I've been turning this post over in my mind for several days, ever since I read gwinne's post here. Reading her post made me think that it's interesting how reasonable, rational people can approach the same dilemma and arrive at different decisions.
In her post, gwinne talks about how she "can't imagine anyone else having" the embryos left over from the cycle which produced her son, Tiny Boy. She talks about how "these embryos have the potential to be Tiny Boy's full genetic siblings" and that she is not ready to donate them and doesn't know that she will ever be ready. I can understand and appreciate her feelings. I'm sure that many people in her situation would share them.
We have four embryos frozen at our clinic from our DE IVF cycle. It's true that our four frozen embryos have the potential to become AJ and MJ's full genetic siblings, and more: to be MM's genetic children. Nonetheless, we have no qualms about donating them to someone else and have long intended to do so because we know we will not be using them.
Neither MM nor I is of the firm belief that "life begins at conception." We aren't religious, and I am too scientific in my thinking to accept such a broad premise. Nevertheless, we recognize that each of our frozen embryos has the potential to develop into a living, breathing human being and that there are other people who find themselves in the position in which we found ourselves--childless and unable to conceive--who cannot afford to pursue DE IVF as a family-building option.
MM and I have known since some time during my second trimester with the boys that we would not be having more children. (Of course, this assumed that my pregnancy would end with living children, and it did.) If I had conceived a singleton instead of twins from our DE IVF cycle, there is a chance we might have used one or more of our "left-over"** embryos to try and have a second child. I say "a chance" because I think there is an equal chance we would have been content to have just one child. MM is an only child and saw nothing wrong with the idea of stopping at one. Once upon a time, I dreamed of having three children. . . but that was before it took us three years and $30K to get pregnant.
Starting parenthood at nearly age 41, I'm not sure whether I'd have wanted to have another child. (I realize that many women become first-time moms at even older ages, but I was already far older than I'd ever intended to be for that experience. I'll be 59 when our boys graduate high school, which floors me when I think of it.)
When we first did our embryo transfer and knew we had four more embryos frozen from that cycle, we had agreed to *consider* the possibility of trying for a second when our first child was a year old. I think that decision would've depended on a lot of things: how we adjusted to parenthood in general, the temperament of our first child, our financial situation, just to name a few. Conceiving twins the first go around rendered that decision moot.
Although I tried not to complain much here, those of you who have been reading for a while may realize I had a miserable pregnancy with the twins. I had extreme fatigue for all but a few weeks of the pregnancy, all-day nausea from week 6 to week 22, and food intolerances and heartburn throughout (as well as the more minor annoyances like hemorrhoids and skin changes which most pregnant women experience). In addition to these symptoms, which, arguably, I could've perhaps expected and anticipated, my pregnancy was not without complications: I developed gestational diabetes at 21 weeks and preeclampsia at 32 weeks. . . . which led to a c-section (with significant post-surgical hemorrhage) at 34 weeks. Not to put too fine a point on it, I literally could've died, either from preeclampsia or hemorrhage. (I don't feel that I was ever truly at risk of dying from either because I received prompt and excellent medical care, but it doesn't mean that the possiblity didn't exist.)
I am OK now, as are our boys, thank goodness. My blood pressure and blood sugars are normal, my anemia has resolved, and apart from some changes in my body shape which are likely permanent and the previously mentioned minor annoyances, I'm back to my old self. HOWEVER, pregnancy is not something I would ever put my body through again. I realize there is a chance that a second pregnancy wouldn't be as difficult as the first, especially if I were only carrying one baby. But there is a chance it would be just as bad. (Gestational diabetes and preeclampsia in particular are likely to recur in subsequent pregnancies.) Knowing what I know now, having lived the experience, I just cannot go there again.
Because I know that I will never go through another pregnancy, I know for sure we won't use our embryos. The only way we could do so is if we used a surrogate to carry them. We couldn't afford surrogacy, as we are tapped out financially from paying for our DE cycle (I'm still paying it off), not to mention the expense of caring for the two boys we now have. (Formula and diapers alone are mind-blowingly expensive!) So that wouldn't be an option unless we won the lottery. . . and in that unlikely event, hell, I'd be willing to blow more money on additional cycles if we wanted more children. (College funds and full-time help would no longer be significant financial considerations at that point.)
Even if, G-d forbid, something happened to one of our boys, we would still have another child. We would still be parents. Barring some far-reaching epidemic or a tragic accident, it's highly unlikely we'd lose both our sons. So I don't know that even the death of one of our boys (something horrible to contemplate!) would lead us to want to use any of our frozen embryos. And if something unthinkable like that happened, it's hard to know how we would feel. Perhaps the pain of our loss would break up our marriage, send us over the edge, make us never want to parent again. Who's to say?
Because we've known for a while that we would want to donate our remaining embryos from our cycle, I have been searching for appropriate recipients for them. While I don't think of these embryos in the same way I think of our two sons, I am mindful and respectful of their potential as human beings and as our sons' genetic siblings. That mindset makes me want to find the best possible "home" for them.
In the interest of preserving their privacy, I won't write much here about the recipient couple with whom we have almost arrived at an agreement. (We considered some SMCs, too, but ultimately felt drawn to this couple.) Suffice it to say that I found them through a popular internet networking site for such things (email me for the name if you are looking to donate/receive embryos), and they appear to be good, upstanding people who are childless and have exhausted their other fertility treatment options. (DE IVF is not an option for them due to its cost.) They aren't exactly like us, but there are a few similarities, and I believe they will be excellent, loving parents and provide any children they will have with a good life.
MM's only request vis a vis our embryos is that he is curious to know if they do, in fact, produce pregnancies and live babies and also what the gender(s) of those babies will be. (Given that we had two boys, he is curious to know if our remaining embryos are boys, too, or girls.) He is also willing to let the child(ren) meet him, at the discretion of the parents, if/when the time is right and there is a desire for contact.
So sometime in the next several months, it's possible that our donated embryos will make someone else a mother for the first time. I feel good about that.
**I don't really like the term "left-over" in regard to our embryos. Although I suppose it's not inaccurate, I think it has something of a negative connotation.