Embryo Decision

Disclaimer and sensitive topic warning: I realize that to some, we are in a privileged position of having more embryos than we can use. Part of me hesitated to post about this, but it’s a tough decision, and I need to talk about it to work through it, come to a decision, and be confident in that decision. I’m not soliciting advice, though if you’ve been in this position, I would welcome you sharing your perspective on how you made the decisions you made.

We received a letter from the long-term embryo storage facility that my clinic uses that our two remaining embryos were recently transferred back to the facility, and that our annual storage fee would be due soon. Always mindful of wasteful spending, my initial thought was, “Do we need to store them?” We already decided that we weren’t going to use them. If this pregnancy works out, we’re done building our family. If it doesn’t, we don’t have it in us to start over again. Basically, I started to push us into making a decision about what to do with them NOW, before the fee is due.

I called the facility to inquire about our options. As expected, they are:

  • Dispose
  • Donate anonymously to another hopeful parent
  • Donate to research

I always thought I would lean more toward the donate to another parent option, but the more I think about it, the more unsettled I feel. I know I would always wonder if it worked, and even though I would not think of that child as “our” child, the thought of the possibility of our biological offspring out there somewhere…. I don’t know. I think I would be overly preoccupied with the idea.

After speaking with the storage facility, the donation route is rather involved. My husband and I would have to have physicals and blood work, complete a 3-generation medical history, and have a phone session with a social worker. All told, a 3-6 month process, and I’m not so sure we would even “pass,” since I know nothing about my grandparents and their medical histories. Plus, both of our families have a history of mental illness. I understand the necessity of all of that, but my gut reaction is that I don’t want to go through all of it. Then again, it could make someone’s dreams come true. I know there’s a chance the embryos may not even survive the thawing process for transfer, or they may not implant, or the ultimate result may be miscarriage. But at least they would have a chance.

Donating to research is an easier process. It’s the option I’m most comfortable with at the moment. I understand that ultimately the embryos would be destroyed, but hopefully they would first contribute to furthering stem cell research.

The only thing I’m sure of is that I don’t want them to be disposed of before they have a chance to make some kind of contribution to the world. Is that crazy? I don’t think it is, considering what we went through to make them. The emotional and financial toll…. They should be put to some kind of use.

Of course, we don’t have to decide anything right now. Sure, we could save a few bucks, but, honestly, the storage fee isn’t significant. It’s a drop in the bucket compared to what we shelled out for IVF and FET. Not to mention, it’s a small price to pay to ensure that we have the time to make the right decision for us. In theory, we could pay to keep them stored pretty much indefinitely, if we wanted to.

21 thoughts on “Embryo Decision

  1. You are brave to write about this as it is another extremely complicated and difficult reality of infertility and ART. People have no idea and I feel like they sometimes think there are all these extra IVF embryos out there willy nilly while we skip off into the sunset with our completed families. (I don’t know, am I too cynical?!)

    For what it’s worth, we never had extra embryos but couldn’t help but think about if we did, and I know research is the way we would have gone. Though I think embryo donation is an AMAZING, BEAUTIFUL, GENEROUS thing, it simply isn’t in my makeup, which doesn’t make me proud but doesn’t make me ashamed either. I am a huge proponent of stem cell research and contributing to that is no small thing that I would have felt extremely bittersweetly glad to do.

    Everything you have discussed is thoughtful, not crazy, and in the end you have to go with your gut, what feels best to Kitten and Mr. Kitten. You have no one else to answer to. Like most things on this treacherous journey, keep sitting with it all a bit and your decision will come. Best wishes. xo

  2. We have this exact, same dilemma. In my 3rd pregnancy currently, and SO hopeful that this will be successful, but like you said, I just can’t go through it again if it doesn’t. But… we have 5 embryos remaining. Our storage fees are due in December. (Terrible timing if you ask me.)
    I have the very same conflicting thoughts on donation to another couple, or donation to science. When I went into this, I just knew I’d donate to another couple, but now I’m not so sure. The couple would only be a max of 100 miles from us, or right here. I wouldn’t really know. I would always wonder. I know that about myself. So, for me, for the near future anyway, we’re going to leave them right where they are for a while longer. I think I feel like I’ll know when I know. Haha!

  3. Such a hard choice! I know this sounds crazy, and I’ve never shared it on my blog (yet) because I don’t know how… but I purposely made sure we had no left over embabies because I knew this was a choice I couldn’t make. So I only let as many eggs as I could transfer at that time be fertilized. We had extra eggs but I didn’t get to freeze just the eggs alone. It meant I had to do full ivf twice, but it just was the way I had to do it so I could be at peace about it. I know, I know…. weird. I hope the choice that you make leaves you feeling fully at peace.

  4. I struggle with this too. Right now I have NINE embryos left. We actually just sent them all out for PGS testing, so I’m sure there will be a few that are abnormal. Regardless though, we really only intend to have one (maaaaaaaybe two) more kids if we’re lucky enough to make it happen so I’m sure we’ll have extras.

    I lean more towards donating to research. As much as I’d love to donate them to another couple, I just can’t imagine knowing my son could have a biological sibling out there, and never really knowing for sure.

  5. Thank you for posting this. It’s something I’ve often wondered about should we need to go the IVF route for baby number 2, and I often think about this, even though people seldom or never talk about it.

  6. We adopted our baby as an embryo. He is a complete miracle. I don’t know how I could have gone on without him. We waited for years on a wait list for domestic infant adoption and our tries with IVF were all failures. We adopted our baby when he was a 5 day blast and frozen for eight years – our donors are the bravest people on the planet to take the risk to trust that their babies would be received with love and joy and the greatest feeling of mercy that brings me to my knees when I think about it. I’m glad that I don’t have to make the decision that you are making – I’m glad that I’m on the receiving end of the hugest gift that anyone on this planet could ever give to my husband and our family.

  7. The way I see it–as someone who currently has eight PGS-tested embryos on ice, is: disposing is a waste. I respect someone’s choice to discard, but I get that donating to another family or to science basically means having your DNA out there and not knowing what will happen in future.

    We are leaning more towards donating to science than to another family. I love the idea of helping out another family, and I am very protective of these little totsicles–quite possibly because I know they are 4 male and 4 female–do whereas I lean slightly more towards donating to another family, that’s also because donating to science means your DNA is being used by scientists with absolutely no further input from you (as I understand it).

    In our case, as you know, my DNA is not part of the equation, so I’ve told DH that ultimately it’s his decision. There’s a lot more to consider once you start thinking about it though. So hard! I support whatever you decide too. Xo

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