Lilypie - Pregnancy

Friday, July 24, 2009

Musings and thoughts about donated embryos

Life is trundling on here. I'm working on getting my insurance deductible transferred from my old insurance to my new one, and finalizing plans for my trip to Alaska, which is one week away (yay!). I'm occasionally wondering if there's any tiny chance we could be pregnant this month (not bloody likely with our timing and lack of trying), but I'm not obssessing or stressing about it, and for purposes of not driving myself crazy, I'm assuming I'm not pregnant.

I am gradually thinking more about my upcoming IVF attempt. I am, surprisingly, not going nuts googling, researching, buying books, etc. I think it's because I have this big, exciting trip coming up (I'll post about our plans next week), and then I have knee surgery, and I've had to do a lot of thinking about both of those and it's just using up all my brain power.

* NOTE - READ THIS FIRST * The views below are politically and emotionally charged, and I'm mostly just thinking things through. I respect everyone's views and opinions on these matters, and I'm giving voice to mostly thoughts that are not yet completely formed. I welcome thoughtful discussion, polite disagreement and respectful debate, but not rudeness, disrespect, or meanness. I am always interested in hearing other points of view, but please be nice to me and to any other commenters.

SO. That brings me to a (rather long) article I read recently about what to do with any potential leftover frozen embryos. My husband and I have not discussed this at all, although I suspect his views will be similar to mine. Also, I haven't ever actually had a frozen embryo (or, to my knowledge, any embryo at all), so these thoughts are purely theoretical and I recognize they may completely change when I am actually faced with the situation.

The article I read discussed how, during an IVF cycle, she and most couples would of course choose to freeze embryos because at that point you have no idea if you'll get pregnant. You want to preserve every chance you have. This makes complete sense to me. But at some point, if you end up not using those embryos right away or soon after, you have to make a decision about what to do with them. The choices are to use them, donate them to science, donate them to a recipient, or discard them. There may be others I don't know of, but that's what I'm seeing.

I am pro choice, in theory. I actually do believe that life begins at conception, but I do agree with the legal view of "viability", having to do with the possibilities of survival outside the womb. I went to law school, and I don't want to get into a deep discussion about this now, but it makes sense to me that after viability, no one has a right to end a life that could continue without their help, and before viability, when the person in question has to work to keep that life going (i.e. by being pregnant), it is legally ok to abort.

I actually have a different moral view - I believe there are times when it may be morally appropriate to abort (rape, incest, etc.) as long as it is done as soon as possible. I believe it may be morally appropriate to abort at any stage during a pregnancy for certain reasons (i.e. certain death of the fetus before birth or the child shortly after birth, and not terminating the pregnancy would cause harm or pain to the child or the mother). There are other reasons, too, of course. I could sum it up by saying that I do not believe in abortion as a form of birth control, of correcting an "accident", or as something to be taken lightly by anyone.

While I have thought about this a lot (recommended reading - The Cider House Rules), particularly after taking the "morning after pill" as a teenager and realizing that life isn't black and white, I've found that infertility has changed my views in some ways and majorly strengthened them in others. The point of all this is that I never thought I'd have to think about abortion, or dealing with embryos, or worrying about when life begins, and now I do.

So. Here are my thoughts about my potential future embryos. The last thing I would want to do is discard them. My choice, after I was sure I would not be using them in the future, would be to donate them to another person or couple who wanted a child. I'm not 100% sure about this, but it's where I keep finding myself leaning when I think about it.

I do have a weird thing that I can't explain about biological connections. I would ideally like to be biologically connected to my children, and I would also like my husband to be biologically connected to our children. I've talked about it before, and I don't think that it rules out adoption for me at all, nor does it mean adoption is a second choice for me. But this makes the idea of children that are biologically mine, out there in the world with or without my knowledge, kind of weird.

Still - when I think of other couples wanting a child and not being able to have one for 100% sure (which could still be me, for all I know), and knowing that I could give them what they wanted at virtually no cost to myself, I can't see myself not doing it.

Even more importantly, I can't imagine having my own embryos, potential children, and not allowing them the possibility of growing into a human being simply because I felt weird about someone else raising them. Someone else who wanted a child so badly that they would be willing to take a stranger's extra embryo and raise the hopefully resulting child, my biological child, as their own. I could not choose to discard them over giving them to a hopeful person or couple to make a dream come true AND allowing the embryo a chance at life.

I don't have any specific thoughts on donating the embryos to science. I'm not against it, and I favor scientific research. I know I've benefitted from it myself. I would choose it over discarding the embryos. But the thought of being able to help someone who in the future is in the same place I am now trumps science for me, at least for now. And it gives my future embryos something as well, which is a chance.

If, in some bizarre world, there were no people waiting for embyros, and science decided it did not need anymore, and my only choices were to have more kids or discard the embryos, I would base my decision on what felt right for me at the time I had to make the decision. I don't have a hard and fast rule against discarding them when it's the only reasonable option. It is simply my last choice.

So. Those are my thoughts. Again, please be polite and respectful when you comment, and I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts. If you managed to finish reading this!


  1. I am someone who was raised to believe that abortion is always wrong no matter what the circumstance. As I've gotten older I've adjusted my beliefs based on things I've learned etc. While I doubt I could have an abortion unless I was in a position that was life threatening I don't feel like I should have the right to decide if others can have an abortion. I think that using it as a form of birth control is wrong but short of putting someone who is totally not involved in the consequences in charge of making the decision I don't see how it can be limited. I feel that I myself have to trust other women to make the best decision for themselves. Doesn't mean that my heart didn't break a little when my best friends daughter had an abortion at 16 while I was struggling to get pregnant. I remember my first cycle thinking about having extra embryos to donate which didn't happen. If I was ever in a place where I had extras I would want to donate although I would like to maybe do a known donation or directed where I had at least gotten to know the recipient a little. Not that I would want a coparenting thing, just a little knowledge of where they were going with the possibility of any children being able to look up siblings if desired. Granted my feelings on that could change but I sort of doubt it.

  2. Infertility has changed my views on a lot of things. I continue to be pro-choice, but have struggled to resolve feelings towards women I know who have had abortions while we struggle in our everyday life. In regards to frozen embryo's, we only did 1 IVF and our embryos were not great - we ended up with 5 and used them all. When we started the cycle my husband wasn't comfortable with donating any extras to another struggling couple. Now we wouldn't hesitate to donate them. Of course, with our severe MF we're moving towards using donor sperm and hopefully won't need another IVF. It is a life changing and life-shaping experience.

  3. This is a beautiful post! Very well written.

    I've never been in a position to donate any embryos, but I think that if I were in a position, I'd rather donate them to someone. The thought of being able to give something to someone who can't have it otherwise makes it so amazing and miraculous, to me.

    It's a tough decision to make, I would think. I would have many sleepless nights over it, that's for sure. In the end, I would have to do what is right for me.

  4. This is a great post. Thanks for talking it all out. I know what you mean about IF changing how you think of things. I'm solidly pro-choice and while I still am b/c I believe it is a very difficult and personal decision and I don't pretend to know what would be best in every situation (so the decision should be up to women and their doctors), I have thought a lot about when that clump of cells becomes a life, becomes my child. Right now where my husband and I stand is that we don't want to do IVF b/c of the moral gray areas like what to do with any extra embryos. But who knows what we will think when we get to that point.

  5. It is an interesting topic and one in which I hadn't considered at all. It's something which is on my mind totally at the moment, having had an amazing result so far with my IVF cycle and having 7 very good embryos in the freezer.
    I don't have my BFP yet so don't want to count my chickens - hell, it might take 7 of those embryos to get my BFP! But if I have any left, they will be donated to someone who needs them.

    Good interesting discussion topic!
    S X

  6. "I can't imagine having my own embryos, potential children, and not allowing them the possibility of growing into a human being simply because I felt weird about someone else raising them."

    Wow - you have written this so succinctly. I feel the same weirdness about children of mine being out there and not knowing/raising them but you're right. Not giving them the chance at life because of the weird-factor sounds wrong. More thought needed for us.

  7. As someone dealing with infertility, the following thought probably doesn't really fit. But, because of who I am and the way I react to things emotionally, I'm not sure I would be able to deal with having a child that is biologically mine out there in the world that I didn't have contact with. Clearly, I admire those who donate eggs, sperm, and embryos for women/couples who are unable to conceive. I'm just not sure I could do it myself...

    I have a post on my blog where I discussed the idea of when life begins... it was more around miscarriages and preterm births, but I found the religion aspect interesting...

  8. I'm actually completely on the same page as you. My husband was signing the IVF papers from Iraq on the phone with me while I was walking through Target. Admittedly, this was not the best time to have some of these discussions, but when he's gone sometimes I just have to adjust! Thankfully, we agreed on keeping them frozen until we are pregnant and/or finished having children. After that we will donate them to other women. In Louisiana, I was surprised to find out that the choice is actually not available to discard them. All fertilized embryos must be frozen indefinitely, donated to other women, or donated to science. It's nice to see someone else out there with the same type of viewpoint.

  9. It troubles me also to think about sending a child I am biologically related to off to be raised by someone else. I wonder if the child would feel cheated to not be raised by their biological parents. But I wouldn't want them to be destroyed! Wow, I just don't know what I would do.

  10. i always thought i could never donate my embryos (or eggs) for the same reasons you stated, feeling weird that a child who is biologically yours was out there being raised by someone else. however, IF has changed my view of this. I want so badly to be a mom, and i know if i needed to, i would use donor eggs. i also know that if i were able to help someone else in my position become a mom, i would do it. mr and i decided to sign the forms to donate any unused embryos, but unfortunately our state has no way of doing that. we could donate to science, but not to another couple. we have still not had our own family, but after we do, i will consider donating eggs, left over embryos or becoming a surrogate.

  11. I have a child via donor embryos. I can never fully express the thankfulness that I have for her donating family nor the pure joy that my daughter brings to our family. As she grows I will tell her about her story and remind her that two families loved her enough to want her to have a chance at life. Thank you for considering donating your remaining embryos!

    Also, there are many families that are completely willing to do an 'open' donation situation if that is something you decide you want.

    Best wishes to you!

  12. I am sure it is very hard to think about donating an embryo or your is your biological child that you are giving away. I am looking at this issue from the perspective of an egg or embryo user. People who make the decision to use a donated egg or embryo are desperate for a baby. I had a baby and lost my baby. I am an older mom so the possibility of my using a donated egg or embryo is very high. Does that mean that the baby I have will not be mine? I do not think so. My body will work to change that egg into a living breathing baby, I will feel his/her first flutter and I will rejoice in the little one's soothing kicks. I will eat the right things so my baby is nourished and I will bear the pain of bringing the baby into the world. If anything ever happens to that baby, I will cry many many if I use an egg or embryo donated by anyone, the baby will become mine...for laughter and for tears.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!