Paying the price of indecision

by DaniGirl on August 22, 2005 · 7 comments

in Frostie, Infertility

Last week, I sent another cheque for $300 to our fertility clinic, and bought myself another year of indecision.

Tristan was conceived through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the summer of 2001. At the time he was conceived, a total of three embryos were created. Because of my relative youth and reproductive health, the doctors advised us that they were only willing to put two of the three embryos back into my uterus, as twins was a more mitigable risk than triplets.

It was a hard decision for us to accept, at the time. We had gambled everything we had, financially and emotionally, on the success of IVF, and we had a hard time understanding how transferring three embryos wouldn’t improve our odds of success by 50% more than transferring two embryos. And it left us with the question of what to do with one lonely leftover embryo.

We followed the doctors’ advice, and transferred two embryos. The third was cryo-preserved – frozen in suspended animation at 3 days old. When I found out a little less than two weeks later that I was pregnant with twins (we lost one at 9 weeks), we were relieved that we hadn’t transferred all three.

Every year around the anniversary of our IVF treatment, we get another bill from the clinic for rent. Apparently freezer space is even more valuable real estate than downtown Manhattan, because we pay $300 a year for about a half a cubic centimetre of space. The embryo itself is nearly microscopic, and it is stored in a tiny glass pipette thinner than the ink stem in a bic pen. Friends of mine who have frozen embryos from more than one treatment cycle pay $300 for each tiny pipette of embryos. IVF is not for the financially faint of heart. (And despite the many praises of socialized medicine in Canada, we are on our own with the costs. Everything is out of pocket, and in five years of looking I have yet to come across a private health-care insurance company in Canada that covers any part of an IVF cycle, aside from the drugs.)

Our original plan was to go back to the clinic when Tristan was two or three and ask them to thaw and transfer our little “frosty”. The chances of the embryo surviving the thaw are somewhere around 30 per cent. The chances of the embryo successfully implanting and leading to a full-term pregnancy are about 30 to 40 per cent after that. But before we could put that plan in motion, out of the blue came my sure thing – Simon, the surprise baby.

So, each year I scratch out a cheque for $300 to keep our frosty on ice and buy another year to think about the future of our family. We had never really planned for three kids. Our finances are modest, as is our little townhouse. If we were blessed with a third child, we’d have to double kids up in a room and get a mini-van (this last being perhaps the most insurmountable hurdle. Me, driving a mini-van? Yikes.) I have serious concerns about the “middle child” dynamic, and about having the kids outnumbering the parents.

What really keeps me awake at night is the biggest “what if” of all – what if it’s a girl? A daughter. A mini-me. An XX ally in a house teeming with men. There is no way to find out the embryo’s gender, despite what many people seem to think about IVF. While it is possible to determine the embryo’s gender, that would only be done if you were already doing some heavy-duty genetic screening (at a wicked cost, by the way, and only at the prerogative of your clinic), but you can’t just order these tests à la carte for your family planning convenience. And if indeed we are blessed with another pregnancy, and it turns out to be a hat trick in my collection of boys, that would be okay, too.

There’s no real hurry. I read last month that a baby was born fully 13 years after she and her siblings were conceived. (It’s a fascinating story, although I almost didn’t want to add the link because of the bit about the clinic being shut down for taking people’s eggs. I expend a lot of effort fighting against those kinds of ideas when I talk to people about reproductive technology.)

So I scratch out my cheque each year, and think almost every day about our little totsicle, sleeping in a nitrogen bath. Although I am not in any way opposed to donating embryos to other families, or even to science, I don’t think that is the destiny of this little embryo. We can’t leave (him? her? it?) frozen forever, but each $300 buys us another year to think about it.


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jen August 22, 2005 at 1:26 pm

Gosh. I love what ART does (since both Baby Boy and Baby Girl needed a little boost from science) but it does add a whole element of decision making that the whole “knocked up after a good bottle of wine” folks never have to think about.

2 mgood August 22, 2005 at 2:08 pm

Eighty-two cents per day? It doesn’t even buy a cup of coffee these days, right? Small price to pay.

3 Tammy August 22, 2005 at 4:22 pm

We are in the same boat. We pay for $400 per yr for thinking about more. Hubby does not want anymore, I cannot let go yet. When will I know for sure?
We have one girl and one boy, our second being a surprise like your Simon.

4 mary August 22, 2005 at 6:59 pm

Hi Danigirl, working my way here via Marla’s place. 🙂
Wow, that’s some decision alright. I completely understand your feelings about leaping from 2 kids to 3 and living by modest means, etc. We have 2 kids (6 and 10) and we know we are “done” having children now, by our decision. But it wasn’t an easy decision to make. Time can be a lovely blessing of freedom and also a sharp reminder of how quickly life takes shape while we’re not even looking.
I posted last week at my blog about an interesting fertility “story” within my family. Feel free to drop by sometime and read. The post was titled ‘There Was A Young Woman Who Lived In A Shoe…’.
What a beautiful family you have.

5 mgood August 23, 2005 at 1:35 am

Mary’s awfully nice, Dani – you should go visit. Just don’t start a meme with her like I did – it takes about seven months to complete!

6 nancy August 23, 2005 at 4:10 am

I so hear you my friend – twice a year (2 cycles with leftover embies) we get our little reminder (invoice) and each time we remain undecided and send the rent cheque(s). My DH doesn’t feel as strong a pull or sense of responsibility to the frozen ones as I do. In fact, when the most recent one arrived (likely same as yours, right? June 2001 cycles) I thought for sure he would decline to sign…but I was rather pleased to see how quickly and willingly he did…so who knows?? Right? Right? Could there be a little pink in our future(s)???

7 Danigirl August 23, 2005 at 12:34 pm

Can you imagine, Nancy? Pregnant and pink at the same time? I couldn’t think of anything more wonderful!!
Welcome, Mary! I’ll drop by your place for a visit later today. Thanks for coming by! Any friend of Marla’s is someone I should probably avoid, but seems to be the kind of person I like best.
Tammy, it’s a hard decision isn’t it? Like you and Nancy, I feel stronger toward the embryos than my husband. Must be the maternal thing.
xo Dani, enjoying coffee AND 364 more days of indecision

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