In my last article, I spoke about how and why my wife and I have been procrastinating about what to do with our one remaining frozen embryo: use, discard or donate
We are still deep in cogitation and I suspect we will not make a final decision any time soon. However, one issue we did recently revisit was what to do with our embryo if we do not ultimately “try again”.
We have always been clear that we will not “bin” the forlorn embryo. Instead, there is a clear preference to donate the embryo but the question is where to?…. to other prospective parent(s)?…. or medical research?
We had concluded that donating to medical research was the likely outcome; however a reader has since been in touch and politely challenged the altruism of that decision. And this has given us pause for thought, especially me: for I will be eternally grateful to the sperm donor who facilitated my becoming a father twice over, so what greater gift could I give back to the fertility community than a healthy embryo to another couple (or individual) in need.
Indeed, a similar idealistic concept was at the forefront of my mind when I created “Sharing Seeds”, the thinking being to create a series of conception related children’s books that are all premised on life being gifted by a third party’s shared seed (whether that be a donated sperm, egg, embryo or child).
This theme was also emphasised at the end of my first book, when I described how the two donor sperm conceived children grew up to be “seed sharers” themselves.
So how does this all sit with the alternative option of donating to medical research: as always in the fertility world, there is no simple answer
For the doctors have assured us that there would be a real benefit in donating our embryo to science, especially a potent PGS embryo. So this potentially ticks the altruistic box, as compared with some possible practical issues that trouble us with donating to prospective parent(s). In contrast to the millions of microscopic sperm donated in each sperm sample, giving away our embryo would mean forsaking a uniquely created nascent life, comprised 50% of one of the donor’s sperm and 50% of one of my wife’s own eggs.
We have also been advised that, no matter where we donate to, it will not be possible to retain our anonymity (that thorny subject again!): this means that, were that embryo to make it post-partum, it would be entitled to track us down when it reaches adulthood. And therein lies the worry – for it already disturbs us the thought of “abandoning” the embryo to another family; far more traumatic that one day that “embryo” could knock on our door, see its two donor siblings beaming contentedly from behind and question why there was no place at the table for he/she.
The flip side of course is that we may never hear from the adult “embryo” or, more optimistically, they could reach out without bitterness and become a part of our later lives.
On a related note, I read an interesting article in the Guardian in late February, forwarded by another reader of mine. (Click here to read the article)
The essence of the story is how three London based families all signed up to the “Donor Sibling Registry” and found out they had conceived children via the same sperm donor. The families in question all agreed to meet and the parents and children are now in regular contact as friends. As explored in a previous IVF Babble article, I am a strong advocate for transparency when it comes to telling donor conceived children of their special origins. However, for each individual or couple, it must be a personal decision how much they wish to share and with whom.
For my wife and me, the idea of tracking down others who have used the same sperm donor and/or giving away our embryo non-anonymously is probably a step too far beyond our already complex family boundaries: let’s not forget, there also still awaits the daunting day(s) when our children reach adulthood and may choose to meet with their sperm donor.
So until then, we will pour our love and energy into nurturing and protecting our children so that, when the day comes, they are best placed to make that decision and deal with its consequences (positive or negative)
Take care, JR Silver
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