What happens to leftover embryos?
It’s not a small question, or an easy one. Experts estimate that more than 500,000 embryos are cryopreserved in the U.S. alone – many because the genetic parents cannot settle on an acceptable answer.
Currently-infertile couples might think they’d welcome the problem of what to do with an overabundance of potential children. It would be a refreshing change from the constant sense of lack and failure. But the truth is, once a formerly-infertile couple decides their family is complete, the question of what to do becomes an anguish-filled ethical dilemma.
The National Embryo Donation Center offers an answer to the question, “what now?” They believe that choosing to donate embryos is both courageous and generous (genetic parents are not compensated in any way). “It is the most life-honoring choice,” affirms Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, medical director at the NEDC. And, for couples on both sides of the equation – donors, and adopters – it can be a great blessing.
According to the NEDC, “helping another couple” and “giving the embryos a chance at life” are the most common reasons couples donate. Many donor couples report thinking of their donation as the gift of a potential child to another infertile couple.
From a spiritual standpoint, donating frozen embryos becomes one more step in trusting God’s purposefulness throughout the infertility journey. If He intends the embryos to thaw, transplant, grow and thrive, they will. If not, they won’t.
God controls their destiny.
Jessica and Jeremy came to the NEDC to adopt a set of embryos after years spent battling infertility. Despite having 1200 to choose from, they chose to adopt a set of “special needs” embryos. “Being obedient to God’s direction, we picked the embryos we were supposed to have,” Jessica explains. “We could have easily let fear sway our decision. I’m so thankful that we didn’t!”
They conceived and delivered healthy twins, Grant and Maria.
Why did they choose to risk a problem? According to Jessica, they were simply translating faith into action. “The truth of the matter is, there is no guarantee with any baby,” says Jessica. “If we put our embryos back in the adoption pool would anyone ever adopt them? Many people asked why we didn’t go with the “strongest” [embryos] so we would have the best chance at success, but… I think it’s evident that we were blessed in our decision.”
As couples grapple with ethical and emotional issues around the question of leftover embryos — often with little or no compassionate guidance from their clergy/spiritual leaders — Jessica has this advice to offer: “…Heed the call from God to step out in faith and be blessed just as we have been.”