My husband, Steven, and I always wanted children. He initially wanted to have 3 but I always imagined only 2. In our mid-20s we found ourselves dealing with both male and female factor infertility. We then began the rollercoaster ride of in vitro fertilization (IVF). I remember feeling so helpless throughout it all. Every night I would lay in bed thinking:
Will IVF work for us?
What if it didn’t?
How will we have a family if IVF fails?
It was one of the hardest times of our lives.
And Finally, IVF Success
After 3 IVF cycles and a miscarriage, we were finally blessed with our amazing daughter, Amali. The moment I met her I knew that I wanted another child if we could. Within 3 months I was back to my fertility specialist working out the plan for going back to try for a second child. When Amali was 6 months old we had a frozen embryo transfer (FET) which resulted in our wonderful son, Miles. I pinched myself with how lucky we had got. My ‘dream’ family was actually now a reality. We had gone from no children to having two in just under 16 months. We were beyond blessed.
They had the potential to change someone else’s life for the better by giving them a chance at having a much-wanted family.
What to do With Our Remaining Embryos?
Steven and I had 3 embryos left in storage at our fertility clinic. We always knew that we had a number of years to keep them stored before we would have to decide what to do with them. When my son turned one, Steven and I sat down and discussed the future. Having any more children was financially not possible for us. We knew and agreed that our family was complete. The pain and heartache of infertility was still raw for us though. Remembering clearly the longing and pain of wanting a family but the possibility of it not happening for us, we knew instantly that we could not destroy the embryos. They had the potential to change someone else’s life for the better by giving them a chance at having a much-wanted family.
Could Embryo Donation be a Possibility?
I began researching our options for donating our embryos. I quickly discovered how rare donor embryos were in Australia and that only a small number of babies were born from donor embryos each year. We had the option of doing an anonymous donation where our embryos would be given to people on a waitlist organized through an IVF clinic. We would not know where they would go or who they would go to. Not knowing details apart from if a child was born and their gender would have played on my mind. Steven felt the same way. The not knowing would worry us. Essentially, we felt as though we were giving away our ‘babies’ so a part of us just wanted to have some say in who they went to.
Exploring Open Embryo Donation
I then started the search for potential recipients. Fumbling around the internet, I found the Egg Donation Australia (EDA) Forum which had an embryo recipient/donation section. It felt a bit like online dating to some degree. I scrolled through all the people and couples who were openly putting their entire lives out there in hopes of finding someone who would donate embryos to them. It broke my heart. I wanted to help them all if it were possible.
This Just Feels Right!
After a while, I came across a post from a couple who stood out to me. I showed Steven and from there we made contact with them through the site and began the journey of getting to know them. After a short time communicating back a forth, sharing our infertility/IVF journeys and details of all aspects of our lives, Steven and I both looked at each other and said, this just feels right! We then officially offered our 3 remaining embryos to them which they immediately accepted. We both worked with our clinics to organize counseling, blood tests, appointments and transferring the embryos to their clinic ready for a transfer in the near future. Having contact and knowing who they were made the process quite easy and straightforward. It was lovely to experience part of their journey too. It made us feel extra happy and excited for them.
The Outcome of Our Embryo Donation
The recipient family has welcomed a precious little boy into the world who is simply perfect. When I first saw a photo of him I cried. Not a single part of me was sad, it just felt truly amazing and wonderful. We were so happy and pleased for them. He is very much wanted and his parents are extremely happy and thankful. To have been a part of helping them puts a smile on our faces each day. Not everyone gets to do what we have done, so it feels quite special and we feel honored in a way, too.
All we ever want is for the child/ren born from the embryos to know that we did not ‘give them away’ because they were not wanted; we instead donated them to their parents because we loved them too much and saw what a positive difference they could make in this world. We know that he (and any other potential child born from the embryos) will have an amazing life with wonderful and caring parents who just happen to not be us. Genetics are definitely not everything.
Two Happy Families—With No Regrets
We were happy to give the couple as much space and privacy as they wanted to raise their family as they had always hoped and dreamed of doing. Honestly, we would have been over the moon to just get an update once a year. Now, we feel like an extended family and are in regular contact. Not once has it ever felt ‘strange’ or ‘weird.’ We get along well with our recipient family. We share similar beliefs and are both open to us all being in each other's lives, especially for the benefit of the children and to give them a sense of belonging and heritage.
We know that he will have an amazing life with wonderful and caring parents who just happen to not be us.
As time goes by, we hope that one day we will all get to meet in person and that our children will know each other and share a distinctive bond. When they are old enough they will be told the full story of how they all came to be and how we are all connected in such a special and unique way. Embryo donation was definitely the right choice for us. Absolutely no regrets!