An Australian company has taken a controversial spin on preserving keepsake memories: Parents can now wear extra baby embryos and keep test-tube baby remnants in jewelry, of all things.
“We are working with a number of local & international fertility clinics to raise awareness of this option for families,” the company, Baby Bee Hummingbirds, wrote in an April 30 Facebook post.
“My embryos were my babies — frozen in time.”
Some families choose in vitro fertilization as an option for conceiving when fertility issues or other conditions don’t permit them to conceive naturally. With this procedure, extra fertilized embryos may result.
“During [in vitro fertilization], mature eggs are collected … from your ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab,” noted the Mayo Clinic in an explanation to potential patients. “Then the fertilized egg [embryo] or eggs are implanted in your uterus.”
Unused or extra embryos can be stored for use in the future.
“Hundreds of thousands of embryos have accumulated in fertility clinics throughout the country … Some [are] awaiting transfer but many [are] literally frozen in time as parents ask themselves questions few among us ever consider with such immediacy: When does life begin? What does ‘life’ mean, anyway?” as Parenting.com noted.
Midwife Amy McGlade started Baby Bee Hummingbirds in 2014. The company cremates and makes an ash to preserve the DNA and make the embryo jewelry.
“I don’t believe there is any other business in the world that creates jewelry from human embryos, and I firmly believe that we are pioneering the way in this sacred art, and opening the possibilities to families around the world,” McGlade told Kidspot, an Australian parenting website.
The company has made 50 pieces of jewelry from embryos, but in total has created over 4,000 piece of jewelry since launching.
“We use breast milk, your baby’s cord stump, placenta, first curl, and first tooth,” the company bluntly wrote on its Facebook page. “The kind of memories that only come once in your life … but can last forever, through our jewelry.” The jewelry costs between $80 and $600.
“It’s special because the embryos often signify the end of a journey, and we are providing a beautiful and meaningful way to gently close the door,” McGlade told Kidspot.
For one mom who took advantage of in vitro fertilization, the keepsake jewelry option clicked. “Donating our embryos wasn’t an option for us, and I couldn’t justify the yearly storage fee,” 31-year-old Belinda Stafford told Kidspot.
“I’d heard others had planted [baby embryos] in the garden but we move a lot, so I couldn’t do this. I needed them with me,” she said. Stafford has seven embryos in a heart-shaped pendant.
“The solution is to stop creating surplus embryos.”
“My embryos were my babies — frozen in time,” Stafford said. “When we completed our family, it wasn’t in my heart to destroy them.”
Many in the pro-life movement have harshly criticized “embryo jewelry.”
“When I first heard it, I thought it was satire — someone taking the not-new idea of preserving breastmilk in a ring (a memento of a sweet and often too-brief part of motherhood) and ramping it up to a ridiculous extreme,” wrote Elizabeth Scalia, editor-at-large at Aleteia, a Catholic site. “It’s not satire, though.”
Many see the embryo jewelry as “undignified” and downright disrespectful of human life.
“I have no category for who would think this would be something good to do,” Jennifer Lahl, the founder and president of the California-based Center for Bioethics and Culture, told the Catholic News Agency. “It’s so undignified that these embryos have been destroyed to become jewelry.”
“The solution is to stop creating surplus embryos,” Lahl added. “The solution is to stop freezing human embryos, so that parents aren’t left with these ethical dilemmas of what to do with them when they decide they don’t want any more children.”
Others raise even deeper ethical questions.
“There’s no consideration for the babies, just how the parents feel,” Marie-Claire Bissonnette, youth coordinator at Campaign Life Coalition, told LifeSiteNews. “This is the antithesis of parenting: killing your children and using their bodies to create frivolous tokens in the name of ‘keeping them close.'”