Infertility Kids Motherhood

Three Embryos Remain Frozen In Time: Why I Will Never Have A Last Child

Written by Jamie Sumner

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.”

About the author

Jamie Sumner

Jamie Sumner is the author of the book, Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood. She is mom to a son with cerebral palsy and twins. She has written for The Washington Post,   Scary MommyParenting Special Needs Magazine and other publications. She can be found on her website, The Mom Gene, on Facebook, Twitter @mom_gene and Instagram @themomgene. She and her husband live with their kids in Nashville, Tennessee She is mom to a son with cerebral palsy and twins. 


    • Thank you Kristie! I will take those prayers. We’re trying to work through it as best we know how. I know I’m not the only one out there in this position. IVF and infertility treatments bring so much good and so many unknowns. We wouldn’t have any of our kids without it and for that I am grateful.

  • You have an incredible, absolutely incredible gift for writing in a way that says everything, says it all, in a clear, mannerly, organized way about things that are far from clear, mannerly and organized. You’re unreal. Amazing.

    • Thank you Suzy!! I count you as another gifted writer. It’s a pity my life isn’t as organized as my writing. Of course, I think writing down these thoughts helps keep my life sorted!

  • Jamie, my heart aches for you. We are those grateful people you mentioned in your article- blessed by the gift of embryo donation. As you work through the decision-making process for your family, I highly recommend reaching out to other couples who have donated. We were fortunate enough to match in a known-donor situation, and for us it’s the best of both worlds; our donor doesn’t have to spend life wondering “where are they” and we can go through life knowing that our (future hopeful) child(ren) has access to their genetic parents.

    Just know that whatever decision you make, it will be the right one for your family.

    • I am so glad to have met you! This is exactly what I needed to hear…that there are people out their who desperately want to love these embryos. I think for us it’s going to take time to come around to whatever decision we make. When the road is not clear, we will wait and pray and talk to people like you.

    • Thanks Carly! This is definitely our choice if we decide not to have any more children. I think it’s just to hard right now to think about letting go. It is a comfort though to know that if it came to that, these embryos would be going to a couple who desperately wants to have and love their family.

  • From someone waiting to adopt frosties: Praying for you! In our journey through IVF, my husband and I knew we might end up with sweet frosties that would potentially be donated. My heart broke at the thought… My heart says I want all the babies… but I know that isn’t always the best. I guess I am saying that I will continue to pray for you and your family, for wisdom and guidance. If you decide to donate, know that you will be a part in God’s plan to start or complete a family. Thank you for sharing! Love, Jennifer

    • Thank you for the prayers (that is our front line on this issue right now)! I will pray that you get those frosties. Infertility is such a strange and hard battle to fight when there are so many unknowns and questions you never thought you’d have to ask or answer.

  • Beautifully written. I feel for you and may you find peace with whatever decision you ultimately make. My ex-husband and I struggled with infertility and drew the line at in vitro, mainly due to the expense, but also because I didn’t know how I felt about the possibility of left over embryos. I love the idea of an embryo adoption where you have some control over where they go and how much you want to be involved in their lives, I hadn’t heard of that before but I imagine it’s better than just wondering all the thoughts …

    • Yes, embryo adoption is our first choice. I didn’t know about it either until we started this process. I also agree with you that the money and the ethics of fertility treatments can be the hardest parts to overcome. You just want a child, but there are always more obstacles than you anticipated in your way.

  • Thanks for sharing! I would be feeling all of the same things you are feeling if I were in your shoes. My husband and I dealt with infertility, and had to have some deep discussions when we got to the point in treatment where the doctor wanted us to do in vitro. We couldn’t agree on what would happen if we had left over embryos. Neither of us was okay with discarding them, but beyond that we couldn’t come to a decision we were comfortable with. We eventually decided not to go through with it and instead chose adoption.

    I pray you and your husband can find peace with a decision when the time is right.

    • We honestly NEVER believed we’d get 9 embryos. It felt unreal that we might even get one. I think you and your husband absolutely did the right thing having that hard conversation and taking the “what ifs” into account. I have so many friends who have adopted (whether because of infertility or not) and it is amazing the blessings that come from it. It’s like a ripple effect of goodness. Thank you for your prayers for us.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I was lucky enough to adopt embryos through a fb support group. There were so many embryos left over two families were able to adopt them. Meeting these families has been amazing and I can’t wait to start a frozen cycle. The kids will know their story and we have a minimum number of visits per year. I pray that you and your husband find peace in your decision.

    • This is good to hear and good to know. It’s amazing how much hope and life can come from such a hard decision. I love that you have visits and that these children will know their place in the world. Thank you for the prayers! Keep praying…

  • I have never dealt with infertility so reading this opened my eyes to so much. Since I am pro-life and know that life begins at conception, I am so glad to hear that embryo adoption exists and can bless childless families with the precious gift of life. Praying for you as you make your decision.

    • Thank you Faith! We didn’t know about embryo adoption either until we started investigating. It’s such a blessing for both parties!