What to do with your embryos when your family is complete?

It has recently occurred to me that when I was starting down the path of IVF infertility treatment we don’t talk about what happens to our embryos we do not transfer. Our embryos that are frozen in time.

Of course, it is natural, I focused on the now, I didn’t think too far ahead. We focused on surviving day by day, battling our infertility. But along the way I simply put to the back of my mind the hard decisions we would have to make once our family was complete and we still have embryos left in the freezer.

Chris and I had one frozen embryo left from our first cycle of IVF. We thought of it as our insurance policy. Maybe we would try for a second baby. It was a small comfort knowing I wouldn’t have to go through the egg retrieval process again if we wanted to try after we exhausted our IVF insurance. Maybe we would decide our family was complete after our first baby.

My daughter Aviana arrived in our lives in 2016 after our third cycle of IVF. Chris was pretty sure he was ‘One and Done’ not so long after Aviana was born. I was not so sure. I was ‘on the fence’. Somehow my brain forgot about the stresses, pain and anxiety of IVF. I cried A LOT in the shower at the prospect of being one and done and grieved the idea of not having another baby again. But we did agree to keep our one embryo frozen just in case Chris passed away suddenly so I could still have the choice. He was fine with that situation.

Over time I started to feel that maybe I could also embrace being one and done and be happy with our choice. There were a lot of pros despite the cons!

I’ll share my Pros:

  • No stress of infertility treatment
  • No stress of pregnancy
  • No child birth pain
  • No more baby stuff (Babies are cute but toddler age + are way more fun and cuter)
  • No more day care/nursery costs
  • Cheaper holidays and easier to travel
  • No sibling fights

Then in 2020 we were forced to make a decision with what to do with our last frozen embryo. We were leaving the USA to go back to Europe. It was crunch time.

Now here is the part people don’t talk about. What do you do with your embryos when your family is complete? They list the options when you prepare for IVF, but you don’t think about it at the time. We had only one embryo frozen. Many other people could have more than one at the end…maybe even several or a dozen!

Our options were:

  • Compassionate transfer
  • Donation to another family
  • Donation to science
  • Destroy them

We investigated donation. We considered giving to someone we knew from our infertility group. We also considered anonymous donation. But either option for donation ended up feeling like giving a baby up for adoption. Having a sibling to Aviana somewhere in the world was hard to get my head around. But equally I wanted to give the chance for another family to experience what we have – an amazing child. Why should we waste that opportunity to give the embryo to someone in need? I felt like my head was running up and down mountains and around and around in circles.

It was difficult to make a decision, there was also a lot of fog. But suddenly we had the metaphorical ‘gun to our heads’. We had to decide before leaving the USA what to do with our embryo. It didn’t help that it was the beginning of the Covid pandemic. I felt somewhat isolated from friends and unsupported by the infertility clinic in our choices.

Eventually we decided to donate our embryo to science. It seemed somewhat better than discarding. Compassionate transfer was not possible due to Covid and to be honest a little bit odd for me personally. I was done with doctors offices.

I hope our little huckleberry’s twin supported some advances in wider embryo related research at the Jones Institute (although sadly it is no longer known as the Jones Institute and we do not know what happened after it was taken over by Shady grove.).

Once we signed the paperwork to release our embryo, I was very sad. I was angry too. Angry at infertility. I probably needed counseling to get me through that time but it was swallowed up with also the pandemic and moving countries. I regret not doing counseling for both Chris and I, together and individually. Luckily we have a strong relationship to fight through some of communication challenges we had, but I think we could have used some help. It really was not easy and we definitely had heated and emotional arguments. In my opinion, this should be automatically offered by the infertility clinic as a standard service.

So, if you have to make a decision about what to do with your embryos once your journey to build a family comes to an end. Take my one and only piece of advice, don’t be afraid to ask for counseling through the decision and don’t feel the pressure from others. It’s your decision together and yours only.


I am 1 in 8 speech

For my first international toastmasters speech which is known as ‘The icebreaker speech’ I decided to talk about my infertility. I thought I’d go big or go home! Talking about infertility to a bunch of work colleagues and a few strangers is nerve wracking!! This speech is the first of many I must give to gain my ‘competent communicator’ award. The idea is that the icebreaker speech is 4-5 minutes long and aims to ‘break the ice’ by talking a little bit about yourself as an introduction to your fellow toastmasters club members. Talking about infertility seemed like a bold challenge. 

It was hard to focus a speech that is only 5 minutes long to what has been a challenging part of my life. But in the end here is what I said…

“Ladies & Gentlemen, let me ‘break the ice’!! Let me take you back in time to when I was 9 in a leafy suburb playground of London. I was a bit of a Tom boy. I liked cars and transformers, so whenever I played with the boys, the girls would taunt me with the school playground rhyme…

“Dani & Chris, sitting in a tree


First comes love,

Then comes marriage,

Then comes the baby in the baby carriage”

Well ladies and gentlemen, that nursery rhyme isn’t quite so simple as it sounds after all. Because I am 1 in 8. I am 1 in 8 who suffers from the disease that is infertility. A baby in the baby carriage is not always what comes next.

Let me introduce you to Chris, my husband of 5 years….

Here he is winning the District 66 toastmasters humorous speech competition. You can see I have some competition!!!

4 and half years ago we moved to the US to work here. And it was at that point all our friends and family asked us….’so…when are you going to have a baby??!!’ Little did they know that we were trying but not succeeding. After many tests, thr doctors couldn’t tell us why we couldn’t have a baby. We were diagnosed as unexplained. So we tried InVitro Fertilisation or IVF.

Our first round of treatment we created these beautiful embryos…

We named them huckleberry and huckleberina because they looked like raspberries. Just 8 cells smaller than 0.1mm. One decided to stick around and I got pregnant!!! We were so happy! Until we discovered that it had implanted in the wrong place, the pregnancy was ectopic and so we sadly had to terminate the pregnancy as it threatened my life. 

We were devastated. We had to wait a while to try again.

Second time we created these 5 day old blastocysts. At first we didn’t name them because it was too painful. But in the end we did nickname them Petrie and Spike.

But it didn’t work. I didn’t get pregnant. It was very stressful and even Chris didn’t want to try again so soon. But we decided to try again. Third time lucky they say?!? This time we created thee 5 day old blastocysts – and as you can see we got a better photo of them  third time around!

And it worked!!! Today we have our beautiful daughter Aviana who is now 6 months old.

We are the lucky ones. Not everyone of the 1 in 8 gets to take a baby home in the baby carriage. It was a hard journey and involved hundreds of injections and there were many tears. People ask me now that I have a baby when will number two come along, or will we have another baby? But I tell them it’s not quite so simple as that. It’s hard. I wanted to share this with you today as my icebreaker because this is a subject deep to my heart and I hope you have learned something interesting about me today.

Ladies and Gentelemen, Thank you.”

I really enjoyed giving this icebreaker speech. It probably wasn’t what people would have expected as a first time topic. I got a great response from the audience. There was actually someone in the audience who was going through IVF themselves and have done two cycles at the same clinic as we used. They were about to decide whether or not to go for a third cycle and whether to stay with the same doctor. I offered details of our local infertility support group. It was obvious it was meant to be that I talked about this topic for my icebreaker. 

Infertility leaves a scar. I am grateful we were the lucky ones, but it doesn’t suddenly disappear from your heart when you have a baby. For me, continuing to talk about it and spread awareness helps the healing.

Buying a house or building a family? Infertility is expensive!

Today I thought about how lucky I am. I thought about the house we bought last year and how we were financially able to buy the house we wanted. We had been saving the cash for a rainy day for a few years, and a house seemed like a good rainy day investment. But ever since we were diagnosed as infertile we decided that we would probably need to keep that money for future treatments or possible adoption costs instead of a house. We saved that money to spend on growing our family to three. 

Luckily we didn’t need to use that rainy day money. Luckily my insurance covered the three IUIs, various diagnostic tests, surgery, and three IVFs. Luckily the third IVF worked. 

I am lucky. But I shouldn’t have to be lucky, it should be the norm to have infertility diagnostic tests and treatment covered by insurance policies. Being infertile is not a choice. It’s a disease. 

What I can’t get my head round is that companies who DO have coverage for infertility treatment don’t want to talk about it. I was shocked to read that when Resolve wanted to give an award to a fertility friendly company at their annual gala, the charity was turned down by eight different companies-they didn’t want to make it public. How can this be??? Infertility coverage is an amazing benefit and yet these companies didn’t want to celebrate the good they were doing for their employees. We have so far to go in making infertility coverage the norm. 

I am lucky because I got my rainbow baby AND a house. Many people I have met through the IF blogging world don’t get to have both. And sadly, there are even some who don’t get either and walk away with nothing or worse, a huge debt hanging over them.

I haven’t forgotten and I’m not going to forget how lucky I am to have the benefits I have through my work. I won’t stop advocating until infertility coverage becomes the norm.

Does your company include coverage for infertility treatment? If it doesn’t you can write a letter to your HR using a template that Resolve have put together to request coverage…


The final countdown

PC diary @ 34w 0d

Just 6 more weeks ’til R-Day, so that’s just 2 more weeks ’til maternity leave (technically only 1 week in the office because I’m on leave this week for thanksgiving!) Last week I was feeling a bit anxious and pressured to get a lot of things done at work before I head off to maternity leave, it was making me a little grumpy and emotional (sorry Chris!!!). But now that week is over, I’m starting to look forward to the prospect of not having to think about work for a few months, things are starting to feel more real. 

I’ve had incredible support and kind words from colleagues and friends the past few weeks, excited for Rocky’s arrival, and that has been very helpful in easing my anxieties.

I am done with all the travelling now-the only place I’m planning on being for the next few months is Virginia 😊 The worst part of travelling in the third trimester has been the variety of uncomfortable hotel beds and showers/baths (getting in and out of them!!!). I am also relieved to not be travelling because now if anything happens and I go into labour early Chris won’t be far away. I had terrible nightmares of going into labour having to go to a hospital where I didn’t speak the language fluently! But that’s all behind us now thankfully.

I have been a week behind in my OB checkups because of my travels – but generally everything is on track. I actually lost 2lbs this week despite eating out every night for a week. The OB asked me what I thought was going on…but I’ve been eating appropriately, in fact eating a lot! So I was perplexed too as to why I had lost the weight, but over the past few days I put it back on again. So bizarre. Overall to date I have put on just 10.5lbs (although this is based on my IVF round 3 weight, so before all the IVF treatments I’ve technically put on 14lbs – who knows!), the doctor isn’t concerned as long as I’m eating well and not puking, I (or Rocky!) just have a fast metabolism.

My anemia has been slowly progressing back to normal levels. I had a blood test for health insurance purposes 2 weeks ago and they came back slightly anemic still, but this week my blood test results showed borderline pass! Phew! Looks like the iron supplements might be starting to work 😊

I have a very sore belly button and the skin around it is very tender. Not really sure what to do about it other than make sure clothes don’t rub against it. Which is challenging at 34 weeks!!!

Poor sore belly button 😦

This week I am FINALLY meeting with my two potential birth doulas – we will make a decision after our hour long session whether to go with this group of ladies. It’s funny because it turns out one of them is Chris’s Chiropracter’s wife (we didn’t know until after arranging the appointment!). We meet two because they rotate on call with each other, so depending on the time I go into labour depends on which one we get. We are also probably going to use the same group of women for post partum doula support too. They do overnight stays too if we needed it. More on that next week 😊

Last weekend we went on our maternity photo shoot at First Landing State Park – the weather was incredible as the sunset and the colours of the leaves were brilliant. I can’t wait to see how they come out! The photographer kept saying how small my bump was, but really most photographers suggest doing a shoot between 30-34 weeks and I was 33 weeks…we took a shot of us on the beach on a rug with my laying down in Chris’s lap, she said she could barely see my bump, so I tried various ways to raise my pelvis to make it stick out -haha! The photos should be ready by the end of this week 😊 So glad we decided to do them!

On location for our maternity photo shoot

An impromptu speech

​On the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, a group of people gather for an hour at lunchtime to practice public speaking.  The group of co-workers are members of Toastmasters and each time they meet two or three members give a short speach on a topic of their choosing. The goal is to improve public speaking skills, and in the course of learning and practicing the group hears an incredible array of stories and facts from each other. 

This week was my turn to speak. I had a topic planned, a humorous speech I’d given at a contest three days earlier. The contest had been a challenge, it had been terrifying and it had been thrilling. Standing in front of a room to be judged on being funny is not easy. The experience showed me that being outside my comfort zone is a good thing and so on Monday night I changed the topic of my speech. I wanted to once again go beyond my comfort zone. With an hour of drafting and pulling some pictures together before going to bed I crafted my new speech. A speech on a topic that puts me outside my comfort zone. A speech to my co-workers about the challenges of IVF. 

Speaking in front of a group of relative strangers on this most personal of topics was scary. Looking back at the film I realise that my defense mechanism for fear is to smile. That explains some of the unusually times smiles or laughs in the speech. This is my speech, this is a glimpse into my experience of our IVF journey.

4 weeks of needless worrying?

Pudding Club Diary @ 24 Weeks 2 Days

Today I went for my follow up ultrasound after Rocky’s bowel appeared to be ‘echogenic’ at our 20 week scan, and again it had shown up as ‘echogenic’ at the echo cardiogram at 22 weeks.  It was a relatively quick scan, Rocky was moving around a lot as usual, but the technician was able to get all the measurements needed quickly.  Rocky is on track for her growth and now weighs a grand total of 1lb 6oz!  At 20 weeks she was just 11oz.  Hew bowel was still echogenic but the technician said she didn’t think it was very bright.  And yes, Rocky is still a girl!  The technician showed us her lady parts, but I said I believe you if you say so, to me it looked like a blob of grey nothing much on the screen!!!

After the ultrasound I took the lovely glucose challenge test.  This test provides an indicator of Gestational Diabetes.  This test is apparently slightly different to how the UK does it.  I did not need to fast for this test. I  was given a small bottle of very sweet liquid to drink;  as I was reaching the end of the bottle the drink was making me feel slightly sick.  Bleugh.  The drink itself didn’t taste bad (I had the orange flavour – I could choose between orange and fruit punch!). 1 hour later I had my blood drawn which will be sent off to see what my glucose levels are at.  When the phlebotomist took my blood she noticed I was looking a bit different – the drink had made me feel a bit light headed!  She asked if I had eaten something (which I had) and offered me a snack before I left!  Depending on the results of this blood test will depend on whether I need to take the next type test which is the glucose tolerance test which requires fasting and testing over three hours.  Apparently that is what is ordinarily tested in the UK first?  I think my OB told me this because she used to live and work in Ireland and knows we are Brit expats.

Meanwhile, whilst waiting the hour to finish the glucose challenge test we met with the OB and she told us everything was looking wonderful with Rocky.  Phew!  We went over some housekeeping matters, such as completing a pre-registration form for the hospital, pediatricians and birthing classes.  I also had to sign a form that said we would not video record any part of the birth.  Well I wasn’t really planning on doing that anyway!!! Then she told us that even the echogenic bowel wasn’t looking bright anymore.  For some reason she decided to tell us that after we left 4 weeks ago she looked at the scan again a second time and thought perhaps it wasn’t as bright as she first thought.  And now she tells us!!  Could have saved us 4 weeks of worry! Sigh…..well, better to be safe than sorry I guess! But really???!!!?

Let’s hope the good news continues with the results of my glucose challenge test in a few days! Fingers crossed!

What it feels like to have a little human growing inside you

***TRIGGER WARNING*** If you have struggled with carrying a child or you are not in a good place with your journey to grow your family, I want to warn you that I am going to write some things that may be a trigger for you. 

I write this trigger warning because I am friends with women who will never be able to experience the feeling of a human growing inside them. I also know there are many of you who have supported me through this journey who have experienced loss and greatly fear your bodies will never be able to carry a child. I have heard your pain and sadness, I have felt it with you. I truly have. As I write this trigger warning I am reminded of an awkward situation I found myself in recently…

My local infertility support group had a bbq party for all its members. Every oneof us have struggled with the disease that is infertility. Not one of our stories or journeys to grow our families are exactly the same. We are all unique in that way. And yet still within this group of strong women, I observed insensitivities. We were warned that everyone in the support group was invited so therefore there would be babies, children and pregnant women (me) coming. I met lots of new IF-ers. It was cool to talk about and hear others incredible stories to become parents.  I was talking to two ladies one who had a newborn, the other a toddler. The lady with the toddler had adopted her son as a baby. Now it wasn’t immediately apparent he was adopted but he was mixed race and the parents were both white…so I figured before even opening my mouth that this couple had a different story to tell about their path to parenthood. We talked about how her son came into their lives and the matching process, I asked her a question ‘so, was it a complete surprise to you?’ (We were just talking about THAT phone call you get confirming a match with the agency). And for some complete unknown reason to me, perhaps it was my bump on show, the other lady jumped in with her birthing story being a surprise. 

I cringed. I looked at the poor girl who had been cut off mid story having to listen to a personal birthing story with disbelief. I looked around and wondered if it was just me who was sensitive to this awkward situation. I mean, I know that not all adoptive parents are infertile, but we were at an INFERTILITY support group for gees sake. It is unlikely this woman would ever get to experience her own birthing story. And it wasn’t the only time the thoughtless comments came out. When we left the party Chris and I both commented on how we both quietly thought ‘WTF? What planet are you on woman?’.

Ok so what’s the point of my randomly long winded story? My point is that my eyes have been opened on this journey to the fact that not everyone can experience what I have felt the past 15 weeks and the next 20 or so. And so I count my blessings every single day for this amazing little human actually growing inside me. I have cried at the thought that some of my friends will never have the opportunity to experience this. 

I have also cried for myself. How close I was to not experiencing pregnancy. We were literally at the end of our options, the last chance saloon in getting into the pudding club. We had started talking about the next step being adoption. I wasn’t worried, this made me happy that I knew we would be parents some how. But thinking about that point in our journey now is difficult to look back on. I cry tears of relief. Like the tears I had after I survived the terrorist attacks, they were a mix of tears of fear but relief. Relief to be alive. I am crying tears of relief to be pregnant. 

The past week and a half I have felt Rocky move around inside me. I’ve felt her prod, poke or kick – I don’t know what she is doing because I can’t see her, but I feel her. I’ve felt Rocky respond to the outside environment and to the world I’m living in and my inner emotions.

When the fire alarm went off in our house the other night, she wriggled and wriggled…I’m not sure if it was the noise or the fact that my heart was racing from the situation that made her move so much. But I felt like I had a washing machine thing going on in my tummy.

After I eat sweets, she moves around…perhaps I made her hyper  with the sugar 😳. 

when I cry, she jolts around as if to say ‘hey, mum, I’m trying to get some sleep down here, quit the bawling!’.

I didn’t know pregnancy would be like this. From a few tiny cells we couldn’t see, with the help of some specialist doctors, this is what we created and have grown. And we haven’t even really met her. I couldn’t be more grateful for Rocky, fighting to be the one who will make us proud parents, thankful I get to know her in a way I never realised until now that I will always treasure. 

In the IF community we complain about the super fertile who get pregnant at the sight of some sperm, they don’t realise how lucky they are. And then there are people like me, people who do manage to eventually get pregnant and don’t appreciate quite how lucky they are to be able to experience a little human growing inside them.

It’s a…..

The Pudding Club Diary @ 17w2d (26 July 2016)

I could have easily waited until D-day to know the gender of Rocky, but Chris wanted to know before then.  So I thought it would be mean to make him wait just because I would like the surprise.  Plus it would be awkward if one of us knew and the other didn’t.  It would accidentally slip out and then I’d be upset.  One of the reasons I could easily wait is because there is a chance that they get it wrong! But there is something to be said in being prepared.  After all, the shops are mostly geared toward either baby girl or boy clothes.   So we planned to do a gender reveal at our housewarming party.  But the plans to arrange the cake and the housewarming for the same day proved challenging, so we eventually decided to find out the gender quietly on our own.

At my 17 week OB appointment we asked the doctor to tell us the gender discovered from the Non Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) I took at 13 weeks.  For three weeks we had the ability to find out the gender, but we waited for the right time.  The doctor said she would put gender in an envelope for us to take home and open later at a more private moment – that was very thoughtful of her.

We waited a whole 15 minutes after getting home before opening the envelope.  I was actually quite excited about opening it in the end….

…..the piece of paper said “It’s a girl!!!!”

It was a slightly strange moment because of course we would be thrilled with a girl or a boy!  For me, it wasn’t a surprise.  I had a very vivid dream at around implantation that Rocky was a girl, and had many dreams about having a girl since then.  I didn’t think that my dreams were just because I really wanted/not wanted a girl, rather they felt more real.  So finding out Rocky is a girl didn’t surprise me…in a different way, Chris seemed a lot less ambivalent at the news than I expected him to be.   So it was a strangely less fanfared moment than we expected and it is difficult to explain why. Perhaps it’s because there is so much attention paid to this moment we expected more, perhaps it’s because we didn’t open it in front of friends and family – there just seems to be a lot of hype about this moment – but actually we are just thrilled to be having a baby – girl or boy!!!

This seemed like a good moment to announce our pregnancy.  Probably 95% of our friends and family already knew our we were pregnant, but none knew the gender!  So we announced it with the help of our kitty Diesel…..

 Chris keeps saying ‘Girls are trouble!’…I have a sneaky feeling she will have him wrapped around her little finger 😊 

We do have some names picked out, we still have a bit of filtering out to do, but we will ultimately choose the exact name on D-day. So for now, Rocky remains her nickname. Our little fighter.


Things not to google…pre term labour & IVF

I have a long list of things I should never have googled whilst on this great pudding club hunt. And there are equally as many things not to google whilst in the pudding club, especially on your Friday lunch break…one being ‘pre-term labour IVF’. 

Like many IVF related research, the evidence is unclear or poor. But generally, there is a theory that IVF babies are more likely to go into pre term labour. Now how much more likely, I dont know. 

I don’t want to worry myself about this stuff because really, it is still very unlikely. But today I caught myself feeling anxious about what I was reading. Some of my anxiety is caused by my lack of weight gain. What if I am not eating enough? What if my baby isn’t growing enough?  Am I risking my baby’s life? Although the doctor told me earlier this week at my routine check up, as long as I AM actually eating and not puking, then we won’t worry about it until my 20 week scan when in 2.5 weeks time to see how much Rocky had grown. Every morning I get on the scales and I am not getting heavier…just the normal fluctuations I have always had.  

Understanding my concerns about this Chris reminded me to finish my plate of food last night… But I just couldn’t eat anymore of it! So I need to tell myself to listen to the doctor and stop worrying about it for now. 

Easier said than done!
And another thing I quickly wanted to mention as I was stupidly googling things I shouldn’t….. is how I noted the lack of research studies that separate out IVF and ICSI patients. Apart from my post on my Brussels experience, my top post that gets hits consistently is the one about the ethics of ICSI. It doesn’t surprise me because I discovered very little about ICSI and hence why I wrote about it. I mean, there is definitely something very unnatural about one sperm being selected by a doctor rather than ‘natural selection’ (nothing natural about IVF though either!) There has to be implications of this human intervention???!