For Valentine’s Day, my husband and I aren’t getting a babysitter and going out for a fancy dinner, instead, we are paying the five hundred dollar storage fee to keep our embryo in deep freeze for another year.
Our embryo has a first name. They don’t name the embryos at the storage facility; that would be creepy. No, I gave the embryo a name all on my own. An embryo we ultimately may decide to donate to science. So yeah, not creepy at all…
Let me back up a little. Because we loved each other, and knew we wanted to make a life together, my soon to be husband and I decided we should make a baby right away. But mostly we decided to make a baby right away because we were old as fuck.
After trying the old fashioned way to make a baby failed, we moved on to more unorthodox methods- not in the butt; that totally doesn’t work no matter what anybody tells you. I charted my basal body temperature, went on a PH balancing diet, swallowed all sorts of expensive fertility vitamins, underwent acupuncture for fertility, practiced yoga for fertility, chanted a mantra for fertility and cried alone in the bathtub for fertility. No matter, none of these extra curriculums succeeded in getting me knocked up, but they did give my antidepressants a run for their money.
We learned through our fertility investigating that I was perfectly fertile and that our main issue, aside from my “advanced maternal age,” (FUUUUCK OFF) was male factor infertility. It wasn’t that my husband didn’t have any sperm; he had at least ten sperm that could swim. People love to say, “it only takes one.” Those people are bullshit liars. You need somewhere around fifteen million. Ideally.
After talking through the options with my OB, we decided to try something called an IUI. Short for Intrauterine Insemination, the IUI is a fairly simple procedure and way cheaper than IVF. We tried this four times, over four consecutive months. Each attempt was an epic failure and instead of blaming my husband’s uncooperative sperm, I totally blamed myself. I am woman; hear me roar (ROAR=Sob into glass of wine).
We were done screwing around, it was time to bring in the big guns: IVF. Here’s a very basic explanation of IVF. If you want actual medical information talk to your OB, a fertility doctor or literally anyone else, but don’t rely on the writer of basic cable gems like, “Hollywood’s Hottest Cougar Tales,” and “Killer Karaoke,” for accurate medical information. First we took all of our money and gave it to the Fertility Clinic. They let you do it in chunks to give you the illusion that it’s not all of your money, but trust me; it’s definitely all of your money. The IVF drugs arrived at our doorstep in a giant cardboard box, carefully packed in ice. I cried when I opened the box but that was the last crying I would do for the next few weeks as the daily hormone injections made me feel pretty great. We trekked to Beverly Hills every few days so our fertility doctor could track my body’s progress. They wanted to make sure I was producing lots of big fat healthy eggs, but that I didn’t accidentally hatch my eggs early. And, of course, there’s a host of other things that can go wrong that I won’t get into here because as stated previously, basic cable writer.
Once the doctor determined my eggs were close to hatching, I was put under general anesthesia and the eggs were sucked out, but all gentle like. I awoke to my fertility doctor smiling down at me. “We got fifteen eggs Kristine!” she said joyously. I felt pretty damn good. I was nailing this IVF thing! It was nice to finally be doing something right, even if it meant we’d be living in our termite-infested apartment for the rest of our lives.
After initial examination, twelve eggs were deemed fit to meet up with my husband’s sperm. Because of our issues, we chose a few extra pricey add on features to our IVF package. The first, ICSI (Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection) is a technique in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg. We basically left them no choice but to fertilize. Using ICSI, we had a whopping nine embryos. But wait there’s more! For the low, low price of another five grand, we also got a pre-implantation genetic screening test that tested for any chromosomal abnormalities before implantation. We were told this test would dramatically lower my risk of miscarriage, therefore increasing my pregnancy success rate. Because of my “advanced maternal age,” (Fuck you again!) it seemed like a good option. After that round of testing, we were left with only three embryos. That made me very nervous, because it meant if I didn’t get pregnant after two tries, we’d have to go through the entire IVF process again.
We picked the two healthiest of the three embryos, which just happened to be a boy and a girl, for implantation. I really didn’t believe it would work, so when the doctor called and said “Congratulations Kristine! You are definitely pregnant,”” my knees actually buckled. The pregnancy was a success and Benjamin and Sophie are now eighteen months old. The third embryo, another girl, was put on ice. Originally, they didn’t think this embryo was going to be viable, but then much to everyone’s surprise, it pulled through.
When we put the embryo in deep freeze, we had to sign a crazy amount of papers deciding its fate if we chose not to attempt to have another child. In that event, we agreed we would donate the embryo to science. I didn’t really give it much thought. At the time, an embryo had about as much personal meaning to me as did Chechnya, Bruno Mars or my own spleen. I knew that these things existed, but if you told me they had been donated to science, I would shrug my shoulders, and go back to scrolling my twitter feed.
This was before I understood the epic transformation that would take place. Of course I knew about the mutation that an embryo goes through, I’m not a total idiot (Google), I’m taking about my epic transformation. One day I’m looking at something resembling soap bubbles on colored paper in the fertility clinic and the next thing I know two little starfish shaped hands are squeezing my cheeks as my little boy comes in for his first kiss. He was just a mass of cells on a piece of paper and now I love him and his sister harder than I even knew I was capable of experiencing feelings.
I am very pro-choice. I don’t know when life begins and I’m not here to say an embryo is a person, but this embryo feels like my little person. I do feel a specific responsibility to this embryo because we created it on purpose. I feel selfish; knowing we could donate this embryo to another family and they could make their dream of having a child a reality. But fuck them! They can’t have her! I can’t stand the idea that my mass of cells would be out strolling through life in her pigtails and she wouldn’t be with me. Especially given her genetic disposition for anxiety, depression and being German.
I never imagined this scenario when we began the IVF journey. I was so desperate to have a child that it never occurred to me that we would end up with more embryos than we needed. Obviously, in the game of reproductive roulette, this is a quality to problem to have and I’m not after sympathy, but I think it’s important to share what can be the fall out from this strange new-ish world of reproductive technologies.
At this point, with two eighteen month old toddlers running my life, I can’t fathom the idea of a third child. Yesterday, Benjamin ate his own poop; It’s very possible I’m at my max. On the flip side, there is something wonderful about the idea of being pregnant again and a houseful of children doesn’t sound terrible. But it does sound really freakin’ expensive amirite?
We have some time to think it over. The embryo can be frozen for years to come, but my uterus can’t wait forever. Also, we have to take into account our aging in general. I don’t want to wait so long that I have to wear adult diapers at her high school graduation. Hell, if we have a third baby, I’ll be in adult diapers either way.
So for now, the conversation, like our embryo, is on ice.
(Image: getty images)