I Was Afraid You Wouldn’t Understand {Grieving Lost Embryos}

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“So, how many children do you have?”

Immediately I looked down as a lump began to form in my throat and tears slowly filled my eyes. I debated on whether I should give you the answer on my heart or the one I had rehearsed. But when I wiped away a tear that had sneaked its way down my face, I noticed you were starting to fidget and shift in your seat. I could sense you scrambling to excuse yourself from the conversation and I knew at that moment you weren’t ready for my answer.

At least not the one on my heart.

And so instead I flashed you a smile to let you know it was okay, and then I gave you the answer I had rehearsed. But it’s not because I didn’t want to talk about them or the incredible imprint they have left on my heart. And it is not because I am ashamed of my story, but simply because I was afraid…

I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to understand that those eight precious embryos that were lost in a lab and the two that survived only a short time in my womb meant the world to me. They were the beautiful combination of me and my husband’s genes created in love and hope… they were our ten beautiful children…

I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to understand that those “dots”, tiny as they were, were just as precious in my sight and in God’s sight as any other beautiful baby born to full term.

I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to understand that even though they were only five days past conception, God had already picked their hair textures, given them their eye colors, and branded them with unique personalities –all of which I often catch myself wondering about.

I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to understand that despite never hearing their heartbeat or feeling them kick, toss, or twirl inside of me, I had already developed an unbreakable bond.  And I had already dreamed a million dreams for their lives and pictured a thousand moments they would live to remember…

I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to understand the guilt I so often feel and painfully carry around, because if it were not for me and my decision to pursue in vitro fertilization, this wouldn’t have happened to them. And it hurts…

I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to understand that my ten embryos, as “early in the game” as they might have been, were boys who would have fished with their daddy and little girls who would have one day held his finger as they twirled around in their pink ruffled dresses. And had each of them survived, they would have grown up to be someone’s best friend, perhaps lead a lost soul to Christ, or maybe even become the president…

I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to understand the grief spasm I might have if I do mention them to you. It’s nothing scary; just a few moments, maybe minutes, where I start to cry because I begin to replay my darkest days. And I begin to think about how it’s been four tiring years and I still long for a baby to be in my arms…

I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to understand that every embryo created, even though it was inside of a lab, was a life to me. A life that, no matter how short lived, was meaningful and special. A life that changed who I am today. And a life that I will always view as a person. Because as Dr. Seuss says, a person is a person, no matter how small.

Even microscopically small.

Maybe one day I will be able to share with you about these precious lives that have left an incredible imprint on my heart. And maybe I’ll be able to do it without being afraid of what you might think or being fearful of how you will react. But until then, and until I think you will be able to understand my unique grief that comes from a unique loss, I will just continue to smile and give you my unique answer. It’s the one which I rehearsed and the one in which I proudly say, “I hope one day I will have more than ten.” Because I do still hope.

I believe God is not finished writing my story. I have hope He is not finished in His pursuit to fulfill the desires placed in my heart. And I cannot help but dream of the day I am rocking a baby in my arms…a sweet baby whose eyes, ears, nose, and mouth will look like the ones his ten brothers and sisters would have had too.

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About Author

Elisha lives in Southern Illinois with her husband of 9 years. Together they have two ornery cats and are foster parents to one ridiculously adorable four-year-old princess who looks like Goldilocks. She is also a Jesus follower, PCOS defeater, faith encourager, hope builder, type A organizer, and infertility warrior who is the author of the inspirational infertility blog, "Waiting for Baby Bird." Her mission in life is to encourage other women to draw near to the Lord in the midst of life's hardships and heartaches, not away. And as she does that, she believes in being brave and walking in faith that with God all things are possible (Luke 1:37).

  • OH, dear Elisha! What an incredibly moving and precious post! I do understand, and how my heart aches along with yours, as I continue to pray for your miracle. You are so right…each one of those precious babies are precious in Jesus’ sight, and even though it is so hard to understand why they were not permitted to live in this world with you as their Mama holding them in your arms, what a comfort to know that they rest for eternity in Jesus’ arms. He is taking care of them for you, my sweet friend. One day, the mysteries of this life will be unveiled, and you will be with your sweet babies for all eternity. Until then, I pray He comforts you and holds you extra close…just like He holds them. Thank you for being brave and sharing your heart…there are many who truly do understand.

    • Oh thank you so much Cheryl! Your constant love, support, and encouragement always lifts me up and helps carry me a bit further. You are truly a special woman of God! Thank you for being a part of my life. xo

  • Jen Gabb

    I totally get this. Even though one of my precious embryos grew into my handsome 3 year old son I still imagine what could have become of the other 8. Sadly they never developed past the magic 5 day mark… to us they were our children and so they are buried with their brother’s placenta and umbilical cord. Often I wonder if they were boys or girls and what they would’ve looked like. I truly hope you will be blessed with another baby who will be in your arms. And as for our lost ones I hope we will meet them one day in heaven. Xx big hugs.

    • Thank you so much Jen for letting me know that I am not alone in my thoughts and feelings. I am so happy for you and your little miracle of a boy 🙂 God is so good and faithful and I can’t wait to meet my ten when I get to heaven one day. Also, thank you so much for your encouragement and support. You are amazing! xo

  • Emily Shew

    Elisha, you have no idea how precious this post is to me. It was as if you were writing all the words my heart has always longed to say. We adopted 9 sweet embryos in 2008 and transferred two. One little embryo grew and developed into our beautiful daughter and my other little embryo went silently into the arms of her Heavenly Father. I praise the Lord for the blessing He gave us but my heart grieves to this day the one that was not there. I always felt like maybe I was crazy but it feels good to find someone that feels the same as I. I named her Peace Ivanna (gift from God) and she will always be a part of our family story. I can’t wait to hold her and see what she will look like in heaven. I am so sorry about the loss of your 10 precious babies, may the Lord bring comfort to your heart during this time of grief and hopefully soon a sweet babe into your arms! (Since 2008, we have done 2 more transfers of 2 embryos and the Lord has granted us favor allowing us to add 2 sets of twin boys to our family. We have 3 embryos remaining with a transfer coming in the next year. If you think embryo adoption is something you might be interested in check out the Snowflake program through Nightlight Christian Adoptions.) May God richly bless your family!

  • Heather Vaught

    I understand. Though I’ve successfully completed my fertility journey with 2 perfect little miracles, I had to say goodbye to 8 little flashes of light. Three were created with my husband’s and my DNA, the other 5 (plus the two that are now keeping us up at up night) were created by the unknown angel who donated her eggs so that people like us could find our dreams. I still wonder how they would have turned out, had they been the ones that succeeded. My hope is that their tiny little souls just weren’t ready for this big world yet, so the Lord brought them back into His arms until their time was right. Big, huge hugs to you. No matter how many people you meet along your journey, I know this road still feels like a lonely one. Keep your faith strong, and your hope alive. I will send a prayer that soon, the little soul or souls who are meant to bring you years of joy will be ready to settle down here on earth with you and yours.

    Heather

  • Kate LeAnn Brown

    Hey Elisha! I stumbled across your blog from an IVF Support facebook page. My husband and I have been married for almost 5 years and have been TTC for almost 2 years. We just recently went through IVF, but had to do a freeze all cycle because I overstimulated. We had 9 eggs fertilized and survive until Day 4 when I found out we might not have any to freeze. Luckily, I had 2 strong little fighters make it Day 5 and we got to freeze them. But I can totally relate to the feeling on “loosing” my other 7. Those precious embryo babies were a life to me. They are the hope that my husband and I have been praying for SO long! I couldn’t write down or even begin to describe the feeling I had when I found out those 7 didn’t make it to Day 5. So thank you SO much for writing this! It was such a beautiful way to celebrate the lives of those little miracles, no matter how micro small they were! I am going to share this on my Facebook page if that is ok! I also write a blog called https://unendingpossibilities.wordpress.com/journey-to-parenthood/ if you ever get a chance to read it! I’m not sure where you guys are in your journey, but I want you to know my husband and I are going to be praying for you! A scripture I hold dear to my heart is. Deuteronomy 31:8, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” 🙂

  • Thank you for this. After trying to conceive for a year, I got pregnant only to find out it was ectopic and that I needed immediate surgery. After weeks of recovering, feeling like a huge hole was torn in my chest, I started telling people who asked about whether or not my husband and I wanted kids, etc. I’ve heard, “well at least it happened early on” so many times I will probably punch the next person to say that in the throat. It’s still a loss and it hurts like hell! People need to know that.