Some people don’t believe me when I tell them that my daughter was a five-year-old frozen embryo and that I was 50 when I delivered her. Here is my story.
Fifteen years ago, I was faced with a tough decision. What to do with two remaining frozen embryos left over from past fertility treatments. I was 49 and didn’t relish the idea of being pregnant at age 50.
Like thousands of women going through infertility treatments, I had gone through years of treatments including IVFs and many others. I had adopted two boys during this time as I continued my fertility treatments.
The embryos were there – frozen in my fertility doctor’s lab. I never forgot about them. When I was 49, the office called and told me that the embryos remained frozen, and reminded me that I had one more year or the embryos would need to be destroyed. The age cutoff was 50. Somehow I don’t remember being told that or even worrying about that at age 46.
I was stressed. I thought of the embryos as part of me and just couldn’t give the order to destroy them. I asked my doctor: What about donating them to another family? The answer, we don’t do that. What about donating them to research? Answer, we don’t do that.
So with no other alternatives I rented a car in Nashville where I was attending – ironically – a seminar on assisted reproduction. I drove across the state to my doctor’s office on a Friday to have the embryos implanted the next day.
I remember feeling a little pleased with myself when my fertility doctor examined me and said, “Now that uterus can sustain a pregnancy.” He was hopeful. I didn’t allow myself to be.
I remember after the procedure I felt at peace with myself. If it didn’t work – like it hadn’t worked four times before – I had made the right decision for me. To be honest, I didn’t think it would work – again, reflecting on the many times it had never worked before. I remember hugging him and thanking him for giving an old lady a chance at getting pregnant.
Well, that little five-year-old frozen embryo successfully implanted and developed into my daughter, who is now almost 15. She is smart, athletic, beautiful, kind and everything wonderful. Oh, and let’s not forget, stubborn, just like her mother.
I will be honest — the pregnancy was hell. You just aren’t meant to be pregnant at that age. I had gestational diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, and – at the end – kidney stones which put me on bed rest. However, the delivery was easy. She is cherished by her dad, me and her two older brothers.
Fortunately, today most fertility clinics allow the donation of unused embryos to the clinic, or to an embryo adoption service. Increasingly, families are turning to embryo adoption to build a family. It’s a good thing. It wasn’t a choice I had in 2002, but now it is a wonderful option. If you want more information on egg/embryo donation, you can find it here.
E. Parker Herring is a Board Certified family law specialist who has practiced in Wake County, N.C. for more than 32 years. She has three children through adoption and assisted reproduction and in 2000 started the adoption agency, A Child’s Hope. The agency focuses on North Carolina birthmothers with North Carolina newborns. The agency has placed more than 353 children since it opened. The multiple adoption journeys of her own family and her personal experiences in fertility treatments continue to be the driving force behind her working in the areas of adoption and assisted reproduction. She is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and received her law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law.