Saturday, August 20, 2016

Complex Emotions Surrounding Embryo Adoption

After writing yesterday's post, we did indeed have a rather teary Mexican restaurant date night. We talked about it on so many levels...I asked Bryce to read yesterday's post, because I could not read it out loud (as I usually do). It was so interesting to discover the different ways that we process this.

For me, I'm always in it. I never stopped thinking about the embryos when they were sitting in storage, and I haven't stopped thinking about them since. It's a little less present for Bryce, although in talking about it he was certainly emotional (lest you think he's some sort of robot).

Our Snowflakes contact actually sent me a picture of a balloon release in response to the note I sent her with our final notarized paperwork needed to ship them to the couple's clinic. I really can't speak highly enough of our experience with Snowflakes. Every person we have been in contact with has been just so compassionate, so understanding, and so open-minded to our own beliefs. She said that this part of the process is often the biggest hurdle mentally, because there's nothing more that we need to do after this final signature. We become bystanders, instead of an active part of the process. It's all on them now, and it's all about their family potential at this point, not ours.

She's so right. It's the finality that gets me. It's the fact that this part of our life is over.

Non Sequitur Chica sent me a link in a comment to an article that NPR did, on couples struggling with what to do with frozen embryos leftover, sitting in limbo, requiring storage fees or decisions every year, and how difficult that is: After IVF Some Struggle With What to Do With Leftover Embryos. It was an interesting read, and I made the mistake of reading the comments, where things were either taken too seriously or they were not taken seriously at all (a LOT of egg puns). One woman, a former employee in an IVF embryology lab, basically stated that no one wants other people's embryos. That if they'd wanted someone else's genetics, they'd adopt, and that you can't GIVE embryos away.

UM, HELLO? SNOWFLAKES? Snowflakes literally found a match for our embryos before we have had a match for our own infant adoption. From the time that we signed on to the time we got a match was a matter of months, as in less than 6. And now, after getting that call in June about the match, we are in August and the embryos are shipping. So, yeah, we can't GIVE them away, no one wants them, that certainly seems true. (Heavy, heavy sarcasm in case you missed it.)

The other thing about the article that was interesting is that all of the people ACTUALLY CONCEIVED AND HAD BABIES from their other embryos. They had completed their families, and then found themselves in the position of having "extra" embryos.

I feel like if this was my case, my feelings would be a lot less confusing. I would have living, breathing children who come from the same genetics as my embryos, and I would see them as siblings. They would be extra, yes, but they would be more of a direct loss in a way.

For us, we didn't get to complete our family this route. I don't have anything to visualize. I can't even really try. That's left me. We have the same choice -- destroy, donate to science, or donate to another infertile couple -- but for us, these are the only genetic pieces of ourselves we have, albeit fragmented and not together in one entity. These are precious in that way, because they're the only thing left from our journey other than a drawer full of embryo pictures, transfer pictures, ovary ultrasounds, surgical photos. And the ONLY way we'll get to see our little creations become anything. It is a loss, yes, but it is the only way to see if they could ever become anything.

So it's complicated, because this loss is also our gain.

It's that promise-and-pain dichotomy I wrote about yesterday.

We knew that transferring them to me would be a definite end, and strangely enough there weren't options that we could find to donate them for embryonic research, and I have complicated feelings about that anyway. I see these embryos as potential people, these specific embryos (more on this in another post, having so many hopes and dreams wrapped up in these embryos has complicated my feelings on that score, but not so much that it's changed my ideology). Donating to science would be a way of destruction, although with research benefits, and destroying them was just not an option. The only other option other than transferring was to donate/place. Transfer for people in the article seemed a good way for closure, but we hadn't had any success prior, so it felt like a beating of a very dead horse, and a very, very bad idea for me emotionally and physically.

Our feelings are different than the ones I've seen in the media, because I have yet to hear from someone who DIDN'T GET TO COMPLETE THEIR FAMILY and yet had embryos without a place to land. I would have loved to have transferred them, I would have loved to "use them all up." That was always our intent, either for the first or a sibling. It just didn't work out that way. We literally could not get to transfer despite multiple tries at the end.

We talked about all these things (minus the interesting article, which came through the interwebs today), about the finality, about all that's wrapped up in doing this hard for seven years, to feeling just so damn exhausted and cycling through hope and despair so rapidly. Earlier in the process we discovered that the couple decided to go to another clinic that was more friendly to the process in order to accept our embryos, and in the balloon-release email we found out that the clinic is THREE STATES AWAY for them. That was very moving, thinking on how I was so sure nobody would want our embryos and here is this couple who is literally traveling hundreds of miles to accept them. That's hard to wrap your head around, but man does it make us feel like they are the right choice. I hope our embryos are worth it...I hope they succeed where we failed.

It's just so crazy to think on everything that we have gone through -- all the complicated decisions, all the legwork needed for donor gametes one by one and then letting it all go in this way, the best way but definitely a hard way. We've always laughed that our dinnertime conversations about our family building efforts could be ethics classes, but this one takes the cake, I think.

It's just so complicated. I believe that it is absolutely the right decision, it's just hard to make sense of everything when you look at it holistically. To think that this loss of the potential beings we created and failed to sustain is another couple's potential gain and the only way we'll get to know what they could have been...just not with us. And while we are still waiting for our own adoption match to make its way to us. I guess while we had those embryos, albeit living in a superfrozen stasis, we were sort of their parents. And now we're not, not really, and we don't even have a picture of them in their cellular form. We can only hope for the outcome where we get baby pictures, toddler pictures, childhood pictures... what do with those is a topic for another ramble.

Now we have nothing physical out there that's ours, just potential in the ether on both sides -- this couple willing to travel to use what we can provide, and us...just waiting for that match to come through, to be as appealing to an expectant mom as this couple was to us, to hope that we also get the chance to parent, in a hands-on and not conceptual way.


  1. "Our dinner time conversations could be ethics classes" - indeed! I can't help but wonder if the people who came up with all these family building processes ever considered a case like yours. I like to think they have: but at the same time it does feel like you are so unique because it is never supposed to turn out quite like this. Still, you and your receiving couple are acting with such dedication and integrity. I hope all that good intention brings both of your families some lucky cosmic marbles.

  2. Honestly, you are in new territory. I don't know of another couple in a situation like your's. Most would have transferred all their embryos or had them sit on ice. Donating to research is so flipping hard (despite what many think) as the researchers want very specific stages. And adopting out embryos just doesn't register, neither on a mental or emotional level. When it comes down to it, most don't want to part with potential genetic children.

    Which is what makes all of this especially hard as you are literally blazing the trail. There's so much uncertainty, especially with emotions. And that can make connecting with others very hard.

    Based on that, know that you literally are allowed not only to feel all the emotions, but also to dictate what you need for support. Celebration with mourning and everything in between with this journey.

  3. If NPR revisits this story line, from the angle of couples who are closer in experience and past outcomes to you and to Bryce...would you be willing to talk on the radio about this, or be recorded in an interview?

  4. I can only imagine . .

    Speaking on this issue (so eloquently, at that) over these last two (and other) posts is just so very epic.

    And courageous.

    And kind.

  5. Thank you for putting this post out there. It's definitely a very unique perspective and a brave thing to be so open. Like Cristy said, you're blazing a trail here - and I hope so much that what you get is kindness, responsiveness, and sensitivity to the emotions that come along with that. Thinking of you and Bryce and wishing for good things to come out of this situation on all ends.

  6. Um, don't clinics literally give away embryos all the time? If our test results by some fluke showed there was a problem on my karyotype, we were going to do embryo adoption. Still get the pregnancy experience, none of the egg donor stress and expense. I LOVE that you guys made this decision, and I know you will be so glad in the end you did, too. I'm so sorry you're struggling with it right now.