Today was another lovely Thanksgiving. However, Thanksgiving 2006 remains my favorite. Our surrogate was scheduled for her c-section the following day: Friday, November 24, 2006. So, DynaPapa and I spent that Thanksgiving (November 23) resting at a Holiday Inn in Modesto, CA, anxiously awaiting the birth of our twins. We watched movies in our hotel room, dined on a Thanksgiving meal from KFC, and cruised around Modesto. It sounds so bland but, truthfully, it was one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had and I remember it with great fondness.
While I am, of course, grateful for being blessed with a wonderful husband, two terrific stepchildren, and my amazing twin boys, I’m also very thankful to the two women, our egg donor and our surrogate, who gave so much of themselves so that we could be parents. There’s really no way to express my appreciation for them other than to say that I hope life is treating them kindly and that they are living the wonderful existence they deserve.
I’m a member of a parenting listserv (Do people even use that computer term anymore? Probably not. I’m old.) and ran across this story that someone submitted in answer to a question about adoption outreach.
My husband and I had trouble conceiving a second child. Since adoption through an agency was too expensive for us, we decided to write a letter describing our family, ourselves as parents, our interests, our values, and our reasons for wanting to adopt a second child. We mailed this letter to every general practice, family physician and OBGYN in the phone book.Two or three years later, we received a phone call from one of the doctor’s office, offering us a baby. In the interim, I’d managed to get pregnant and have a beautiful son, so when the call came, I was no longer interested in adopting. I told this to the doctor’s secretary while asking her what would happen to this newborn if I didn’t take (the baby). She assured me that the Dr. had a list of people who had sent similar letters to the letter their office had received from my husband and me, and that she would be calling the next family on her list.
I can attest that these letters are not that uncommon. One of my parents was an OBGYN in a small town and sometimes mail meant for the office would arrive at our home. I can remember my parents reading through these and meticulously saving them in the chance that a patient was interested in adoption.
These letters are some of the most poignant and heartbreaking writings you will ever read. Often, it seemed the couple’s desire for a baby could leap from the pages and pictures they had enclosed and waft through the air, being inhaled into your lungs so that it became a part of you, allowing you to feel and experience their pain and longing for a child. If you or anyone you know has ever tried this technique and wondered if the doctor’s office saves these or throws them in the trash, rest assured that many, not only save them, but are moved by them and touched by your desire for a baby.
Despite being retired for nearly ten years, my parents can’t bring themselves to dispose of the letters they received. Their attitude is that these people opened up and shared so much of themselves that disposing of these letters would be akin to throwing away a physical part of the couple. Hence, each letter and accompanying pictures remain tucked safely inside its own plastic sheathing and stored in a special notebook.
“ A coherent life after so many years of muddle.
Fredrik, A Little Night Music
I had this quote made into a lovely embroidery for my first anniversary (so many years ago, now) with DynaPapa. It’s a concise summary of my life with DynaPapa and my life before DynaPapa.
Recently, a couple with whom I’m very close, finally, had a baby…after 8 years of infertility. I thought this quote also applied quite nicely to their new life and the many years of infertility they endured. I had it embroidered on a pillow for their nursery.
This recent Dear Prudence letter really bugged me. I was curious to see what other people thought of the situation. If you want to see how Prudence answered the question you can click here to see the column.
Q. Infertile girlfriend: My amazing girlfriend of four years has been told that she will never have biological children. It was devastating to both of us. She is coming to terms with it and saying things like, “We can look into adoption.” While I’ve been trying to support her, the truth is, I’m now wondering if our relationship can make it. The more I think about adoption, the more uncertain I feel, and it would be unfair to adopt a child without being sure. I’ve researched a bit on surrogacy and donor eggs and all, and it sounds very complicated and expensive, and there’s no guarantee. I know this sounds cold and callous, but the whole infertility issue is beginning to look like a deal breaker for me. Am I being a jerk?
When a gay or lesbian couple form a relationship, they know, obviously, that their path to parenthood will either include ART or adoption. Their relationship doesn’t encounter infertility as a surprise. However, this isn’t true for heterosexual couples. Often times, infertility issues are a surprise for them. Perhaps not having to deal with infertility as a surprise leaves me unable to understand the letter writer’s emotions?
I understand that a struggle with infertility, particularly an unexpected one, could take an already precarious relationship that’s plagued with other problems and push it to the breaking point. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case in this letter. The boyfriend describes his girlfriend as “amazing” and doesn’t make any mention of other problems with the relationship.
I also understand the revelation that one of the parties is infertile could derail a relationship that’s still in its developing stage. However, this couple has been dating for four years. It would seem they are well beyond the developing stage and are much closer to the permanency point.
For these reasons, I was really surprised that the letter writer saw this issue as a potential “deal breaker”. Is he looking for a soulmate or simply someone with whom he can breed? To so quickly rule out adoption or ART and express a desire to possibly move on to another relationship over this one issue seemed somewhat callous. What guarantee does he have that his next girlfriend won’t have similar infertility issues?
I also wonder what expectations someone like this has for their future children. What will he do if those children can’t or don’t or won’t live up to those expectations?
I don’t know. Something about this letter just made me feel very sad for the girlfriend.
My journey to parenthood involved two egg donors, two gestational surrogates, and three IVF attempts. We finally achieved a pregnancy with the second egg donor, the second gestational surrogate and the third IVF attempt.
After transferring four embryos, a twin pregnancy resulted, leaving us with 29 embryos that we froze. Every February, I get a letter and a bill from the fertility clinic asking DynaPapa and me, “What do you want to do with your frozen embryos?”
- Keep them frozen.
- Thaw & discard.
- Donate them for anonymous embryo adoption (meaning another couple would use them in their attempt to achieve parenthood).
- Transfer them to another storage facility.
- Donate them for stem-cell research.
When you’re in the grind of trying to get pregnant through IVF, you don’t really give much thought to what you will do with any “left over” embryos. All your attention is focused on having a baby. That’s the end objective. You can’t really think beyond that point.
But, once you have your babies and you decide that your family is complete you are left facing the “What now?” question. I hate this question. When they’re not your embryos, it’s easy to say, “They’re not babies. They’re just cells.” When they are your embryos and you created them in a desperate attempt to have a child, there’s an emotional attachment, making it very easy to employ the Scarlett O’Hara “I’ll think about it tomorrow,” logic. But, at some point, you must decide because there’s a definite cost involved. The storage fee for my embryos is $660 a year. Not chump change.
After consulting with attorneys about legalities, chatting with a few couples that made the same decision we were considering, and investigating the definition of “anonymous”, we made our decision this year. Finally. After six years of keeping the embryos in storage.
Interestingly, a 2002 study revealed 400,000 frozen embryos were in storage at that time. Ten years later, there are probably even more. So, I know that I’m not alone in facing the “What now?” question, yet there seems to be very little support for the parents in this boat. That’s a shame.
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