We were lucky enough to have extra embryos in storage after we became pregnant through in vitro fertilization in 2007. Last year, my husband and I had to decide what to do with our remaining embryos.
While I had always thought that one was the right number for how many kids to have, I definitely went through a period of wondering if I should/could have another baby.
A lot of my friends were having their second babies and I started remembering how precious it is to have a tiny baby in my arms. That baby smell. The tiny toes. The precious smiles. A tiny mouth nibbling at my breast.
But in the back of my mind, there was also the year or so of sleepless nights and exhaustion because my precious baby never slept through the night until we hired a sleep consultant. My husband and I never wanted to be that tired again.
Our little guy is now a high energy four year old who is on the go from the moment he gets up. He definitely keeps us on our toes – and I love our little family. It is everything I dreamed of and all the more precious because of our struggles with infertility and HELLP Syndrome. I don’t take it for granted.
But I wondered, if I had another one, would I get the girl I thought I would always have? I won’t lie, when I first became pregnant, I thought in my heart of hearts that I would have a girl. It was a shock when I found out I was having a baby boy at our 3D ultrasound appointment. You’ll laugh, but the biggest shock was that I wasn’t going to be able to buy one of those adorable pink and white bedding sets with a white crib at Babies R Us. In my hormonal mess of pregnancy and heartburn, I was afraid I was going to have to settle for something ugly and green. When I found a beautiful yellow jungle animals set (with matching accessories to decorate the room with), I dried my momentary tears and got over it. There would be no pink dresses but plenty of blue booties and adorable little man clothes.
And when I looked into the eyes of my baby boy, so small – too small as premies are – in his incubator, my heart just broke into a million pieces because of what he had to go through coming into the world at only 32 weeks. I was enthralled, and in love, and still marvel at how lucky I am that this amazing little boy is here to light up my life. After some inner self-examination, I realized my thoughts about having another baby weren’t about having a girl after all.
I also thought about having a sibling for my son. Will he be lonely as an only child? Will he be afraid because I had him later in life and will be 68 when he turns 30? 78 when he turns 40? How will he be affected by that? Will he be all alone when we die? If he had a sister or brother, would they be best friends? Would they look after each other? Are we depriving him of that? But what about all the siblings in the world who aren’t best friends or fight all the time? My husband weighed in on these fears assuring me that having a sibling for our son wasn’t a good enough reason to have another baby.
Then there was my health. I was severely ill with HELLP Syndrome at the end of my pregnancy. I was lucky and my son was lucky to live through that. I was in the hospital for a week after the emergency C-Section to deliver my baby at 32 weeks and it took me a couple of months to get back to feeling like myself. My baby was in the hospital for 14 weeks after his birth and the stress and anxiety we went through took a major toll on my husband and I. He was working during most of that time and moved into my son’s hospital room to care for him at night so I could get lots of rest, heal, and visit during the days. We wouldn’t, couldn’t do that again. Could we? My husband didn’t want to risk it. I didn’t want to either.
In the end, I realized I could let the idea of a second child go and be at peace with that decision. So what would we then do with our remaining embryos?
We received paperwork every 6 months from the fertility clinic with a variety of choices. We could a) request to have the unused embryos destroyed b) donate them for research c) continue paying for cryopreservation for another year or d) anonymous embryo donation.
When you go through the uncertainty, pain and stress of infertility, you eventually come to realize that many other families are also suffering. I had two other woman close to me who went through the same process and ended up doing in vitro as well. At one point, my husband and I discussed donating our embryos to one of these couples because they had difficulty creating viable embryos, but luckily they were able to get pregnant on their own.
Today I found this video What IF: A Portrait of Infertility which was created in 2010 by Keiko Zoll of The Infertility Voice. I just had a read on Keiko’s website and am happy to say that she is newly pregnant. Her video documents many of the same fears, anxieties and frustrations that I lived with for so long.
Because of what we went through with our infertility struggles, when it came down to making our choice, it was easy. We chose anonymous embryo donation so that we could offer the universe an opportunity to help another family to have a baby. Potential recipients would be a couple at the same fertility clinic we had used who for whatever reason were unable to develop viable embryos using their own eggs and sperm.
We filled out the paperwork and signed away our rights to the embryos.We made a note on our file that we would be open to contact with any child in the future if the other family is willing. The way to make contact would be through a sibling registry.
I was telling a friend about this the other day and she said to me “basically you are giving your children away.” And I said yes. I told her families who have been through infertility and continue to pursue it when everything is going wrong and the odds are against them really want a family. They will make great parents. And while it’s not in the cards for us to have another child, a brother or sister for our son, maybe it will happen another way.
We don’t know what is going to happen with this decision to donate our embryos. Possibly nothing. Possibly something wonderful.
I’m hoping for something wonderful.