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Some days I wonder if I will ever know what it will be like to live without always having the quiet presence of my embryos following me in my daily activities, tugging insistently at the hem of my heart. They are always there, persistent in their pursuit of me, yet tender and gentle in their ways. I find that my thoughts drift to them often and easily, my heart and mind envisioning their faces, even subconsciously planning out a space for them on our gallery wall of family pictures.
Yes, that would be a perfect spot.
Maybe it’s the fact that we’re going back for FET this year. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve started this blog. Maybe it’s because I’m preparing my body for another baby. Maybe it’s because the boys are asking for another little sister. Maybe it’s because we’ve already planned out, over a year in advance, how we are going to shuffle the rooms to make space for one more…and then maybe one more…and then maybe…who knows. Maybe it’s because my periods just returned for the first time since delivering our daughter. Maybe it’s because we’ve started praying for God to reveal His timing. Maybe it’s because we’re getting older. Maybe it’s because we can’t see an end in sight. Maybe it’s because we have no idea how this is all going to play out. Maybe it’s because there are five sweet souls I long to know.
Our frozen embryos are always on my mind, always in my heart, and with me in whatever I do. They are a piece of me that I cannot separate from. And lately, for whatever reason, their silent cries have become more insistent, their needs more urgent.
The reality of living life with frozen embryos can be overwhelming. Anyone in the same boat can relate. To the outsider, it would seem as if we’re living life like normal and we’re functioning just like everyone else. We’re really good at putting on a happy face, smiling, and going about our day – and most days we are happy. But, the truth of it is, there is a presence that surrounds us constantly that no one else senses or feels but us. In the quiet of our bedroom, long after the children have fallen asleep, we will often talk about our snow babies.
What will they be like? Who will they become? When is the right time? What do we do?
We wish we knew God’s plan.
I don’t know why I’m contemplating this especially hard this month. Quite possibly, it may be because I sense this next pregnancy will be the beginning of an exceptionally difficult part of our journey. We are nine years in since this all started and I see possibly another ten years ahead of us until we reach the conclusion – halfway there, but I know the peak of hardship is yet to come. It is continuing to build and becomes more intense as we move along. These next years hold the potential for back-to-back-to-back pregnancies, an ever-challenging home life, grief, loss, joy, exhilaration, denial, anger, confusion, elation, and maybe embryo donation. The possible scenarios are as vast as the ocean.
It will require the utmost patience and endurance.
Everything we feel, everything we do, everything we pray for, everything we decide, has been and will continue to be affected in some way by our embryos. We are living life with them, always considering them as if they are here in the present.
It’s impossible not to.
We have no idea what it feels like to be “done”. We have no idea how to live without planning for the next. We have yet to experience that feeling of finality, knowing for certain our family is complete. It’s hard. It’s hard to watch other families graduating from the baby stage. It’s hard to watch our friends discover newfound freedom as their children grow older, knowing that we may not reach that time in our lives for another decade, or more.
Sometimes we find it difficult not to be angry with the Lord. We weep in frustration, our hearts in agony over our decisions. We dreamed so long about our children. We yearned to have them in our lives and prayed we could have at least one or two of our own. The last thing we ever expected was having so many embryos that we would be having children well into our forties…or possibly having to give them away…or both.
We often wonder why God chose to bless us so abundantly during IVF. We cry out to the Lord for answers, for resolution, for a reason why…but the Lord, in His perfect ways, answers patiently and tenderly, with just enough information to guide us one step at a time, beckoning us to trust Him with the rest. We know that if He told us everything at once, the how and why of it all, the enormity of it would overwhelm us – we would either run towards it faster than He intends or we would retreat immediately out of fear. We know our limited knowledge is a gift. But it’s all so very, very difficult to understand and the process is painfully slow. And there are very few people we can talk to that are in the same situation.
But through our confusion and frustration, we’re also terribly excited to see our next child. How is it possible to have such differing emotions constantly coexisting? We can’t wait to feel her delicate skin, count his sweet toes, kiss her chubby cheeks, and smell the soft wisps of hair on his head. We can’t wait to see the people they will become.
They’re such a miracle and worth everything we’re facing. We’re so very, very grateful God has given us these precious children that otherwise we would never have known. We’re constantly amazed that He has chosen to use us in this unique way. We’re humbled that He has entrusted so many souls to our care and so much responsibility to our lives. He has poured out blessings upon us as we’ve journeyed along, submitted to Him and obedient to His will, and we have come to know Him more intimately, witnessing His faithfulness to carry us through over and over again.
But every day, our emotions continue to pull at us and tear at the core of our beings. There is not a week that goes by that I don’t experience all of these feelings in one way or another, to one degree or another. I know Scott feels the same.
It’s no wonder so many couples with frozen embryos are stopped dead in their tracks, paralyzed by fear and unable to move forward. This inaction isn’t because parents are purposefully ignoring the situation – it’s because there are so many major issues to consider that will impact daily life that it can literally shut someone down mentally and emotionally to the point where they can’t move. We struggle significantly with processing how to handle what’s been given to us. There are no clear, easy answers. Couples become stuck in one spot, held captive by their fears and thoughts, like trying to escape quicksand. But, at some point, we are forced to consider the possibilities, many of which can spark significant panic:
- Can my body handle one, two, three, or more pregnancies even though I’m in my late thirties? Will I be able to keep up with multiple small children with an enlarging belly and uncomfortable physical symptoms?
- Will I be able to live my life mostly within the walls of my home, with limited outside social contact, as I balance the varied schedules and needs of babies to teenagers?
- Can we raise our children effectively, pouring into each one in unique ways that reflect their personalities and dispositions?
- Can we afford to have so many children? What about college? Groceries? Clothes? How does that affect how we spend and save today?
- Will our marriage survive?
- Will we need to switch out his car? Have two vans? Or one large commercial van?
- Do we have enough room in the house? Will we need to move?
- Can he take that position that requires more travel? Can I handle this on my own at home?
- How will we deal with donation? How will the kids one day cope with having full siblings that we didn’t birth or raise? How will we feel when we meet them? Is there any other way?
- And the list goes on and on and on and on…
Living with frozen embryos is hard. They are always on our minds, impacting us day in and day out. The only thing moving us out of our fear and into action is the power and greatness of God Himself. We are only able to experience peace with what we are doing by leaning into His promises for us – He has called us to this life and so He will equip us with everything we need for the road ahead 1. He has overcome the world and has the power to move mountains 2. Nothing is too great for Him 3. We’ve experienced firsthand the miraculous might of God in our own circumstances as we’ve been obedient to His call. Despite any doubts we have about our lives, we believe with our whole hearts that He is trustworthy and He writes the very, very best stories.
We are surrendered to Him and, therefore, to the life He has for us – but it’s a significant challenge, an act of love, reverence, and discipline that is far from easy to live out on a daily basis. As we continue down the path He has for us, we must remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness. Living life this way requires putting everything God says ahead of our own desires, expectations, and fears. As it is for any Christian, God’s call to obedience, to have no other gods or idols before Him, is a call to die to self in every way. Although we are scared and uncertain, when He says move, we move. At His leading, we take a step forward. And then another. And then another.
And, most importantly, we must remember His promise to those that follow Him – His promise to us – that to lose our lives for Christ is actually to find life and live it abundantly, filled with more surprises, blessings, excitement and adventure than we could ever imagine for ourselves 4.
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* If you need 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.