Seems there is always a trendy term or a label given to everything these days – GenZ – for example. Today I learned one I had not heard before but I have had personal experience with.
Embryo donation seems to be in vogue these days with couples experiencing infertility issues. In the religious community sphere embryo donation seems to have become yet another pro-Life issue. Elle Magazine published a feature, The Leftover Embryo Crisis, in 2017 that indicated there were an estimated 1 million frozen embryos in storage at that time.
Both of my sons were conceived via IVF. The youngest was born in 2004 and so, when 2005 rolled around, knowing we had no intention of attempting another pregnancy at my advanced age (and honestly there are very real risks in giving birth at age 50 that I am glad we didn’t understand at the time but I knew then about the potential risks and would not have done that to yet another child at that point – I will say we are all grateful that my youngest son is in our lives) we were faced with paying another year’s storage fee on the leftover frozen embryos.
A woman in my mom’s group told me about Miracles Waiting. We felt we needed to at least give these potential children an opportunity to be born. We just couldn’t simply destroy the embryos. The response to our listing was overwhelming. Quickly we were matched. The couple put us and our original egg donor through a LOT of hoops but eventually everything was agreed to, including the recipients agreeing to share in some of our original expenses directly connected to the creation of their embryos. There was also communication about their hoped for child eventually having a relationship with our two sons.
The woman did conceive and we were all very happy for her chance to experience pregnancy, give birth and maybe even breastfeeding her baby (which I did for over a year with both of our sons). It had been her lifelong dream to have those experiences. Sadly, it did not end well. She had transferred all 3 of our only leftover embryos and so, there was no second chance for her in that regard.
Almost 2 months after that attempt and a positive pregnancy test, her husband wrote us. “I just wanted to let you know that the baby did not survive. The ultrasound today showed only the gestation sack but no yoke sack, and they did not grow as much as the doctor wanted. In a nut shell, . . . We are very devastated as we now know that our chances for conceiving are past us.”
About 1 month later, the woman wrote us – “Thanks for your continued kind thoughts. The past weeks have been very difficult for me. The baby not surviving was my last chance to experience pregnancy. Sorry that I haven’t written sooner, I just haven’t been able to put any of my thoughts into words.”
“As a blessing from above we have been given the opportunity to foster parent, if only for a short time, a baby boy that was abandoned by his birthmom at birth. This 17 year old gave birth at home, put this sweet little boy into a plastic trash bag and threw him over a fence into a retention pond area. Within an hour people heard his cries and rescued him. Caring for another is a good way to stop thinking about your self.”
“I am so saddened. It still is hard for me to accept. I was going between denial and anger. Now, with feeding the baby every two hours round the clock, I don’t have time to think about it.”
I do believe they eventually adopted the baby. I also believe that God always answers our prayers. Maybe not the way we thought they would be answered. To my understanding, even a “No” is an answer. I do not regret donating the embryos. Of course, I am sad for this couple that it did not bring the results they hoped for.
Sharing this experience is not intended to support nor deny the option to donate one’s frozen embryos or acquire someone else’s. Compared to adopting a newborn infant, I do believe that a baby growing in the womb of the mother who will be raising the child pretty much eliminates 100% mother/child separation trauma. Some donor conceived persons do have issues with the way they were conceived and I am well aware of them. Though my husband and I did not see inexpensive DNA testing coming, it seems in our good hearts and ignorance, we have handled our own family’s situation almost perfectly. Someday, our sons may view their own conceptions differently than we do but, at almost 18 and 21, they seem to understand clearly and have no issues with it. They know – bottom line – they would not exist otherwise. They know they are loved and that they live in a “very close at heart and 24/7 everyday” life family. And I do think that as boys, their 50% genetic connection to their father matters as genetic mirrors for them. Some sadness in my youngest son that he doesn’t have any of my genes but our love for one another seems genuine.