About a year ago, I was forced to make a decision that would decidedly change the fate of my family forever. I had two remaining embryos “on ice” at the fertility clinic, and on the second anniversary of their cryopreservation, I had to decide whether to renew my annual storage contract. I had renewed my contract the year before only because it was the easiest way to avoid making an actual decision. But this time, I knew that I had to “sh*t or get off the pot” because if I were to have another child, I probably needed to do it soon. My kids were already 1.5 years old so having another child at that point or later would put 2+ years between them, and each day I procrastinated making the decision meant that I would be a day older when I had another child.
To my husband, the decision was a no-brainer. For our entire married life, we had always said we wanted two kids – we had the timing played out in our minds and we lived our lives according to that mental timing. But when we were trying to conceive the way most couples do – by doing the bow-chicka-bow-bow dance every month – after about the 20th month of trying, we told ourselves that maybe we’d be OK with only one child because time was (in our minds) running out. We were worn out by the process, getting older, and quite frankly found the baby-making business to be a chore. After resorting to fertility treatments which for us included months of inconclusive testing, three failed Intrauterine Insemination cycles (AKA The Turkey Baster), and two failed In Vitro Fertilization treatments, we were finally blessed with not one but two babies. In my husband’s mind, we were done. We had our perfect family of four.
Because our first two IVF cycles had been unsuccessful, the storage of our two embryos in the third cycle was meant to be nothing other than a shortcut to the next (frozen) embryo transfer cycle should this one fail. It never occurred to us when we chose to store them that doing so would put us at a decision point of whether we wanted to augment the size of our family. However, because we managed to make up for lost time by getting “two for the price of one,” it unexpectedly became a legitimate question.
Whenever I thought about not having another child, I would get a little sad because while I witnessed every single childhood phase to date in two children, I witnessed these phases at the same time in each of my two kids. Time, as you know, passes at warp speed when it comes to the changes in your children, and I’d feel my heart sink whenever I thought about the fact that I’d never witness first teeth, first words, first foods or first birthdays ever again. I also felt sad thinking about how some time, 18 years in the future, my house will go instantly from bustling with two kids and their friends to completely empty and quiet; the Empty Nest Syndrome on speed.
Ultimately, we decided that sentimental feelings and the threat of the empty nest weren’t enough to justify altering our life plans. Everything was exactly as we had hoped – we had two beautiful children who couldn’t be any more perfect in our eyes, and we weren’t any older than we would have been had we had two kids but at separate times. We realized that adding one more child would change the game from one-on-one defense to zone defense, and we just didn’t want to go there. In my heart, I knew that if things had happened naturally and I didn’t have any spare “babies” in storage, this question would have never even been a question – we’d be wherever we were in life and we’d be happy. Although I do sometimes second guess my decision and sometimes feel sad (especially when I see friends having more kids), I know that what we did was right.
At the risk of opening a whole new can of worms, this last bit is for those of you who are wondering what we did with the embryos. This was also a tougher decision than I anticipated and I hope no one judges me for the choice that I made – in the end, we decided to donate them to medical research.