Embryo Storage and Life After the Lab

We have 13 children and we pay their rent.
Yep, you read that right.
This topic was, yet again, sparked by recent events. We got a letter in the mail this last week and it wasn't a friendly greeting from a tropical paradise, it was our bill saying that rent is due.
Let me backtrack a little bit so that this will better make sense.
Prior to our egg retrieval, we had to fill out a packet of information and have it notarized. It was super official and super legal. It was July 4th of 2019 and instead of grilling burgers and hot dogs, we were basically filling out a will for our embryos.
This packet wasn't a special thing done just for us, if you're going through IVF, you'll fill it out too and I just want to help you through this step and give you some realistic expectations.
It made me emotional. I guess because it put into perspective what we were doing and how serious this next step (egg retrieval) was going to be.
The biggest question we had to answer was: "what do you want to do with the remaining embryos?" This means, when we are done having children- where do the remaining embryos go?
Up until this point, that's not exactly on your radar. You're kinda just trying to get through each step on its own. But now we were here and we had to make a very legitimate and legal decision.
We had three options: embryo adoption, donate them to science, or have them destroyed (their terminology, not mine.)
Additional questions from the packet included:
"If your partner dies, are they allowed to use the embryos with someone else?"
"If you both die, what happens to the embryos? (i.e. adoption, science, or destroyed)"
"If you and your partner get a divorce, who will get to use the embryos or what will happen to them?"
. . . and so on.
SO. That's some heavy stuff and if you're not prepared to talk about or answer those questions, it will totally blindside you. I was thankful that a friend gave us a heads up on this part and that's why I wanted to share this with you today. If you're doing IVF, I want you to feel as prepared as possible for all that's to come. If you're just curious about the process in general, I want to give you alllll of the information to help you better understand and support those doing IVF.
If you're not going through or don't have to do IVF, I implore you- PLEASE don't judge anyone based off of their answers to any of the above questions. These questions are hard enough to handle on their own. Outside opinions or judgements are not needed, nor are they welcome here. Instead, I'll challenge you to think of what YOU would do in this situation.
When we began discussing these questions, it was really freaking hard. So, to help you out, I'll break down our thought process for each of these scenarios to help you better understand what must be considered with these options. And please keep in mind, the decision was an all or nothing. You can't divide them equally among different options.
First and foremost, what DO we want to do with the remaining embryos? Because as soon as we announced that we had 15 embryos waiting to make us a mama and daddy, people were shocked and began asking if we were really going to have 15 children.
Now having had Aspen, I want to shout YES. We're having all 15! Because honestly, I cannot look at how wonderful Aspen is and bear the thought of letting go of any of our precious children.
But sadly, the reality is: no, I don't believe that we have been called to have all 15 children.
And that's something that weighs on me heavily and has since we found out our final number. Going forward, it's something that Alex and I will continue to pray through. We know that God gave us 15 embabies for a reason and we will need His guidance as we figure out what our future holds.
Once we were able to process and answer that question, we had to figure out the next tough question: "what happens to the remaining embryos?"
This question can challenge you to think about the development of life. At what point does life begin?
For us, we were not comfortable with having our remaining embryos "destroyed." Honestly, just saying or thinking it makes my skin crawl. We knew immediately that was not an option for us. If this is an option that you choose to do, please know that we feel no judgement towards you. I can understand (given the other options) why this is an avenue that some would pursue, but it was not the one for us.
When it came to "donating them to science," I had to sit and wonder for a little while. Was this something I felt comfortable doing? Obviously, IVF wouldn't exist without research and study. So on some level, I felt compelled to help future generations by surrendering our remaining embryos to help future couples. Yet, I kept coming back to the idea of the embryo being picked apart and "studied" and to be totally honest, it didn't settle well with me or Alex. Therefore, we knew that this was not an option for us either.
Which leaves the remaining option of "embryo adoption." To which, at first, sounds more promising than the other two options so why not just jump on board?
Well, then we began thinking about it deeper. These are our CHILDREN. It's just as comparable as putting a child up for adoption. Were we comfortable doing that? Would we want to have an open or closed embryo adoption? Meaning- would we want to know the recipients of our embryos?
Part of me shouts YES! Because, selfishly, I want to know all of our children and I want to watch them grow.
But the other part says, HOLD UP. Watching them grow, would I regret our decision? Would I subconsciously want to take credit for their life and assume my role as their rightful parent? Would I be able to watch someone else take on and raise our children? Or, what if we did a closed embryo adoption? Would I pass my child on the street in town? But more importantly, would I recognize them? (and that's naming just a FEW concerns).
I'm not proud to admit these feelings or concerns, but if I have these thoughts now then they need to be discussed and prayed through. This isn't a matter to be taken lightly and we need to be prepared for what we're willing to do and for what we've been called into.
We wrestled with this idea for a long time. We were never quite sure what to do.
But God put something on Alex's heart and it was in that moment that we came to our final decision.
"These embryos don't belong to us. They never did. They were God's way before they were ours and we have to know that He will take care of them."
We chose embryo adoption.
If God gave us the incredible blessing of having so many embryos, then we knew that we had to extend the blessing onto others that needed it, too.
As for having an open or closed embryo adoption, we don't know the answer to that yet. Thankfully, we didn't have to make that decision right then. That's something we're still working through and we will come to that decision at a later date.
We don't know how many children we will have. We can hope and assume for a certain amount, but the truth of the matter is: it's not up to us and we don't know.
But in order to move forward with egg retrieval, we had to discuss these questions and come to an agreement on what we were going to do way before we even knew how many embryos we were going to have.
After egg retrieval and fertilization, the fertility clinic kept our embryos and they are in charge of storing them until we do another transfer or give them further instructions.
That being said, let's go back to the letter that I was talking about in the beginning of this post.
So, we got a letter and it was from our fertility clinic. Naively, I thought it was going to be a congratulations letter for the birth of Aspen- LOL.
It was not.
Instead, it was our rent bill and it was coming due.
$550.00 a year to house our remaining embryos.
Don't get me wrong- I'm NOT complaining. After all, it's not like we can have these embryos in our home freezer next to my breastmilk bags. That's a BIG thing to be responsible for and we'll pay what we have to in order to keep our embabies safe.
I'm just laying this all out to further show that IVF does not stop after transfer. There is a whole other side to IVF life outside of the lab and it's complex as hell.
IVF is now, and will forever be, a big part of our lives. It's a lot more complicated than people think and, again, this is just another reason as to why you don't "just do IVF."
It's a huge commitment and life decision. The decisions don't stop after you choose to do it. Instead, you're flooded with even MORE decisions. Hard decisions that you never thought you'd have to make.
And in the midst of all the hormones, appointments, and difficult decisions, you can feel totally and utterly alone. Especially if you don't know anyone else who has had to go through IVF. It can be an isolating season of life because it's time consuming and well, people just don't understand what you're going through unless they've gone through it themselves.
I hope you know that I am here for you. If you have questions or you just need someone to listen- I'm here for you.
Never, in a million years, did I think we would be in this situation. I never thought we would be going through infertility, let alone be doing IVF. But if I've learned anything from this entire experience it's that every single person is a MIRACLE. Conception is not as easy as you think. Pregnancy is not as easy as you think. The whole gift of life is NOT as easy or small as you think.
Life is the most precious gift we've ever been given. Whether it's the life of a friend, family member, child, or even yourself- never take one single life or person in your life for granted.
I love our children, all 15 of them.
I wouldn't change a single thing about our story or our journey. Yes, it's been very difficult, but it's also been the most rewarding experience of my entire life.
If you're faced with making some of the tough decisions we've discussed today, I hope and pray that you find guidance in making those decisions. Don't let anyone else ever pressure you or make you feel bad/doubt the decisions you've made. You have to do what YOU feel comfortable doing.
I walked you through our decision process today simply to show how we came to the conclusion that we did. Your decisions may not be the same as ours and that's perfectly fine. We love you and support you no matter what you choose to do. We would never judge you based off of a decision that we all thought we would/should never have to make.
I'm happy that you stopped by today. I know this topic isn't talked about as much as other things with IVF- stims, egg retrieval, transfer, etc.- but it does deserve a place at the table when we discuss IVF.
If you have any further questions about IVF, please refer to my blog archive for more resources!