In comparison to the heartbreaking aftermath of Sally Faulkner’s separation from her husband, my divorce was a veritable swimming pool filled with chilled champagne on a hot summer’s day. Knowing I had to leave, I walked out the door with my son. My ex allowed that to happen. In the divorce application, my ex, being a solicitor, drew it up himself. I was given full custody of our two year old son, with no defined visitation rights for his father. There was not even a discussion about it.
Another thing we didn’t discuss was what to do with our son’s four “siblings”, who were chilling – literally – in the embryo freezer of the IVF clinic where he had been conceived. I’d read that some couples argue about what to do with embryos after a divorce, but apart from it not even occurring to my ex, it was never an issue to me. I figured there was no point in bringing a child into a family when there was barely a relationship between the father and the existing child.
In any case, at age thirty-two, I felt I still had so much time ahead of me – and hoped that that one day I would be able to fill my massive seven-seat SUV, as I had intended to when I bought it merely months earlier. The potential of this dream was confirmed by my reproductive doctor, who assured me that I would not have any conception issues with a new partner. The doctor also informed me that the clinic’s policy was to not permit a separated or divorced couple to use their embryos – meaning that had I wanted to, I would have had to fight them in court about it.
But as I explained, given our situation, I didn’t think it was the right thing to do. So I got into that seven-seat SUV with its one Turn-a- Tot car seat installed in the middle, and drove home, feeling like the richest woman in the world, with one miracle baby and hope for more in the future.
And then, two things changed my calm acceptance of the situation. The first was a letter from the IVF clinic informing me that I had four options;
- Continue to pay a yearly $1200 storage fee to keep the embryos. (no – since I wasn’t planning to use them anyway.)
- Donate the embryos to a couple who can’t have their own babies (no – for deeply personal reasons due to my own experience of adopted children.)
- Donate the embryos to science.
- Have the embryos destroyed.
Donating the embryos to medical research, to help other people needing IVF, seemed like the best choice. That is, until I read the caveat; the clinic could keep the embryos for years, and I could one day out of the blue be contacted to ask if they could be used on a project, or whether I had changed my mind.