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Why We Chose Open Adoption

21 May

We have a very open adoption relationship with the genetic parents of our embryos, Beau and Sheila. We talk regularly, we know each other’s full names and contact information, we know about each other’s families (and in some cases, have met some members) and we generally approach this entire endeavor as a joint operation. We intend for our kids to know them. Their kids already know us. We intend for all of our kids to know each other, and to have as much of a relationship with each other as they want and as is healthy. Neither of us is threatened by the other family. We generally enjoy each other’s company. We talk about all aspects of this adoption-our thoughts, our feelings, our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our regrets, our desires… and we also talk about other stuff, completely unrelated to adoption, simply because we like each other.

We know that we’re abnormal, even as far as open adoptions go. Even open adoptions are not usually in as much contact as we are.

We get asked why we chose open adoption, so I thought I’d share.

The background is that when we started, open adoption terrified me. Petrified. I had the picture that the media and the Law and Orders of this world paint–co-parenting or the kid runs away to live with his “other” family, or one day the other parents wake up and change their minds and take our kids away. And I’m sure that once in a very blue moon, those scenarios happen. But, they are NOT the norm and they should not impact your decision on whether or not open adoption is right for your family.

But over a lot of prayer, reading, education, and talking with a lot of different adoptive families, some open and some closed, we came to the conclusion that Open was what God was fashioning for our family.

Specifically, and in no particular order:

We never want our kids to feel like a part of them is missing. I have no contact at all with an entire side of my family, and I always feel uncomfortable with that. I feel like there are parts of my past that are just “off limits.” Now in my case, I don’t WANT to know those people, but I still don’t like the feeling of this “other” out there. We never want our kids to have to question, “I wonder what would have happened if…” or “I wonder what I would be like if…” or “I wonder what they’re like…” We believe strongly that this sets our kids up strongly with a temptation to resent us or Beau and Sheila, or both, for keeping that kind of information from them. It may turn out that our kids have no desire to know Beau and Sheila–I’ve heard of adopted kids who have no interest in their birth parents. But we think that’s the kids’ decision to make, not ours. We want to do our best to make sure the kids have everything the ever think they need in putting together the picture of their lives.

We think it will mitigate struggles with the kids, especially in their teen years. If they know Beau and Sheila, there’s no, “I bet my REAL parents wouldn’t do this or that…”

We want our kids to know that Beau and Sheila love them very much. We never want them to think that they were unwanted, or unloved, or second-best to the children Beau and Sheila are parenting. And even though we could tell them those things until we’re blue in the face, it’s different when it’s coming straight from the source.

We want to have access to our kids’ genetic medical heritage, if it’s ever needed.

We want all of the kids to know each other.

We think introducing the kids to them at a young age normalizes it. If it’s all they ever know, there’s no light switch at age 18 or 21 or whatever. It’s not abnormal if they’ve never known differently.

There are other reasons, but those are the main ones. The bottom line is that we thought that it was the best decision for our children, despite any misgivings or fears we may have had. Over time, as we’ve gotten to know them, God has really confirmed and affirmed that decision.

We know that things will ebb and flow with different seasons and at different times, each family or family member may be more or less able to handle certain parts of this dynamic, but that’s why we think our foundation of communication and honesty is so important. When we first got pregnant the last time, Sheila was able to say “hey, I need to process this alone for a while-I’ll be back in touch when I am able” and because of her honesty, we didn’t needlessly hurt her, nor did she have to feel weird about enforcing her boundaries.

I want to stress that this is NOT co-parenting. Though DH and I have not had opportunity to do MUCH parenting, we have had some. Every decision we’ve made about medications, transfers, doctors, procedures, thawing, freezing, etc, has always, always been completely our decision. Sheila and Beau have volunteered to be a resource if we ever wanted them to be, as people who have been through this before, not as the genetic parents. When we got pregnant, they celebrated OUR pregnancy. When we miscarried, they mourned OUR children with us. We named our girls, we made plans for future transfers, we made all of our decisions, completely and autonomously (from them, obviously not from God). They are very good at respecting us and our boundaries and affirming that they believe as much as we do that these are our children.

Sheila and I know we’re unusual, even among open adoption families. We know that seeing both sides of the same coin, cooperatively, is rare.

So we want to give you the opportunity to interact with both sides of the story. We want to give you the chance to ask any questions you want, and we’ll post the answers here in a Q&A post. The questions can be about anything related to EA–they don’t have to be specifically related to open adoption. And She and I are comfortable enough that we can answer questions that people might think would hurt the other one’s feelings (like if you want to ask her something about what it was like to place with us or something like that). So, whatever you want to know about Embryo Adoption, from one or both of us, now’s your chance.

To ask a question, just send me an email. Please include your question, who it’s for (Sheila, me, or both of us), and how you’d like to be referred to on the blog when I write “So-and-so asked….” If you have a confidential question, note that in your email and one or both of us will reply via email. Otherwise, we’ll assume it’s public. Please also know that this same Q&A, in whole or in part, may be posted on Sheila’s blog if she chooses.

Sheila and I are really excited about telling our story and we think God can use it to really grow Embryo Adoption. So please, ask us ANYTHING you want! 🙂 We really are looking forward to this.

PUPO: Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise (or, the Details of Transfer 3)

18 May

Thanks everyone for your prayers! We had a wonderful day with a very smooth transfer.

As we’ve said before, each of these tiny little embryos is a tiny little life. Each one is fully human and fully alive and fully created in the image of God. For that reason, we don’t believe in discarding any embryos for any reason, so we chose to thaw just two so we wouldn’t run the risk of having “extras” or more than we were willing to carry in pregnancy.

Embryos are graded when they’re frozen. Our clinic also grades them right before the transfer. In the most common grading scale, embryos are graded on 3 points: a scale of 1 to 5 grades how well/much they’re expanded (5 is high, 1 is low). A grading of A-C (A being best) grades the quality of the inner cell mass. A second grading of A-C grades the quality of the outer ring, called the trophectoderm. The trophectoderm is what becomes the placenta. So, the best rating an embryo can get is 5AA. After that 5AB, 5BB, 4AA, 4AB and 4BB are all considered very good and then the 3s and Cs, and so on and so forth.

When we went in for the transfer, they said they’d graded the embryos 5AA and 4AB. We didn’t even HAVE a 5AA to start with. So somehow between the early morning hours when they thawed the embryo, and the lunchtime transfer, one of the embryos actually improved! So we’re praising God for already demonstrating how precious, individual, and cared for by Him these little ones are. I really wonder what was going through the heads of the doctors watching this. How miraculous that even after being frozen for 6 years, He re-energizes them and grows them in the blink of an eye.  He truly is a God of life. Not only did these precious babies survive the thaw, He caused them to thrive.

The transfer was, in the doctor’s words, “as perfect as you can get.” The process is done via ultrasound. You can see the tube go in to the uterine cavity, and then suddenly there’s this burst of white and the babies are on board. There’s just nothing like seeing that little firework of white suddenly show up on the screen. As much as infertility and having children in a non-traditional route causes the loss of a lot of “precious moments,” who else gets to say they got to witness the moment their babies entered their bodies? It gives me chills to just think about it.

Here’s a photo of them right after the thaw. The bumpy mass is the baby. The “shell” is what will become the placenta. If the babies grow as they should, they’ll expand and fill out the shell and break through it (called hatching).  The baby breaking through is what grabs on to the uterus, not the shell itself. So they have to break out and grab on in order to have a successful pregnancy.

The doctor did say the babies had grown expanded and filled the shell by the time of the transfer (another miracle of growth and life!) and he also said the Embryologist did what’s called assisted hatching on them, which means she made a little crack/hole in the “shell” to sort of help that process along. It’s actually been demonstrated to help the babies because it’s one less fight they have to fight.

So overall, we feel really good about how things went. Now, we just wait and see 🙂

I felt hit by a bus most of yesterday. We had lunch and bought DH a bathing suit and literally, I slept, or sat on my bum all day long. The amount of valium they give me really takes it out of me. I still feel sort of foggy today–but that’s just an excuse to take it easy again another day 😀

Thanks for praying for us and the babies. We’re really pleased with how the day went!

I’m still not feeling anxious. The peace of Christ truly does surpass all understanding. Either way, God’s plan for these little lives is unfolding before our eyes and it’s our joy and privilege as their parents to sit in awe and wonder. We’ll know in a few weeks whether they’re bound for heaven or for earth, but regardless of their next destination, we thank God for their lives, for His work and protection, for His comfort, for His providence, for His mercy, for His love and tenderness, and for His miracles.

Today’s Ultrasound, and Post Mother’s Day Recap

11 May

Today’s ultrasound went fine. This is a standard-procedure ultrasound wherein they were to determine if my uterine lining was of the correct thickness to proceed with the transfer next week, or if they needed to do something to thin or thicken it, or cancel the cycle all together. The lining has to be just right to accept the embryo-too thin and it can’t support this new life, and too thick and the baby just can’t burrow to where it needs to go. My doctor did say that things looked a little thicker than he would like, but the progesterone I’m starting this week should get it right to where it needs to go. (Shots start on Wednesday–dislike!) So, we are still on track for a Monday transfer.

I’m feeling better about this transfer. My friend Heather, a fellow Snowflake Mommy, encouraged me that just as each embryo is unique, each transfer is unique, and God’s plan for each of these babies is unique, so I need to go in without the fear of the past crowding my expectations. I think I remember encouraging her with similar thoughts after her first transfer failed, but somehow, it’s always easier to say it to someone else, and much harder to remember when it’s about you. So, thank you, sweet friend, for the reminder. I’ve been praying for God to grow me in faith and expectation and trust for this transfer. It’s so much different than last time(s). I do pray for it to “work” but that’s not the primary focus of my prayer life for this transfer, and I’m grateful to God for growing my heart and understanding.

I have pretty incredible friends. For the first time in I can’t remember how long, Mother’s Day wasn’t unbearable.

But before I explain why, here is the back story. One of the hardest things about being the mommy to children no one can know is their invisibility, and mine that comes with it. I often find myself frustrated with the hypocrisy that pro-life people will picket the abortion clinic and/or oppose embryonic stem cell research and/or tout the line “life begins at conception” but when these little lives are actually created, or worse, lost, they’re not treated like children and we’re not treated like their mothers.

I was their mommy the moment we adopted them, and I’m still their mother, even though several of them have already met Jesus.  And yet good, Christian, pro-life people will still refer to me (and the general class of women like me) as a “future mother” or “not yet a mother” or someone who “hopes to be a mother.” It’s positively maddening! If you’re going to say these are human lives, then refer to them as such! These are real human lives in frozen storage who are our living children and who need our protection and care, these are real human lives going into my body, and the ones we lost were real human lives who died!

I know there is little-to-no malice in a lot of these kind of comments. But if we’re going to be consistently pro-life, we have to rid ourselves of that kind of thinking. Each and every life is precious, regardless of whether or not we get to see and hold that life.

This sort of inconsistency is honestly, one of the reasons I resigned from the pro-life non-profit I worked for. They can’t get on board with embryo adoption. And I can’t wrap my head around that.

So anyway, that’s one of the big reasons I struggle with Mother’s Day. Before, it was just a reminder that I didn’t have what I desperately wanted. Then, it became this awful message that I’m just not mother-enough for me to warrant mention or inclusion in such a holiday. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not about the gifts or cards. It’s really, truly not. It’s about the acknowledgment that my babies mattered;: by affirming that I am a mother, you affirm to me that their lives exist and matter. By remembering me, you remember them. And when all you have of your babies is love and hope and dreams and other invisibles, someone else acknowledging their existence means more than I can ever possibly explain.

But, the world just doesn’t think that way.  People will often say that they’re the parents or grandparents (or whatever) of ___ children, and only count the born-living ones. “Happy Mother’s Day” is often only said only to those whose children they have held in their arms. Innumerable babies die before birth with no name, ceremony, or remembrance of their life.  Countless women whose only children are in heaven are afraid other people will think they’re weird if they stand when the pastor asks all moms to stand up. I think it’s just something unintentionally ingrained in us, that we often only acknowledge what we can see. I think it’s not coincidence that we (well, I!) have the same struggles with faith!

Back to why Mother’s Day was wonderful. From Friday all the way through yesterday, I received flowers, cards, emails, facebook posts and text messages from too many friends to possibly mention. And I just weep with gratitude. While the tangibles of the cards and flowers are nice and I cherish them, to each one of you who acknowledged my motherhood this weekend, thank you for that, and more importantly, thank you for remembering my children.  Thank you for claiming their lives and dignities and existence and personhood with me.  Thank you for investing in me and in them, with your prayers and your petitions and your encouragement. It means more than I could ever possibly tell you. I so incredibly grateful for you and I love you all, more than words can say.

Shifting (Rather, Expanding) Focus + New EA Resources

11 May

This blog has had a few identity-crises in its young life. It tends to wander as much as my thoughts do, covering everything from the mundane goings on of our life, to our progress in our adoption, and everything in between. It serves as a way to keep people we know updated on our life.

But, we also want to serve as a “picture” of embryo adoption. I get emails relatively regularly from people who find my blog in their own search for more information on it. Honestly, as much as I love telling our story to our friends and family, those are the emails I love the most, because I have such a heart for spreading the word about Embryo Adoption.

I want this to be a real picture of it. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the plain-old hard. But I also want it to be informative in terms of the process itself, relevant developments in research and law, the emergence of new resources, etc.

So, to that end, I will now be including more clinical type information on my blog. I will still be including our personal story, because I think that’s as relevant to the picture as “the facts” but be forewarned that those of you who bore easily may be skipping an occasional post or two henceforth 🙂

So, I invite you to keep reading, as much or as little as you would like, and let me know if you ever have any questions about Embryo Adoption!

Resources for the day:
•Governor Brewer (R-AZ), just signed SB1307 on Friday, which is a new bill that protects the dignity of the human embryo.  It bans embryonic stem-cell research, cloning, and combining human embryos with non-human cells or implanting them in non-human bodies. It also prevents the sale of human embryos.  This is wonderful news in the effort to restore and protect the dignity of these precious little lives.  It unfortunately does not prohibit the destruction of embryos; it simply says you cannot conduct research on them. While this bill does not pertain directly to Embryo Adoption, join me in praying that the people who once planned to donate their embryos to research would choose to give life to them, rather than their remaining alternatives of destroying them or leaving them frozen indefinitely.

•Canada now has its first Open Embryo Adoption/Donation program. Click here for more information.

•The Embryo Donation and Adoption Awareness Center has a list of all Embryo Adoption programs in the United States. There are countless additional donation programs, as many clinics offer private, anonymous options.

I think that’s all for now, folks!

Growing Faith

3 May

I’ve had an interesting weekend. I had some really good reconnect time with DH, which is always good for my spirit.

I received and devoured I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy by Angie Smith, mother to little Audrey, who died a couple of hours after her birth. The book is amazing. My review is here, if you want to read it.

Angie’s net point is that after traumatic loss, joy and grief are inextricably connected. And their connection is beautiful and necessary and divine.  This was such a refreshing change from the traditional notion that they are mutually exclusive, and one must “get over” or “leave” the one, in order to understand the other. The fear and the loss of the past will always be a part of my story and my heart. But, despite the fact that I’ve let them recently, they do not have to dictate my ability to hold onto hope for the future.

I talked to my best friend earlier in the week (a rarity with me working two jobs, her working part time and being a full time mommy) and shared with her the thoughts I shared in my last entry. She encouraged me to consider the thought that perhaps I was looking for fear.  I thought about it for a while, but didn’t really draw any conclusions. Then this morning, I talked to Mike’s wife Krista, and told her what I was wrestling with. She first very practically demonstrated several ways in which this time with Mike is different than the other times, so even if things were connected before, this is not the same situation. But moreover, she challenged me to think that maybe I was just looking for ways to put up walls to protect my heart.

I took Angie’s book, Kim’s words, and Krista’s words and drew some conclusions tonight. They’re all right. I am scared. At this point, fear, loss, and disappointment is all I know of this particular journey. It’s become easy to expect little from God in this area of my life. In that regard, my faith has grown very small.

We were talking in Sunday school today and Mike (same Mike) made a point to remark about how wonderful it is that faith can grow. And we can ask God to grow it. It’s not He gives our allowance at conversion and whatever we spend or lose, well, tough-turkeys.  We’re out of luck. But our kind God bestowed even our faith as a gift. Even that is not something we must conjure up ourselves, for we could not. In His generous nature, He gives it to us, and when we lose, expend, or hide it, He generously gives us more when we ask.

It was good to be reminded of that, and by Mike of all people, who is facing far more than I am. My faith is small that God will answer our prayers for a baby. But I can ask Him to grow that faith. His answer to our prayers for children may still be “no,” but He will generously give me all the faith I ask for.

You’d think that at my age as both a person and a Christian, I wouldn’t need to relearn the same lessons over and over again. And here I am. So, I’ve been meditating on that and praying for more faith.

I’m a lousy housekeeper. Terrible. Awful.  I hate that about myself, but there it is. When I was a kid, my grandma had this little music box in her guest room, which is where my brother and I would sleep.
This box is full of little pieces of cardstock-each one has a verse on each side and one side of each piece of paper is assigned to a different day of the year. You’re supposed to read the verse for that day, then move it to the back of the stack. More times than I can remember, once I was in the room alone, I would pull this box out, listen to it play “standing on the promises,”  and then take all the cards out and figure out how they could all be in order all year round, even though there were two different days on each card.  (Yes, strange things amused me). Anyway, because of this odd fascination, I was sentimentally attached to the box and asked for it when they died.

Back to my lousy housekeeping. Tonight, I was looking for something in my room, and moved a pile of stuff. In doing so, I bumped open the box, which was under the pile, sort of forgotten. I heard the familiar tune and let it play until it ran out and enjoyed the sweet memories of my grandparents.  I was looking at the little cards, and reading through some of the verses.

In a lot of ways, the box is sort of campy and silly– pulling verses that make no sense without their surrounding verses and putting them down anyway. For example, May 28 reads, in its entirety “Distributing to the necessity of saints. ~Romans 12:13.” Well, true, it is one verse for that day. But it’s not even one sentence.  And no, the rest of the sentence and passage are on surrounding days. So, it’s not a prophetic or even overwhelmingly useful tool in general. Like I said, I keep it for sentimentality, not function.

But, I decided to look for today’s verse. This is what it says:

Thanks, God.

The other thing I realized is that it’s not my job to protect my heart, even and especially from the Lord. It’s His job to protect it, and nourish it, and build it up, and teach it. Putting up walls of fear and bitterness and disbelief really only serve to punish me (self-inflicted) and distance me from my Jesus. Who do I think I’m kidding, anyway? It’s not like He doesn’t see what I’m doing. The only thing it solves is that when and if the heartache comes, I’m siting out in self-exile instead of in my Father’s lap.

So, I’m trying to make a conscious, child-like decision to believe with abandon, to hope without fear, and to trust without worry. And those things should remain true, regardless of our pregnancy outcome. Keeping to that will require God’s help, too.   Please pray for me as I embark on this.

I feel much freer this evening than I have the last few days. And I’m so grateful. I do want to appreciate and learn from this time and stay unbound from fear and distrust.  But sometimes I have a hard time getting over my own heart to actually be that way. But God is granting that desire even in spite of me.

So, it’s been a wonderful, instructive weekend. Praise God!

These are songs that are really encouraging, teaching, challenging and/or guiding my worship. I hope one of them ministers to you, too.


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Changes and thoughts about transfer 3

30 Apr

Changes are afoot in our household.

First, we’ve decided not to pursue moving at this time. We felt like the situation created too tenuous a position between us and DH’s parents, and overall we did not have peace about the timing. So I guess the change is that we’re NOT changing this.

Second, I have resigned my job from the non-profit I for which I worked for 5 years.  I’ve long felt disrespected and under-appreciated, but stayed because I care about the cause and felt like what I was doing mattered. Some things happened this week that just confirmed that it’s no longer a good fit for me or for them. Pray for me as I transition. I struggle a lot with feeling significant and I experienced some struggle when I left the non-profit before. I’ve always found a great amount of satisfaction in what I do; I’m good at it and it’s for a cause dear to my heart. It’s hard for me to feel significant as a housewife and a secretary (my other job). Don’t get me wrong-my husband is a wonderful man to serve with and my pastor is a wonderful boss. But really, whose life was ever changed by a secretary? Did vacuuming ever save anyone’s life? I know that my significance is in the Lord, but I guess in this particular area, I’m wired more male than female in that I assign a lot of significance to my job. As I’ve struggled with childlessness, my job has helped me a lot. In my opinion, parenting is the most important job in the world, and the only one I ever wanted. As I’ve not had that, having something else to do that I thought really mattered in this world helped me a lot. It’s hard to feel like what y0u do matters when your daily activities consist of housecleaning and clerical tasks. So, please just pray for my protection from that. And pray for the organization, too, as they transition and develop a new fit with a new person.

Our friend Mike has another new tumor spot. That hit me really hard yesterday. Whenever something like that happens, the reality of the timeline of life jolts me. But beyond that, of course we’re upset for him and for his family. Please, please, please, continue to pray for a miracle for them.

People ask me how I’m feeling about this next transfer. Honestly, between the time I got the date, and the time I got the news about the new tumor, I was doing really well.  I was excited and filled with wonder, and I didn’t seem to have a lot of the cynicism and fear and worry that I had with transfer number 2.

But once we got that phone call, I was immediately filled with fear. During Mike’s last tumor and hospitalization, we spent a lot of time caregiving for his kids. A lot of time–far more time than we could have ever given them if we had our own young children to parent. God made it pretty clear to us that a major reason our transfer didn’t work before was that He needed us to be available for this dear family.  And we were grateful to do it-those kids light up our lives like no one else, and we love their family dearly. Now, knowing that he’s sick again, I am filled with fear. I’m literally petrified. I fear that God will say no again now for the same reason as before. Like this whole thing is just going to be deja vu all over again. The fear goes from the pit of my stomach, up to the dark corners of my brain and down into feet that now feel like lead, unable to move. I’ve never had this kind of overwhelming sense of worry. I’m worried about Mike, I’m worried about our babies, and I’m worried about reaching my breaking point if God breaks out hearts again.

Miscarrying our girls was the most traumatic thing I’ve ever experienced. The failed transfer was the second. I’m so afraid of enduring it again. These weren’t just some clinical science products to us. They were our babies, who we love with all our hearts.

So I don’t know what all that means. We obviously don’t want to proceed without peace. On the other hand, after one loss, I’m not sure that at least a baseline level of fear ever goes away, so if I wait for that, it will never come.  And at the end of the day, regardless of whether or not we ever meet any of these children here on earth, it’s still our responsibility to thaw and transfer them and get them out of frozen limbo and give them a chance at life. We owe them that, regardless of a pregnancy outcome. So even if every single transfer fails, not going through with one just postpones the inevitable, because I refuse to leave my babies in the state they’re in. I guess just sometimes I feel like I’m more of a processing plant than a mom.

Mother’s Day is the loneliest day in the whole world. Please pray for me, and for all women who suffer from infertility, as we approach it. There is no celebration for mothers whose children are dead or for those whose children have yet to come. But every time you turn around, you’re smacked with a silly facebook status update, a television commecial, a store promotion, etc, etc.  During this season, it just feels like the whole world has what you want, and everyone and everything is out to remind you of that. And we still do need to put our own feelings aside and honor our own moms, so please, just pray for us.

As downer of a post as this sounds, we are well in other regards. And in an update to a previous post, it does feel like my knee is getting better, so hopefully, we’ll have avoided surgery.

I’ve got to scoot-we’re having dinner with the fam tonight! I hope you all are well!

Nothing much new…

28 Apr

Nothing much is new…except this! 🙂

May 17th, 11:30am!

Clinic Directives

26 Apr

I just read about a woman who recently underwent a Frozen Embryo Transfer with donated embryos. At the time of transfer, she chose to thaw 5 embryos. Once they were thawed, she chose the best two, and discarded the other 3. She is now pregnant. To stay I’m stunned by and struggling with this is the understatement of the century. But this isn’t about my feelings on this. And it’s not about judgment on her, because I don’t know her. I’m only grieved by her choices. It’s about dispelling inaccuracies, myths, and lies. Nadya Suleman was the perfect example of a woman who felt backed into a corner because she was provided inaccurate and incomplete information. And I think that happens all too often, especially in the world of ARTs.

First, discarded is just a euphemism for killed. An embryo is a completely individual, completely unique, completely human, tiny little life. It contains all of the genetic material it will ever have, which means that from its creation, it was as much a human being as you or I. The only difference is size and degree of development. But, just like a newborn is different from a toddler who is different from a teenager, who is different than a twenty-something, who is different from a geriatric, but they are all still equally human, so is this little embryo. Her body still needs to grow, but every single cell of her being is human. Therefore, you cannot discard as though you can something inanimate. You can only kill.

She said that she discarded the other 3 because her clinic refuses to refreeze. I have a couple responses.

First: You are the patient. And YOU are the parent. YOU have the right to determine what happens to your babies and to you. Reproductive Technology is the only medical field I’ve ever encountered where the doctors expect patients to surrender a carte blanche. With our first clinic, the thaw/transfer contracts basically boiled down to “when in doubt, we (the clinic) make all the decisions and we’ll do what we think is best.”

But think about it. Would a dentist ever just tell you, “Open your mouth, and trust me. I’ll let you know when I’m done?” Who knows if you’d end up with fillings or braces or no teeth at all? Would a Physical Therapist ever map out a plan of action without soliciting your input? How about a cardiologist? For Pete’s sake, not even a hairdresser would do that! In every case, the caregiver would assess the situation, take exams if necessary, and then outline your options to you and the two of you would choose one together.

Do you want a gold filling or a silver one? Do you want a hip replacement or physical therapy? Do you want heart surgery or drug therapy? Do you want bangs or a bowl-cut? Why the reproductive field is any different, I don’t know. (I realize that things are different when you’re in a critical care situation with a comatose patient, but this is not that scenario). It doesn’t have to be that way. No amount of authoritative language actually means they have any legal right over you to make those decisions (that’s not to imply that they’re behaving illegally, it’s just to say that just because they say it’s their right, doesn’t mean it actually is). Sure, it’s their right to do business as they please, but it’s your right to take your business elsewhere if you’re not satisfied.

DON’T sign paperwork you’re not comfortable with. We spent DAYS editing our first transfer paperwork, to omit every single reference to and possible loophole for any kind of destruction of life, as well as any ambiguity about decision making. And then we met with the Embryologist to lay out our priorities just in case we’d missed anything in writing. And that was our right and our clinic respected it.

When we switched doctors, we again reviewed all contracts before our babies were ever touched, and were very clear with our directives from the get-go. At the end of the day, YOU make the choices for yourself and your children. Don’t let a clinic bully you into making decisions you’re not comfortable with. Know, in advance, their policies and procedures for every possible scenario: When are the embryos being thawed? Who decides how many to thaw? What happens if every embryo you thaw survives? What happens if only some that are thawed survive? What happens to those who look “stalled” or “arrested” or “weak” or “slow?” WHO makes those decisions-the doctor or the patient? Do they decide according to “viability” or according to “dead or not dead.” (“Viable” in this case is a gray area that means the embryo is technically alive, but the Embryologist will decide what chances it has for survival).

Read your contracts very very carefully. Get to know the heart of your doctor. Is their goal to “get you pregnant” or to honor your wishes, including if it means treating each life as a precious individual? We’ve been blessed that in both our cases, while our doctors disagree with us on the value and the life of the embryo, they operated according to our beliefs when dealing with our babies. Under any circumstances, do not go in to a thaw/transfer situation without knowing who has the ultimate decision making power in every scenario. Get to know what the nuances in the contract language mean. Be as specific as possible in your directives. On a side but related note, also make sure your clinic has instructions on what to do with your embryos in case you die. In most cases, the embryos would be destroyed unless you tell them differently in advance.

But, if after all that, your clinic doesn’t want to let you alter your contract or make your own decisions, or if you just don’t think they’ll respect the treatment of those lives that you think they demand, get a new clinic! At the end of the day, they are a service-provider. You don’t owe them your business or your loyalty, and in most regions of the country, there are several other choices who would love your business. You DO owe your children your protection.

If for some reason you’re in a situation where there’s only one pony show in town, or only one insurance-approved provider, or some other reason where you’re forced to use this clinic/doctor and no one else, then make your decisions accordingly. If you know they won’t refreeze, then don’t thaw more embryos than you’re willing to transfer.  Thawing only takes about half an hour. You can start out conservatively and if they die in the thaw, you can still thaw more before your transfer. I do know that doesn’t allow for culturing over days with day 1-3 embies, but I’m of the belief the quicker they’re in the natural womb, the better. God holds their lives-if they’re going to live, they’ll live and He doesn’t need a couple extra days in a dish to accomplish that.

However, if you do believe in culturing, then only thaw the amount of embryos you’d be willing to carry in pregnancy if they all survived and implanted, and no more. If that means you end up canceling a cycle because all embryos died in the thaw and you don’t have time to thaw more, well, so be it. If Embryo Adoption is how God intends to grow your family, He’ll equip you with the means you need to go through as many transfers as it takes. Don’t make life-or-death decisions according to economy and odds.

Embryo adoption cannot be about just getting you pregnant. There are now other people involved, so this can’t be just about you. As soon as you take responsibility for those babies, your decisions have to be about them. These tiny lives have been entrusted to your care for nurture, shepherding, and protection. Considering Embryo Adoption only as a fertility treatment opens the door for all sorts of decisions that I don’t think anyone would make if they considered these precious as they are: tiny little children. These babies need our protection and our advocacy. Their tiny little lives have already had an unconventional and dangerous start. Please be careful as you make your decisions about your future, and theirs. Seek the Lord to direct you with wisdom and discernment as you make decisions. Stand up for your rights, and for theirs. Educate yourself and know the information that could change or harm all your lives. Communicate with your doctors. Know what you don’t know. And when in doubt, please err on the side of caution.

Another “no”

12 Dec

God’s answer was “no,” again. We have two more children in Heaven. I’m devastated, but mostly right now, I’m and angry. Honestly, right now I don’t think His answer will ever be “yes.” And that’s really hard to deal with.

Transfer Update

3 Dec

Thanks so much for all your prayers, well wishes and encouragement as we approached and completed our transfer today. Thanks also for the calls and texts to follow up on how things went. Between getting just a few hours of sleep last night and having to be on Valium today, I was so beyond exhausted that I fell asleep on the car ride home and then went immediately to bed when we arrived here. I didn’t even have the energy to send out an update or answer any of the calls or texts. Thanks for your patience 🙂

The first thing we learned when we got there was the results of the transfer. In one particular grading scale, embryos are graded on 3 points: a scale of 1 to 5 grades how well/much they’re expanded (5 is high, 1 is low). A grading of A-C (A being best) grades the quality of the inner cell mass. A second grading of A-C grades the quality of the outer ring, called the trophectoderm. The trophectoderm is what becomes the placenta. So, the best rating an embryo can get is 5AA. After that 5AB, 5BB, 4AA, 4AB and 4BB are all considered very good. The doctor told us that we had one 5BB and one 4BB. This was the evaluation they gave them after the thawing process today. Both survived just perfectly. The embryos were rated years ago by the Genetic Parents’ Embryologist who created and froze them. The best rating we had from them was right in that same range so that means the Embryos didn’t deteriorate much, if at all, during the freezing/storage/thaw process! Hooray! We are grateful to God for protecting our babies through the freezing and thawing process.

The one on the left is the 4 and the other is the right. The bumpy area is the cell mass. The “shell” is the soon-to-be placenta. The excess area is just fluid. If the babies grow as they should, the cells on the left will eventually fill out the whole ring just like the one on the right, and then they’ll “hatch” and then they can grab on to the uterus and implant. Isn’t it amazing how complex they are at such an early age? God is truly a God of wonder and miracles and intricacies. I don’t know how anyone can look at something like this and think that we were created by chance or accident.

The whole thing is guided by ultrasound. They use a catheter to insert the embryos. It’s so cool to watch and then suddenly there’s this “puff” of white that appears on the screen like a firework or a starburst. We didn’t really get to see that last time because the doctor didn’t really communicate with us and didn’t make us seeing the screen a priority. I’d heard it described before but it was really cool to see.

Forgive the labeling of the bladder-I hope it’s not crass. But I wanted to explain the huge black mass! The full bladder pushes the intestine back and the uterus down and then it’s clear so they can see through it (think trying to look through a blown up balloon verses an uninflated one).

The white dot is not ACTUALLY the embryos but it’s the puff of air they’re surrounded in. Without the air, you wouldn’t be able to see them at all because they’re too small.

Overall this procedure was so much more peaceful than the other. I came out of it feeling so different. I felt like the doctor really communicated with me and I knew a lot more about what was going on. I was more relaxed and I felt physically better.

The doctor said that the embryos looked really good. He said that the transfer itself went “perfectly.” It took less than 10 minutes-he got in easily and to the exact right spot with no trouble. This was especially impressive because normally the doctor will do a “practice round.” This doctor didn’t think it was necessary since I’d had a practice round before the last transfer as well as the transfer itself, in addition to all sorts of ultrasounds, so he thought he had enough data. He just went straight in and out, with no fumbling around or repositioning. He was so skilled–it really made me appreciate that God directed us out of the the care of the previous doctors and allowed such a skilled one to care for us and our babies. The doctor was even commenting to his nurse and the Embryologist about how perfectly everything went–it sounded almost like this was better than even things normally go for folks. He said that he thinks we have a “very good chance of getting pregnant.”

After it was over we went to this charming 87 year old Mexican restaurant in this old farm house. It looks like a cross between a Tea Room and a Cantina. We love to go there when we can. Todd said we’re teaching the kids early to love Mexican Food (DH LOVES Mexican food…like seriously LOVES it. I like it a lot too, but he has an inordinate attachment to it, as does his dad).

This is our first family picture with all 4 of us. We forgot to get one at the doctor’s office, but the fact that it’s outside a Mexican restaurant amuses me so much…especially if you know our family!

My parents live in Tucson so they joined us for lunch. My brother surprised us by driving down (from Phoenix), too.

So now, I am officially PUPO–Pregnant until Proven Otherwise. I’m taking it easy today tomorrow and then I’m back to my normal routine.

Thanks so much for praying us through this! All of our requests were answered, save for knowing the actual results, which we’ll have to wait some time for. We are so humbled and grateful that everything went so well, and for your friendship and love and encouragement and support!

Grace and peace dear friends,

Todd and Jen + 2 🙂