My husband and I had tried for four years to get pregnant, including three rounds of in vitro fertilization and six intrauterine inseminations. I got pregnant four times, but for each, I miscarried in the first trimester. Tests showed I don’t have many eggs, and the ones that I do have are not genetically normal — the doctors called it “diminished ovarian reserve.”
But the doctors also said I would have no trouble carrying a child — if I had a healthy embryo. They suggested we use donor eggs paired with my husband’s sperm, but I was hesitant. I felt like he would be having a baby with someone else. Many families don’t see it that way at all, but I wasn’t comfortable.
The Difficult Road Ahead
A year later, we were ready to grow our family again. We planned to transfer the remaining two embryos (a.k.a. have them placed in my uterus). On the day of the transfer, I got a call, fully expecting it to tell me to come in for the procedure. Instead, they said, “We’re so sorry. We don’t know how, but the vial that was holding your two embryos somehow got broken and they were both destroyed.”
Time stood still. You might as well have told me that two of my children were killed in a car accident. We were so excited to have another child — and to have the new experience of a full genetic sibling for Zoe, which now wasn’t possible. That was one of the worst days of my life, hands down. Embryos sometimes naturally don’t survive thaws because they’re fragile. But to have it happen from human error was devastating.
We didn’t give up on having more children, and since then, we have adopted embryos three more times. A week after that loss, a friend reached out about the last one from her friend’s batch of embryos. Those typically don’t have good odds, but we believe every embryo deserves a chance at life, so we transferred this one in January 2014. I didn’t get pregnant.
Because there aren’t many ways to find an embryo donor privately, some friends (who had embryos to donate from their IVF) and I started a website: the National Registry for Adoption. It’s like Match.com but for families who want embryos or have ones to donate and for adoptive families and birth mothers to help find each other without paying an agency fee.
Last August, my husband and I matched with a wonderful family who gave us five embryos. We even got to have dinner with them on a business trip. But after the embryos were shipped to our clinic, we learned that they had been frozen on the wrong day and stored in a nonstandard container. Transferring two didn’t result in a pregnancy, and the other three didn’t survive the thaw.
It was a disheartening time. Our first embryo adoption was so easy. We eventually matched again — this donor mother and I really connected. And we just adopted 11 embryos from her. With Julah’s birth mother, we have an open adoption and see her once a year. We also have a relationship with Zoe’s genetic family. So we are giving this donor mother the freedom to have whatever contact level she wants. We’re set to do another transfer this summer. Hopefully this is it, and I will be due sometime this winter.
More than half of the frozen embryos in the U.S. are still earmarked for the people that created them to grow their own families. But for an estimated 40%, their families are complete and these embryos are indefinitely frozen in time. For some people, the decision of what to do with them weighs heavily until they find the right family to donate them to. Other embryos have already been donated anonymously and are in essence sitting in frozen orphanages, waiting for someone to come get them.
Now that I know this is an option, I’m doing everything I can to share it with other couples who struggle with infertility — and try to give them a renewed hope in their journey towards growing their family.
Originally posted on: GoodHouseKeeping.com