Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Monday, November 2, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: The Elephant in the Freezer

The envelope was tucked in the mail, like any other bill or credit card offer, but we recognized the blue-and-white lettering in the cellophane window and knew to feel... a sense of foreboding.

It was our storage bill for the eight embryos we still have, frozen and vitrified in the freezer at our last clinic. 

It was a tangible reminder of the amorphous elephant lurking in the ether, the genetic material in various stages of development that lie there, dormant, waiting for us to make some sort of decision. 

Two blastocysts that are my eggs and donor sperm, and six 2PN embryos that are donor eggs and Bryce's sperm.

I think about these embryos ALL THE TIME. We actually had a whole surreal conversation over dinner about them and when we each believe that life begins a few weeks ago, that made us wonder if other families have these sorts of ethical conundrum untanglings over butternut squash pasta bakes. During the conversation, Bryce was mystified to find that I think about our embryos at least a few times per week. 

Maybe more. 

Our original plan (or rather the gazillionth iteration of our original plan) involved transferring our embryos before deciding to throw in the battered and threadbare towel where we hoped to experience pregnancy. We had the brilliant plan to thaw the 2PNs first, so we could grow them out and only transfer them if they made it to blast, but no worries because if they didn't survive we'd thaw the blasts and be done, one (or two if things went well with the 2PNs) last opportunity to try to knock me up. Except we had two cancelled cycles in a row, and I was completely unable to create a lining and had mystery fluid making transfer impossible...so we put the embryos on ice. 

And we put our decision of what to do with them on ice, too. 

But now we have this bill that we can't ignore staring us in the face with baleful, judgy eyes. 

In the conversation where I admitted to wondering about those embryos on a fairly regular basis, we discussed our options. 

1) destroy them
2) donate them
3) transfer them at a later time, after we have successfully created a family of three through adoption, so that we might have a shot at a sibling through pregnancy

None of these options are great, actually. It's a sticky ethical dilemma, one that we considered when we started the whole IVF process but didn't think would ever apply to us because I wasn't exactly prolific with creating awesome embryos and we weren't exactly successful, just dogged. 

Option 1) is completely unpalatable to me. I am staunchly pro-choice, but to me I feel that these embryos are little potential lives that we willingly created. It seems unfair to send them to their demise without a shot at existence, when they exist BECAUSE WE MADE THEM. I grew attached to them. I mean, I did effectively destroy their previous cohorts, but that was tragic and unwitting. This would be witting destruction for no good purpose. I can't do it. 

Option 2) is trickier, I think, than we originally thought. Can you donate embryos to another couple or woman that don't have a proven track record of success from their previous cohort? Can you donate embryos created with donor material? I mean, we have the original files for the sperm donor and we have the original SINGLE SHEET OF PAPER for the egg donor, but can you ethically donate material that's not yours but was meant for you to use? Can we even LEGALLY do that? I'm not sure. And even if we could, how would I feel if embryos that did bupkus in my uterus became tiny humans in someone else's? Could I feel magnanimous, like I've given a beautiful gift (that wasn't truly mine to give if it's the donor eggs embryos, but whatever), or would I be filled with a sinking pit of despair and feeling of utter uselessness that it was really my stupid uterus all along that kicked us out of the pregnancy game? If we could donate, emotionally and/or legally, would we want it to be known? Would it be anonymous and we'd never know if it worked? Or would we be in effect like a strange type of birth parent to a child who could one day track one of us down (because none of them are both of us)? THAT would be somewhat ironic. And how would this child feel, having been created from one of us and donor material of our choosing but not born from us? IT'S SUCH A STRANGE ISSUE. I'm not sure I can do it. 

Which leaves us with Option 3). Transfer them at a later date. 

Except this option is hard, because while those embryos are 28 and 39, so there's really no immediate expiration date due to egg age, I DON'T KNOW IF I CAN GO THROUGH ALL THAT IVF ROUTINE AGAIN. I just don't know if I will reach a point where it seems far enough away that I can pick up a syringe and not immediately want to cry. Where I can feel hope again now that time has passed and THIS TIME maybe it will work. Stranger things have happened, but I'll be the mother of a young child, at some point in the near future, and as some of you know IVF when you have a little one is incredibly difficult. There's the guilt. And then there's the guilt of thinking that maybe our Mystery Baby who we've waited so long for will feel less-than because we wanted to try for pregnancy one more time. Or maybe Mystery Baby will be thrilled for the chance to have a sibling. I don't really know. Do I want Mystery Baby to witness what Bryce has, the abject sorrow and emptiness that comes with having my body betray me in incredibly painful ways? Will my uterus heal up and my body be refreshed in two years, when I'm 41, so that I could try to give these embryos one last shot at existence with us? Or is that unfair, since we know from past experience that my uterus is a ghostly Bermuda Triangle of doom where no one escapes alive? 

THERE ARE NO GOOD OPTIONS. 

I think the best option is to pay the storage fee, which is fairly reasonable, and delay our conversation for another year. See where our adoption journey takes us, and see what our perspective is when I'm 40 and Bryce is 42 and (hopefully) we are new parents. Maybe our thoughts will change and we will be so happy being parents to our little Mystery Baby that we will be able to donate (minus all that legal iffiness). Maybe another option will make itself known that isn't an ethical quagmire. I can only hope. 

It's another reason I feel so failed by IVF...I didn't even get to close out our process. I have these tiny elephants in the freezer, haunting us because my uterus couldn't get its act together enough to transfer them while we still had some small ability to continue hanging on to our worn and weathered towel. I can pretend they don't exist, but they do. And someday, we have to decide. Until then, we pay the fee and shove the elephant as deep into our subconscious as we can.

Want to read more #Microblog Mondays? Go here and enjoy! 

DISCLAIMER: I fully understand that this is the least microblog post I've ever done on a Monday, and I apologize. The elephant was bigger than I thought. 

19 comments:

  1. All I can say is *hug* and whatever your decision will work for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you... We choose to defer for now and not make a definitive decision. Kick the can, right?

      Delete
  2. I have witnessed other friends wrestle with this decision and wow, is it a tough one. One idea I had about your questions surrounding Option #2 is reaching out to the Snowflakes program and see if they have answers for you. (LMK if you want info).

    Abiding...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for abiding with me. It IS tough for sure. I don't know much in a detailed way about Project Snowflake (is that still their name?), but it sounds like a good thing to explore. If you say, wanted to send me an email that would be awesome. I'll send you one, too. :)Thanks!

      Delete
  3. What about transferring them into a gestational carrier at a later date to potentially bring along a sibling? Just another possible option if you don't want to donate, destroy, or personally go through it all again. There are no easy turns around the paths of infertility

    ReplyDelete
  4. This is the epitome of, "it's complicated". My thoughts are with you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your thoughts. I don't think until I wrote out all the twisty choices that aren't really choices we want to make that I realized just how complicated it all is. So we defer until the next bill and see where life takes us... I guess that's as good a decision as any. :)

      Delete
  5. It's fairly easy to discuss this topic when you are filling out IVF paperwork because at that point it is a dream, but when you have actual embryos in a freezer it makes it much more difficult. Only you and Bryce can figure out what you will do with the embryos. Good luck with your difficult decision!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your thoughts, I actually have a follow up post in the works on how we got here. Because you're right, when you fill out paperwork it seems like such a faraway concept and you're so sure it will work and things will end up neat and tidy. And we are in a space that is so not neat OR tidy, but at least we have the luxury of paying the $300 and keeping the decision (and the embryos) on ice. Sheesh. Hopefully another year gives us perspective to decide, or at least still the ability to keep kicking that can.

      Delete
  6. There are absolutely no easy answers in a situation like this. My heart goes out to you and your husband - I hope next year you'll be able to find some way to handle this in a way that brings you peace.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughts, definitely next year we'll have more perspective to make the decision, even if the decision is to delay yet again making one. :) It really is interesting to see that there truly isn't any one answer that "works."

      Delete
  7. There are no good answers, but paying the storage fee at least buys you the time to make the decision that feels the best in the moment. Because that's all you can do: make decisions with the information you know in the moment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. I'm hoping next year brings more information that can help us decide... but in the meantime, thanks for your thoughts! No decision feels best in this moment, but maybe next year will be different. We can only hope.

      Delete
  8. I'm sorry you are facing such a difficult decision. And it has tone tough thinking about those embryos every day. Maybe professional counselling down the road? In the meantime keeping then frozen sounds like the gentlest plan.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your thoughts... definitely we need to work out what the best option is and do a little more research. Thinking about them is funny, because it doesn't necessarily make me feel sad, but it is just a constant reminder that there are these little loose ends that could have been people if things had worked out differently. That's the hardest part, I think. Is thinking about how we weren't able to be a good home for these little clusters of cells that grew to be so precious to us. But I think when the time comes that we really have to make that decision we can do it with a mix of logic and emotion, and yeah, probably deal with it in counseling for sure. I haven't touched on this one with my counsellor yet actually, so thanks for the reminder that this is probably worth a session! :) And yup, kept them frozen. I feel grateful that we can delay the decision-making.

      Delete
  9. Oh, that's tough.I understand your explanations on all three options. I'd be paying the storage fee too. A decision now would be too hard, the future still too uncertain. And yes, men really don't understand that we think about things a LOT! Whereas, as my husband said (and I often repeat), if (many/most?) men don't want to think about something, they don't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am really, really good at ruminating on things. What an interesting perspective your husband has -- I bet that's true for a lot of men! Why waste valuable time on something that has no good answer and won't change what is right now? Thanks for your thoughts... hopefully next year we can be closer to an actual decision.

      Delete
  10. I've often thought about this particular conundrum. My thoughts are with you both! There are no easy answers with little elephants.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughts! It is definitely something that I'd hoped to avoid. Until next year, little elephants...

      Delete