Frozen embryos in Elle

I’ve been meaning to pass this article along for some time. It is written by a former colleague friend of mine in the NYC publishing world. I didn’t know that he and his wife had done IVF (although I wondered when they posted photos of twins on Facebook). I remember having a drink with him at a bar one evening and his saying, “You know how people talk about the biological clock ticking? My wife doesn’t have a clock. She has a gong. A baby gong.” We laughed. I’ve never forgotten his joke because those words seemed to aptly describe what I was experiencing at the time—my own baby gong was going off full-force and regularly, but having just divorced, I had no husband to make endearing quips about it. I just listened to it while lying alone in my Brooklyn apartment at night and worrying I was going to end up with many cats and short spiky gray hair and “funky” artwork I’d made on every inch of the walls around me.

Anyway, I was so impressed with this article, with his honesty, his writing, and the cajones it took for him to publish it in a national general-interest magazine. (I still have no idea if I’ll ever muster the same the bravery—the judgment of others outside of our blogosphere is so harsh it scares me.)

This section I found particularly great. He writes:

“Those judgmental people were there all through the fertility process, telling my wife that she should never drink, or that she should calm down and have a few drinks, that we should just have more sex, that we needed to try harder, that we should adopt. We researched it: Adoption is so grueling and ethically fraught that it makes fertility treatments look like a frolicsome dance in a wooded glen. ‘What about foster care?’ asked people who had no idea about the foster-care system. The people who knew the least were generally the most willing to offer counsel. (Some unsolicited advice: You can best help someone struggling with her fertility by being quiet. ‘Ah, but what are you doing about gluten?’ you might ask. No. Not gluten. Quiet.)”

Here it is:

http://www.elle.com/life-love/sex-relationships/what-happens-to-freezed-embryos

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20 Comments

  1. Such a hard topic but I completely understand where he is coming from. I started this process off thinking we’d just destroy whatever “material” we didnt use and now I can not imagine NOT giving options.

    Reply
    • Right–it’s something we just don’t think about at first. And then they become our possible future children and everything, every step, becomes so much less abstract. I think there is an article out there entitled “Souls on Ice.” I should find it and post it here…

      Reply
  2. What an interesting article–I love the perspectives. We have kind of an odd situation, where we are moving forward with donor sperm because it is likely the reason we’ve been unsuccessful (or A reason, not sure), but we have those six 2PN embryos (from donor eggs and our sperm) hanging out in the freezer. If we are successful with the donor sperm, we will know that those are likely not viable. BUT, what do we do with them? For now we have decided to keep them on ice. Wait to see what happens with the donor sperm cycle. If that doesn’t work either, the question is, do we transfer them anyway? Or do we do something else with them? I was kind of disappointed that donating to science wasn’t really an option per this author. Because here’s the thing–if these embryos are from a cohort that resulted in no success, would it be ethical to donate them, to give someone else hope of conceiving when there is little chance of that happening? Do I transfer them to me, taking the risk that I will not be able to just see it as a “humane” way of disposal when that negative comes, and taking the further risk that they do in some way implant but because they are abnormal, I miscarry? Ugh. We had this conversation over dinner out once and then stopped and thought, WHY DO WE HAVE TO HAVE THESE HEAVY ETHICAL DECISIONS OVER FOOD AND NOT REALLY THINK TOO MUCH ABOUT THE FACT THAT PROBABLY, NO ONE AROUND US HAS EVEN SERIOUSLY THOUGHT ABOUT THESE ISSUES? grr.
    On a second but related note I loved the comparison between a blast picture and a rice cake. So accurate.
    Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading this article!

    Reply
    • Holy shit!
      Okay about this:
      “would it be ethical to donate them, to give someone else hope of conceiving when there is little chance of that happening? Do I transfer them to me, taking the risk that I will not be able to just see it as a “humane” way of disposal when that negative comes, and taking the further risk that they do in some way implant but because they are abnormal, I miscarry?”
      Ahhhhhhh! I understand your all-caps. Believe me, I understand.
      This is a hard decision you have to make. I’ll be curious to see what you end up deciding. But I am so sorry you have to deliberate such things. We have no idea how complicated it can get once we are inside it, do we. The situation you are in is very complex indeed. If you are really looking for someone to chime in (please forgive me, if not) my gut reaction is to say do not donate them if you determine there will be little chance of conceiving with them. And probably no to “humane” disposal, too, because of the risks to your own health (not all miscarriages are simple, some are ectopic, etc). But whatever you decide I know it will not be easy. XO

      Reply
  3. AB

     /  January 4, 2014

    Thanks, as always, for sharing a great resource. I do think it takes cajones, as you write, but also think it’s well worth deciding to just put these (our) stories out there. What’s to hide? Parents of adopted children don’t exactly hide the fact that they’ve taken this route to a family. ART, in its many iterations, is a route. It’s legitimate. It may suck, cut, sting, drain, deplete, humiliate, fail. It can exhilarate, and bring joy. It’s also a route taken by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of us. It is legitimate.

    Reply
    • Absolutely, I agree, of course, completely. Legitimate, and nothing to be ashamed of in the least. Having had to weigh the different options available to us for frozen embryos now twice, to say I think this is a legitimate struggle and decision is an understatement. It seems that you might think I am saying it take guts to publish in a national magazine non-anonymously because I think ART is shameful in some way? I didn’t mean to imply that at all, of course. IVF, donor egg, embryo adoption—any ART route is an honorable route to a family. My own fears about publishing under my real name for a general audience stem from the harsh judgment that I personally am not sure I am up for facing—it’s easy enough for me to say that the people who are harshly judgmental and condemning (and oftentimes cruel) are not worth considering or thinking about, but it is quite another thing for me to deal with it personally. Maybe because I am still barely managing to put my own self together after yet another pregnancy loss, it’s hard for me to imagine dealing with that right now. DH says that he thinks I might need to wait—who knows, maybe until we actually do have our family started. Right now I still feel vulnerable to attack. I hope any of this makes sense!

      Reply
    • And as for Paul…whether or not he experienced negative feedback in his personal or public life, I don’t know, but I do know that writing an article about this is courageous. Not because it is illegitimate or shameful. Because any pioneering voice in controversial territory, educating the country, is courageous.

      Because we in the ART trenches have experienced it personally do we have the responsibility to do the same as he has done? It’s a great question. I don’t think so. Especially women who have been through so much personally—they need to get through it whatever way they can, whether that is quietly or publicly, anonymously or non-anonymously.

      Anyway, thanks for bringing up an interesting issue!

      Reply
  4. What a beautiful article. I cried several times while reading this, and sent it to my husband. He shocked his family last week by mentioning donating our embryos someday. I told him that not everyone understands the complexities and the emotional battlefield we’re still emerging from and that others still are within.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • You’re welcome! It’s true—most people don’t even know what IVF is, let alone this issue of frozen embryos, “leftover” (I hate that word—that word alone says so much about what the issue is and how it makes us feel, as deciders).

      Reply
  5. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    Reply
  6. Definitely a very insightful and honest article – though I suspect that the issue is viewed quite differently depending on what your notions of conception, life etc. are. I personally have to admit that, without yet ever having experienced pregnancy, I don’t know how we will/would deal with this problem. I think one thing this article makes patently clear is how your thoughts, emotions and even beliefs can change drastically through the experience of IF…

    Reply
    • yeah, definitely! beliefs change, feelings about conception change–it’s all up for metamorphosis as we go through IF and treatments. it’s pretty hard to parse it all out with your partner, even if you are mostly on the same page.

      Reply
      • That’s so true. My husband and I have been pretty good about communicating over the years, but IF has made it really, really hard. It took a while before I even realized he was feeling as heartbroken about the situation as I felt. On the one hand, I think the issue at the center of the article is a “luxury” problem – in so far as they now have children and no longer have to worry about procreation in the first line, so to say. But I also get why, even for people who aren’t religious, this is a very difficult decision to make…

        Reply
        • You know, I often think about how some of these problems are luxury problems—even if we don’t have children, we had the resources to have the treatment done in the first place, and the luxury to have the chance to make such hard decisions. (But I get what you’re saying, that their luxury has to do with having created their family already.) I’m sorry to hear about the difficulties IF has visited upon you and your husband’s communication—it’s a freaking art! You learn how to do it slowly, like speaking a foreign language or something.

          Reply
          • I definitely think what increases the struggle for many – including myself and my husband – is when you live in one of the 38 states that DON’T have IVF coverage. It seems unbelievable that less than a quarter of the country even has that coverage in the first place. I’d even settle for a copay, because the main reason we haven’t yet managed to do a single cycle of IVF is because it’s so expensive. Sometimes I find it really hard to read stories from people who’ve gone through half a dozen cycles or more – all paid for – and don’t realize what a luxury it is NOT to have to worry about the financial aspect of it, given that the emotional/physical side of IF and IVF is already so taxing…

            Reply
            • Absolutely. We’ve never had coverage for anything, and that has seriously limited our options—I probably would have done more than one IVF if we’d had the resources, because the doctors were saying it might take 3 IVFs in my case. But when I want to complain about that, I then think of the countless women who can’t try even one time—ugh, am so sorry that has been the case with you. Completely unfair! From a financial point of view, I am one spoiled lady, able to try both IVF and DE IVF and probably adoption—not that it is easy, and not without its ginormous sacrifices in other areas, but the option is there. If it weren’t, I believe I would be much less healthy in my dealings with this. Or who knows—maybe we just would have moved on to adoption from the get-go because we could only afford one route, and that would have been that. Maybe the $ has actually prolonged this journey unnecessarily. Hindsight is 20/20 and there is no way for a person to know as the stats are so encouraging. But anyway, the $ aspect of all this is HUGE.

              Reply
              • You know, one thing I’ve realized is that, for me personally, I have a much easier time not being upset by what I DON’T have when I’m dealing with people who are grateful or at least aware enough to be appreciative. But then I realize that I’m just as bad as the people who frustrate me, in a way – I have a hard time with secondary IFers, people who have coverage etc…yet like you said, there are always people who are much worse off. I know that, no matter how things turn out, some options are just not really viable for us – but to some extent that’s also a personal choice. And if my issues are the result of choices, than I just need to be grateful that I have any choices at all – as opposed to living in a country where, as a woman, you have NONE…

                Reply
  7. Wow such a fascinating article. Brings up so many questions. Thanks so much for posting it hun. Hope you’re doing ok. Thinking of you all the time xx

    Reply
    • Thank you darlin! Doing much better. I credit Zoloft, exercise, diet, and DH love. Thinking of you CONSTANTLY. I think you and recurrentlylost are going to be pregnant together. (:

      Reply

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