Back when my husband and I were in the thick of our infertility journey, the last thing we were thinking about was what to do with any extra embryos. We spent more than four years and what is equivalent to a “his and hers” pair of BMWs to conceive our daughter, Hannah, who is now 3. She is the most perfect little girl that ever graced the planet. (Don’t believe me? Just ask my mom how wonderful she is!)
After she was born, our family finally felt whole and at peace.
Still, we have two remaining embryos that are cryogenically frozen. And every year, we receive a $500 bill in the mail to continue to keep them in a deep freeze. It feels like we are paying some sort of embryo rent. Still, every year we mindlessly paid the storage fee for our two frozen embryos — “embabies” as they are sometimes called.
And though we wrote the check annually, deep down, I knew I did not want to try and become pregnant again. IVF was hard emotionally, physically, and financially. Deep down, I felt like we got our “prize:” a healthy girl who is thriving in preschool, has a kind heart, and has amazing taste in music (most days, we alternate between Gwen Stefani and the Beatles).
But the fate our embabies was something that was never discussed in our home. I assumed that my husband wanted to try for a sibling, so I didn’t want to bring up the conversation to learn what I didn’t want to hear. I also didn’t have the heart to tell him that I wasn’t up for it.
But this past month, we got a letter from the fertility clinic, informing us that the storage fee was increasing to $700 a year. I viewed that sum as equivalent to a hefty annual contribution to our daughter’s 529 plan (or as a gorgeous pair of Louboutins, depending on whether I want to sound responsible or honest). I was tired of spending money on storage, and knew that it was time to have “the talk.”
When I finally broached the topic with my husband, I learned a few important things: For starters, we clearly need to communicate better, because it turned out we were on the same page the entire time — neither of us wanted to try for a baby again.
Also: Apparently I was not the most pleasant pregnant woman in the world. My husband actually told me he NEVER wants me to be pregnant again. As much as I want to believe that I was the most angelic mother-to-be, I may have been a little (OK, a lot) cranky, moody, and bossy. As excited as I was that I was finally pregnant, growing a human in the humid South Carolina summer did not bring out the best in me.
In our (long overdue) conversation, what we realized is we both want to explore adopting an older child who is in need of a forever home. And we also realized that we have an opportunity to help make someone else’s dreams come true, too — we could provide our embryos to couples who desperately want to become pregnant.
I was surprised that we were both 100% in agreement on this — we both wanted to donate our embabies to another couple. After all that we went through, we knew firsthand how heartbreaking it is to want to complete your family and have mountains to overcome.
We also knew, firsthand, the unique pressure and sadness of being a Jewish couple trying to fulfill the duty of being fruitful and multiplying. There are varying theories of what makes a baby Jewish — some say the baby must be born to a Jewish mother, regardless of the origin of the embryo; others feel that the egg and sperm themselves should come from Jewish origin as well.
If a Jewish couple is exploring embryo adoption and feels that the embryo should be from a couple who is Jewish, it made us feel so happy to know that we could possibly fill that need. (Our experience was that many embryo adoption agencies are Christian-based.)
This week, we will sign the paperwork to begin the process of matching with a family-in-waiting. Yes, there is a touch of sadness in my heart, saying goodbye to what could have been. But knowing that we could be playing a part in making another couple’s dream come true makes my sadness disappear very quickly. I just pray that whoever the adoptive parents may be, that that they treasure this gift and shower their new family additions with love and kindness every single day.