Our IVF Journey Continues: What to Do with Our Frozen Embryos?

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A burst of laughter escaped my lips. The irony wasn’t lost on me, sitting there in an outpatient clinic room nursing my secondborn three-month-old son, while a surgeon performed a vasectomy on my husband.  

If you had told me three years prior that this would be my reality – having two babies sixteen months apart, the second unplanned (but so warmly welcomed), with two embryos on ice across town – I am not sure how I would have handled knowing my good fortune. At the time, I was drowning in the anxieties of infertility, trying insemination after unsuccessful insemination, taking Chinese herbs, seeing an acupuncturist, a hypnotist and an abdominal massage therapist and dutifully taking my basal body temp before I even sat up in bed every morning. 

The “Chosen One”: Hank as a 5-day-old embryo.

Finally we did in vitro fertilization (IVF) and somehow it worked the first time. Hank was born, with a head so full of thick dark hair one of my first thoughts was “Did the clinic put in the wrong embryo?” (They didn’t). 

Formerly Infertile

When Hank was eight months old, I took a pregnancy test in the middle of the night never expecting to see two lines. It just seemed like it had been a while since my last period. Plus, I was still breastfeeding, which surely was just another roadblock added to the ones already set up by my body to ensure that ever getting pregnant naturally was impossible.

Those tiny lines that change your life in the biggest way appeared almost immediately. I didn’t go back to sleep that night. 

Suddenly, I was accidentally pregnant for free. Ike was born a week before his New Year’s Day due date. Although pregnancy can be long, becoming parents of two humans in less than two years sure felt like a whirlwind. 

We know that two children is our limit, which is why my husband opted to become voluntarily infertile such a short time after Ike was born. But we have a unique situation: we have two viable embryos, which we affectionately call “totsicles”, in storage at a local fertility clinic. We pay their rent every month, and I have the paperwork asking for our decision as to what we’d like to do with them sitting on a desk in our home office. Essentially, we can either dispose of them or donate them to a couple who isn’t able to use either of their own gametes to procreate. (That was probably the most scientific sentence I’ll ever write.)

It’s been over a year since my husband had his surgery, and I still haven’t checked the box indicating our choice. 

My husband is resolved in not wanting more children. And my emphatic “Nope!” that I give to anyone who asks me if we will have a third, or try for a girl (all of which is no one’s business, by the way) should tell me that I am too. I am grateful to be in this position – many are not so fortunate. Still, for some reason I can’t bring myself to put pen to paper. It just seems too final. 

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This is Part 1 of a two-part blog series. The next blog post will deal with our final decision.

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Kim Hinkley
Kim is a mom of two toddlers, Hank and Ike. She's called both Chicago and San Francisco home, but moved to Madison after reconnecting with her college sweetheart (now her husband) after a 9-year hiatus. After a year of staying at home full-time, she's back "at the office" as the Curriculum & Programming Director at The Well Preschool. She periodically guest lectures on the importance of play for adults in UW-Madison's Consuming Happiness course. When she's not chasing after her sons, she tries to relax with pilates, random craft classes, wine and exercises her newfound love of bingo whenever possible.

3 COMMENTS

  1. We had to make the similar choice and YES it is so difficult. We opted to donate and I am happy with that decision. I sometimes stop and think how old that child (or children) would be. I sometimes which we would know the outcome. However I am so blessed with the children I am raising and hope someone else is blessed with the embryos that we donated.

  2. We used ours up because we coundn‘t stand the thought of either option. Not knowing who might raise our child and what their life might be like was too much for me to contemplate. But if you can overcome those thoughts, what a beautiful gift to give a couple struggling in the same ways we all have, wondering if they will ever have the family they so desperately desire. Congratulations on your family of four and best to you as you make this difficult decision ❤️.

  3. My first two babies were IVF babies and we were pleasantly surprised/shocked when I got pregnant with our third on our own when our second was just 9 months old. We said she’s our Buy 2 Get 1 Free. From the day our embryos were frozen I dreaded the day I would have to make a decision. For me, there was no good decision. I knew I was done, I couldn’t get over the what-if’s about donating, and the process was daunting and we were told there is a surplus of frozen embryos, more than what could ever be needed. I made the decision to bring mine home and bury them so they are always with us. It was the hardest decision of my life. We are so blessed to have had two successful IVF right away and number three completed our family.

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