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The Decision We Make Every Year for Our Family

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom, author and blogger
10/24/19  10:07 AM PST

The Decision We Make Every Year for Our Family…

Every year, we receive an invoice for what is basically a rental fee. But it’s not for a car or boat or guest house or any other “thing” we can use in the usual sense. This fee is for a small storage space in a tank filled with liquid nitrogen where three embryos have been frozen for the past eight years.

In those past eight years we have had three children using the embryos we created during that one round of IVF. Charlie, age seven, loves reading, is starting first grade, and has cerebral palsy. His needs pre-empted any other thoughts about children for his first two years. He was born with a rare syndrome that necessitated a tracheotomy and g-tube in infancy. He was, in short, a handful. I loveable, miraculous handful, but a handful nonetheless. And he’s thriving in school and it’s a joy to watch his strengths unfold. Jonas and Cora, our twins, age five, live to move, love swimming, and will be starting kindergarten in the fall. Our family is full. Our van is full. Last year we gave away all our cribs, bouncy seats, bathers, Baby Einstein everything. We are transitioning into the elementary stage of parenting. Huzzah!

And yet, we still have those three embryos.

When the bill came in the mail this year, it traveled from the kitchen to the bedroom to the van as we carried the conversation from place to place, trying to decide, finally, what to do. We’re at the stage now where, if we decide to keep renting space, the embryos can be moved off-site from the clinic to a cheaper storage facility if we pay for the next three years up front. Or, we keep them where they are and pay the yearly rate just in case we get the urge to add a sixth person to our family. We can also give them up for adoption. There are other options, but we have narrowed it down to these three.

Rationally, the smartest decision financially, physically, and mentally would be to give them up for adoption. Save the storage fee. Save myself from another high-risk pregnancy. Make another couple blissfully happy. It’s a win-win-win.

I can’t ignore the emotional side, however. These embryos are 100% genetically ours. If they are successfully carried to term, they will turn into children with parents who are not us. All signs point to adoption, but this one. We just can’t let go.

The longest an embryo has been stored and then successfully thawed and used is twenty-four years. That Millennial embryo is now a Generation Alpha baby. It made it all the way past Gen-Z to the start of the alphabet again. This is supremely comforting to us as we’ve been wavering over all the what-ifs. Knowing that the embryos will be safe and sound until our hearts are ready to ultimately let them go is enough reassurance to help us make a decision.

And ultimately, we have chosen to…not decide quite yet.

We’re signing that longer term lease for off-site storage. We need to buy ourselves three more years. By then I will be forty, Charlie, ten, and the twins, seven. I can’t say what we will choose when that time is up, but can anyone really predict the state of their family in three-years’ time? Charlie may be making great strides in his wheelchair and with his speech therapy. But he will also be heavier, harder for me to lift from van to chair and chair to bed. The twins will probably want more separate time with my husband and with me as they begin to explore their own interests apart from each other. It’s a lot of guesswork at this point.

So, for now, we’re buying a three-year pass and hoping for more insight when the time comes. It’s enough to know that those embryos, as well as our current children, are safe and well-cared for. We’re parenting them all as best we can with the knowledge in front of us.

child with special needs

Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom and author.

Discover her new book, Roll with It.

Follow her on Facebook.

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