Frozen Army or no Embryo Left Behind

Last week the IVF information package from our fertility clinic arrived, in preparation for our IVF cycle starting in late March. In addition to price lists for various IVF related services and medications, it included oh, about fifty forms that we had to sign. A few of them were consent forms that we understood the various risks and possible side effects of an IVF cycle, but the vast majority dealt with our potential future frozen embryos and how (and by whom) we wanted them handled.

A frozen embryo is a miraculous, yet also terrifying concept. It represents a budding future human (your own child!), yet also a potential source of guilt and anxiety if it turns out that you have extra embryos left over once your family is complete. Hence all the forms asking what fate we desired for our embryos under all possible combinations and permutations of outcomes. In one night we decided what would happen to them if one of us died, who would have “custody” in the event of a divorce, and whether they should be destroyed or donated to science if for some reason we stopped paying our storage fees and the clinic was unable to track us down to collect payment. Heavy stuff all around.

While in theory, both of us supported donating them to science, or for use in IVF instruction, in the end we decided that until we actually know what it’s like to  have our own frozen embryos, we would only allow them to be used for our own purposes. We can always change our minds later.

In the meantime, going through this process got me thinking in all sorts of directions. For example, if you conceive a child from a fresh IVF cycle, and then their sibling is born from one of the frozen embryos that came out of that cycle, really it’s quite possible that their birth orders could have been reversed…or they could have ended up as twins.  There’s such a fine line separating one outcome from another.

In a strange way, the possibility of frozen embryos also made me question my ideas about what size family I wanted. I’ve always felt that two kids would be great, but feeling that I wouldn’t want to leave any embryos “on the table” so to speak I wonder if I would want to continue to transfer any further embryos I still had at that point? Hard to know from my current vantage point how that would play out.


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