In vitro fertilization (IVF) can seem like a compassionate solution for couples struggling with infertility. As reproductive technologies develop, more people longing to be parents are turning to fertility specialists to help them conceive. However, many couples do not realize that the cost of IVF in human lives can be staggering. One couple shared their devastating IVF journey that resulted in the death of 30 children.
Once the IVF process is over, there can be dozens of babies in the form of frozen embryos “left over.” These “extras” are discarded, kept frozen indefinitely (sometimes with hefty storage fees imposed by the facility), or in rare case adopted by another couple who attempts to carry the embryo to term. This difficult situation in which dozens of offspring are suspended between Life and death can take a great emotional toll on parents. For many reasons, parents cannot attempt to transfer all the embryos and raise them as they deserve; after all, IVF process “surplus” often contains dozens of embryos.
One jewelry company has a disturbing solution to the “leftover” embryos of IVF families. Australian company Baby Bee Hummingbirds advertises that parents can have embryos cremated and incorporated into pieces of jewelry. NewsBusters reported that the company’s website now offers the inclusion of “embryo ash” in jewelry in addition to breastmilk, loved one’s ashes, placenta, and umbilical cord stumps.
The Australian website Kid Spot featured a profile of the company with the story of Belinda and Shaun Stafford. Belinda and Shaun resorted to IVF after struggling with infertility. They now have three children, but could not afford the emotional and financial toll of continued rounds of IVF in the hopes of more children who live to term. Belinda told Kid Spot about the anguish of having “left over” embryos. She said she couldn’t bear the thought of discarding them. Her reason is one any mother can understand. She said, “I needed them with me.” They are, after all, her children.
Belinda described her attachment: “My embryos were my babies – frozen in time.” That is precisely what every frozen embryo is—a son or daughter, suspended in development. When the embryos are destroyed, whether discarded as “medical waste” or formed into jewelry, they are denied the Right to Life. Although Belinda finds great consolation in the heart pendant containing the ashes of the remaining embryos, the embryos were tragically destroyed in the process of making the jewelry.
Couples facing the devastating struggles of infertility deserve more compassionate care. No parents should be left in the difficult situation of deciding what to do with dozens of children frozen as living embryos. Baby Bee Hummingbirds’ embryo ash jewelry is not the solution that many proclaim. The real solution must come in developing reproductive technology that respects preborn children from the moment of conception and respects the parents who must care for their beloved children, no matter how small. The subject is challenging and often emotionally charged. The lives of the preborn demand that we not remain silent.