My Feelings about Judging An IVF Contest

AUTHOR: | POSTED: June 19, 2012 | COMMENTS: 9 Comments
CATEGORIES: Infertility,

Carolyn Savage

I was a puddle when Sean entered our family room.  He didn’t notice at first.  My back was to him.  As he flipped on the television, I tried to hide my emotional state from him.   I didn’t want him to see what I had gotten myself into.  Unfortunately, it only took a few minutes for him to notice.   My tears… a dead give-away.

Sean   What’s wrong? 

Me     I’m in hell!

Sean     What are you watching on the laptop?

Me   Gutwrenching videos made by couples who want to be parents.

Sean   Why?

Me   Because I promised Dr. Sher.  I had no idea how gut wrenching this would be. 

It was true.  When Dr. Sher, the fertility doctor that helped us conceive Reagan and Isabella, asked me to help judge a Father’s Day IVF Give-Away Contest, I accepted immediately.  I adore Dr. Sher.  He brought us our miracle against insurmoutable odds.  He’s a reproductive genius in my eyes and I will be forever grateful to him for his help.  When I learned of his clinic’s contest to give away an IVF cycle to a deserving couple, I was inspired to help.  IVF treatments are expensive and the chance to help SIRM (Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine) donate a treatment to an infertile couple was an incredible opportunity.  What I didn’t consider was how emotionally challenging the task would be.

The contest required entrants to submit a video about their journey through infertility.  By the deadline, there were were 45 submissions.  Most of the videos were around four minutes, set to music, and consisted of script and pictures that told about a couple’s difficult journey to parenthood.  As a judge, I had to watch the videos, and somehow determine which couples were most worthy of becoming finalists. 

Holy Moly.  How do I do that?

I watched every video twice.  The first time, I’d sit back and try to immerse myself in the story.  The second time, I’d take notes.  How long had the couple been married?  Did they have a diagnosis?  How long had they been trying to conceive? 


But then came the other notes.  The painful recountings of excruciating loss that many of the entrants had endured.  It was then that my notes became depressing and my tears uncontrollable.  I tallied how many miscarriages, stillbirths and failed adoptions each couple had experienced?  So many had been through tremendous trauma.  That’s when I questioned my involvement.  Was it right to weigh one person’s loss against another’s?  And who the heck am I to decide who’s more worthy of a chance at parenthood?

Compounding my angst about judging, were the memories of my own painful experiences that were mirrored by so many of the entrants.  Multiple treatment failures, years of getting hopes up, only to be dashed with a negative pregnancy test, are part of my journey. And miscarriages and full term neonatal loss (not death…loss) are sufferings I’m intimately familiar with.  It was as if the pain of these men and women was burrowing into my own heart.   Hence…my unstoppable flow of tears.

Sean was irritated with me for agreeing to torture myself by judging.  That’s his protective nature. Seeing me cry is hard for him.

In the end, I’m grateful I participated.  The contest gave me an opportunity to give a gift…the gift of hope.  And hope is crucial when battling with infertility.  In addition, watching these couple’s stories reminded me of my own journey to motherhood.  I may have five kids, which I realize is highly unusual for an infertile couple, but I must never, ever forget what we went through to get to our family.  I equate an infertility battle to climbing Niagara Falls.  Would-be parents have to relentlessly trudge onward because the reward of parenthood is the sweetest.  My journey to my kids is why I carry immense gratitude through every challenging stage of motherhood.

I was thrilled when the generous folks at SIRM chose to donate not one, but three free cycles.  The recipients, whose videos can be seen here, and here, and here, are all inspiring individuals.  I hope they know how fervantly I’ll be praying for their success. 

For the 42 couples who didn’t win, I hope they know that I’m praying for them as well.  I wish their journeys were easier.  Simply put, infertility sucks.  But I have a lot of hope for them, as well.  I’m living,breathing proof that when there’s a will–there’s a way.  Even when life throws a gigantic curve ball, perseverance is a must.  Happiness will follow. 

I realize that the contest is somewhat controversial.  I recently gave an extensive interview about my judging experience to Time Online Magazine.  The article can be read here. 

9 Comments on “ My Feelings about Judging An IVF Contest ”

  • Mary | June 19th, 2012 10:54 pm

    I know how difficult it must’ve been to choose finalists. Thank you for doing it in spite of the difficulty, and congratulations on your beautiful family.

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  • Carolyn Savage | June 21st, 2012 9:30 am

    Thanks, Mary. It was difficult but I really am proud of SIRM for not only donating cycles, but also bringing awareness to the issue of IF!

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  • Keiko | June 20th, 2012 2:05 pm

    Carolyn, I too was asked to judge but didn’t have the chutzpah to go through with it. I haven’t watched the videos, either – I just can’t do it. I wanted to thank you for your candidness in talking about the judging experience and the range of emotions you experienced going through it. Harkens right back to the same tone and style of your book.

    Wanted to let you know that I’ve included a quote from you from this blog post and linked back to it in my own post about IVF contests here:

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  • Carolyn Savage | June 21st, 2012 9:29 am

    Hi Keiko,

    I read your blog, and can completely understand where you are coming from. It’s a pleasure to meet you cyber style. Thanks for all that you do for the IF community!

    Also…I was crusing your site and came across your review of Inconceivable. Wow….thanks!

    My fingers are crossed for you!

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  • The Infertility Voice | Do IVF Contests Gamble With Our Hope? (Updated) | June 20th, 2012 4:43 pm

    […] But then came the other notes… That’s when I questioned my involvement. Was it right to weigh one person’s loss against another’s? And who the heck am I to decide who’s more worthy of a chance at parenthood? (Source) […]

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  • Amanda | July 25th, 2012 9:40 pm

    I have been blessed with 2 children and watching the heartbreak these couples faced over and over again brought tears to my eyes and streaming down my face. I don’t know if these couples also blog but I would love to be able to follow their stories to a (hopefully) happy ending!

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  • Carolyn Savage | July 25th, 2012 10:59 pm

    I know. I would love to follow their stories too. It was a hard task to watch so many pour themselves out for the dream of a child. Thank you for reading and your comment!

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  • Constructive Criticism Helps Us Lead A More Authentic Life | Mama On The Fly | March 11th, 2013 11:18 am

    […] forward to June 2012.  I’d just finished judging an IVF contest for SIRM and a request came in from for me to speak with a journalist about my experience. […]

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  • Did I Mention I’m in A Movie Debuting Tomorrow? | Mama On The Fly | April 14th, 2016 1:54 pm

    […] written before about my struggles whild being a judge for the “I Believe” contest.  The submitted stories are heart wrenching.  Every single entry deserves a chance.  The […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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