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Hello my friends,
One of the toughest moments of the whole journey with leftover frozen embryos is coming to a point where you’re finally ready to make a decision. Although you know you’re ready to close this chapter of your life, you also know there is a certain finality that accompanies this last step. It’s so easy to hesitate or have doubts. It’s easy to give into our fears and find ourselves back at square one, re-hashing each scenario and dissecting every emotion.
So how do you really know if you’re ready to take action and move forward? For most of us, this is complicated. Knowing if you’ve reached this point can be confusing and difficult to distinguish.
In the case of our own embryos, it took roughly two years for Scott and me to come to a decision that brought us peace. Those two years were filled with numerous painful conversations, prayer, heartache, and a lot of tears. We struggled emotionally and spiritually as we questioned ourselves over and over again.
(Are you struggling with what to do, too? We would love to help. Check out our free 10-Step Guide at the bottom of this post.)
However, looking back on this part of our journey, we can pinpoint and identify several markers in our lives as evidence that we were actually ready in our hearts and closing in on a decision. This is such a tough, complicated, and emotionally charged choice that it’s very easy to miss the signs of readiness. So, we thought it would be helpful to share our findings with you.
Although these markers are not hard and fast rules, they function as general guidelines to help you discern where you are in the decision making process and help you determine if you’re truly ready to advance forward in your decision with your embryos. If you aren’t experiencing most or all of these markers currently in your life, we strongly advise that you continue to wait and keep processing.
1) You’ve devoted yourself to wholehearted prayer and received firm guidance/confirmation.
The first marker that you’re ready to make a decision about your leftover embryos revolves around prayer, guidance, and confirmation. Devoting yourself to whole hearted prayer simply means you’ve prayed with complete and earnest commitment, sincerely seeking the guidance and counsel of God. You’ve freely put aside your own wants and humbly sought the will of the Lord. If you’ve dedicated yourself to this practice, over time, you’ll likely sense a firm leading on the direction you should go. Simultaneously, you should start to feel a deep sense of peace with your choice.
Once you sense this leading, remember to ask for confirmation from God. It’s always ok to ask Him to reaffirm what He would like you to do, especially if you’re trying to discern between His leading and outside voices. Stay aware and keep watch for His answer. Affirmation and confirmation can come though other people, circumstances, surroundings, books, dreams, impressions, etc., and, of course, Scripture. Keep a sharp eye. God can use anyone and anything to speak to you. When He answers you, circle His promise in prayer. Continue to do so until you experience a sense of finality and peace that surpasses understanding.
2) You’re several years out from your last baby.
The second marker that you may be ready to make a decision about your embryos has to do with the age of your family. If you’re several years out from your last baby, chances are your life has leveled back out, the dust has settled, and you’re in a good groove. This also means you’re more likely to be able to assess your situation with increased wisdom and discernment.
Bringing home a baby or having a very young family is tough. It’s extremely hard to decipher exactly what you want to do with your leftover embryos when you’re in the parenting trenches. This is a core principle that we encourage you to follow – if you currently have an infant or very young toddler, give yourself a little more time to process so you can be absolutely certain in your choice. However, if your youngest is several years old, you’re likely at a point where you can make a decision with clarity and perception.
3) You’ve thoroughly researched all your options.
If you’ve called your clinic, done your homework, and thoroughly researched all your options, this is another indicator that you may be ready to make a decision about your leftover embryos.
Surprisingly, not every clinic offers every option. Additionally, fees and processes can change over time. And no matter what you choose to do, there’s various paperwork and/or appointments involved to proceed forward. If you haven’t found out what it looks like to discard, donate to science, undergo FET, donate to a couple (through your clinic or using an outside organization), have a compassionate transfer, use a surrogate (if needed), etc., then there is still work to be done.
And even if you think you’ve ruled out an option, we highly encourage you to investigate all the processes and procedures anyways. The clearer you are on your choices, the easier the decision will be to make.
4) You’ve talked about your choices extensively with your spouse.
If you’ve poured over all your options with your spouse, and talked at length about your feelings, emotions, and potential impacts to your family, this is another marker that you may be ready to make a decision about your embryos. If you’re making this decision alone, it may be wise to seek counsel in order to process and think through the various choices.
Sometimes it’s tempting to want to make a decision after talking just a handful of times. After all, these conversations can be uncomfortable, painful, and for some, downright ugly. You may also have a strong desire to move on and close this chapter of your life without really hashing out all the details. Fight that temptation. Don’t rush or “give in” – that will only lead to uncertainty and, possibly, resentment and regret for one or both of you. We encourage you to press in further and give yourselves plenty of time to connect and discuss your options. In most cases, expect this to take several months to years of frequent conversation.
(Feeling a little 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).
5) Your marriage is healthy and intact.
Another indicator that you’re ready to make a decision about your embryos has to do with the health of your marriage. In order to make the best decision for your family, your relationship with one another should be healthy and happy. You should not be frequently fighting with your spouse, at odds with one another, or separated before moving forward on your journey. If you are, we encourage you to pause and focus on getting your marriage back on track. You can return to conversations surrounding your embryos after you’ve reconciled and mended any wounds (we’re actually going through a marriage course this fall to fortify our foundation before returning to FET).
The exception to this would be 1) in the case of divorce in which embryos are awarded to one party or the other 2) if you completed IVF as a single parent or 3) you’ve experienced the death of your spouse. In each of these situations, you’re likely making a decision alone. However, regardless of whether you’re married or single, you should be at a place in your life where you and your relationships are emotionally healthy, stable, and intact before taking the next steps on your journey. If you need to heal in any way, heal. Then come back around to your embryos.
6) Your heart aligns with your spouse’s heart.
If you’re ready to make a decision about your embryos, your hearts should also be in alignment. This goes beyond simple agreement. Being in alignment means you hold the same position on the subject of your embryos, your family, and your future. There’s absolutely no resentment or feelings of “being pushed”. You know for certain that you both want and desire the same thing. You’re both ok with the potential outcomes.
The main characteristic of being in alignment is you’ve come to the same conclusion on your own. This is another slow process that can take a significant amount of time to achieve, but it’s one of the most important markers of readiness. If your hearts are not yet in alignment, continue to wait, continue to process together, and seek the Lord. He is faithful to bring your hearts together if you’re earnestly seeking Him.
7) You’re prepared for the outcome or taken steps to prepare.
Another marker that you’re ready to make a decision about your leftover embryos is you’ve taken steps to prepare for the outcome of your choice. You’ve carefully thought through the emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, relational, and financial impacts on yourselves and your family. This will look different for everyone depending on which option you choose and how it intertwines with your personal circumstances. To prepare yourselves effectively, you must go one step further and fully imagine yourself living life with your decision.
In our case, for example, after we decided we would likely use our embryos, we thoroughly discussed how our lives might change as our family expanded. We talked about how we were going to rearrange rooms, when we would purchase a new car, how the children would respond, how our careers might shift, etc, etc, etc. We discussed returning to FET over and over again, being pregnant multiple times in our 40’s, and the very real possibility that our FETs might fail.
8) You’re at peace with your decision.
If you’ve come to a place where the matter surrounding your embryos feels “settled” in your heart, you may be ready to make a decision, move forward, and take action. You should feel no sense of regret. Rather, a sense of confidence, hope, and peace should fill your hearts, indicating that you’re walking the path you’re meant to walk.
As mentioned before, expect this to be a slow process, anywhere from months to years. Over time, your hesitations and doubts should fade. Slowly, they should be replaced by increasing certainty in your decision, until one day you find you’re at peace with your choice. In our case, it took us two years to be at complete peace with our decision to expand our family beyond what we originally intended.
9) You’re certain you’re ready to close this chapter of your life.
The last marker that you’re ready to make a decision about your embryos is simply this – you’re certain, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you’re ready to close this chapter of your life. Every option possesses a finality that cannot be undone. This is true even if you choose to use your embryos. Going through FET is still a step towards bringing this part of your life to completion, whether it succeeds or fails. But no matter what you choose to do with your embryos, you must be confident and sure that it’s time to move forward and move on.
Friends, at the end of the day, you’re the only one who can decide if you’re truly ready to move forward and make a final decision about your embryos. Everyone is different and, for you, there may be additional circumstances you have to take into consideration before taking your final steps. The markers we’ve shared with you are simply guidelines to help you discern where you are on your journey. Looking back on our own personal experience, we were able to identify these markers in our own lives as evidence that we were ready to proceed in our decision. We thought it would be valuable to share them with you to help you process.
However, in general, if the majority of this list is a reflection of your own life, chances are you’re also approaching a point where you can make a decision about your embryos with clarity and confidence. Continue to process as needed until you’re completely ready. If you find you’re more towards the beginning of the process, you can access our free guide to help you take the first steps toward a resolution.
Praying peace and courage over your hearts.
Not ready to make a decision about your leftover embryos? Unsure of how to move forward? 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.