A couple recently profiled by The New York Times shared the heartbreaking story about how an accident at the hospital resulted in the loss of two embryos belonging to a couple. The story highlights the importance of preborn life to couples going through the infertility process, and the life-affirming option of embryo adoption.
Dr. Elaine Meyer and Dr. Barry Prizant struggled with infertility, a painful and deeply emotional issue that affects about 12% of American women and couples. Through the IVF process the couple was finally able to have a son. At the time, they still had leftover embryos that they tried to implant, without success.
Barry shared that the constant fertility treatments were emotionally exhausting, arguing that the process “sets you in a constant state of grief.”
After the couple was unable to become pregnant again through their remaining embryos, they went about their lives—but received quite a shock when the hospital that implanted their embryos sent them a letter stating that they had two remaining and they would have to pay $500 to continue storing them or the hospital would destroy them.
“I thought, ‘This can’t be right,’” Elaine said. “We know we went back for all of our embryos.”
The couple had a deep, deep attachment to their embryonic children, who Elaine called “a spark of light.” Elaine told The Times that she would “drive out of her way to pass by the hospital, stopping in the parking lot to sing lullabies to them while in her car.”
She said, “We were always coming back for our embryos. That was the plan.”
But somehow two of their embryos accidentally fell into the bottom of the storage tank and the vial containing them developed a crack. Those little “sparks of light” were not discovered until the storage tank was cleaned and were likely exposed to the nitrogen cooling agent for about a decade. The embryos were likely no longer viable.
As the hospital explains it, when they found the vials in 2010, they put the embryos back into inventory, not even thinking to reach out to the couple and see what they wanted to do. In 2017, the hospital then instituted a storage policy, which is why the couple suddenly received a bill.
“As parents who cherished children, we would NOT have forgotten that our embryos were missing,” the couple wrote in a letter to the hospital as tensions mounted over how the situation was handled. “We would not have rested until they were found and cared for.”
According to The Times, Elaine and Barry saw each of their embryos as “potential human beings: children, her and her husband’s children.”
“I would not be true to myself if I let this be swept under the rug,” Elaine said. “It is our job as parents to give our children, and in this case embryos, every opportunity for life and for dignity. We were denied our right to fulfill our role as parents.”
The couple has sued the hospital, though apparently the case was dismissed, and they will most likely bury the embryos in their backyard with her mother’s ashes and the remains of the family dog.
In a secular and progressive publication like The New York Times, it was encouraging to see the newspaper inadvertently recognize the importance of life at every stage—but it also missed highlighting something incredibly important: embryo adoption.
There are roughly 400,000 embryos in storage waiting for implantation across the country, but if more hospitals and fertility clinics are going to start charging families for storage it could mean that tens of thousands of embryos are destroyed or donated to labs for research purposes just to avoid the fees.
Embryo adoption gives these children a second chance at life by allowing another couple to adopt them and complete their dream family. It’s a life-affirming choice, and one that has resulted in the birth of hundreds if not thousands of children, including one child that was born 27 years after initially being frozen.
John and Marlene Strege know the struggle of infertility and the joy of embryo adoption. The couple, who published a book last year entitled A Snowflake Named Hannah, shared some thoughts with The Daily Citizen about this moving story.
Marlene said, “As a couple that has been through the infertility process, we can identify with the couple in this article. The ups and downs of the treatment process, the invasion of privacy, the grief of losing children in their embryonic stage of development and the sheer joy of becoming parents to a beautiful child. We were heartbroken to hear that this family is choosing to thaw and bury their two remaining children. Maybe they’re not aware of a wonderful option for them, one we chose, resulting in daughter Hannah — embryo adoption through Snowflakes Embryo Adoption, one of Nightlight Christian Adoptions adoption programs.
“Couples unable to parent their remaining frozen embryos are matched with couples that yearn for children and have completed all the adoption criteria in their state. This couple would be able to choose the adoptive family and enjoy an open adoption with the family if they choose that is best for them. But most of all those two little boys or girls would have an opportunity to fulfill their gift of life. Choosing life is always the best option. Hoping and praying this couple will come to agree.”
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