Someone recently asked me my thoughts on dealing with frozen embryos.
Depending upon the situation, this can be a terribly difficult question.
There are so many personal factors that come in to play and with four young children, I can honestly say that I am tremendously thankful that Charlie and I do not have any embryos remaining that we need to think about.
We did have two frozen embryos from our second IVF cycle, but during our third cycle, we transferred those in addition to the fresh embryos from that cycle, so we have nothing left over.
I know a lot of women who became pregnant with triplets, had embryos remaining, and then had to face what to do with all the embryos on ice. Most of these families have donated their embryos for research although I do know of a few people that donated them to other couples for “adoption.”
I also know of two women who became pregnant with triplets following IVF and went back to have the remaining embryos transferred to them, once their triplets were around three years old and successfully potty trained.
In both cases, not all of the embryos survived the thaw, and the embryos that were transferred did not result in successful pregnancies. But, these women felt like they had at least given their embryos a chance and that made it easier for them to sleep at night.
Now, if it was us ... if we had extra embryos remaining, what would we do?
I would call the doctor and schedule a transfer. But not before I ordered an 18-year supply of anti-psychotics, several straight jackets and put padding on all the walls of our home. This might seem absolutely asinine for someone with four young children to even consider, but, if you don't already know, I am asinine.
I am also very spiritual.
I am not a practicing Catholic – but – I do believe that life begins at conception, the soul merges, the Holy Spirit is present, and the embryos growing in a petri dish, or frozen in a vat, have an excellent chance of growing in to a unique and sacred human being in 9-months time (or, in our triplet's case, just over 7-months time).
I would have a very difficult time giving any of my embryos up for adoption, even if I knew that they were going to a wonderful, loving family who would give them an awesome life.
These are my babies. They are a part of me, a part of my family.
They are a part of my husband, a part of his family.
They aren’t a clump of cells that I could donate, like I could one of my kidneys.
I would always wonder what happened to any embryos that I gave up for adoption.
Did they result in a healthy baby?? How is life treating that child?? Do they have any desire to know us, their biological mother and father and siblings?? Would they grow up knowing that they were adopted as embryos – and if so – would they feel abandoned by their parents, their family??
I would equally, if not more so, have a difficult time donating any of my embryos for research. Even though my very own father is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, and I know very well that “the cure” may lie in stem cell research, it would haunt me forever that I may have robbed my child (or children) of a chance at life.
From what I’ve seen, the people who are advocates for stem cell research, are usually not the ones who are pondering if their embryo could grow in to a son or daughter. Sadly, it is the very people who are suffering from infertility that carry the burden of responsibility for solving the world's health crises by donating their potential children for stem cell research.
This is what I believe.
But, herein also lies the ongoing cruelty of infertility.
A lot of people don't understand and cannot fathom the desperation to which a person struggling with infertility suffers. It is the absolute worst feeling of hopelessness and anguish I've ever experienced.
It’s not bad enough that so many people in this world cannot get pregnant without medical intervention, specifically IVF. Most of these people want a baby so badly, they will fork over tens of thousands of dollars. I know of people who have spent in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in their quest to become parents. They have mortgaged their home to the brink and maxed out all of their credit cards.
Then, they got new credit cards and maxed those out, too.
Can you imagine wanting or needing something so badly?
If it would have helped, I would have given a limb. Or years off my life.
For those people who are successful in starting their family with the assistance of reproductive technology, they might then, be faced with the moral dilemma of what to do with any remaining embryos. I doubt very few people in the world want to start their own colony and have as many children as the Duggar family.
So very often, people that started out just wanting a baby of their own - discover they have infertility issues and ultimately, find themselves in a position to potentially have a family that warrants vehicular travel in a 15-passenger van.
What if they only wanted one child and they have five embryos remaining?
Or, what if they wanted two children and they had twins and ten embryos remaining?
What if there were complications with the pregnancy - and becoming pregnant again is not advisable? Or possible?
Or, what if genetic testing indicated that there was a problem with the embryos - how would they be handled?
These are just some of the questions that people need to think about before they venture in to the world of assisted reproductive technologies. But so often, their overwhelming desire to have a baby completely overshadows any of the moral or ethical questions that might come up, after the fact.
It has been debated that once you venture in to the field of assisted reproductive technology, you are playing God. Perhaps I was too blind by my desire to have a baby that I didn't care. Or perhaps I didn't believe that life could be created without God having some kind of hand in it.
Clearly, our ability to jump start fertilization in a petri dish certainly poses some difficult questions. In nature, it would never happen that a female homosapien, will shoot out 10 or more eggs a month. Nor, in nature, is it possible to genetically test embryos before they are transferred to a woman for chromosomal defects or gender preference.
When I look in to the beautiful faces of our three children that were conceived in a laboratory, there is no doubt that although a team of scientists and medical professionals helped in the process, God ultimately brought them to us.
They absolutely, positively would not be here. If not for Him.
Even though I love our children and one day might have another ... I am thanking God, profusely right now, that I don't have 20 potential children, temporarily stalled in a deep freeze, that might one day find glee pooping in our tub.