Laly Havern conceived a son and a daughter through IVF.
She said she knew her family was complete with two kids, so she donated seven embryos.
This is Havern's story, as told to Kelly Burch.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Laly Havern. It has been edited for length and clarity.
My story starts like many others: Girl meets boy, gets married, and starts trying for a baby. She gets pregnant right away. But then she miscarries at 13 weeks, the first indication that this story isn't going to go as planned.
I was heartbroken after that first miscarriage but figured we could try again. Then I couldn't conceive. Despite working as the director of specialty health solutions at Walgreens — a role that includes counseling patients about fertility options — I was surprised to find myself going through IVF.
For three years I was obsessed with having a baby. I even went through IVF while my husband was deployed in Afghanistan. It took a physical, mental, and emotional toll, until I held my daughter in my arms. A few years later, when I held my son, I knew my family was complete.
I immediately started thinking about donating our seven remaining embryos to give another family the gift that IVF had given me.
I started researching donation on Facebook
When I was trying to conceive my son, I went through four IVF cycles in a year. During the first three cycles we ended up with one genetically normal embryo each time. Then in our last cycle we had nine. Everyone was stunned. Right away I felt that this might mean something.
Even when I was pregnant, I was already thinking about donating the embryos. It just felt right. I'm a fairly analytical person, so I looked for experiences from other people who had donated embryos. I couldn't find much.
The one easy-to-find resource was Facebook groups. I joined a group for donors and one that was open to both donors and recipients. I spent hours and hours reading stories from donors. I learned that the donor has a lot of power over who they donate to and what level of communication they have.
I donated embryos to a local couple
I'm Cuban, so I looked for a couple that was open to a baby with Hispanic roots. I also wanted a couple local to St. Louis, where our embryos were stored.
I connected with a woman who was looking for embryos through the Facebook group. Later, she and her husband visited my family in person. We decided we were a fit.
Unlike with sperm or egg donation, you can't be compensated for donating embryos. However, we did work with attorneys to create a contract outlining exactly what responsibilities and rights each couple did and didn't have.
Then it was time to try to make a baby. The recipient couple's first transfer didn't work. The next did, and the woman I donated to is now more than 20 weeks pregnant. She and her husband will have control over our remaining embryos until they are done building their family. After that, if there are any embryos left, control returns to my husband and me.
At first I thought I might be interested in a Christmas card once a year. But our relationship has become much closer, even before the baby is born. The expectant mother texts me ultrasound pictures. It feels magical to hear her say that I opened up this world for her.
I believe genes play a role, but not the central one
I have a master's degree in biology, a doctorate in pharmacy, and a certificate in pharmacogenomics, the study of how your DNA affects how you respond to drugs. Needless to say, I'm into genetics and science.
That informed my donation in different ways. On the one hand, I felt strongly that genetics don't make a family. Just because these children will look like my kids doesn't mean they're mine. A parent isn't someone who shares your DNA — it's someone who responds to your cries in the middle of the night and cares for you when you're sick.
On the other hand, my education made me feel strongly that I didn't want to donate anonymously. We're entitled to information about our genetic material. Plus, with the prevalence of DNA-testing services like 23andMe, there's no such thing as true anonymity.
I wish more people would consider donating their frozen embryos. Seeing the joy that my donation has brought a stranger — even before her baby is born — reinforces for me that I made the right decision.
Read the original article on Insider