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 are one of the thousands of people who feel paralyzed by the decision of what to do with your frozen embryos. We’ve struggled significantly with our decisions over the years, leaning heavily on God for guidance – for us, it is a deeply spiritual matter with eternal consequences.
In the beginning of our journey, our desire was for two to 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’ve had to shift our expectations and embrace new perspectives for our lives – and we’ve grieved much along the way.
However, we believe life begins at conception – so, at the Lord’s direction, we’re choosing not to discard our embryos or donate them to science, but rather, despite our fears, we’re choosing to follow a path that most post-IVF families do not – grow larger than we originally intended, possibly beyond our wildest imaginations. Embryo donation also remains a choice for us if the Lord leads us in that direction in the future.
However, for our blog, our main focus is ministering to those who remain undecided and helping them come to a decision that brings peace to their hearts. We have found the hardest part of the process is 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 and where we’ll spend the majority of our time.
We also offer support and encouragement to those who are expanding through FET, as we are choosing to do. In the future, we’re hoping to add additional categories as our community grows and other parents can speak to the other options available to us. Last, 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.
Also, a quick note – this blog is faith-based and will rely heavily on Christ-centered principles and our relationship with God. For us, we desperately need the leadership and guidance of the Lord to help us make decisions and to give us peace in our hearts as we journey along. We simply can’t share our journey without sharing our faith.
However, that being said, our intention is in NO WAY to exclude you if you are not Christian. Quite the opposite. Your story is important and unique. You are wanted and needed as part of this community and are welcome here with open arms (if you’re interested, you can check out the section of my blog entitled Not A Christian). 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.
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.
When God first placed it upon my heart to start a blog back in May 2018, I never dreamed it would look like this. Long ago, He placed a burden on me that one day I would guide and mentor the lost and hurting as well as new/young believers in Christ. 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 the seed was planted, 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.
Out of nowhere, I was compelled to start writing. What started as a crazy God-given idea in May 2018 began taking form just two months later in July 2018. Originally, I thought I was going to write to non-believers exploring the Christian faith – and I was – but that was only part of the story. 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. And so, in November 2018, Beautiful Pieces of Us was founded.
Ten years ago, 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 gynecological illness that turned into a fight for my fertility, leaving me without a right fallopian tube, a damaged left fallopian tube, and the removal of a portion of my right ovary. I was in the hospital for a week with the possibility of a hysterectomy in my future. 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 and performed the necessary surgeries. 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.
After I healed, we tried for several months on our own, followed by many rounds of failed IUIs. In combination with the 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.
We were tired, drained, and wondering if it was in God’s will for us to be parents at all.
(I know countless couples and soon-to-be moms and dads out there understand the feeling.)
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 embryo 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?
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 and 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 are our children, already created beings, waiting patiently for us to act.
Although we weren’t ready to donate yet and 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.
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. One more child, two more children, possibly more if it was His will for us. Even embryo donation could be in our future. 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.
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.
So, today (late 2018), we find ourselves back in the same place, with five embryos remaining, facing an ever-growing family or possibly embryo donation in the future, surrendering ourselves to God and laying it all at the foot of the cross. Now in our late thirties, although we’re not running out of love (quite the opposite), we realize we’re running out of time, running out of energy, and running out of resources.
However, the Lord has provided for us all along the way in countless areas and He will continue to do so if it’s in His will for us to have more children. We are patiently waiting for His direction. Yet, while we wait, we have felt a nudge to get more informed about what lies ahead, minister to other couples who remain undecided, and find a community of support.
Early this past summer (2018), as I started to more seriously research frozen embryo options and large families via IVF/FET, I was shocked to discover there are very few support systems out there for parents in our situation. In vain, I searched long and hard for anyone who could relate.
Overall, for the most part, Scott and I felt like we were left to digest and live with the implications of our decisions on own. 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 groups addressing embryo donation and embryo adoption if we are ever led to pursue that route in the future. And although many blogs exist for large families, I’m not sure whether or not these families were created with frozen embryos, and therefore, I don’t know if the parents have faced the same decisions, emotions, and challenges that we’re facing. And, unfortunately, I also found nothing to support parents who choose to discard, donate to science, or have a compassionate transfer.
It appears that very few resources are available.
As of 2017, there is an estimated 1 million embryos cryopreserved in the United States alone 1. This doesn’t include other countries where ART is also available. The numbers are absolutely mind-blowing.
It’s obvious that we are 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. 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. If we die, the responsibility of what to do could fall to someone in our extended family – our parents, our siblings, even our own children – and resolution of these circumstances may be delayed further or never be realized at all. My husband and I cannot place that on our loved ones.
And what of the souls of our own embryos?
In our eyes they are human beings, created in God’s image, their DNA set, their unique personalities determined. But, in a frozen state, they have no choice in their existence and no way to be born or go home to the Lord. So, in the case of our own children, we feel we are being called to action. Our reverence for God and love for our unborn children compels us.
We will pursue them and fight for them out of love as God has pursued us and fights for us out of His love. This love is beyond our limits, our imaginations, and our fears. It is stretching us in the best, and most difficult, ways.
Based on our faith and convictions, this aligns with only two potential options for us personally – growing our own family (as we are currently doing) or, possibly, giving some of our embryos to another yearning couple in the future. It’s a life-altering, faith-testing, excruciating, heartbreaking, painful process to endure.
There is so much to consider and the implications are staggering – and we haven’t even touched on the thoughts and feelings of the children we already have, the ones yet to be born, and how they will receive and process this information in the future, especially if we are led to donate in the years ahead. Even now, the awareness of our embryos, and our impending decisions surrounding them, impacts our everyday lives in countless ways. It is truly overwhelming.
And yet…we have hope in the Lord.
We lean into Him every day, in every way – and, by His design, our faith has deepened tremendously over the years. He is our Courage and our Strength. We trust His plans will unfold into a beautiful story with purpose and meaning beyond our imaginations, for us and all our children. We are letting go of our expectations and letting God direct our lives for His purposes and His glory.
So, friends, this blog serves as an outreach to you, an attempt to 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 our 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 journey along.
However, in order to having a thriving, supportive community, we need your input and your stories, too. We’re still on the journey ourselves, with much to learn, so we also need support as we’re giving it to others. 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 (parenting, marriage, finances, adding to your family, undecided, donation, faith, moms, dads, etc). 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. Although I do most of the writing, Scott will also make appearances here and there, speaking specifically to the hearts of fathers. In addition to our many blog topics, I will share our thoughts, feelings, and personal testimony as we move along, somewhat like an online diary (A Day in the Life category). 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!
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. What we are doing is counter-cultural to the world and may seem downright crazy to the masses. Anyone and everyone seems to want to give an opinion or weigh in on our lives. And I get it. But no one else can walk in our shoes…or yours.
The decision of what to do with leftover embryos lies with you, your spouse/partner, and God alone. 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. We’re on the journey together.