A Goodbye Letter to My Embryos (by Jamie Sumner)

jamie sumner goodbye embryos ivf egg freezing

At pregnantish, we’ve featured Jamie Sumner, “The Mom Gene” blogger and the author of the upcoming book, “Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood.” Sumner is an “IVF” mother of a son with cerebral palsy and twins. She writes about infertility with candor and humor, and recently submitted this ‘goodbye’ letter to the embyros that she and her partner are donating to another family. Here’s her letter:

Dear Little Ones,

I need to say something I never thought I would say. Your dad and I have to tell you goodbye. After seven years of tucking you safely away while we took your brothers and sisters, two by two, out of their sleepy cryostasis, we have to let you go. I’m sorry you never got your turn with us.

It’s not how we imagined our lives, or yours, after fighting so hard to get you. Did you know that after trying to get pregnant for two years, you came all at once, in one big batch of nine, like a litter, on our first round of IVF? That makes it sound easier than it was. I ended up really sick and in the hospital for days after you were hatched. It seems my body was not ready to let you go.

But later, when I was healed, we did take two of you, and no, before you ask, we did not pick. Trust me, we have no favorites here. You were all grade-A to us. And that’s how we got your oldest brother. But he was born very early and with very special needs. That’s why he came home with a tracheotomy and that suction machine that sounded like a lawn mower. But he grew out of it in time and now cruises around in his wheelchair like a champ.

My last three embryos. I do not know if you are boys or girls. I do not know if you have blue eyes like mine or brown like your dad’s. I hope you have my hairline, but get a pass on my neuroses. I hope you know that we love you so much and it hurts our hearts more than a little to give you up…That’s why it took us so long to be ready for more. We wanted to make sure your big brother was safe and healthy and happy. And he is, which is how, after a transfer of two that didn’t work, we got the twins. They would like me to tell you hi. They say they wish they could meet you in person. I hope to tell them all about you when they are a little older. Four is a hard age to explain our version of baby-making.

And now I come to you, my last three embryos. I do not know if you are boys or girls. I do not know if you have blue eyes like mine or brown like your dad’s. I hope you have my hairline, but get a pass on my neuroses. I hope you know that we love you so much and it hurts our hearts more than a little to give you up for adoption.

The thing is, your brothers and sister all came so very early—just a toe in the water of the third trimester. I don’t want anything to happen to you. I want you to get the best chance you can. I don’t want you to log time under the disco lights and alarms of the NICU. I’m still trying to keep you safe, even if it doesn’t feel like it. But I hope it does. I hope your new parents love you with all their hearts as we would. I know they will. I know that if they went to all the trouble to adopt all of you that they really, really wanted to be parents, and not parents to anybody, but parents to you.

I will always look for you on the playground and the school hallways on Parent Night. I will do the math and if I see a dimple like mine I will wonder. If I see a little girl writing with her left-hand on the sidewalk in chalk five years down the line, I will have to stop myself from asking who her parents are. Will they tell you of us, me and your dad, who, if you need a little distance, we can just call your donors? I guess that’s what we will be now once we sign those papers. How can parenthood be such a happy and hard thing even to the ones we never see?

When we found out I was pregnant with your oldest brother, we played Ray Charles on repeat: “Sunshine, you are my sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray.” But there is another verse, more appropriate, when I think of you: “The other night dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms. When I awoke dear, I was mistaken, and I held my head and I cried.” I will cry over you. But I will also wish you well and pray for you every single day. You are all my sunshines.

With love, your mom


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