousand — even tens of thousands of — dollars. He helped him because Hilgers had nothing to live on.

I felt God was presenting me with a special task: to work in a small gynecological office with a small ultrasonograph and practice naprotechnology on the quiet — unobtrusively. For the time being no one was to know about it except my patients. My task was to make naprotechnology better known to the medical world and society at large. This would entail the use of statistical and medical techniques capable of producing consistent and efficient results, which could then be published in reputable scientific journals. Above all, I felt the need to present naprotechnology as an authentic method of modern medicine. And so I formed the idea of establishing a center equipped with tools such as ultrasound scanners and an analytical laboratory; a center enabling the most precise sperm and hormone analysis, endoscopic examination (we perform outpatient hysteroscopies), cervical inspections (colposcopies), and cryotherapeutic surgery, i.e. removing abnormalities in the area of the cervix. Such a center would be of the same standard as the existing IVF centers and clinics.

And so it came to be! On January 1st 2009, we opened our NaProMedical Center in Białystok — a city that boasts four IVF centers; a city that produced the world’s first test-tube babies; the city in which St. Faustina Kowalska’s spiritual director, Fr. Michał Sopoćko was beatified.

God has the decisive say

I will not say that things are easy for me. I am swimming against the current in a city that has some fifteen doctors working in the IVF program. Every one of these doctors knows me and remembers the kind of results I achieved. Perhaps that is why they are not sure if they can bite me or not. For the moment they leave me alone, for which I thank God.

We have scored our first successes. Patients, after going through two unsuccessful rounds of IVF treatment, have come to us and conceived a child after merely following the Creighton method. Using scientifically accepted tools and concepts, Dr. Hilgers has demonstrated naprotechnology’s efficacy. In Holland, for example, the IVF program has a success rate of 62% — the benchmark being the birth of a healthy child — and this over a period of a year and a half, during which time the IVF program can be administered three to four times. By contrast, naprotechnology’s success rate over a period of two years is 80%. Of the two methods, only naprotechnology guarantees respect for each human being and preserves the full dignity of the prospective father, mother, and child. The IVF program cannot provide this guarantee.

Naprotechnology is a method that fully respects nature; it enables the married couple to conceive a child at home. On the other hand, the IVF program places conception outside the context of marriage. Naprotechnology is a hundred times cheaper than the IVF program. In Poland, preliminary diagnosis and teaching the couple to follow the Creighton model cost the equivalent of US $350-530. Subsequent treatment, depending on the cause and medications used, can cost from $1.80 to $350 monthly. By contrast, the cost of a single series of IVF treatments costs anywhere from US $2465 to $5280.

Naprotechnology is not an alternative method; it is the only method of healing infertility in the world. I am certain this is the method God desires — this and no other. I also see how the method works. I see how effective it is. And I see that it is drawing more and more patients.

Every day I discuss aspects of biology and ethics with my patients. It does not take me long to recognize those among them who have experienced God’s touch. I see it in their eyes. With such patients I can say more. I understand them immediately, just as they can understand me. But on the whole the world does not wish to understand that in matters of life and death, in matters of conception and the healing of infertility it is God who has the decisive say. You cannot help others by destroying human life. You cannot find happiness by walking over corpses. You cannot believe in God, the giver of life, and at the same time contribute to the death of a person created in His image and likeness. We must make a clear choice; and in the area of infertility, such a choice, in accordance with God’s will, is naprotechnology.

Tadeusz Wasilewski M.D., Białystok

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The article was published with the permission from "Love One Another!" in August 2016.

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