Every year at Christmas time, we hang a special ornament on our tree; a tiny snowflake with the year 2014 printed on it. You see, my husband and I have four little snowflakes. Yes, I am talking about our children, kind of. We struggled to conceive and our oldest is an In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) baby. During this process, I underwent daily hormone injections to stimulate egg growth. On the day of our retrieval, the doctors were able to remove 16 eggs (for those unfamiliar with the procedure – that’s A LOT!)! Out of those 16 eggs, five made it to mature, healthy six day old embryos (the magic day they transfer the embryos back into your uterus). We were ecstatic at this news. We watched other couples go through this process and not get any – and we had FIVE! Under the advice of our doctors, we chose to only transfer one embryo and “freeze and save” the other four. This allowed us multiple attempts if this transfer didn’t take. Or, we could save them for second child. Well, we were one of the extremely lucky couples, and we got pregnant on our first IVF attempt.
Fast forward sixteen months and we got the surprise of our lives when we found out we were pregnant (my son was only seven months). Five years since our IVF, and we now have a complete family with a happy and healthy four year old son and a sweet and sassy three year old daughter. However, our fertility journey is not over. Since we only used one embryo, we still have four frozen embryos, our snowflakes. These are the topics of many conversations. We do have options, however, all the options have pros and cons.
One option would be to destroy them. The scientists could dispose of our embryos in a safe way. For many reasons, this is the least appealing option to us. I have pictures of my son as a six day embryo and we can’t help but look at that picture and see the amazing kid he is now and not think of our “snowflakes”, which makes the idea of destroying them difficult for us.
Donate to Scientific Research
We could also donate our four embryos to help doctors understand more about the embryonic stage. This research could help in terms of understanding miscarriages, infertility, development, embryonic development, etc. While we love the idea of being able to help doctors research and understand more; we don’t love the idea of our “snowflakes” being used as a test subject.
There are now many agencies that work with embryo adoption. This works similar to traditional adoption, however, they adopt the embryo and another woman carries the baby to term. For many women who have always dreamed of being pregnant, this is a last resort option. Agencies allow you to choose how open or closed you would want the adoption to be. We could choose a completely open relationship with visits, to annual photos and update letters, to a completely closed option. We could have biological children out there that we don’t know. My children could have biological siblings they don’t know. Would we want to know them? Would that make it easier or harder? It makes us spin in circles.
We could transfer the embryos in and see what happens. I could be pregnant four more times and we have four (or more if any split into twins) more children. Quite frankly, this is not an option for us. On all levels, we cannot afford four more children. Just the idea of six children makes me break out in cold sweats.
Long Term Storage
As of right now, our snowflakes are in a long term storage facility and we can continue to store them indefinitely. Seeing as though we are certain our family is complete, it seems wasteful to continue to spend the quarterly fee for this service. However, until we can both agree on an option that brings us both peace, this is where we stand.
So this year, while we look at our beautifully decorated tree, I will look at our little snowflake ornament and think about how far we have come on our journey these last five years and how blessed we are with two beautiful children and four “snowflakes.”