I want to take a really close look at a dichotomy I experienced during IVF. The idea of when life starts and what constitutes a human baby became very confusing to me this month. Let’s start this by saying that I’m 110% pro-choice, and that I am VERY against any personhood bills that have been put out in the last year. I don’t think that abortion kills babies… I don’t think that sperm + egg = human being with rights. If you do, power to you, but I don’t. But then we got the call about our embryos and things became… confusing.
Every day, for a week, the call came. To tell us how many were still alive, how many were thriving, and through all of that I found myself thinking about them as babies. What the hell, brain? Embryos… not babies? I mean, RIGHT?! But, even though it was confusing, I couldn’t deny it: I was thinking about my EMBRYOS as BABIES. Which led to a lot of soul searching.
Did I still feel that life isn’t really life at conception? I mean, the embryos had their own unique baby DNA by day two of development… which means the building blocks of the way they’d look, their personality and IQ were all right there, in blueprint. It was incredibly confusing. So after much soul searching this is what I discovered about my own personal relationship to the embryos.
I called them babies: They were their own separate entity and had their own separate DNA and were growing and dividing on their own. These are the beginnings of babies and that’s how I chose to view it.
But, and this is an important distinction, they were not people: Even though they are their own baby selves at the embryo stage I don’t believe that they are people just yet. They cannot live without my body (or an incubator or freezer) and I don’t believe that as an embryo in a dish they have a soul. I’m not sure when I think the soul part comes into play, but I don’t think it happens before implantation. Maybe not even for a long while after that.
I know this might rub people the wrong way, it’s tricky to talk about spiritual beliefs, but I was so surprised by these feelings that I wanted to share it with you. Until doing IVF I’d never had to question when I thought a person became officially pregnant, or when a person was actually considered a person, or when I thought a person actually got a soul. When you are trying “naturally” or even through IUI you don’t really think a lot about the embryo that might be floating its way along inside of you. Then you do IVF and BAM!! You can’t ignore it, there needs to be a thought process about them, you need to figure out what you and your partner think about these embryos. I never expected to do this, but there you have it, my musings on embryos.