Five days ago, my husband and I signed the final contract to donate our embryos.
The contract was the last and final step in a process we started over 10 months ago; three little embryos in a freezer are officially no longer ours. In a two-part series back in February, I explained how we met our embryo recipients. Since then, there’s been a lot of waiting, some excitement, and more waiting.
It began with L and J, our recipients, having to establish themselves as patients at my clinic and do a baseline ultrasound. My husband Nathan and I had to sit through a 90-minute session with a psychologist who asked a bajillion questions that my husband answered as inappropriately as possible. (Question: “Do either of you have any mental health conditions?” Response from Nathan: “Um…no. Wait, yes.” Pauses for a second, looking into the distance. “Okay, the voice in my head says no.”)
L&J had to go through the exact same interminable session, struggling to stay awake in the dimly lit psychologist’s office just as we did. The session ended with us joining them for a little group pow-wow. (Question: “L and J, are you aware that Lydia takes medication for depression? Are you aware Lydia and Nathan intend to be open and public about this donation? Oh… you know all this already? Okay, sign and initial here.”)
I get all the rigmarole with psychologists. They had to make sure we weren’t being coerced, paid, or pressured. When people are donating to a family member, it’s a lot more likely they’re being forced to donate against their will. I try to imagine these sketchy families. Maybe there’s a rotten, smoke-wrinkled saddlebag matriarch, jabbing a woman with her finger and threatening, “You give them embryos to your sister or I’m gonna tell your husband you screwed his brother!”
Next we had to jump through legal hoops. L&J’s lawyer drew up the contract and our lawyer reviewed it, suggested some changes to ensure we were protected, and sent it back.
The contract and all it entailed gave me an oogy feeling in the pit of my stomach. So many details to ponder and decisions to make, ones I didn’t even want to think about much less decide on right-this-minute. What happens to the embryos if L&J divorce? If they are comatose? If one of them—or both of them—die? What happens if their first embryo splits into triplets and they don’t plan to use the other two? Thinking about all of these obscure scenarios stressed me out.
We ended up deciding to return the embryos to sender only if L&J divorced or if both were incapacitated or kicked the bucket. Shudder.
We also had to spell out specific rules for future contact. When would we tell Peanut/Squeak, and L&J’s future baby(s)? Would we share the contact information with our children? How often did we want baby updates, and in what manner? We opted for one photo and letter per year, but L is my friend, so I’m sure we’ll have way more contact than that. The final agreement ran to 12 pages. Single spaced. So many details.
In about 60 different ways, we had to clearly state that we would have no financial responsibility for these frozen babies/future humans. Even if we won the lottery, L&J’s kids can’t try to lay claim to our sprawling McMansions and Scrooge McDuck money bin. Likewise, if L&J’s kids founded the next Microsoft, we couldn’t go after their moolah no matter how much our senior-citizen asses might need it.
This minutae was necessary, because the law has never kept up with reproductive technology. Who knows what contracts or medical technology will be like in 20 years, or 50 years? Or who we will be then?
Monday night, the lawyer stopped by with the final contract for us to sign. After she left, I paused to poke a tentative finger at my emotions, to see how I felt about everything.
I feel fine about it. I’m a little worried how I will feel going forward, as things progress and hopefully L gets all sorts of knocked up with a baby that carries our DNA. Am I going to be okay with that? I think I will.
Seeing the panicked reactions of women in my embryo donation group, I feel a little sociopathic, like Sweet Dee from Sunny in Philadelphia, lacking all normal human emotion and compassion.
Shouldn’t I be flipping out like those other moms are? (One couldn’t sign the contract when it came down to that moment of truth. Another said she cried for three days straight after finalizing her donation.) Their panic seems to be 75% that they wish they could afford more kids, and 25% that they feel too much ownership over the embryos to give them away.
The 75% part doesn’t really apply to us. I’m happy with Peanut and Squeak, but if something happens to completely change my mind, I’ve got great insurance and lots of unspent infertility benefit on my policy. I’m only 35, so I’ve got time to have more kids (I know of a woman who gave birth this month at age FIFTY-TWO). By that measure, I’ve got tons of time. It’s not game-over for us. If we decide to have more kids, we can. And who knows—I tried to get pregnant naturally for just 5 months. I might not need iVF. But I do not plan to test that theory, thankyouverymuch.
If I had no chance of getting pregnant naturally—maybe I had blocked fallopian tubes, or my husband had 14 lazy swimmers per shot instead of 80 million—I might be singing a different tune. As it is, I know I have more chances if I decide to add to the fam. But don’t get your hopes up. I am 99.99999999999% positive we are D-U-N done.
As far as feeling ownership over them… I just don’t. I can’t explain why. Maybe I’m a heartless A-hole. Whatever the reason, I’m really happy to give them to L&J. They’re not going to much use in that freezer, not now or anytime soon (maybe never, if I had hung onto them). I’m all about minimizing waste, and this is just one example.
L’s scheduled embryo transfer is happening sometime in the next 3 months. She’s trying hard to manage her stress level (I can’t imagine, with so much riding on this, and so much money invested on their part… ack, I’m getting tense just thinking about what she must be going through right now).
I asked her how I could help and she asked me to make her laugh. Luckily I know a comedian who keeps me supplied with good jokes.
Folks often tell us what a great thing it is that we’re doing. It’s nice to hear, and lovely validation, but that’s not the reason we’re donating.
Since my Embryo Donation Dating Game posts in February, I’ve met L three times and J twice. My husband has met them both twice as well. We’ve had breakfast and lunch together, I’ve met L’s mother and some of her extended family too.
We like them. A lot. They’re really, really good people. They deserve to be parents, and I’m just happy that I can help.
I really want my these embryos to do a good job. Cross your fingers for us, and for them.