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 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 radically shift our expectations and embrace new perspectives for our lives – and we’ve 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’re choosing to grow our family larger than we originally intended, possibly beyond our wildest imaginations. Although we’re at peace, living out this choice is still a life-altering, faith-testing, excruciating, heartbreaking, painful process to endure. Embryo donation also remains a choice for us if the Lord changes direction and leads us that way 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’ve 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 simply because we can speak to this option best since it is the one we’ve chosen for ourselves. However, our goal is to represent and talk about every option as much as possible in order to have a well-rounded site. 

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 will add additional categories as our community grows and other parents can speak to the other options available. In the meantime, we will continue to research and post on all the available options as much as we can. 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 – much of our writing is faith-based, relying 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. Therefore, portions of our articles will reflect how our faith has 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.

(If you’re ever interested, you can check out the section of my blog entitled Not A Christian. If not, no prob.)

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.

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.

(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, 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 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.

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.  One more child, two more children, possibly more if it was His will for us. 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.


WHERE WE ARE NOW

So, today (Fall 2019), we find 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. 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. Our daughter is now 17 months old and, again, at the Lord’s direction, we’re actively preparing for our next FET.  

In short, we’re letting go of our expectations and letting God direct our lives for His purposes and His glory. We’re choosing to pursue our embryos and fight for them out of love as God has pursued us and fights for us out of His love.  This love we have extends beyond our limits, our imaginations, and our fears. It’s stretching us in the best, and most difficult, ways. Yet, we have peace in our decision even though we know this path will likely be a challenging one. We trust His plans will unfold into a beautiful story with purpose and meaning beyond our imaginations, for us and all our children. 

Beyond that, only God knows where our lives will go from here. 

OUR BLOG: HOW BEAUTIFUL PIECES OF US STARTED

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

Out of the blue, God placed it upon my heart to start a blog back in May 2018 – 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 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, in a roundabout way – 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 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 on what we should do next, we felt a nudge to get more informed about what lies ahead, 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 via 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 if we are ever led to pursue that route in the future (see our Resources page). 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. Unfortunately, in general, 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) are left to digest and live with the implications of our decisions on our own. 

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 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 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 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. For all parents with leftover embryos, the awareness of our embryos, and our impending decisions surrounding them, impacts our everyday lives in countless ways. 

It is truly overwhelming. 

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 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!

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. 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.

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.