We have two storage spaces in our house. The layman’s term would be “crawl space” but that implies room to crawl. Inside this tiny space from floor to rafter you can find Baby Einstein jumpers and plastic bins of clothes labelled by season, gender, and age. If you peek around the corner you might spy the rails to the cribs before they were converted to toddler beds and maybe a Bumbo or two. And though my twins are going on three and my eldest is five, none of it is going anywhere.
We worked too hard to get where we are to just let it go. After thousands of dollars and rounds of fertility treatments that culminated in in vitro fertilization, we came out the other side with nine little embryos. And those little embryos led to Charlie and Cora and Jonas, our three lovely and loving (most of the time) kids. We would not have it any other way.
Except it took six embryos to get our three children. Three still remain—frozen and waiting expectantly in their personal storage bin at the local fertility clinic. We pay annually for their rental space. And in return we buy time. Time to discuss, again, the ethical implications of what we have gotten ourselves into.
Because of our personal and religious beliefs, we knew ahead of time where we placed an embryo in the life chain. It was a baby and would be treated as such. We never dreamed we would get nine. We also never dreamed we would have one child with special needs and then twins. We could not know what fertility would look like for us once it happened. It was always an “if” not a “when.” We prayed and talked and cried and held our breaths through every bit of the process and now, for all intents and purposes, we should be at the end.
From the world’s standards, our family is complete in all the practical ways: financially, relationally, statistically. We are also emotionally maxed out with toddler twins and physical, occupational, feeding and speech therapies for our eldest.
But three embryos still remain, perfect combinations of our genetic wedding. We will not donate them for research. We will not evict them from their freezer to a warm, slow degradation into nothingness. All that is left it to give them a chance to become what they were destined for: life.
And here’s where the story gets more complicated. My body may or may not be able to handle more children. I would love to have another, but none of mine made it past thirty weeks (apparently they took the third trimester as mere suggestion). Could I do it again? Could I risk my health now as a wife to one and mother to three? Could I chance the health of the child that might come earlier than he or she should?
These are too many questions with too many hypothetical answers, so I am left with one last option: donate my three “frosties” to an anonymous couple in need. It is a good and noble thing to do to provide this chance to someone else, much like me, who desperately yearns for a child. My mind says “yes” but my heart screams “no.” I do not want to spend the rest of my life scanning the faces on the playground for someone with my eyes or my husband’s nose. I do not want to worry about the girl my son brings to dinner who looks at me with the same set to her mouth.
We do not have an answer to this unsolvable problem. The attics remain full. The house remains loud and pleasantly chaotic. I potty train and fold away winter clothes while our embryos wait in their anticipatory state. But this I know for certain, now and always, I will never have a “last child.”