My husband and I have two daughters, but our girls also have three siblings. They’re sitting on ice. They’re our embryos.
What these little guys don’t know is that I won’t be having any more children, but even so I don’t have the heart to let them go. So, instead, like many women in my position, I pay for them to be kept safe and looked after every month because I can’t bring myself to part with them.
I am forever grateful to IVF for giving me my two beautiful girls, but I’m at a stage in my life where I know I don’t want any more children, and I also know I don’t have it in me to go through the IVF process again. But what I don’t know is if I’m ready to mourn the loss of the embryos.
You see, getting them was no easy feat.
My body doesn’t like to play ball the way most women experience, so we’re talking years of injections, ultrasounds, hormones, money and tears that have gone into the making of these embryos. They signify life and hope, and it’s not an easy door to close.
But there comes a point where paying the bill every month for something I am never going to use seems kind of silly. What am I saving them for? I have three choices, but no easy answer.
The first option couples are given is to give them to another infertile couple. I’d love to pay it forward but that doesn’t come without some pretty real consequences. I’d have to be okay with the fact I could have another child out there in the world that I don’t know, our kids would have a sibling they’ve never met. If I saw someone on the street who looked like my daughters, would I question if that was my child? How could I be sure my biological child was being looked after and raised properly?
That option isn’t one I could commit to.
So then there’s donating them to scientific research. This seems like a worthy option. They would be given to an embryology program and managed under National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines to help other couples like us.
The last option is to have the clinic thaw and dispose of them. This isn’t an option I’m fond of.
So that leaves me with option number two, donating them to research. That feels like the one for me. All I have to do is a tick a box on a sheet of paper and the decision is made. But it’s easier said than done.
With one in 20 babies born in Australia through IVF, it appears I’m not alone with this dilemma.
Some people simply stop paying the monthly fee and leave it up to their clinic to make the decision for them, sharing the load of the moral dilemma and in turn, creating quite the issue for these clinics.
It also depends on how you look at your embryos, if you view them as potential children, ‘maybe babies’ if you will, or simply a group of cells that have not yet formed into a person.
I am in the first group. This same batch of embryos gave me my daughters. That feels pretty real to me.
I don’t know if I’m quite ready to tick the box right now, but I’ve made the first step by recognising I need to, and surely that’s got to count for something.
This piece was originally published as ‘Can’t bring myself to do it’: The moral dilemma facing parents of IVF babies’ on Essentialbaby.com.au