I’m really excited about today’s post, I have 2 guest bloggers! Chelsea is a good friend of mine, we met through Instagram and realized we lived pretty close to one another. We text weekly (if not daily) and have met up several times! Kristen has also been a friend on Instagram for years! Why do I have them both guest blogging today? Chelsea had frozen embryos remaining after the birth of her daughter and donated them to Kristen! I asked them both if they would share their stories because you don’t hear about this type of situation very often… thankfully, they both agreed! I am honored to have them both sharing their story today! 🙂
Kristen and I were partnered up in a TTC Easter/Spring gift exchange I believe. I think this was 2015? Kevan and I were still saving up to afford IVF. After the gift exchange, we just sort of clicked! Kristen doesn’t update her Insta as much as I do, so we’d DM a lot and then eventually started texting. I believe we both ended up doing IVF cycles around the same time. She did way more than I had to – and I think they were at a turning point with having to decide if they’d want to do donor embryos when we did our egg retrieval in June 2016. I think that is the first time a little light went off in my head. Kevan and I both had already discussed (as probably most people do for legal reasons before starting IVF) that we wanted to donate any leftover embryos when we were done building our family. We ended up getting so lucky and only having to do 1 retrieval and 1 transfer with 1 embryo to get our beautiful daughter. That left us with 6 embryos. (They were our lucky “7 Dwarves”). We decided while I was still pregnant that we were not going to do IVF again, and I told Kevan I had a couple in mind for our embabies. Kristen and Sean had gone through soooooo much. Multiple cycles with only a few embryos to show for it. A few losses. And in my gut I just knew this is who should have our remaining embabies.
Fast forward to 3 months post-partum.. we had our first date night since Maizie was born and decided we would ask Kristen and Sean if they’d be interested in adopting our embryos. I screenshot that text conversation and still have it. I think Kristen was in shock!! The whole legal side of it was fairly easy on our end. Our clinic had an attorney they suggested using – and she helped work up a contract. The legal expenses were covered by Kristen and Sean, but I think that – and the transportation costs to get the embryos to their lab were the only costs involved in the whole thing. Kevan and I were unsure how much we would want to know about how things went after the donation was complete – but it (to me) hasn’t been weird AT ALL. Kristen sends me ultrasound pictures, and updates and honestly it just makes me incredibly happy. This is by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done (minus giving birth to my daughter). I really hope this blog post inspires others to consider embryo donation – anonymously or not. It literally is the BIGGEST gift you can give someone.
What was the hardest part of your fertility journey for you? The waiting FOR SURE. I am not the most patient person; but infertility is 90% waiting around and hoping for the best.
What would you like couples or women who don’t struggle with infertility to know about infertility? That they are lucky to not deal with it! I don’t think you can truly understand how big of a blessing fertility is unless you have to deal with infertility.
What made you decide to donate embryos? I wanted those embabies to have a chance at life! And to give very deserving people the gift of getting to experience pregnancy and parenthood!!
How did you pick Kristen to offer embryos to? We just knew that they would make AMAZING parents. They deserve this so much.
At one point, you thought you might not want to know what happened to the embryos you donated. What changed your mind? Honestly, I’m not sure! I guess I thought I would be more emotional or sad about those embryos not being “ours” anymore. Once the donation was complete and she became pregnant I never once felt sad or jealous. Just so excited and so happy for them. Kristen has always been respectful and asked if I wanted updates before just sharing, and I do the same for my husband. So far everyone still wants all the info!!
What type of relationship do you hope to keep with Kristen and her family? I hope to be a source of advice. I have no clue if these kids will be similar at all – but I hope she can come to me with questions, if needed. Our plan for the future is to raise Maizie knowing that she has this sibling, and when they are old enough to decide they’d like to meet, we will plan a trip!
If you could tell Kristin’s future child or children one thing, what would it be? That Kevan and I (and Maizie) love you SO much. I told Kristen that was 1 of 2 stipulations for this donation – this/these kid/s have to know that we didn’t ‘give them up’ because we didn’t want them. It’s the complete opposite. We wanted them to have amazing lives. This baby is SO incredibly loved. They’ve got a whole community that loves them up in Ohio plus all of their new family in Texas. (Stipulation 2 was to be a real stickler with seatbelt safety – haha!)
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’d like to share with our readers?
That these relationships on Insta are so valuable. This community really is lifechanging. And please consider embryo donation!
I learned in October of 2015 (after trying for 4 years) that IVF was our next step. We had already done 7 rounds of clomid, HSG’s, SA’s, had one chemical and one ectopic pregnancy. So, the first thing I did was get online to find out everything I could about IVF! Once I found the IVF Instagram community I immediately started an IVF only Instagram, not knowing at the time that it would lead me to Chelsea and this baby I’m carrying. Chelsea and I were randomly matched when doing an IVF (Easter?) gift exchange in 2016 and just immediately hit it off. I believe at that point we were both still in the saving part of our IVF journeys but we DM’d a lot in the beginning and then moved to texting. Her friendship even before the donation offer has helped keep me sane so many times throughout this journey. Our first IVF cycle didn’t go as planned at all, I ended up doing the max amount of medications for nearly 3 weeks and only got 2 viable eggs that were fertilized and frozen on day one. My second cycle linked up pretty close to Chelsea’s first cycle. My second cycle started with a changed protocol but ended with the same results, 2 eggs that were fertilized and frozen on day 1. Disappointment after that cycle is an understatement. When I went to my follow up appointment with my RE he told me that the quality of the 4 eggs we received weren’t terrible but definitely weren’t great and he didn’t recommend that we do another stimulation cycle. Instead he wanted us to start considering using an egg donor. I remember asking him at the time “What if we used a donor embryo, is that even possible?” he smiled at me and said “Yeah of course it’s possible but donor embryos are extremely hard to come by and can be very expensive.” He didn’t really think we had a shot of getting donor embryos. Around this time Chelsea found out she was pregnant with her sweet baby girl! So, while we were digesting the news about donor eggs/embryos and looking into it, I went ahead and did a FET with two of our frozen embryos that resulted in a 1% chance ectopic and emergency surgery. I remember that while Chelsea was still pregnant she told me that she and Kevan had talked about donating their 6 remaining embryos but it would probably be a year after their little girl was born before they were sure (which was totally understandable, of course). She asked if we still had not found any donor embryos when they got ready if we may be interested! Of course we were, but we kept our search up just in case they changed their mind. Much to our surprise just a few months later I get a text from Chelsea (which I have saved and plan on printing for my baby bookJ) telling me that they were ready to donate, and wanted to donate to us! Que the tears and allllll the feelings! From there it all happened really fast. We paid attorney fees and shipping and within a few weeks we had 6 more frozen embabies in our RE’s office along with our 2 biological ones.
This time last year we transferred our last remaining biological embryo (the 4thone didn’t survive the thaw) and 1 of our adopted embabies at the same time! Unfortunately, that transfer ended in a chemical pregnancy which led to us doing an ERA cycle to see if we could determine whether my uterus was receptive at the time of transfer. Turns out it wasn’t receptive and I actually needed to be on PIO for an extra day! March 22ndwe transferred 2 embabies and I’m currently 35 weeks pregnant with the most amazing gift we have ever been given!
What was the hardest part of this journey for you? I would say the hardest part of my infertility journey is definitely the roller coaster of unknowns. I’m a planner by nature so I was great at being organized and planning out every appointment, shot, pill or patch I ever needed but very rarely did anything in my journey go according to plan.
What did you think when Chelsea offered to donate embryos to you? My initial reaction was definitely shock and tons of tears. It took me forever to tell my husband why I just randomly started sobbing and even longer for me to stop crying long enough to text Chelsea back, haha. Of course, along with shock came immense gratitude at what they were offering. Here you have this couple who we’ve never met in person but are so amazing that they are willing to give us this incredible gift after working so hard for it themselves!
What would you like couples or women who don’t struggle with infertility to know about infertility? There is so much I would want them to know but I think the main things would be that this journey is so hard and it’s a journey that lasts forever. I may be 35 weeks pregnant with this miracle baby but that doesn’t erase the journey we went through to get here.
What type of relationship do you hope to keep with Chelsea and her family? I hope Chelsea and our families keep a close relationship! We have been so blessed by not only the gift that Chelsea and Kevan have given us but by the fact that our friendship has never changed. Originally Chelsea told me that she may need to take a step back from our friendship which I totally understood. Turns out she didn’t, which I am so grateful for because I still leaned on Chelsea throughout my FET’s after we adopted the embryos just like I did before. We will raise this baby with it knowing that Chelsea and Kevan didn’t “give it away” but loved it SO much that they wanted it to have a chance to live. This baby will also always know that it has a sibling and a whole lot of love in Ohio.
If you could tell someone who is considering adopting embryos one thing, what would it be? There are so many emotions through the process of adopting embryos, from finding out that it’s one of your options to searching for donors, all the way to meeting your sweet baby and it is okay to feel ALL of those emotions. Also, don’t be discouraged in the search. Our story of randomly being matched on Instagram and it leading to this is definitely not the norm (my RE was amazed that we found donor embryos via Instagram) and trust me I am aware of how lucky we are. However, there are a lot of people with giving hearts like Chelsea and Kevan who love their babies so much that they want them to live. Hold on to that as you go through the emotions and journey of finding a donor.
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’d like to share with our readers? This journey can be ALL consuming, it’s okay to take a step back sometimes and breathe. Find those that you can lean on, whether it’s someone you know personally or someone you connect with online, and hold on to them. And obviously, the connections you make through the Infertility Instagram world can change your whole life. 🙂
What to contact Chelsea and Kristen? @making_baby_phares or firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or @IVFinTexas