Five Years Down the Road

September 17 marks 5 years since our embryo transfer. Five years since we saw Grant and Maria as tiny perfect embryos. Five years since we started our journey as parents. It feels like yesterday and a decade ago at the same time. I loved them the moment I saw them. We prayed for clingers. We wondered what was going on inside me. Was it going to work? It’s a strange feeling being hopeful for a positive result while simultaneously preparing for the next steps and how to handle it if it didn’t work.

Five years down the road we had no idea what our life would look like today. We couldn’t picture the perfect children that God would give us. We had no idea that Jeremy would be a stay-at-home dad and testing out home school. All I knew at the time is that I wanted a baby (or two). A positive pregnancy test and healthy baby was the end game on transfer day.

Five years down the road our family is complete. The thought of a spontaneous pregnancy is exciting and panic inducing at the same time. I asked Jeremy if he wanted to get a vasectomy….just in case. Feeling confident in the deficiency of his swimmers, he declined, but stated he had the same thought.

Five years down the road still worry about the fate of Grant and Maria’s ten remaining genetic siblings. I pray that their special consideration label won’t scare people off and encourage those who are in the process to consider these and others with special considerations. They are worthy of life out of the freezer. I know we were blessed with our decision to honor God’s direction.

Five years down the road, I’m still beyond grateful for the gift of embryo adoption.

A guest post from a donor mom, “What I’m looking for in an adoptive family”

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My sister in law just welcomed her twins the same month that Graem was born.  She did IVF and has 5 stellar embryos remaining.  She is going to adopt them through NEDC.

The paperwork is filled out, and she and her husband are eager to complete the process.

I’ve asked her what she is looking for in an adoptive family, and she responded with this:

The number one thing we are looking for in an adoptive family is the same thing we based our decision on when writing our will and choosing who our children would go to… We want someone who will make it their priority to get these little souls to heaven someday. We are not able to parent these five embryos here on earth, but knowing we’ll all be united in heaven someday gives us peace about whatever happens between now and then. 

Beyond that, we will be looking for a family with similar interests and temperaments as our family. We want our biological children to feel like they “fit in” with their family so finding someone similar to us is important for that reason. We’d like to find a family that is laid back, emotionally stable, physically active, fun loving, and adventurous. We would prefer a family that does not live in a big city, but not out in the boonies either. A smallish suburb with good schools and traditional values would be ideal. 

We will be looking to see if they have a strong marriage with a foundation in Christ. We’ll also be looking to see if they have strong relationships with the rest of their family and community. 

Beyond these tangible attributes, we’ll also just go with our gut. I think we’ll know when we feel that strong connection with someone and it will just feel right. We’ll be praying (and ask for your prayers) that our babies will be firmly held in God’s hands as this important decision is made.

I cannot wait to see how God leads this journey!
Britney

What I learned from Embryo Adoption

Sarah

Embryo adoption was a new concept for me. As I learned about the scientific components behind IVF and the outcome of this process, it was miracle technology. I first felt like I was getting an organ transplant. Initially, it was so overwhelming to think of someone else’s DNA/cells growing inside my body. I wanted to know every aspect of what was going to happen during the process as well as the medicine that would be given.  The thought of being able to grow another human and have it survive and be its mother and breastfeed was well -the coolest dream ever! I also was scared to death my body would reject it like an organ could be rejected when given to someone else.  How would I know this baby wouldn’t be deformed? Would I get cancer from all the hormone shots?  Was I setting myself to be an experiment and miscarry anyway? The questions were endless and I would sit for hours at night and research the science behind embryo cryopreservation, thawing and survival rates.

What I learned was this was a very complex entity. I felt like it was a very courageous move for a play it safe person and a real steeping out in faith and trusting the process ordeal.  I had to come to the acceptance that there was no guarantee in the end. What God would decide would be the final fate of these embryos.  It is so hard to want something so bad and not be able to control the outcome. My heart truly goes out to all women and the fact we can’t control the “baby maker part” of our bodies. However, there comes some relief in having a simple faith in the ultimate Creator of Life.

As far as what I learned about the hormone shots, they hurt and ice packs helped me survive to the end. Keeping a calendar of protocol and dates helped me stay organized. One thing I regret is not keeping a journal of all the thoughts and feelings I had during that time. I wish I could go back and remember more of those.

When the day comes when you can finally stop the medication. It is the scariest feeling to trust that your body will take over giving what is needed to support the little life inside. In the end, the medications work!  Treat yourself to the best dinner in town and congratulate yourself on a job well done! Finally, I really wished I could have gone through the journey with another embryo Mom. I was alone and “out there” to figure it out by myself.  I wasn’t a free going FB blogger. I encourage those who are starting out to reach out to other women. You never know who may be feeling just like you.

 

 

Next post: Does it feel different?

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I’ve been asked this question a lot lately, by others, and by myself.  Now that Graem is here, does it feel different having a genetic child?

For those of you who may not know, we adopted our son, Brae, as an infant through the domestic infant adoption program.  We adopted our daughter, Sienna, as an embryo through the embryo adoption program.  Neither is genetically related to me or Tygh.

And yet, they are fully our children.

With Graem, we did IVF, with our own ingredients.  Something we never thought possible given our fertility history.

So Graem is genetically related to us; Brae and Sienna are not.  None of our children are genetically related.

And yet, they are still fully each our children.

With Brae, I felt love I never knew possible.  This little boy came out, and stole our hearts immediately.  I tell Brae that although he did not grow in my womb, he grew in our hearts.  I used to say that I’d walk in front of a semi-truck for him, and I still would.  It never mattered that he did not share our genes, and that I never carried him.  He was our son. Completely.

With Sienna, my heart grew in ways I didn’t know possible.  I mean, the heart is a physical being, and yet mine grew beyond its physical capabilities.  With Sienna, I got to experience pregnancy, also a gift I didn’t know I’d be able to have.  I also got my daughter.  She captivated our hearts from the moment she was thawed and transferred, through each and every ultrasound, and to the moment where she graced us with her presence.  It never mattered that she did not share our genes.  She was our daughter. Completely.

With Graem, my once completely full heart exploded again.  I never thought I’d have the opportunity to look into a child’s eyes and see my own.  To gaze at their toes, and wonder if they looked like mine.  Graem has satisfied a yearning and a curiosity I thought would forever be wanting.  And, you know what?  I’d love him just as much if he did not share our genes.  If I did not carry him.  He was meant to be our son, and for me, that’s enough.

So, the answer is “no,” it does not feel different to have Graem.  I don’t compare him to Brae or Sienna.  I don’t look at Graem and say, “Oh, he’s “mine.”  Never.  I look at each of my children, and say they are each “mine.”

Because they are.  No matter how they came to us.

A Biased Rant

I’m going on a rant.  There are two articles in circulation on Facebook that portray very negative attitudes toward embryo adoption.  One quotes a teenager who was donor conceived stating she wishes she hadn’t been born; the other says that embryo adoption exists solely to meet the needs to adults who believe life begins at conception and those who want children.  The author states that embryo adoption creeps them out.  The premise is that being raised by genetic strangers is isolating and potentially damaging.  One person commented that we are “frankenparents.”

Obviously, I’m biased.  I also have a Christian world view and believe that life does begin at conception.  I’ve commented on several postings. I know that there will questions that I cannot answer for Grant and Maria.  I’m not naive in thinking they won’t have questions.  I’m not naive to think that they won’t wonder about their genetic family.  I wonder about them.  But, it doesn’t change that Jeremy and I are their parents and we love Grant and Maria unconditionally.  Would they have been better off frozen indefinitely due to lack of genetic connections?

One person commented that genetic roots are important and not having the mother-child bond in utero is detrimental.  Guess what?  We had that bond.  I can still feel Grant’s head pushing into my rib cage when he stretched and Maria dancing on my liver.  Does lack of DNA mean we can’t bond?  And what about traditional adoption, are those children scarred because they aren’t with the mother who carried them?  Would they have been better off in an unsafe situation or orphanage?

For us, we chose embryo adoption because I wanted to experience pregnancy, but didn’t feel right going through IVF knowing embryos existed in a big frozen nursery.  Yes, IVF created some ethical dilemmas.  But, embryo adoption is a life honoring answer to the dilemma of what to do when a woman can not carry another child or chooses not to carry another child.  Thankfully, we don’t see the large numbers of embryos that were created in the earlier days of IVF, but we have an ethical and moral obligation to deal with those who were created and wait in limbo.

Embryo adoption, like any adoption, will have unknowns.  But not knowing doesn’t make any child, whether frozen or already born, any less worthy of having a loving home.  I know some pretty crappy genetic families.  And I know some pretty awesome adoptive families.  Shared DNA isn’t required to make a good family or a good life.  A life is a life no matter how small.

Four Options for Embryos in Frozen Storage

nancyauthor

Families who have undergone in vitro fertilization to create their family, may have embryos remaining in frozen storage and may not realize that they have four options for disposing of their embryos. Their embryos may have remained in storage because they did not realize or understand the options that they have. These are the four options for families to consider….……..
The first option is to allow them to remain in frozen storage. Families with stored embryos often commented that they “forget” about their embryos until they receive the annual storage bill. In the US these storage fees can range from $250 – $1200 annually with the average being around $400 – $600 annually. While embryos can remain frozen and maintain their viability indefinitely, allowing them to continue in storage is “not making a decision at all.”
A second option is to thaw the embryos and allow them to die. For some, this is hard for them to embrace and for many it is not an option at all. For couples who struggled to have children, and were able to become pregnant through in vitro fertilization, these embryos represent success in the creation of their family. Additionally, these embryos represent precious potential life and the family does not wish to intentionally allow them to perish.
Another choice to consider is donating their embryos to research. While this may appear to be a very worthy consideration for their embryos, the family should know that there have been no cures or treatments discovered through embryonic stem cell research however, there have many cures and treatments through adult stem cell research.
The fourth option for families with embryos in frozen storage is to donate them to another family. This is a growing option for many couples who desire to help another family by donating their remaining embryos. As I spoke with donors about the disposition options, I was surprised when many voiced, “I wished someone had offered us embryos, we might not have created our own.” Additionally, these families who make the decision to donate their embryos to another family speak about their deep desire to make a difference for another family and to give their embryos an opportunity for life.
As the years go by and families do not make a decision for their embryos, there is a chance that their embryos could become abandoned. A family may move and lose contact with the clinic where the embryos are stored; consequently the embryos remain in limbo. The clinic cannot make any disposition decisions for the embryos, but must continue to store them indefinitely. Many clinics are now including an abandonment clause in their IVF contract stating that if the annual storage fees have not been paid for a certain number of years and the clinic has made numerous efforts to contact the family during that time but with no success, that they legally have the family’s permission to thaw and destroy the embryos. While many clinics have this consent in place, very few have actually acted upon it and if the clinic chooses not to destroy them, no one except the biological parents can make the decision to donate these remaining embryos. At this point the embryos are considered “abandoned.”
While the decision for their remaining embryos can be a difficult, each family should explore their options and must come to an agreement on what is right for them.

TRANSFER WEEK

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There is always a buzz around our house transfer week. It’s the anticipation of becoming pregnant. This will be my third transfer through the NEDC. My first didn’t take, but the second transfer brought my amazing son. Hopefully, this time will bring a sibling for John Luke.

Tuesday, Josh and I went to Knoxville, for my final ultrasound and blood work. My lining was 9.2 mm. Josh and I were hoping for anything over 9, so we were ecstatic with the results. My lining was only 7.76 mm when I had John Luke.

The NEDC called the following day to inform me to start the Progesterone. As painful as the shots can be, it’s thrilling to get the go ahead to start the PIO. It means were getting close and its “getting real.”

Josh’s parents came from Alabama on Thursday, to watch John Luke, so we could have a few days in Knoxville to ourselves. We wanted John Luke to get reacquainted with them before we left. He enjoyed all the attention given by his grandparents. By the time we left on Saturday, we felt comfortable he would be fine without us.

It was good for Josh and me to get away just the two of us. This was only the second time I’ve spent the night away from John Luke in 19 months. We did a little shopping then went out to dinner- and for me a Margarita! Hopefully, it will be my last one for 9 months!!

My transfer wasn’t until 12:30PM. We slept in that morning, then went for breakfast at the hotel. I started getting giddy that it was almost time. I was anxious to find out how many of the three embryos being thawed had survived. We went back to our room to start getting ready.

The NEDC asked us to be there 30 minutes early. We arrived at the NEDC just before noon. The nurse called us back. We were met by Dr. Keenan and Dr. Carol Sommerfelt, the embryologist. Carol handed us the picture of our embryos. All three had survived!! They were graded 4ab, 3ab, and 4bc.

They took me to the procedure room for the transfer.   Everything went well, and I got to see the embryos being transferred on the ultrasound screen. Dr. Keenan said, “The embryos looked good, and we would hope for the best. Maybe we will get as lucky this time as last time.”

The nurse wheeled me back to recovery, where I had to lay flat for 30 minutes. Feeling good and hopeful, Josh and I went for a quick lunch at Calhoun’s, then back to the hotel for bed rest.

The recovery nurse told us I could go to my primary doctor for a blood pregnancy test in 9 days, which would be on May 27th. Nine days and counting…butterflies.

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