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From an Embryo Mother: My Journey to Loving
Jalesia “Jasha” McQueen | 06 February 2020
There have been many pro-life articles written about the science of IVF, its intrinsic evils, and the dearth of moral principles behind every embryo conception. With every conception, however, a parent, a mother or father, is praying, hoping to implant a tiny life into a uterus and bring this life into the world in a live birth. In speaking on this topic, I have found that people grasp the science of what is happening but struggle to understand the breadth of emotions an embryo parent feels for his or her embryo babies, even among the most devout and staunch pro-life advocates, people struggle. I have discovered that it is simply difficult for us to relate to a human being so small as to only be visible under a microscope. I am writing this article as an embryo mother. A mother who lost her children, not through a miscarriage or abortion, but as a mother who was told by a judge and her ex-husband, the father of the embryonic children, that she could never carry her children or allow them to be born, EVER.
The Catholic Church has yet to issue any type of guidance on this topic, which makes those who follow the Church's teachings hesitant on what side to land on. Undoubtedly, a life was conceived, albeit assisted by human hands under a microscope, joining sperm and egg in a petri dish – but a life nonetheless. If one believes that God gives life, then these little humans, no matter how created, were given life by God. On the other hand, the IVF (in vitro fertilization) industry is a baby-making industry wrought with evil motives and simply no concern for the consequences. Additionally, the idea of human beings trying to "play God," as some believe, is a hard obstacle to overcome. Even from staunch pro-life activists, I have heard, "Well, you got what you deserved," or "You should have thought of that before you did IVF," about me wanting my two embryonic children, Noah and Genesis to be born, but they are still cryopreserved in Pennsylvania. It is hurtful. I feel like an outcast in a movement that advocates that ALL life is precious. After all, no matter how they were conceived (if I sinned, let me pay the price, not my children), they are my offspring, my flesh, and blood and deserve the right to life.
I was a pro-choice woman for most of my life. Several milestones got me to where I am today: 100% pro-life, no exceptions. I had an abortion when I was 19 years old, which I rarely even thought about until I went through IVF with my ex-husband. We did a round of IVF because we were geographically separated when my ex-husband was in the Army. I was getting older, and we did not know when we would be able to live together. In that round of IVF, they "harvested" my eggs, which is when they give you hormones to mature as many eggs as they can. They then took his sperm and combined them with what eggs they had to conceive little human beings. They developed the embryos to day five after fertilization (the blastocyst stage). I had four embryos from that process. Two of them are my 12-year-old twin boys and two we cryopreserved (i.e., they were frozen) to implant later (Noah and Genesis). I had seen the very first baby photos of my twin boys before they were born. They were still in the petri dish. It was amazing. Even before they were implanted, I knew them. Even though they were not in my body, my four little babies awaited my uterus. Although I could only implant two because of medical reasons, I yearned for my other two. I thought I protected myself by signing a health directive with my ex-husband stating that I would receive Noah and Genesis if we ever separated or divorced.
My marriage ended in a physical assault by my ex-husband and divorce proceedings began. I had a bitter legal battle with my ex-husband trying to enforce the agreement we had signed. I thought of my tiny babies waiting for me. What could a mother do, but fight? Noah and Genesis are siblings of my twin boys and technically their other twins. This was not theoretical for me; it was real.
In 2012, I became pregnant by my boyfriend at the time and delivered my baby stillborn at 16 weeks. I held her in my hands. In 2013, I became pregnant again by the same man and delivered a healthy 9.1 lb baby with Down Syndrome (my youngest). During all of my tumultuous times, I also met a very inspirational woman who became the Co-Founder of my organization, Embryo Defense. Her name is Rebecca Kiessling, and she was conceived in rape. After all of these interactions and events, I became 100% pro-life.
I cry for the baby I killed when I was 19. I cry for the baby I lost at 16 weeks. I cry for Noah and Genesis because they will most likely die in cryopreservation and I cannot get to them. They are all my children, and undoubtedly to me, they are all God's children. I wonder how they would have looked or acted. I wonder if there is hope in this world for Noah and Genesis to ever see the light of day. I wonder if I outlive my ex-husband if I can finally get Noah and Genesis out of cryopreservation and get them into a womb so that they can be born. Will they survive all these years frozen? Theoretically, the answer is yes, but every human being is different. Would they know that their mother did everything she could for them to be born? Will they know how much I cried and how much I fought for them? I love them so much. It is this love that is being left out of the conversation about the IVF industry. The love I have for my embryonic children, born children, and dead children is real, and it runs deep. What parent would not move the moon and stars for their born children? I would do the same for all my children, if I could, born and unborn.
I have a picture of Noah and Genesis in their cryotank on my refrigerator; a reminder I may never see them running around with their brothers, laughing, feeling their cheeks against mine, giving me big hugs, and knowing that I love them.
Life is precious. Every life. Every child. Every time.
Jalesia “Jasha” McQueen, Co-Founder, Embryo Defense & 2020 Fellow for the Society of St. Sebastian