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WELCOME TO

Our Story

Hello, beautiful friends.

If you’re joining us today for the first time, we bid you a warm welcome and extend a loving embrace. We’re so glad you’re here.

Like us, I’m assuming you’re one of the thousands of people who feel paralyzed by the decision of what to do with your leftover frozen embryos. We understand completely. We struggled significantly with our decision for years before we came to a place of peace. 

In the beginning of our journey, our desire was for two or three children at most. We didn’t plan on having a large family nor did we foresee the struggles that would be ahead of us as a result of IVF. We had to radically shift our expectations and embrace new perspectives for our lives – and we grieved over and over along the way. However, we personally believe life begins at conception – so, after years of thought and prayer, at the Lord’s direction, we chose to grow our family larger than we originally intended, knowing it could possibly be beyond our wildest imaginations. Although we’re at peace and our journey is now complete, living out this choice was a life-altering, faith-testing, excruciating, heartbreaking, painful process to endure. 

Bottom line, we know how incredibly hard the journey can be. Due to this, the main goal of our blog is to minister to those who remain undecided and help them come to a decision that brings peace to their hearts. We found the hardest part of the process was making any decision at all and taking the first steps to carry it out. There is no right or wrong choice – whether you discard, donate to science, donate to a couple, expand, or have a compassionate transfer, sorting out your emotions and feelings around these options is a difficult process.  This is where we come in.

In our main category, we discuss many of the hard, complicated, and unique circumstances and emotions that come with having leftover embryos. We also have categories covering each option available to parents with leftover embryos. Much of our writing discusses the option to use your embryos simply because it’s the one we chose for ourselves so we can speak to it best. However, we’re actively looking for other couples who are choosing the same OR different options than us to share their stories, perspectives, insights, experiences, and knowledge and/or submit a guest post to our site as a contributing author. We want to represent each option as much as possible. We also give support and inspiration on topics such as marriage, parenting, finances, and faith – these areas are directly impacted in unique ways when you have a family and leftover frozen embryos to consider. Last, we have an area for guest stories where couples can share their experiences with their embryos, what decision they made, and what they’ve learned in the process.

Also, a quick note – much of our writing is faith-based, relying on Christ-centered principles and our relationship with God. For us, we desperately needed the leadership and guidance of the Lord to help us make this decision and to give us peace in our hearts. Therefore, portions of our articles will reflect how our faith impacted our journey and our decision. 

However, that being said, our intention is in NO WAY to exclude you if you aren’t Christian or convert you to embrace our beliefs. Quite the opposite. Your story is important and unique and you are welcome here with open arms. In fact, we’d love to hear your perspective and post your stories! You are wanted and needed as part of this community. We want to represent as many perspectives as possible so please consider contacting us and sharing on our site!

If the references to God or Scripture are difficult for you, please know there is plenty of other information within our articles that is not faith-based and will likely be applicable to your lives. Feel free to use the parts that pertain to you and leave the rest if needed. We don’t want you to shy away just because we may have different belief systems or we are outspoken about our faith. Leftover embryos is a lonely road for all of us – we need one another.

So, if this sounds like you, and you have leftover frozen embryos and don’t know what to do, please continue to read on as I (Katie) briefly share our story and intentions for this blog.

THE BEGINNING

In 2008, Scott and I embarked on a journey of infertility that would rock our world, change our lives forever, and continually challenge and deepen our faith in unimaginable ways.

It started with a mysterious illness that turned into a fight for my fertility, leaving me without a right fallopian tube, a damaged left fallopian tube, the removal of a portion of my right ovary, and an appendectomy. I was in the hospital for a week with the possibility of a full hysterectomy in my future. They were never able to determine how I became so sick, but they suspected an infection in my appendix that somehow migrated to my right ovary and spread from there. I was 28 years old and we had just started trying for a family a few months prior.

By the grace of God, we happened to have a physician in the family who knew of a local Reproductive Endocrinologist that specialized in fertility preservation. She promptly took on my case (along with a gastroenterologist for my appendix) and performed the necessary surgeries plus ablation for my endometriosis. I was blessed to come out of this time only partially scathed – and best of all, my physician was fairly confident I would still be able to get pregnant, if not naturally then likely via ART (assisted reproductive technology).

BEYOND OUR IMAGINATIONS

After I healed, we tried for several months on our own, followed by many rounds of failed IUIs (my left tube was damaged, its functionality was questionable, but it was still open and intact). In combination with the illness, hospital stay, and surgeries, the physical and emotional toll of infertility was becoming overwhelming. So, we decided to take a breather from treatments for 6 months while we focused on other major life changes – moving and two new jobs. Once we were finally settled, we decided to return to ART (assisted reproductive technology) but this time in the form of IVF.

By this point, we were tired, drained, and wondering if it was in God’s will for us to be parents at all.

So we plunged forward without truly digesting the implications. We just wanted a family. We were young in mind, young in spirit, and young in faith. We scheduled the appointments. We went to counseling. We discussed the options. We showed up. We did the ultrasounds. We did the shots. We did the procedures. We did the lab tests. We held our breath with hopeful anticipation. We prayed.

But we never thought it would happen to us.

And there was no way to truly prepare for it.

We never thought we would be the couple that IVF worked too well for.

I remember the day of my egg retrieval. Twenty-four eggs retrieved. Twenty-one survived.

I remember the phone call two days later. Eighteen fertilized, sixteen survived.

And the day after that. Twelve still going strong.

By the time we reached our fresh transfer six days after retrieval, we found out we had eight surviving embryos, the two strongest of which were already picked out for transfer and displayed for us to see up on the big screen in the transfer room.

Oh my heart. They were beautiful.

Did you say we have eight?

(For those that are curious, our embryos were not PGS tested.)

We came into the office that day undecided on whether we would transfer one or two embryos. After seeing them on the screen, and knowing we had so many left, we knew we couldn’t put one back or choose one over the other. So we went for both.

In April 2011, we welcomed our beautiful boys into the world – and our remaining frozen embryos suddenly had a whole new meaning to us. But, at the time, we couldn’t wrap our minds around that. The arrival of the twins sent us into a tailspin as new parents. It took two years for the dust to settle and for us to bridge the conversation of more children. We talked and prayed for months.

Just as we were deciding that we would likely return for baby #3, the Lord had another surprise in store for us. In early 2014, right in the middle of Snowmageddon in Atlanta, I found out I was pregnant au natural. We didn’t think it was possible.

God assured us it was.

In October 2014, we welcomed our third beautiful son into our family.

And then the weight of our reality hit full force.

What about the embryos?? Our hands are already full!

The bill for frozen embryo storage came in the mail yesterday…

Pay it again. We’re not ready.

As the years passed and our faith grew, the one thing God impressed upon us is that we were not to discard them. He made it clear to us that the territory of life and death are His alone. We also knew if God led us to grow our family again, it would be through the use of our embryos rather than having babies the old fashioned way. In our eyes, they were our children, created in God’s image, their DNA set, their unique personalities determined….and with no choice in their existence, to be born or go home to the Lord, they were waiting patiently for us to act, one way or another.

Although we could sense God wasn’t done building our family, with three rambunctious boys at home, we also had absolutely no idea how in the world we could handle another child if God called us to it.

But God did.

SAYING YES TO GOD

Over the course of the next two years, the Lord slowly but surely changed our minds, our hearts, and our perspectives toward more children. He fully opened our eyes to see that His ways are greater than ours. He wasn’t just calling us to maybe one more child. He was calling us to total surrender to His plan for our lives, whatever that may be, including finances, jobs, etc. He made it clear He would determine the size of our family and the ultimate fate of our embryos. He reminded us that He has absolute ownership rights over His creation and we are simply entrusted with His children for a short time on earth. He called us to trust.

To walk by faith and not by sight.

We obeyed.

At the Lord’s leading, in early 2017, we began making preparations to return to our Reproductive Endocrinologist with the purpose of moving forward with a FET (frozen embryo transfer) cycle. Through God’s great design, there was no mistaking we were walking in His will. The circumstances surrounding this experience were nothing short of miraculous. Our daughter was born in March 2018, perfect and beautiful, having waited almost 8 years from her creation for us to bring her home.


HOW OUR JOURNEY ENDED

In the Fall of 2019, we found ourselves back in the same place, with five embryos remaining, facing an ever-growing family, surrendering ourselves to God and laying it all at the foot of the cross. In September, we felt the familiar call on our hearts to return to our endocrinnologiist for our next FET. By this time, we had completely and fully let go of our expectations and vowed to give each one an equal chance. We chose to pursue our embryos and fight for them out of love as God pursues us and fights for us out of His love. Our choice stretched us beyond our limits in the best, and most difficult, ways, forcing us to face our fears head-on and redefine our lives. Yet, we had great peace in our decision even though we knew the path would likely be a challenging one. We trusted His plans would unfold into a beautiful story with purpose and meaning beyond our imaginations, for us and all our children.

But what came next was completely unexpected.

Over the course of two FETs, one in October and one in November, we lost ALL of our remaining embryos. Our first FET cycle in October progressed smoothly and gave us no indication that it would fail. We transferred one perfect high-grade embryo. But as soon as the transfer was complete, I felt an emptiness inside. It was as if God was telling me this soul wasn’t meant to be here. Two weeks later, my suspicions were confirmed with a negative blood test. 

Our hearts were tender during this time, oscillating between the confusing emotions of sadness and relief, but we felt deep peace with the outcome. God had spoken His will and we knew it was right and just. So we decided to keep moving forward. We jumped back in right away and began FET #2. 

LIttle did we know we were about to get one of the biggest shocks of our infertility lives, a shock on par with being given so many embryos in the first place. Nothing could have prepared us for the outcome. With three successful pregnancies and only one failure thus far, this scenario never once crossed our minds.

Shortly after we arrived at our doctor’s office for our second transfer in early November, we found out that our first two embryos had not survived the thawing process (our last 4 were frozen in pairs). Our remaining two embryos had already been thawed and were not doing particularly well. They were too weak to refreeze so we had to choose to transfer one (and lose the other) or transfer two and risk twins again. We never considered that our 9 1/2 year journey with our leftover embryos was going to end that day, right then and there.

 

It was a no-brainer. Two it was.

We’d always said we would only transfer one at a time unless the situation was such that it would be better for the embryo to be transferred rather than refrozen. We vowed before God to give every single one chance. Needless to say, that afternoon and the weeks that followed were incredibly emotional. We went from begging God to give us mercy with how many children we would have, to begging Him to please not take all of our embryos home at one time. We prayed and prayed that His will would include one more member for our family. After all, He had prepared our hearts deeply and gently to receieve another baby.

But this was not His plan for us or our embryos.

On the morning of my beta, I took a home pregnancy test so I could digest the news with Scott before he left for work. By this point, I had a feeling it was going to be negative. Something felt like it was missing. And it was. Later that day, my endocrinologist called to officially tell me the news. Not pregnant.

In the months that followed, we experienced a whirlwind of painful, surprising, complicated, intense, and deeply raw emotions – sadness, hope, heartache, grieving, and emptiness. Instead of feeling released from our circumstances, to our surprise, we actually experienced profound loss. Sometimes it’s still hard to wrap our heads around the fact that they’re gone and our family may be complete as is. But, slowly and surely, the Lord is healing our hearts. I suppose when you’ve been thinking and living one way for almost 10 years, suddenly learning to think and live a whole new way is going to take some time.  

But never once were we angry with God. Never once did we question “why?”.  We know His plans and His reasons far exceed anything we could ever imagine. We just weren’t prepared for it. The path that was revealed to us several years ago, and the resulting outcome, was full of surprises and not anything like what we were envisioning. So many things we dreamed about, and so many things we worried about, never came to fruition. We have deep peace and comfort about our embryos, knowing we followed God faithfully and surrendered to His will in spite of our fears – our journey with our embryos ended on His terms, in His way, for His purposes, and to His glory. We have no regrets.

Today, we’re moving forward without expectation or agenda, simply remaining thankful and grateful for the blessings of our family and four beautiful children, taking it one day at a time. Only God knows where our lives will go from here. 

With that said, although our journey is complete and we’re entereing a new season of life, we know it remains our calling to share our story and continue to minister to others still struggling with this incredibly difficult decision. The experience of infertility, IVF, and especially leftover embryos will forever live in our hearts. 

OUR BLOG: HOW BEAUTIFUL PIECES OF US STARTED

So how and why did we begin blogging about leftover embryos?

It all started back in May 2018 when we were still coming to grips with our own decision and struggling to accept a very different future than what we’d imagined.

Out of the blue, God placed it upon my heart to start a blog – but I never dreamed it would look like this. I’ve known for a long time that He wanted me to guide and mentor the lost and hurting as well as new/young believers in Christ, but I figured it would be in the form of leading a small group, a girl’s/women’s ministry, or participating in mission trips. In fact, at the time He planted the seed in my soul, I was already leading a Bible Study out of my home with a group of wonderful women. I knew I was starting to tap into my true calling – to live out my life on mission for God, humbly surrendering to wherever He wanted me to go.

What I didn’t know was that God was going to use our very lives, our story with our children and our embryos, as a testimony to the world to reach others for His glory and purposes.

Suddenly, I was compelled to start writing. What started as a crazy God-given idea began taking form just two months later in July 2018. Over the course of a few months, God made it clear that he wanted me to minister to other parents like us and speak boldly about our life, our decision to follow Him, and our embryos in addition to spreading the gospel through our demonstration of faith. And so, in November 2018, Beautiful Pieces of Us was founded.

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

Around the same time (spring/summer 2018, shortly after the birth of our daughter), as we patiently waited for God’s direction in our lives, we felt a nudge to get more informed about all the options available for leftover embryos, minister to other couples who remained undecided, and find a community of support. As I started to more seriously research frozen embryo options (and large families created from IVF/FET), I was shocked to discover there are very few support systems out there for parents in our situation. To be clear, I was not looking for support through a clinic or organization. I was looking for forums where people were talking openly, honestly, and authentically about the painful reality of leftover embryos. 

In vain, I searched long and hard and found very few resources. There are plenty of support groups for infertility, IVF, and pregnancy, but little that deals with the after effects of overly-successful IVF. Thankfully, I was able to find a few FB groups addressing embryo donation and embryo adoption (see our Extra Resources page). Although I found many blogs for large families, I wasn’t sure whether or not these families were created with frozen embryos, and therefore, I couldn’t be sure that the parents faced the same decisions, emotions, and challenges that we were facing. And unfortunately, I found nothing to support parents who choose to discard, donate to science, expand their families with their own embryos, or have a compassionate transfer. 

Overall, after doing a lot of digging, Scott and I felt like we (and other parents like us) were left to digest and live with the implications of our decisions on our own. And the burden on my heart started to grow. 

THE STRUGGLE

As of 2017, some sources estimate there are upwards of 1 million embryos cryopreserved in the United States alone 1. Whether this number is on target or somewhat over-inflated is irrelevant. The numbers are absolutely mind-blowing regardless. This doesn’t include other countries where ART is also available. 

It’s obvious that we’re left with an ENORMOUS gap in the IVF community. Parents with frozen embryos have limited choices available to them and, unfortunately, all of these options bring great emotional suffering and pain in one way or another. There are minimal resources in place to help parents and families cope with this process in the years leading up to and following their decisions. There are simply no easy answers.

Deciding what to do with leftover embryos is so overwhelming that the majority of people remain undecided due to lack of a proper support system to help them through the process…which means embryos are stuck in a frozen state indefinitely. In fact, in many cases, embryos are completely abandoned by grief-stricken parents. For those that continue to pay storage fees, they’re faced with significant moral, ethical, emotional, and spiritual decisions that often cripple and paralyze them.  

There’s so much to consider and the implications are staggering for couples in this situation – not to mention, in many situations, parents must also weigh the thoughts and feelings of the children they already have, the ones yet to be born, and how they will receive and process this information in the future. For all parents with leftover embryos, the awareness of their embryos, and their impending decisions surrounding them, impacts everyday life in countless ways. 

It’s truly overwhelming. 

Clearly, we need a support system that understands.

FILLING THE GAP

So, friends, at the Lord’s direction, this is exactly what we’ve set out to create. Support. Understanding. Community.

This blog serves as an outreach to you, an attempt to fill the gap and create community where none currently exists. We desire to provide you with support, encouragement, empowerment, and guidance if you are undecided on what to do with your embryos and struggling to make a decision. As previously stated, there is no right or wrong choice. This is highly individualized and we’re sensitive to the fact that we all have our own unique circumstances, beliefs, and convictions. 

Our goal is simply to help you digest the possibilities, begin to explore your thoughts and feelings around your embryos, and help you move forward with a decision in order to bring resolution to your lives and peace to your hearts. We’ve processed and learned a great deal along the way and we want to pass our knowledge, encouragement, and experience to you.  We talk about real life and discuss the unique emotions, decisions, and day-to-day challenges and realities of living life with frozen embryos. Overall, our goal is to grow this blog into a place you can come to for inspiration, hope, support, information, resources, questions, fellowship, and community as we come alongside you.

However, in order to having a thriving, supportive community, we need your input and your stories, too. We’re only two people, sharing our experiences from one perspective. If you feel moved, please Share Your Story with us (no matter where you are in your journey) or Contact Us with your thoughts and ideas related to any of our blog topics. We would love to include as many perspectives as possible and will prayerfully consider every email we receive. 

Also, I have a feeling this will take some time to build into the vision He has placed within me, so please be patient and give me grace. If you have any questions along the way, please submit them to me and I will try my hardest to answer your question or find/research an answer for you. It will likely turn into a blog post – I’m sure you won’t be the only one wondering!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Last but not least, as we move forward, I humbly ask for mutual respect. Respect for our families, our stories, our beliefs, our decisions, our learning experiences, our pain, our joys, our sorrows, our hardships, our heartaches…our everything. We realize our own personal decision with our embryos was counter-cultural to the world and probably seems downright crazy to the masses. Anyone and everyone seemed to want to give an opinion or weigh in on our lives, our faith, and how our story unfolded. And I get it. But no one else can walk in our shoes…or yours. 

The decision of what to do with your leftover embryos is yours, your partner/spouse, and God’s alone. No one else has to live with the outcome and implications but you. Living life every day with frozen embryos is not easy – they’re a part of who you are, a part of everything that you do, and they’re always on your mind. It’s a very personal, very sensitive, highly spiritual, and highly controversial matter with far reaching implications for you and your entire family. So, this is a safe space, intended to build one another up in faith, hope, trust, and love.  Please, check any judgment at the door.

Thank you so much for your time and consideration. We look forward to meeting you, hearing your stories, and walking with you through life and the difficult process of considering your options with your embryos. 

With love,

  1.  Strauss, Elissa. “The Leftover Embryo Crisis.” ELLE, ELLE, 11 Oct. 2017, www.elle.com/culture/a12445676/the-leftover-embryo-crisis/. Accessed 28 Nov. 2018.