The Best Laid Plans

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Did you know that our children are, by definition, fraternal triplets? It’s true, even though there’s a 4-year age difference between Bee and Cakes, and a 7-year age difference between Bee and DJ. How is this possible?

First, a little genetics lesson…

Identical triplets are formed when one egg is fertilized by one sperm. After fertilization the egg divides, and then one half divides again, creating three genetically identical babies (though recent research indicates that they may not be as identical as once believed). However, fraternal triplets occur when 3 eggs are present in the womb at the same time, and are fertilized by three different sperm, creating three genetically different babies. This is why each child looks unique.

When we went through our cycle of in vitro fertilization in February, 2002, the doctor retrieved more than 30 eggs, and each one was fertilized with one of my husband’s sperm. 12 fertilized normally, and at that point we had, erm…let’s see…10 babies would be decaplets, but 12? I guess I would call that a bumper crop. Or a litter. (Actually, Aimee pointed out that 12 would be dodecaplets, because a 12-sided figure is a dodecagon. She’s so smart!)

Anyway, we didn’t transfer all 12 of the embryos into my uterus, for reasons I’m sure I need not explain. Here’s how we ended up with fraternal triplets of different ages:

February, 2002 – 1 fresh embryo is transferred. We become pregnant with Bee. The remaining embryos are cultured and monitored, and 7 are deemed viable for cryogenic freezing. Bee has 7 frozen siblings.

October, 2002 – Bee is born

April, 2005 – 3 frozen embryos are transferred. No pregnancy.

March, 2006 – 3 more embryos are transferred. We become pregnant with Cakes.

November, 2006 – Cakes is born

April, 2009 – We have only one frozen embryo left, and if still viable when thawed (a very big if) we are given a mere 15% chance of pregnancy.

May, 2009 – Our last frozen embryo is thawed and is viable. It’s transferred (see Go Little Embryo, Go!), and miraculously, we become pregnant with DJ. See, we don’t just call him Super Baby because of his size!

February, 2010 – DJ is born, and we have our fraternal triplets. They were all fertilized at the same time, and in the same place (it was a petri dish, but still), but through the miracle of reproductive science, they weren’t born at the same time, or in the same place!

They are fraternal, but when you look at this picture of Bee at age 12 weeks,


and this picture of DJ at about the same age,


you would swear they were identical!

This is Cakes at 12 weeks.


I think her look is slightly different, but it’s still very obvious that the three of them are siblings. And it’s fitting because, as you know, Cakes is definitely unique!

My husband just loves to shock people with this story. At first they always think he’s joking, but when he’s finished, they exclaim “That’s amazing!” It kind of boggles the mind, doesn’t it?

I’ve never told you this before, but there was a time when my husband and I considered not transferring that last frozen embryo. After Cakes was born, we sincerely believed that our family was complete. We just couldn’t see ourselves with more than two children. It wasn’t in our plan, so the question of what to do with that last embryo loomed over us. We thought about possibly donating it to another couple, and of course the clinic gave us the option of donating it for research (no), or simply discarding it. It’s astonishing, but thousands of embryos leftover from IVF procedures are discarded every year. We never even considered that option, because we just knew that we couldn’t do it. We have pictures of our children as embryos, and as far as we were concerned, that last little embryo was a child. How could we throw it away like a piece of trash?

We finally reached a decision that we thought was right. We would transfer the embryo, but we would have an unmedicated cycle, without the advantage of hormone supplementation to build an optimum uterine environment. We decided to just leave it up to God. If it was meant to be, it would happen.

To be perfectly honest, we decided this for selfish reasons. We weren’t positive that we wanted another baby, and I didn’t want to put my body through the hell of yet another cycle. The discomfort from the estrogen patches, the pain of the daily shots – it was hard for me to face that again. But as time went on, I became more and more uncomfortable with the idea of the unmedicated cycle. I realized that my worries and fears were the result of a lack of faith and trust in God. I felt that I had a responsibility to that embryo, and I was dishonoring God by not giving it the very best chance I possibly could. My own discomfort and uncertainty…well, they seemed like trivial things. Small sacrifices for the sake of a life.

So I went ahead with the drugs. I did it all again, hoping, but never really believing that I would get pregnant. Of course, by that time I really, really wanted another baby, and the thought that the cycle might fail was difficult to bear. But our merciful, gracious God rewarded us with this precious baby boy, a blessing far greater than we ever expected.


For 7 long years he was in a freezer, just waiting for a chance. A chance at life. He wasn’t in our plan, but he was in God’s plan, and if there’s anything I’ve learned in my 36 years on this earth, it’s that God’s plans are always, always better than mine.

I thank the good Lord every day for that nudge, for the little voice telling me that I needed to give our last tiny embryo a fighting chance. Because the truth is, I thought my family could be complete without DJ. I never knew how much I needed him until he was here.

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Heather is a minimalist in love with a recovering packrat. 7 years ago, she and her husband sold pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down in order to pay off their mortgage, and they've been living happily debt-free ever since. They have 3 hilarious little kids who were conceived with the help of in vitro fertilization, and they haven't had a good night's sleep in the last decade. Heather is an anglophile who loves all things British, and spends her free time looking at real estate listings in Cornwall. Every day, she and her family work toward a simpler, more meaningful life. Some days are awesome, some are disastrous, and you can read about all of them here.

Have a question? Need a listening ear? Contact Heather, or visit Want What You Have on Facebook.

© Heather at Want What You Have, 2008-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of material, including photos, without express and written permission from this blog’s author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Heather at Want What You Have, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Derivative works are not permitted.

7 comments… add one

  1. Mariana January 6, 2012, 10:45 pm

    Hello Heather,
    I just wanted to ask you something about IVF: the second time you had embryos transferred, why did you choose to ‘leave one behind’? Or is 3 the maximum a doctor recommends?

    Reply
    1. Anonymous January 7, 2012, 7:37 pm

      3 frozen embryos is the maximum our doctor would transfer, because of concern about multiple births.This is pretty standard protocol in reputable IVF clinics, to prevent cases such as the “Octo-Mom.”

      Reply
  2. Chardee February 29, 2012, 4:12 pm

    What a wonderful story! Brought tears to my eyes! <3 

    Reply
  3. Lisa March 22, 2012, 5:58 am

    Thank you for this post. I am 41 and have 7-year-old b/g twins. We also decided to implant the remaining viable embryo (their “triplet”)…two weeks ago. Our pregnancy test is tomorrow, and I have been panicking…did we make the right decision? Like you, we were happy with our family of four, but decided to put it in God’s hands as well. I have had serious anxiety this evening about our choice, but your post helped clear my head: it WAS the right choice, no matter the outcome. God bless.

    Reply
  4. Greatexpectations2012blog April 18, 2012, 6:25 am

    Hi Heather,

    I’ve really enjoyed your site so far- looks like an amazing wealth of info on both IVF and frugality! I wasn’t so much interested in frugality before, but now that the need for IVF is in the picture, frugality is now a #2 priority:) I look forward to reading more!
    Congrats on your 3 beautiful children!

    Reply
  5. Stephanie Purcell October 23, 2012, 1:47 pm

    I love your blog! Congratulations on this awesome number!! My husband and I are Christian, have infertility, and have been told that IVF will be our only chance to conceive. We’ve been trying for almost four years now and we have been sponsored by an amazing non-profit organization called Pound the Pavement for Parenthood (www.poundthepavementforparenthood.blogspot.com). It’s so good to see that there are organizations out there who are working to help couples overcome this life-altering disease. They are planning a 5k walk/run for my husband and I in South Bend, Indiana where we live. With the donations we receive and the money we raise we’ll be on track for IVF next summer! I love reading your posts to prepare myself for that journey. Here is our blog: http://mattandstephpurcel.blogspot.com

    Reply
  6. Karen November 20, 2012, 10:51 pm

    What a wonderful story. :) I have 9 year old IVF triplet girls. We actually implanted 4 embryos not believing that any of them would actually implant after all the fertility nightmares we had been through. We were shocked to find out it was triplets just a few weeks later. Life has never been the same. :) It wasn’t our plan but it was God’s plan and it has been such a blessing!!! Love your tips on frugality. Hope to use some of them because I would like to save enough money to be a stay at home mom. I am hoping to borrow from your schedule. :)

    Reply

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