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I’m writing this blog post from a place of inexperience, looking down a road Scott and I dread we may have to travel. I wish I could be a voice of encouragement for you, a beacon of hope, or a source of wisdom and honesty about the process, but the truth is I can’t. We’re looking for all those things ourselves.
From where we currently stand, we can only share our lives from a stance of looking ahead and wondering, not behind and knowing. Since the majority of you are probably in the same position, this may resonate. My hope is other brave, beautiful couples out there will feel called to share their stories of donation to lift and encourage us all.
However, I’m fully aware that situations such as divorce, inability to conceive again, or death of a spouse can also lead to donation and not all stories have a peaceful, happy ending. I am lifting up prayers for all of you that have donated, asking peace over your hearts for the situation or circumstances that led to your decisions. You are selfless, courageous, and brave.
The heartache of embryo donation has so many facets and permeates every part of our lives. It begins the moment you enter the room for your first fresh IVF transfer, you see your beautiful embryo(s) on the big screen…and then you’re told you have a half dozen more beautiful, perfect snowflakes already on ice.
What a dichotomy of emotions.
In an instant, we experienced the absolute joy of seeing what would become our twin boys on the big screen coupled with an overwhelming realization that we had another six souls we were responsible for and would one day have to make decisions for that would affect us and them forever. But, in all honesty, in that moment, we thought the decisions would be made for us and we would never have to face this. Naively, we expected it would take us a few rounds to conceive, like it had for so many of our friends, leaving us with little to no embryos left.
We became pregnant during our first round of IVF.
We were absolutely ecstatic – and shocked.
And as the realization of what happened slowly dawned on us, a quiet, burning ache took up residence in the background of our hearts.
In the beginning, it was easy to push those feelings aside. We were focused on our two boys, growing ever so beautifully and intricately inside my womb. Once they were born, we entered survival mode, burying our feelings of sadness, fear, and responsibility toward our other embryos until we felt we could come up for air. But no matter how busy we were, how stretched we felt, they were still there, in the back of our minds, beckoning us, reminding us of their worth. Even with our new found joy, the shadow of heartache remained.
Over the next few years, the heartache grew steadily. We knew God had another child for us, but we were surprised when it came in the form of a natural pregnancy. As thrilled as we were with this unexpected blessing, and as wonderful and amazing as our third son is, it amplified the steady burn in our hearts for our embryos. With a third child given miraculously by God, we felt the likelihood of donation was gradually increasing. And the ache moved out of the shadows of our minds and into the light of our everyday life.
The pain was now fully palpable and tangible. It weighed heavily on both of us. Every six months when our embryo storage bill came in the mail, we’d revisit the same emotions and have the same discussions about the same hopes and the same fears. We discussed our marriage, our family, our finances, our social lives, our parenting abilities…everything.
What’s more, our heartache now extended to our three boys. What will they think when they’re older and we tell them our story? How will they process having siblings they don’t know, who didn’t grow up with them or belong to our family? How will they handle open adoption, if we decide to go that route? If we don’t donate, how can we possibly raise them all?
Eventually, through countless discussions and prayer, God was clear that He wasn’t done building our family yet. He gently guided us back to IVF for our first FET (frozen embryo transfer) in the summer of 2017. Our daughter was born in March 2018. She filled and broke our hearts all at once in a special, indescribable way – instead of our heartache for our embryos lessening because she was safely home with us, her beautiful face increased the burn more than ever for the ones left behind.
And the same difficult questions remain, still unanswered to this day. The weight of it all feels heavier and heavier as the years pass and we grow older. Our worry is compounded by the fact that we have strong embryos and, surprisingly, it appears I am able to get pregnant fairly easily, which means it’s very possible each IVF attempt will be a successful one. With five more embryos, the potential for five more pregnancies and five more children is high, yet I am close to entering my forties. The math just doesn’t seem to add up.
But, of course, we cannot predict what is still to come. On the flip side, we were told that if we donate, our embryos would likely result in live births due to their high quality – a scenario we simply haven’t come to terms with. Please, help us, Lord.
As we prepare to return to IVF again in 2019, the ache is always with us, an ever present aura surrounding our beings. We can’t wait to see the face of our next child – the anticipation is almost too much to bear. At the same time, we are left to question, yet again, what will become of the rest.
And we wonder how long this will last.
Today, we are closing in on nine years since that day in the transfer room. If we donate in the future, I sense this deep longing and ache will always be with us, even though we know donation is a blessing to others. The Lord has purposes beyond our understanding and we know they are good 1 – even if it hurts. And even if we have all our children, or the Lord takes them home one at a time as we try again and again, these sweet souls will have defined our lives and our purposes and the experience and emotion of it all will never leave us.
It is a bittersweet, lifelong journey.
The ache of it is something you cannot describe to others. It is only understood in a tender embrace, a kind gesture, a gentle word, or an unspoken look of longing in the eyes of those who are there in the same place as you. The only people I can think that would possibly be able to relate are those brave moms and dads who place their children for adoption when they really don’t want to. Although the circumstances surrounding our experiences aren’t quite the same, I’m positive their anguish is equally as intense. And, try as they may, our family and well-meaning friends simply can’t appreciate or resonate with this kind of pain.
If this is you, my friend, we get you – totally and completely.
We’re living life, loving our children, and leaning into God, but we grieve in small ways every day. We laugh with our children around the dinner table, but wonder if we will get to hear the laughter of all our babies one day. We watch our boys play baseball and wonder if they have a brother who will want to do the same. We dress our daughter in her sweet outfits and her bows and wonder if she will have a little sister who looks like her and shares her infectious smile. My heart breaks at the thought of not being there, not being their mom, not taking care of them when they’re sick, not watching them grow and thrive, not delighting in the people they will become.
And although the Lord hasn’t brought us to donation yet, the idea of it and the possible future reality of it has already settled itself in our souls. It quietly overshadows our days, and even in the best of times, it lurks silently in the corner of our minds. The pain is there before the first step in the donation process is ever taken, like an unwelcome guest that you never invited in, but who stays well past the celebration is over.
With determination as strong as iron, it stubbornly refuses to budge.
It is always there.
And for now…
There it will remain.
That’s the heartache of embryo donation.
Praying for your hearts, my friends.
Are You Struggling With What To Do With Your Leftover Embryos? We would love to help.
Get our free 10-Step Guide to help you take the next steps on your journey with your leftover frozen embryos and begin to live with peace in your hearts. We’ve personally followed each step in this guide on our own journey – and over time we’ve received discernment, clear direction, and hope.
Kindly fill out the form below to get the password for our Resource Library so you can access the guide. We hope you find it helpful, encouraging, thought-provoking, and full of inspiration for your journey.
P.S. If you need additional support or guidance as you consider your choices with your embryos, please join our private FB community, Leftover Frozen Embryos Support Group. Here, we talk in real time with other parents about the difficulties of living life with leftover frozen embryos and the options we have moving forward. You can also join our email list to receive support, encouragement, and updates on new content and our personal journey.