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Hello my dear friends,
Whether you’ve been living with frozen embryos for quite some time, or you’ve just completed a successful round of IVF and now have an abundance of leftover embryos, suddenly being on the other side of infertility is probably something you never thought would happen to you. The infertility journey is emotionally, and sometimes physically, painful. By the time we get to assisted reproductive technology, most of us are drained and just desperately want a family. We feel like it will never come to pass.
We neglect to truly consider and digest the possibilities of what can happen after our IVF cycle is complete. Yes, we all had to go through counseling prior to starting and, yes, we all had to make an initial decision on what we would do with our leftover embryos, should we have them. But let’s be honest – did you really think you’d actually have any to spare? Did you ever expect that IVF would work too well for you?
When this happens, and all of a sudden you have more embryos than you know what to do with, a whole new world of complicated emotions, decisions, and possibilities open up that you never thought you’d have to face in your wildest dreams. Your journey of infertility, instead of coming to a close, has suddenly expanded into a completely different, perhaps even more difficult, journey.
(Are you struggling with what to do with your leftover embryos? We would love to help. Check out our free 10-Step Guide at the bottom of this post.)
It becomes especially hard once you bring home your first child and you see that the little ball of cells you saw on the screen has transformed into your beautiful son or daughter. In an instant, your initial decisions regarding your embryos take on a whole new meaning and you realize you weren’t prepared to make those choices at all. And how could you be? You had no reference to go by and your life, faith, emotions, and circumstances were in a completely different place. You’re forced to reconsider your options all over again.
If this is you, our hearts ache for you. We share your pain.
Friends, if you have yet to travel down this road of emotions and, at this point, prefer not to think about it, we understand. We know it can take months or years to approach this area of your life. But if you’re ready to slowly proceed forward and begin discussing what to do with your leftover embryos, we humbly desire to share some truths with you about the other side of infertility that we’ve learned along the way. As much as we want to sugar-coat this next part of your journey, we would be doing you a disservice if we weren’t completely honest. We are choosing to speak the truth to you out of love.
1) It will be a hard road with tough conversations.
This will likely be one of the toughest parts of your journey and it has the potential to last for many years. There’s simply no other way to cut it – the other side of infertility is painful and the road to making a decision about your embryos is hard. Your conversations with your spouse will be deep, raw with emotion, and not always pretty. You may disagree on a few things or you may disagree on everything. You’ll have to practice patience as your spouse processes through thoughts and feelings that differ from yours. You’ll have to harness perseverance as this part of your life slowly unfolds around you. It may take awhile for your hearts to align and to come to a decision that brings you both peace.
Scott and I are nine years into our journey and we’re still having these conversations today. Although we now agree on what to do with our embryos (grow our family), it took roughly six years to get to that place. We had our fair share of disagreements and many times we ended up in tears as we poured over our options again and again. In the last three years, our hard conversations have shifted to how we will manage with more children and what it will mean for us to repeatedly expand our family. Although our focus has changed, the road continues to be hard and the discussions remain difficult. We’ve had to redefine our expectations and sacrifice much along the way to live out the life God has called us to.
2) You will have conflicting emotions.
When you finally allow all your emotions to rise to the surface, you’ll find they will swing back and forth from one extreme to the other. Don’t be surprised if you struggle significantly in this area for a considerable amount of time. One day you may be angry and frustrated, but the next day you’re filled with longing and confusion. Sometimes you may feel empowered, but in the next moment you’re overcome with defeat. At times you may be hopeful. At other times you may be hopeless. One day you may believe you can keep having as many kids as you have embryos, and the next day fear and doubt take over when you become overwhelmed with life.
You should expect all these emotions on the other side of infertility, and then some. Give yourself grace and understand that it’s a normal and necessary part of the process. Even to this day, Scott and I still experience difficult emotions that directly oppose one another, even though we’re firm in our choice to build a larger family (read about it here).
3) You will receive unsolicited advice and opinions.
If anyone other than your spouse knows about your journey through IVF and your remaining embryos, chances are you’re going to receive more than a few pieces of unsolicited advice or a host of unwanted opinions. We even had a few people here and there tell us that we had “asked for” our situation because we chose to use IVF to conceive (really??).
Unfortunately, some of the comments you’ll receive will affect you and will be difficult to hear, especially when they come from well-meaning family and friends, and particularly if the comments don’t line up with your personal wishes, beliefs, values, or convictions. This can easily lead to deeper discouragement, even if you’re approached lovingly and politely.
Hopefully those around you are respectfully allowing you to process on your own, but if not, as hard as it may be, we recommend taking a step back and creating some healthy distance from those that aim to persuade you or sway your decision in one way or another– this choice must be entirely between you, your spouse, and God. The other side of infertility is hard enough and only become harder when other people decide to jump in with their own personal thoughts on how you should handle your life and the lives of your embryos. It clouds your thinking and shakes your resolve.
We found ourselves in this place many times and quietly backed away to protect our fragile hearts (read about how we handled it here). Remember – no one else is walking in your shoes or has to live with the outcomes of your decisions but you.
(Feeling overwhelmed? Our 10-Step Guide helps you process your thoughts and feelings around your embryos while slowly and gently helping you come to decision that will bring peace to your hearts. The guide is available at the bottom of this post).
4) It will challenge your faith.
Depending how you look at it, the other side of infertility has the potential to be one of the biggest faith builders or one of the biggest faith breakers you will encounter in your life. Either way, expect that your beliefs, morals, values, and priorities will be challenged. You’re going to get uncomfortable as you struggle with what you’ve been given and you come face-to-face with decisions surrounding faith, life, and death. It will stretch you further than you ever thought possible and make you re-examine everything that you know.
For us, our journey has been, and continues to be, an enormous faith builder. We repeatedly choose to lean into God and be obedient to His call, whatever that means for our lives and for our embryos. Our faith has been stretched over and over again – and we still ask “why?” and we still struggle with what’s been given to us – but, as promised, God has been with us every step of the way. Suffice it to say, it’s been an incredible ride with much more to come, and we’ve seen Him move in magnificent ways that have left us speechless.
5) It will take time.
Deciding what to do with your embryos is not a choice that comes quickly. Once you’re on the other side of infertility, it can take weeks, months, and even years of conversations to reach a place where you’re ready to take action. We encourage you to give yourselves ample time to talk, to mature as parents, and to allow your current children to grow a little. Your feelings, wishes, and desires can change over time. What you think you want today can be very different than what you will actually want three, or four, or even ten years from now. If you’re a believer in the Christian faith, lean into God and ask for His guidance and discernment as you move along– He will slowly change your heart one way or another and gently steer you towards the right choice – but this too can take awhile.
Our hearts changed drastically in the years following the birth of our twins. Where we had once been content with the decision to discard our embryos, after a lot of talking and praying, we discovered we were no longer comfortable with this choice, but no other choice appeared feasible either. So we waited. We talked regularly and continued to pray, remaining still before God in our decision, even through the surprise addition of our third son. In the months and years that followed his birth, God changed our hearts and desires so completely that we underwent FET in 2017 for our daughter.
And now, in 2019, at the Lord’s leading, we are planning on returning for baby #5, at peace with our decision to expand our family and use our embryos, even though we are unsure exactly what life will look like moving forward.
The moral is this – anything can change and anything is possible, but you need to give yourself plenty of time to discern the right path for you and your family.
Friends, no matter how painful, do not rush this process. The last thing you want to do is make a hasty decision out of fear, or because you don’t want to deal with it anymore, or because you’re currently in the parenting trenches. You do not want to live with regret. It will take time to come to a decision that you’re completely at peace with. If you don’t know what to do yet, don’t do anything at all. Allow this next part of your journey to unfold slowly and be patient with the process.
6) A resolution is possible.
Despite it all, take heart – a resolution is possible so long as you continue to keep the lines of communication open and you commit to making these discussions a priority. If you are Christian, I highly recommend laying it all before God and humbly asking Him what He would like you to do – wait as long as it takes and be still before Him – and when He speaks, be prepared to listen to His answer and be obedient to His call. It may not be what you expect or what you want to hear, but He has purposes beyond what we can understand.
If you’re seeking a resolution and can’t come to one on your own, there isn’t a better place to go for an answer than the God of the universe who intimately knows you and your circumstances. If you’re just starting this process, take it to Him first. It will avoid a lot of heartache as you pass the burden to Him, receive His peace, and wait on His answer.
But, whatever you do, whether it takes weeks, months, or even years, make sure that you keep talking about it regularly until a decision is reached. Do not allow yourself to stay silent and ignore the situation – there is everything to gain and nothing to lose by talking about your embryos. Unfortunately, many people never come to a decision because they’re terrified of facing their fears and what it will all mean once a choice is made. They leave themselves in limbo year after year, suffering under the weight of their unresolved emotions, with no end in sight.
Friends, failure to come to a resolution is far worse than facing it head on. Take the time to come to a decision and make peace with your circumstances. Yes, the other side of infertility is overwhelming, and it will take time and emotional grit, but it is possible and completely worth it to work towards a resolution and finally have peace in your hearts.
7) You’re not alone.
With all these hard truths, we want to offer you some encouragement –
You are not alone.
This is why we’re here. There are thousands of couples living with frozen embryos that are currently walking through the same difficult conversations and emotions, including Scott and me. We understand your fears and can identify with your pain. If you don’t know anyone else traveling down this road, we encourage you to consider joining our private FB community where you will be fully and completely understood. We want to hear your story, support you, pray over you, and come alongside you on your journey.
Friends, I know the topic of this post has been particularly heavy – and I apologize for stirring up anxiety in your hearts. I understand how completely uncomfortable is it to embark on this part of your journey with your embryos. The other side of infertility can hit you out of nowhere – and its so hard and complex. Our hope and prayer is that our words have prepared you in some way for the road ahead – but we also pray that you leave here today with encouragement, knowing we, and so many others, share in your sufferings and understand your pain. The journey is long – but we’re right here with you every step of the way. We’re covering your hearts and your conversations in prayer.
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. We pray you find it helpful, encouraging, thought-provoking, and full of inspiration for your journey. Access the guide here.
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.