My phone rang last night as I was waiting for Bryce to come out of the pharmacy with Prozac for our cat. (Sounds weird, but the gross cat being on Prozac has saved him...without it he pees on everything and bites your head and does all kinds of weird, aggressive, territorial behavior.)
It was a 714 area code, and I don't know anyone in 714, so I didn't pick up. I get a lot of telemarketer calls, which is torture when your phone ringing can mean a possible baby. My students are great -- if my phone starts ringing in my purse and I'm not at that end of the classroom, they yell, "MRS. _____! Your phone is ringing!" I don't know who's more excited, me or them. (Me. It's definitely me.) I told them I'm going to start answering the telemarketer calls that don't leave a message ever and scream "HI! ARE YOU A BABY?" and maybe they will stop calling me, thinking I'm totally mentally unbalanced. But that could backfire, I'm sure, if it was someone related to adoption on the other end.
Anyway, the 714 number left a voicemail. So I checked it and...it was our contact at Snowflakes! We have a potential match for our embryos.
I was a little surprised at the emotions that rose up in me and then undulated up and down throughout the evening as we discussed it.
I thought I would be super excited to get a matching call, to have some closure to these embryos. Well, the beginning of possible closure, since the process looks like this:
1) Snowflakes calls us to say they have identified a possible match for us. They tell us a little about the couple's situation to see if we are comfortable with it.
2) If we are comfortable with it and get all our questions answered, they send us their profile book electronically.
3) We have two weeks to review their profile books. WE GET TO READ OTHER PEOPLE'S PROFILE BOOKS. It's so surreal.
4) Then we decide if we like them and can see them raising the embryos we created, since you know, we don't get to say that we are genetic parents all the way because we're each only half genetic parents, because our story is FUCKED UP... so we call ourselves "genetic contributors" or "embryo creators" while the letters are addressed to "Dear Genetic Parents." Argh. Anyway, if we say, "Yes! We'd love to have these people get pregnant with the embryos we created!," then they send the couple OUR profile and letter, which is less involved than theirs, and they get our health history, and then...
5) THEY DECIDE. I guess it makes sense, since they are the ones risking pregnancy or not, the embryos are going into her body, so the final choice should rest there...but it just seems so massively unfair that we never get final veto power in any of these situations. Harrumph.
6) If they do decide to accept our embryos, then there's one more layer -- will their clinic accept them? And then it's contract time and all that fun stuff. If they DON'T decide to say yes to us, then we go back into the matching pool.
So. Here we are, at step #3, and this whole process just got super real.
I am not sad because we are "losing" these embryos, as I might be if we'd had children from other embryos and could envision them as "ours." I don't really have that capacity. I don't know what they might have become had we been able to make them into actual babies.
I'm sad for a couple reasons:
- Bryce had made a prediction (he really needs to stop making predictions) that our embryos would find homes before we were matched or placed with a baby. Now, we don't know if they will accept our wonky situation, so just one profile opportunity does not a match make, as we know all too well from our adoption experience thus far, but this seems a bit more promising since it's 1:1. We're not reviewing a bunch of books at once. We're reviewing one couple, and then they review us. I think this would be easier to swallow if we were more settled into the adoption process instead of in this amorphous fuzzy place.
- Someone else is (hopefully) going to pregnant with embryos that we created. I could not. I did nothing with our 27 embryos than send 26 of them off on their merry way to Lake Ontario, one of them at a slightly later stage, and sent one more to a pathology lab after surgery. I am thrilled for our embryos that they are getting a chance with someone who might be able to carry them. And I am thrilled for the woman who will get a chance to be pregnant and give birth because of these embryos. But I am really quite sad and jealous in a way, for me, even though pregnancy isn't on my radar anymore. I don't want it anymore because I've never had good experiences in that arena. I am happy to be going the adoption route. But I am struggling a bit with how it's going to feel to have someone else get pregnant with our embryos, which at that point won't be "ours" anymore at all.
It makes envisioning what it will feel like to get either of those calls a little less out of focus, a little more sharp around the edges. If it doesn't work I will be sad on two counts -- sad the embryos were just little lost things, and sad that we gave someone hope only to dash it. I know it's a risk you take when you adopt/accept donated embryos, and there are so many moving pieces that you just don't know what the reason is. But it would be nice to have a reason, to know that another uterus could carry them and so it was definitely my uterus (we are pretty sure that's the case, but to know would definitely bring closure). To get the call that they did get pregnant? That will be bittersweet. Because we'll know. It was my uterus, and the embryos could succeed elsewhere, and while I'll be thrilled that they get a chance and bring someone else happiness, how could I not feel like a colossal failure at the same time? How could I not feel that tiny poison seed of envy that someone else is getting the experience I never will, and with my embryos? Nope, not mine. With the embryos we placed/donated. See how sticky it gets?
I will say it is interesting to evaluate another couple and see if we feel "connected" to them.
Here's the funny thing.
They have a bizarre circumstance too.
The call was like, "So, it's kind of an unconventional situation, so you need to decide if you are comfortable with it before we send the profile book." And I was like, OF COURSE it's an unusual situation. OF COURSE it's outside the norm. Why would we be involved in ANYTHING typical???
They already have a single embryo that they've adopted through Snowflakes. They are looking for more embryos so that they can have a better chance and have possibilities for siblings. SO, there is a chance that they could transfer the single embryo from someone else AND one of ours... resulting in what sounds like a fairly amorphous situation.
I asked...what happens if they get pregnant with one, and there were two different embryos in there? How do you handle that? How do you know which one it was?
And the answer is this: they update both families of origin for each embryo throughout the pregnancy. When the baby is born, they do a cheek-swab DNA test with a genetic parent and the baby, and then they call you and you either get the "Congrats, it was your embryo!" or "I'm sorry, it wasn't yours" call. Which sounds very Jerry Springer to me, and also kind of difficult. Because you could be excited at the possibility that this pregnancy is because of your embryo, and then find out that yours was the dud. Hmmm.
Then, the weird part -- we could say we're only comfortable with transferring ours after the single embryo has been transferred. WHAT? We can direct that? I mean, they could say "No thank you" and choose someone else's embryos, but it was odd to me that we could dictate our thoughts on transfer protocol. Interesting process, this.
Additionally, if they were to do the single embryo, and it split, and they had two babies and then were like, "Hmmm, we're kinda done here, we don't want more than two kids, so we don't need your embryos," then the embryos HAVE to go back to Snowflakes (they can't destroy them or donate them elsewhere) and then they are responsible for the storage fees and we still get to select a new family for them to go to. The embryos just get to go on multiple trips. Our embryos will travel more than we have in the past few years, ha. Ha. HA.
What makes me nervous is that this couple knows nothing about us yet. They don't know that the embryos are half donor sperm and me, and half donor egg and Bryce. They don't know that two are blasts and six are 2PNs. They don't know that we never got sustainably pregnant and there's no success in either cohort. I feel like that's a mistake. I feel like they should get a little warning so they know what risk they are taking on and the weirdness, but that's not protocol. Maybe Snowflakes likes to drop that bomb when they also are looking at our endearing faces, when they are associating the crazy genetic mishmash and unknown aspect of our embryos with actual people who do have similar interests in many ways, they might overlook those things. Me, I'm not so sure. I think we are going to face a lot of rejection. I think that people won't want to take the risk. I think if we get rejected twice that I might ask them to share at least some of the weirdness with the couple first, so that we're not reviewing and reviewing and then getting rejected and rejected.
They do say that they always find homes for all their embryos. I just feel like ours are...special. It's going to take a special person to see the potential in them given their history. I mean, they have lovely quality. At least the blasts do, hard to tell with 2PNs. But we were always told embryo quality wasn't our issue. It's going to require an ability to take on risk, above and beyond the risk they're already taking in doing IVF and donated embryos.
How fascinating, the twists and turns our journey has taken. Who knows where it will lead? It's getting kind of hard to keep it all straight. I just hope, that at some point, SOMETHING in our life is straightforward. I hope that's not too much to ask. It is exciting though, with a giant dose of surreality, to be in a place where we are truly in the process with embryo adoption. From the donor side.