This list of questions to ponder was submitted by Choice Mom-friendly therapist Gretchen Sewall, who is associated with Seattle Reproductive Medicine, as a kind of thinking guide for couples and individuals who have to decide what to do with frozen embryos in storage. It is her belief that inherent in the creation and possession of an embryo is the obligation of disposition of that embryo. Determining the end result is the right and responsibility of the creator(s).
Her guidepost of questions to ask yourself — if you are in the process of deciding what to do with frozen embryos — has been offered and adapted to the Choice Mom community. And if you are considering using embryo donation as your method to motherhood, this might give you better insight into the kinds of questions the donor might have been asking during the process:
“The fact of the remaining embryos has become complicated because I am now a parent. My child was, at one point, at the same stage as these embryos. Embryo transfer and nine months of gestational care and birth makes the difference. Creating life had been my dream and that dream has come true.
I haven’t forgotten about my embryos. It’s been difficult to decide what to do and where they should go. What is the value or importance of these unique embryos which remain in my name? Are they simply cells, or perhaps potential somebodies? Do I have a responsibility or perhaps obligation to these groups of microscopic cells which are being held, on my behalf, suspended in laboratory straws? My youngest child is now in preschool, and my family is complete. My medical care isn’t finished until these embryos are — somewhere.
My choices are hard to imagine and not ones we could think of before now. Do I grant permission to discard or do I take a leap of faith and gift our embryos to another? Or, is the potential of knowledge gained by research laboratories deserving of these embryos? Does my past struggle with fertility cause me to hover over these tiny embryos as if they are my own private insurance policy?
To be left frozen is not resolution. Questions to ask myself, perhaps with the help of a therapist trained in reproductive medicine:
1. What are the facts and elements we need to address when considering if my family is complete?
2. How long is it reasonable to store my embryos and why?
3. What is the value of keeping the embryos in storage?
4. What have I learned about quantity and quality — the potential of my embryos to create new life?
5. What do these embryos symbolize to me?
6. What does discarding these embryos accomplish? Will it move me into a new life stage and family phase? Could discarding resolve what is emotionally and logistically left unfinished or incomplete?
7. Do I value scientific research and advancement and have a belief in the goal of improving medical practice and human health? Is this a worthwhile use of these cells?
8. Where do embryos go?
9. Can I imagine another couple, woman or family needing the hope of embryos? Could helping others be healing for both families? What is the importance of helping others attain their dream of family life? What are the emotions, the spirit and thoughts that lead to embryo donation?
10. What else have we not yet thought of?
11. A decision means a change in course, which brings new meaning and purpose. How much time should a decision such as this require?
12. Can we accept not knowing everything but trusting we know enough?