Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Left-over" embryos

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.


  1. Great post; very well-written!

    I just can't imagine 22 weeks of all-day nausea. I still don't know how you managed to work all day through that. I'm very glad my nausea is over, but I'm still exhausted every day.

  2. Thank you for this gift of a possible baby to this couple. I found your blog a almost at the beginning of your pregnancy and I too was pregnant at the time and was due February 29, 2012. Unfortunately our pregnancy ended in miscarriage at 9 weeks. Any way... we also had been through numerous IUI's, IVF and a Super-ovulation with IUI only 2 of these procedures resulted in pregnancy and both of them ended in miscarriage early in 1st trimester.

    Today... I am 23 weeks pregnant because of a gracious couple that also donated their embryos to my husband and me. We are soooo blessed and know that God has given us this incredible gift and know it wouldn't be possible if it weren't for this couple.

    Again... Thanks for making a selfless gift! :-)

  3. You are amazing people. So thoughful and generous. I guess if we (parents of children as a result of DE) benefit from someone elses donation it makes sense to donate embryos. Anyways, so considerate!!!!

  4. Glad to see I'm not the only one thinking through these issues! Eventually I will donate...but I'm not ready to think about how. I have *no* desire for my children to ever meet half-siblings (why I went anonymous for both donors)...yet anonymously donating these embryos feels equally wrong. It's complicated because my children are not genetically related to each other, and only one is genetically related to me.

    I have to say there's still a teeny part of me that is so amazed that Tiny Boy is here and healthy that these embryos still feel like a back-up plan for when it goes wrong. Horrifying to think about...

  5. We have three frozen in the CR and I go back & forth on this topic in my mind. I am glad you were able to come to a decision so early in the process. When we first started out I thought that I could not donate, but have warmed up slightly to the option. I don't know if my husband would be on board though. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

  6. It certainly is a personal decision. I thought I was done after I had my twins, but I had always wanted 3 children. But, my twin pregnancy was an absolute breeze (minus nausea and wicked heartburn) compared to yours, and I didn't know what to do with our remaining embryos. I am not religious either, and I don't believe that life begins at conception, but I have a very difficult time getting my head around the idea of putting up embryos for adoption that would be my children's full siblings. If I should ever become pregnant unexpectedly (yeah, right) I wouldn't think of putting that child up for adoption. So much work, hope, love, and money goes in to creating those embryos. It is quite the dilemma.

  7. What an amazing gift you are giving. I would imagine it to be a difficult decision for anyone either way. You seem to be very good at working through big decisions and being confident in your choices.

    It warms my heart reading this and knowing that another struggling, loving couple will hopefully become parents.

  8. I could have written this post! I don't think my 2 remaining embryos will not be able to be donated - I'm too old... so I'll have to make the decision whether to use or destroy (I need to look into whether they can be donated or not).

    But given how miserable my pregnancy was... and given it nearly killed me & Ella... unfortunately & sadly, I can't imagine ever being pregnant again. I'd like to give Ella a sibling but I also can't risk myself in the process because she needs me.

    I have time given I'm barely 2 weeks post partum... but it's certainly something that's been on my mind too.

    I'm so glad you found a loving couple for your embryos!! I want to give you a hug!!

  9. Wow S and MM!! What a wonderful gift you are giving to this couple...fingers crossed for them!!

  10. What an incredible decision, as always your thoughtfulness is obvious and I hope that your embryos can help to make someone else's dreams come true.
    I am glad that things are going well for you, your husband, and the boys. It must be such a welcome blessing after such a long and difficult road!

  11. Great post. I agree with your feelings and plan to donate our remaining frozen embryos as well, though not yet. I think you are making a lovely, generous and rational decision (not taking anything away from those who feel differently). I'm so thrilled that you and your little guys are doing so well.

  12. Such a thought provoking post... you write so beautifully about such a difficult decision. I can completely see where you're coming from and admire your choice... such a generous thing to do xoxo

  13. Thanks for posting this...something I've been thinking about. We have leftover embryos as well and have decided to wait until our kids are 1 before deciding whether to use them to have more children. I had a very difficult pregnancy too, but I'm also feeling now like I want more kids. My husband has said he doesn't want twins again, so we'd likely transfer one at a time.
    I think it's great you are donating your embryos. I don't think we can because there was something we had to do when they were created (more testing) that we couldn't do as our clinic is out of town and we couldn't make an extra trip. But I'm thinking maybe we can save them and give them to someone we know if the need arises?
    Anyway, I'm glad you've arrived at a decision you feel good about...


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