This is that part about infertility – parenting afterward or otherwise – that you don’t hear so much about.
We have enclosed this letter as a reminder that you currently have embryos frozen and stored…
It is our hope that you will choose to use these frozen embryos in the near future. We recognize, however, that many of our patients would like to continue to maintain the embryos in storage for future attempts at pregnancy, while others have completed their families and would like to make arrangements for disposition of their embryos.
We ask at this time that you review your plans for family building and make a decision regarding embryo disposition…
We got this letter in the mail this week from our clinic. They even included a separate letter for a free embryo disposition counseling session with a licensed staff social worker to discuss our options. We didn’t necessarily know that this specific set of letters was coming, but we’ve always known that we’d have to finish the sentence about our four frozen embryos, our own family ellipsis.
Before the positive beta, before we knew for sure if our cycle had worked, I thought of these embryos as our backup plan. “If this cycle doesn’t work,” we told ourselves, “we’ve got four more in storage.”
Judah just turned a year last month. Three sets of close friends have all had babies within the last month (two in just the last week alone). I wouldn’t say I have baby fever by any stretch of the imagination, but there is an undeniable hunger pang that tugs at the uterus.
I understand how incredibly loaded a topic this is – not just for you as readers who may or may not have yet resolved – but for us, personally, as a family.
Are we done family building? Is our family built?
…I don’t know that we even know the answer to that.
We’re still young. We’ve still got time to make a decision. And while I’m not ready to fully dive into our potential future family building plans right this second, we’re still trying to figure out if we’re truly “one and done.” (This Reddit Parenting thread has been an incredibly useful resource in that regard.)
The biggest thing that gives me pause about trying to use any of these embryos is the looming threat of another preterm birth and thus, another NICU stay. Folks, I can’t express this more plainly: Judah’s NICU experience nearly broke me. The other factor: gestational diabetes. I do not need to bring on the impending doom of my own type II diabetes any sooner than I have to, and another pregnancy could very well do that given my family history and previous run with GD. Does this all seem selfish? Maybe. I’m not sure yet.
Regardless of our future plans – we’re still not sure what to do with these remaining embryos. Our options are somewhat limited; especially because we’ve used donor gametes. If we wanted to donate them to research, most embryonic stem cell research (hESC) programs will NOT accept embryos that were created from donor gametes. I’ve also done some investigating myself; right now, it’s incredibly difficult to find a program that would even take our embryos simply because we either don’t meet the requirements or programs are not currently accepting donated excess embryos from IVF.
Donating them to another couple is also not a possibility; contractually, per our egg donor agreement, we have agreed not to donate them to another couple. That was a decision that came after very long, careful consideration during our process leading up to our cycle. (The full reasoning behind this is honestly an entirely separate blog post I don’t know that I’m ready to write just yet.)
The only other option is to let the embryos thaw and be discarded. We could try a compassionate transfer (whereby the embryos would be transferred to me at a time when I couldn’t get pregnant) – but my luck would have all four implanting at once. Seriously, these are the odds we’ve been running with for years now and I don’t want to take that chance.
The thought of simply “discarding” them, like tossing frozen leftovers in the trash bin – to say it doesn’t sit well with me is an understatement. I wouldn’t go so far as to call them our “babies” – but they are ours.
The storage fee is hardly breaking the bank and if anything, we’re paying for the convenience of not having to make a decision right now.
But at some point, we are going to have to make a decision, as our clinic so conveniently reminded us this week. And we’ll be taking them up on that free consultation.