How 3 friends used 1 set of embryos to create families without male partners
Wendy (left) and Abbey, who became pregnant with an embryo that Wendy created with donation and sperm. Sam Schmitz
Wendy and Abbey are two friends who were single in their forties and determined to be mothers.
After years of trying different types of assisted reproductive technology, Wendy adopted a child.
Abbey eventually became pregnant with a frozen embryo that Wendy had created with donation and semen but no longer needed.
The remaining embryos went to one of Abbey's best friends, who is now pregnant with Abbey's daughter's biological sibling.
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Wendy's friend watched hockey, stroked her and was happy. Wendy, a 40-year-old eager to get married and have children, wasn't.
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"It just hit me like a ton of rocks [that] this guy will never marry me," Wendy said on a December episode of the Pregnantish podcast.
After a year and a half, the couple separated. Wendy, a New Yorker who used only her first name on the show, began "dating angrily". But when she turned 43 she wasn't getting any closer to becoming a mother and she thought, "What am I doing? There's really no time to waste."
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Meanwhile, her friend Abbey faced the same reality. The New York City businesswoman was in her early 40s, newly single, and determined to be a mother.
"It's hard to explain, but not becoming a mother in this life was just not an option for me, even if it was between 60 and 16 years old," she said on the Andrea Syrtash hosted podcast. "As soon as I have made the decision, I will do that."
Eventually, the women's parallel experiences intersected. After many stops and starts, the whole range of emotions and even more waiting, both are now mothers. And with her help, Abbey's other friend is now pregnant too.
Wendy tried IUI, IVF, and donation and semen before looking into adoption
After Wendy made a commitment to become a single mother, she tried intrauterine insemination, or in her case, a donor sperm in the uterus to increase the chances of pregnancy. It did not work.
She then tried in vitro fertilization, where her eggs and donor sperm were combined in a laboratory before they were transferred to her uterus. She didn't get that pregnant either.
Eventually, Wendy decided to use both donation and semen to create embryos that she could carry. "It just has to work," she recalls, choosing an egg donor with lots of eggs to increase her chances. "I thought, 'Hey, if it's extras, I can give them to all my single mom's friends!"
READ MORE: A sperm donor with 30 biological children wishes they had children of their own
But while she did have many embryos, none of the seven or eight rounds of transfers made her pregnant. An insensitive doctor told her that because of her "irregular uterus" she would never be. "It was awful," said Wendy.
At that point, she was pursuing adoption. "Every day I thought, who is going to vote an older Jewish single woman from New York with a big mouth? Who would want me?"
But a couple did, and now Wendy is a mother. "She's totally the kid to me," she said.
Wendy still had a "basketball team" of embryos that she wouldn't use
Abbey was still childless and Wendy still had seven frozen embryos. Getting Abbey to use them wasn't a new idea.
Early on, the friends half joked that Wendy carried two of the embryos, one that would be her child and one that would be Abbeys.
Later, while waiting for a family to choose her as adoptive parents, Wendy remembered saying to Abbey, "Oh, you could carry [the embryos] and we'll do it together." Abby said "no problem."
But none of these scenarios worked. Instead, Abbey - who had also gone through unsuccessful IUIs and needed uterine surgery - used her to have a child of her own. "These embryos were always my backup plan," she said. After an implantation with two embryos that didn't work, it went through another that worked.
"I have a 14-month-old daughter with genes that Wendy picked," said Abbey, who writes about her family on the Momma by Design Instagram page. "And I have the most amazing person as my child."
But there were three embryos left. With Wendy's encouragement ("I had a basketball team of embryos here, just take them!"), Abbey gave them to her 20-year-old friend who had gone through two unsuccessful IVF rounds with her fiancé. The couple are now expecting a girl - Abbey's daughter, the biological sibling.
"Your path takes so many twists and turns and everyone feels like a heartache," said Abbey. "But everything definitely worked out fine."
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