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Hey Lovelies,

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.

XOXXO,
Unpregnant Chicken

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36 thoughts on “Micro Post: Embryos Or Babies

  • April 13, 2015 at 7:20 am
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    I loved reading your thoughts on this! After nearly five years of infertility I’ve had lots of time to think through this. I do believe that life (people with souls) begin at conception. It’s a complicated and thought provoking topic and I really enjoyed reading your perspective today. I will be cheering when you become a mommy!!!

    Reply
    • April 13, 2015 at 7:40 am
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      Betsy,
      Thank you! I really didn’t expect to think about it at all. But it became impossible to ignore. Thank you for your viewpoint and for sharing!
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 13, 2015 at 8:01 am
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    Hello from one northerner at heart to another!

    This is a great post, because I suspect many of us in the ALI community have had some version of this – being confronted with our thoughts on the topic of what professionals call ‘fetal personhood’ because of our experiences in family building – but I’ve never read someone else’s ideas on the matter. I am pro-choice, non-religious and never had very well-defined (or even thought through) ideas on the lives and souls of embryos until I became pregnant and lost my son. I found that after that, and also because many people who just didn’t get it would say hurtful things about how my baby ‘wasn’t a person’, I desperately wanted to believe he had/has a soul, but truthfully, I still don’t know. I feel sure that he possessed ENERGY that transferred into other things when his molecules dispersed (in keeping with a physicist’s understanding), and that he lives on in that way. But when an embryo becomes a person? Or a soul? Well, I get your confusion.

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    • April 13, 2015 at 2:14 pm
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      Sadie,
      Why hello there!I agree with you very much about the energy. I believe there is energy attached to these little developing things but that it’s more of a soul OPTION at that point not a soul fused to the baby. Like it the embryo doesn’t make it the soul can attach to another embryo. I like the physics idea of the potential passing into other things if it doesn’t work out.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 13, 2015 at 8:01 am
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    I haven’t given this much thought yet either. I enjoyed reading your views 🙂

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    • April 13, 2015 at 2:16 pm
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      Renuka,
      I’m glad you liked my take. It’s a crazy thing to have to consider.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 13, 2015 at 8:06 am
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    Infertility really does challenge all of our beliefs. I’m also pro-choice, and if/when I conceive I plan to do prenatal testing, and may have to make a difficult decision based on that. Maybe “babies” become “people” when they can live outside of our bodies?

    Reply
    • April 13, 2015 at 2:17 pm
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      Jenn,
      It’s a tricky question. Even after grappling with it this month I still don’t know.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 13, 2015 at 8:11 am
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    Loved reading your take on this. I have also thought through this a ton as I have lost four “babied” none of which were ever given a burial that you would give to a human or even an a beloved pet. 3 were lost in the toilet and 1 was discarded in by a hospital in a manner I’m not even aware of. This has scarred me emotionally for what will probably be forever. I try to put it behind myself and tell myself they were not yet children. An overwhelming thing to expect of myself.

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    • April 13, 2015 at 2:19 pm
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      Denise,
      Oh god. It is so much harder to think of, I think that whatever helps you grieve their losses is all you can do. Even though they were not yet children they matter and were loved very much. Love to you.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 13, 2015 at 9:49 am
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    I had very similar thoughts while doing our IVF. I too am 110% pro-choice, but seeing those cells and thinking “My Child!” on the screen changed something in me.

    That being said, I share with you a conversation that my husband’s best friend had with a person who was virulently anti-choice. He asked if a building was on fire which would he save–a container with over 100 frozen embryos or two live children. The immediate response was “The children.” and there you have it–there is a difference.

    Reply
    • April 13, 2015 at 2:22 pm
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      Journeywoman,
      Agreed. It is different. But that doesn’t mean the embryos are less special or dear. Just not people. I think it’s a hard thing to understand until your faced with it on the screen.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 13, 2015 at 11:09 am
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    It is a complicated topic. I know that my embryo was my baby from the moment I knew of her existence. That happened to be at about 4 weeks gestation, but if I’d known about her as a itty bitty zygote floating about, she would have been my baby then too. 🙂 Truthfully when a pregnancy is wanted that badly, I think it’s a baby to most people. (There are exceptions of course.) I hate to say “it’s all a matter of perception,” because that disgusts the logical side of me, which thinks that we need an answer to when life begins that applies in all scenarios. But the lived experience says, it’s a matter of perception.

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    • April 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm
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      Turtle,
      LOL yeah, its hard with the logic vs heart debate in our heads. I agree though. I worked so hard for these embryos. They are babies. I think the potential of them is so much more meaningful when you have done what we’ve done to get them.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 13, 2015 at 12:31 pm
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    Have the same thoughts. Though I don’t consider my embryos individual persons, I do consider them potential babies and have a lot of love for each of them. I mourned losing the ones we did and know that one day we will tell the Beats about their siblings. But this whole experience has changed how I view pro-choice and pro-life arguments.

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    • April 13, 2015 at 2:26 pm
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      Cristy,
      Definitely a lot of love to go around. I struggle with what the extra frozen ones will mean since we don’t want 4 children. Which I never thought I would struggle with.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 13, 2015 at 1:17 pm
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    This is a huge topic and I think particularly for those of us going through infertility. Some of the issues that find ourselves thinking about and considering are ones that would never cross most people’s mind! People just don’t get the issues that we often find ourselves wrestling with.
    I am prolife, but not someone that you’d ever find standing ouside an abortion clinic with placards! I also recognise that there are issues which it’s tough to think through and I’m not sure I can make it 100% black and white.
    My husband and I have been considering embryp adoption. I guess the fact that we call it adoption suggests how we view it. That has a lot of issues to think about for sure! And I wrestle with them, I really do. I guess the fact that I’m prolife is one of the factors, one of the reasons why I’m considering this option. I’ve heard it said that embryos are life with potential, rather than potential life…
    Whatever our views are on this issue, I guess it’s likely to affect the choices we make. It was interesting for me to read this article. I guess I’m not surprised that you’d find yourself considering all of this, because I find myself wrestling with it too, probably more than I would have expected if I’m honest.

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    • April 13, 2015 at 2:28 pm
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      Rachel,
      True, I think that unless you find yourself walking this path there are a lot of thing you never consider. i would say potential life personally but I think that means so much more to someone who has been struggling to get pregnant. It is so precious and miraculous!! Embryo adoption is lovely and a wonderful option. Best of luck to you and thanks for being open with your views.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 13, 2015 at 6:11 pm
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    I think there is also a difference between how we think about things on a personal level and how we think about things on a law-making level. Because one is about what we would personally do and the other is about what we want others to be able (or not be able) to do.

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    • April 13, 2015 at 8:28 pm
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      Mel,
      Touche. I think that is very true.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 14, 2015 at 12:23 am
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    Nice to see these thoughts written down. I’m right there with you on all of it.

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    • April 14, 2015 at 3:05 pm
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      JustHeather,
      Thanks. I thought that even if it was maybe controversial it needed to be said.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 14, 2015 at 7:03 am
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    I feel the same way, but didn’t realize it until I read this. I also think it is a very good question to ask. A very good thing to think about. It is amazing that all these questions come up throughout the infertility journey.

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    • April 14, 2015 at 4:00 pm
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      Court,
      It is amazing. We are forced to look at our bodies in such a different way from how we normally would.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 14, 2015 at 1:10 pm
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    I’ve had (and continue to have) the exact same thoughts and confused emotions. I don’t believe for a moment that an embryo is a person (or a baby) with rights or a soul. At the same time, I agonize over my frozen embies all the time, especially when I think about what might become of them if we can’t or don’t use them all. They’re my babies! Well, potential babies, anyway. I was also going to make the same point as Mel, that there’s a difference between how I think of these things in terms of politics and law-making vs my emotions. Abortion doesn’t kill babies, because a fetus isn’t a baby…. until it’s MY baby, anyway. But even that isn’t quite true. I think that when I thought of the “baby” in my uterus during those early weeks, I was thinking of the potential baby. That’s why my miscarriage was so hard, because even though I didn’t technically lose a baby, I lost the potential baby, the baby I had dreamed about and imagined growing up. It’s complicated, that’s for sure!

    Reply
    • April 14, 2015 at 4:02 pm
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      Kitten,
      It is very complex! The potential of those babies is precious. Even as it is confusing as hell!
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 14, 2015 at 5:02 pm
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    I am very pro-choice, and I’ve never had an embryo of my own so I don’t have first-hand experience, which I think might change my point-of-view. However, I personally think of embryos as potential people, and I wouldn’t consider them actual people separate of their mother until they are viable on their own.

    And please consider donating extra embryos! I’ve been diagnosed with diminshed ovarian reserve, and the RE we saw thinks I will likely have 4 eggs at most if we do IVF. I haven’t gone in for an antral follicle count, so we don’t know for sure, but we’ve decided to embark on IVF with donated embryos after deciding that the risk of failure with my eggs is too great. I am so grateful to people who have donated their extra embryos!

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    • April 14, 2015 at 6:48 pm
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      Candace,
      Definitely! Donated embryos is such a blessing to so many families. I think it’s an important decision to be considered by all involved. It brings so much joy to many people.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 14, 2015 at 9:50 pm
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    I have a friend w ho had her embryos frozen for 5 years (after giving birth to a child), each passing year she considered it and then put it off, wondering what to do with them. I think anyone who has attempted IVF and had embryos considered them babies because we were attached, we have invested so much and wanted them to be our babies so badly. I know I talked to my “babies” after I had 2 embryos inserted into my uterus. I’ve certainly had the same thoughts myself.

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    • April 15, 2015 at 7:38 pm
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      Deathstar,
      Absolutely it’s so complex. Making decisions about those embabies is no joke! I imagine it will be hard for us in the future as well.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
  • April 18, 2015 at 6:44 am
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    This is so well done. as a midwife who helps people through miscarriage and loss and also through termination of pregnancy, I struggle with my heart and my politics too. I think I’ve reconciled that I believe what I believe for me and I”m glad I have the choices I have. As someone who hasd chosen to conitnue a pregnancy when 90% of people usually choose to terminate (a baby with down syndrome) only to have my welcomed, wanted baby die shortly after birth, it has been hard to balance those feelings- how I feel personally about people privileged with pregnancy (the jealousy of those with healthy pregnancies, and even unhealthy ones!) and how important I think choice is. I have a poignant memory of my pregnancy- I was 33 weeks, heavily pregnant with a baby I was told would possibly have life limiting birth defects (but diagnosis would be unknown until birth) , remaining hopeful my baby would live. I spent a morning holding the hand of a young patient before her termination of pregnancy- a likely health pregnancy that just was not right for her at that time. She had a needle phobia and needed the extra support. I was able to find time in my schedule to help her through the process, but it still amazes me that I could be there hoping and praying that my unhealthy baby would live, while supporting her through her different difficult process. Your post very much reminded me of this- thinking of your own embryos in a different way personally than you do politcally. I totally respect and applaud you for writing about this difficult subject and I’m grateful I am not alone in this mind bending conundrum.

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    • April 20, 2015 at 10:16 am
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      Meghan,
      Thanks for the compliment. I am so sorry to hear about your child. It is an interesting conundrum how your brain can separate out the difference between political and personal.
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply
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  • April 21, 2015 at 12:26 pm
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    Thanks for this thought-provoking post. I had my first embryo transfer yesterday and was sent home with a picture of our embryo in a little frame – I am in love already! It is so strange to hold that photo in my hands and think about that little embryo that is now (hopefully) growing inside of me. Infertility and IVF definitely bring up a lot of interesting things to ponder 🙂

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    • April 21, 2015 at 7:00 pm
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      Lauren,
      That it does! We also looked at the embryo picture daily. Hard not to fall for it hook line and sinker!
      XOXXO, Unpregnant Chicken

      Reply

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