Donating Embryos to Another Couple
Jacqui and Jeff Worthley, both 35, had struggled for two and a half years with secondary infertility after the natural conception of son Benjamin five years ago. Last summer after a successful round of IVF, when Jacqui was still pregnant with daughter Sarah, the Worthleys posted a note on www.ivfconnections.com as a kind of casting call for possible parents to their leftover embryos. Both felt responsible for the embryos they had created, and decided to donate them. Jeff insisted that they choose the prospective parents themselves rather than go the anonymous route.
“I was so happy when we found that other family,” Jacqui remembers. “But there was a part of me that did not want it to work. If it was successful I’d have another kid running around. Just donating, I knew I had done my part,” says the former commercial real estate broker, now a stay-at-home mom.
The Worthleys were inundated with emails filled with sad stories of miscarriages and years of futile attempts at pregnancy. They whittled the candidate pool down by sending out a questionnaire, inquiring about age, profession, location, income, education, religion, and family background. For the final selection the Worthleys requested photographs.
“I was swayed by what they look like, because they look like us,” says Jacqui of the couple she and her husband chose. “They have the same characteristics. He has dark hair, hazel eyes, and dimples. She is blond and blue-eyed.” In May, the recipient couple tried a transfer with three of the Worthley embryos. It didn’t work. There are, however, five more frozen embryos—and the recipient couple plans to try again.
“She was so devastated,” says Jacqui. “Well, I had mixed emotions. Because I’ve been there I know what it feels like. There is a part of me that just wants her to be happy. I felt I had had a loss, too. At the same time I felt, ‘Phew–there isn’t another baby out there!’”
The Worthleys set up a legal contract with the recipient couple, relinquishing all parental rights but stipulating a few rules: They wanted to know if the transfer was successful, if the recipient mother carried the baby to term, and the gender of the baby. “But no pictures,” Jacqui says. “I don’t think I could deal with that.”
Both couples agreed that they would keep addresses up to date so that the child could someday have the option of contacting the biological parents. Otherwise, the Worthleys would not contact the other family. Any potential leftover embryos would have to be returned to the Worthleys if the recipient couple decided not to try again or have any more children.