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My Mama Moral Dilemma

Elaine Kessler Photography

My OB asked me if I was done having kids after the one I'm about to have, my second. Knowing it took us two years to conceive this time, he cautioned: “A lot of women like you—who’ve been through IVF—find themselves pregnant again when they least expect it. Have you thought about birth control, or tying your tubes while you’re having a C-section?”

I hadn’t thought about tying my tubes, not even for a second. But he raises a good point. The thought of not needing birth control, and never having to worry about an unexpected pregnancy at my age, is tempting. But tying my tubes seems so final, doesn’t it? My husband and I have always said we wanted three kids, but when infertility took over our lives two years ago, it obviously wasn’t our focus anymore. Frankly, I’m not sure where we stand on it now.

I turned 39 this year, so the idea of having more kids at this point—when I’m 40 or older—seems pretty unlikely. But we’re not totally ruling it out. And the real reason I’m even considering tying my tubes is because, if you recall, I still have quite a few frozen embryos from my one and only IVF cycle in September of 2011.

Plus: Weird Stuff Happens To Your Pregnant Body

I had produced 14 embryos—four of which we tried implanting over a one-year span, unsuccessfully. Then I finally decided to have the remaining 10 tested for chromosomal abnormalities (through PGD testing), and found that three of those 10 weren’t viable and would never have resulted in a pregnancy or birth. But seven of those 10—seven!—were great quality, 5-day embryos. So we decided to implant one last September and—voila—here I am, due in nearly three weeks.

So that leaves six good embryos that I need to figure out what to do with, as totally strange and screwed up as that sounds. We always said we’d donate any remaining embryos to science for research, to help other men and women going through infertility, which is what I intend to do—but I’m not ready to make that decision yet. So until then, I’m paying $850 a year to keep them stored at my embryologist’s lab 30 minutes away. It’s weird to think about it, and I know everyone has their opinions about this, but please know this isn’t something I take lightly.

My OB raised another interesting question. Do I have my tubes tied while I’m having a C-section, eliminating the need to ever go back for another procedure or worry about birth control, but give up any chances of ever conceiving again naturally? If I want a third child, I’ll have to turn to those frozen embryos—yep, I can still have another frozen embryo transfer and get pregnant. And here’s the even better news: Those embryos belong to my 37-year-old self and have already been tested for everything, reducing a lot of the risks and fears that come with being of advanced maternal age. They’re 37; I’m 39 (or, simply, “old” as my son likes to say). Wouldn’t you rather use 37-year-old frozen 5-day embryos than those belonging to a 40-year-old?

Seems like a no-brainer, right? The more I talk it out, the more I’m pretty sure this is what I should do, but it’s still a hard decision for me. Here’s why: Even though a frozen embryo transfer is easier than a full IVF cycle, I still got very sick on the meds and had a difficult time with the progesterone shots the size of pencils I took for two months (I still have numbness on my right buttocks). Bottom line, it’s not a pleasant thing to put yourself through, and I’ve already been through a lot.

Plus: My Birth Plan

It takes a big toll on you and your family, and my family is about to get even bigger. Sometimes I look back on the last two years—what I remember of it—and cannot believe how I got through it, especially considering everything else I was going through at the time (lost a job I loved and had for 10 years; started a new career; my husband also sold two of his businesses, and decided to change careers). Going through infertility in the midst of all this madness and uncertainty in our lives was masochistic!

But the questions remain: Will I be ready to go through this again in a year? Also, there’s obviously no guarantee with a frozen embryo transfer. While I’ve eliminated a lot of risks and concerns with the additional testing, ya never know if it’ll take.

Then, of course, there’s still the open question: Will I even want a third child?  

But the bigger moral dilemma here is obviously the fact that I have so many good embryos left—more than I’ll ever need in this lifetime probably. It’s a tough thing to reconcile… I never set out to produce this many obviously (in fact, I suffered from Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome when I had my egg retrieval), but as any infertility patient knows, that’s a risk you sign up for when going through IVF.

Plus: The Sibling Age Gap

It’s overwhelming to think about, but not necessarily a bad problem to have. The moral issue for me is that I don’t like the control I seem to have over this. Tying my tubes eliminates anything happening by chance; but considering I have a better, more risk-free option, why would I not take advantage of it and use one of the remaining embryos I have left?

I’m having my second child soon so I know I made the right decision in my journey to conceive, and I have to trust that whatever choice I make from this point forward will be the right one for our family. I have to believe that.

Would you consider tying your tubes in my circumstances? Did you? Have you ever regretted it?