I go to the mailbox and it's here again. The white envelope reads, 'PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL.' It is the monthly invoice for our frozen embryos. I'm not even sure how to write about this, but my mind and heart won't stop dwelling on it. When Mike and I began our process through IVF, we knew that it was likely we would have to go through several cycles. There is no guarantee that embryos 'stick' the first time. As we went through the motions we did not know to discuss the number of eggs to harvest or embryos to hope to create. In fact, we were overjoyed when we were told that six of ours grew- and they were so healthy! Although we were hopeful, we knew that we may be using the remaining four embryos for additional transfers if these did not take. With these extra embryos, we would be eliminating part of the process of ouchy needles and hormones I would have to take to prepare for another egg harvest. Somehow we did not consider the obvious implication of additional embryos. What do we do with these additional embryos if this cycle of IVF takes and we are done having children? The discussion is so complex and emotional that I don't have it in me to write it all. We basically have three options.
#1. Thaw and discard. Ironically I was both raw and numb from the process and that when it came to signing paperwork at the end, I was just ready to move on. We decided to have the additional embryos frozen and stored. We currently pay a monthly storage fee where our embryos sit waiting. If we decide to stop this service we are consenting for them to thaw and discard our embryos. I'll never forget how much the verbage on the forms bothered me. Bothers me.
The ethical dilemma is obvious. Either we believe that the embryos are life. Or not. I believe that life begins at conception. Even though these embryos are outside of my body, they are 100% my eggs and Mike's sperm. They met, they formed, and grew for one week. At this point they were rated the healthiest possible (I wrote about that here). For that week they were growing I prayed for them, pleaded to God, and waiting in excruciating anticipation. During that week I absolutely thought they were life. Thaw and discard. But now that we got what we wanted... thaw and discard?
#2. Donate the embryos. Although our fertility problems were painful, we were so blessed to have the opportunity to have children of our own. I am aware that many couples, or individuals, don't have that option and they turn to alternative ways to create their families. Adoption and donors are all possibilities I had to let my mind consider. What greater gift could we give someone than the gift of life? Donating our embryos to someone else could be a priceless answer to someone's desperate prayer. I understand that prayer. I understand pleading with God and living with an aching heart wondering why I couldn't be a mommy. What if this is part of our journey? God blessed us, could he now be calling us to bless another couple?
But I don't know if I can. These embryos are Maxwell and Ella's brothers or sisters. They are Mike and I. How would we know if they would be loved and taken care of? Even if they were, how could we not want them to be a part of our family? Wouldn't I forever be haunted by the possibility of our children being out there. I have this running clip in my mind where I open my front door in fifteen years and see a confused and hurting teenager in front of me. He searches my face for understanding as he asks, 'Why didn't you want me?' He tells me he doesn't understand why he couldn't be a part of our family and he asks why Max and Ella get to call us Mom and Dad. OUCH.
#3. Continue with IVF and transfer the additional four embryos. I would not transfer more than two at a time, so that means do this again. Twice. With a chance of twins. Twice. TWINS. AGAIN. Such a blessing...but, oh my. At the moment, I think I'm doing great, but add more to the mix? Yikes. If we were to do this it would have to be soon because Mike has graciously blessed me with kids, but his kids are already grown. We can't be having kids when he's a granddad (no offence babe). Maxwell and Ella are obviously priceless, but we do have to consider the financial reality. To do it again would be another $20, 000 each time. Money aside, even if we tried to have one more baby we're back to the same moral question as before. What do we do with the additional frozen embryos?
This is a question that only Mike and I can answer for our family. Part of me feels scared and vulnerable to be open about it. I invite comments of encouragement and support, but please do not judge us now or in the future. Writing often brings me clarity and healing, so I am using this blog as a forum to do that. In the meantime, we are content to pay the monthly fee and I'll continue to pray that God gives us direction. Because doesn't he always?
This is a picture of our 'frozen embryos' now named Maxwell and Ella. They showed us their picture the day we transfered them and they began to grow inside me. They grew, and they grew, and they grew...