I’d never heard the term Snowbabies before, so when I saw it in the title of a news article, I was intrigued to learn more about it. Little did I know that I would be reading about something that is especially close to my heart. You see it turns out that I am a parent of Snowbabies. As the mother of an IVF child, I currently have 3 frozen embryos waiting for me in storage. Or as I lovingly like to call them: “My children in the vault” (This of course needs to be said with the flair and accent of Vincent Price). Sometimes if I’m feeling particularly playful, I’ll throw in a maniacal laugh for good measure. I’ve had people to tell me to “Please stop” when I do that. Clearly I make some people uncomfortable. But in reality, my joking is really to cover the anguish, confusion and guilt that I feel over these little potential humans just sitting in a freezer, waiting to be born.
The article led to the website for 60 Minutes, where the story was linked in two separate videos. The episode was called Family Ties. You can watch part 1 here, and part 2 here. Watching these videos brought up a lot of tough emotions for me, and I have to admit I shed a few tears during this episode. That’s not really unusual. Being a parent, I cry at everything now. EVERYTHING. But never have I watched something with such a profound understanding and sympathy before. For I too suffer from the same dilemma: what do I do with my Snowbabies?
When we first considered IVF there was never really any deep thought into what to do with any leftover embryos. Our end game and absolute focus was just on getting ONE baby. We’d heard so many stories of people who tried round after round with no success, that the idea of achieving a live birth the first time seemed like just a pipe dream. So we were overjoyed to be told that not only had the harvesting and fertilisation been successful, but that we had 3 left over, you know, for later.
And then Stormy came, and he was wonderful and perfect, but a nightmare at the same time. The years passed in a blur, suddenly he’s three and a half, and the thought of having another child is still, to me, a far-off decision. Finding myself and my freedom after such a long time tethered to the house and a child is hard to let go of again, especially when you know what you’re in for the next time round. And yes, I know that every baby is different, perhaps I’ll handle things better next time, it won’t be the same as the first, etc, etc. But the idea that it could be even worse, especially now that I’m older and constantly tired as it is, is a struggle that I’m finding hard to overcome.
In this way I feel selfish. Selfish that I haven’t given my son a sibling. Selfish that I’m letting my little Snowbabies sit on ice, waiting to born, maybe with the possibility of NEVER being born. Selfish knowing that there are so many people out there wanting to have a child and not being able to have them, while I’m hoarding mine over here in the corner hoping no one looks in my direction. Selfish for even thinking that if it comes to it, that I would rather destroy them than give them to another couple.
And that leads me to my biggest guilty hang-up: Not only can I not see these tiny cluster of cells as anything other than a potential human, but that if they were to be born I would always consider them MY children. I wouldn’t be able to just give them away to another couple, just as much as I could never give Stormy away. If I met and stayed in contact with the recipient parents, I couldn’t stand idle by watching them raise what I would consider my child. On the other hand, if I donated them anonymously I would always wonder about the child that I should have had, out there in the world being raised by total strangers. These embryos will one day turn into full blooded siblings of my son. A child of me and my husband. How can I just give that away to another person? The dilemma rages inside me, and I don’t know how to resolve it.
It’s like being stuck in a desert with another person. You’re both thirsty, but I’m less thirsty than my companion because I recently had a drink of water. I’m carrying this big bottle of water in my bag, and my thirsty companion has nothing. But I’m not willing to share my water with the other person, because what if I need the water? And I know I’m not currently using it, because I don’t feel that thirsty yet, but what would happen when I do become thirsty? Then where would I be? Without my water. And even though I haven’t made the decision yet to drink it, I still might. I’m still considering drinking it, just not yet. Then we finally get to the end of the desert, I haven’t used my water at all nor given it to my companion, and in the end decided to just pour it out on the ground.
I discussed my feelings with a friend, using this analogy. She did make me feel better when she exclaimed “Yeah, but we’re not talking about water, we’re talking about giving away your children!” I suppose never having children isn’t really equivalent to dying of thirst in the desert. Though some may disagree.
Some may think that I never stopped to consider the moral implications. And perhaps they’d be right. I was just so damned focused on getting pregnant that consequences be damned. And no, I shouldn’t consider them consequences. Yet I can’t help but see them that way. People may say that if I believe in pro-choice, then why does this have to be a difficult decision. Why can’t I simply look at them as a cluster of cells, and not as a real, live, living baby. Here’s the thing about supporting pro-choice. That’s exactly it: you support the right to CHOOSE. You can support women by fighting for their right to safe and legal abortions. It does not automatically mean that you would want to get one yourself. If I ever found myself in a situation where I would have to consider one, for me it would likely be a horrible and agonising decision. And as the time draws nearer for me to make a decision on what to do with my embryos, my Snowbabies, I feel more and more cornered into the choices I’m going to have to make. Because even though I would really like to have at least one more child, I absolutely do NOT want FOUR children. No. Nope. Nada. Nein. Not happening. Yet what choice does that leave me? Give them away? Or destroy them? The choice is mine. And I’m not ready to choose.