By Allison Ockenden
On a daily basis, I meet people who have no idea what a DNA artist is and what we do, and I’m always asked why, out of all jobs, I chose this one. For those that have heard of breastmilk and DNA keepsakes, they are usually only aware of the basic breastmilk keepsakes that serve as a little (sparkly and super pretty) trophy of a baby fed whether for an hour, a week, a month, a year or beyond, but there is so much more to what I do and why I do it.
I could talk your ear off for hours telling you all the areas in life that I can take a precious memory or moment and turn it into something physical to be held and re-lived, both the best of life and the most heart breaking.
I work with so many mums who’ve sadly lost their own mums. The one sentence that I hear from them all is, “I just wish Mum could have met and held my little one even if only once..”. While I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you I can change the universe to make that happen (although believe me when I say I wish I could bridge the distance between those passed and those still with us for my own selfish reason as well as those also missing someone), what I can do is join them for eternity.
Close your eyes and imagine a ring or bead that contains the hair of a grandmother combined with the milk that nourished a grandbaby she never got to hold, entwining them together for eternity never to be separated. Or one of our Heart In My Hands display keepsakes that can combine a photo and DNA within the one piece to perfectly represent this unfulfilled wish.
We bring generations together; we add umbilical cords of twins together every moment from conception and join them together within the same keepsake or piece of keepsake jewellery, never to be apart for even a moment.
Another important service we decided to include after much thought and research was the ability to craft with embryo ash. This topic evokes huge emotions and passionate debates from those for and against, but after looking into the industry and experiences of families born thanks to the incredible work of IVF clinics worldwide and watching close friends go through the process, I saw first hand the heart ache at the completion of a family and the heart breaking options or lack thereof given to parents with embryos still in storage.
For most people, the path to parenthood is pretty simple and straightforward. We either plan it or those little two lines come as a total yet wonderful shock.
For some parents-to-be, it’s not this simple nor joyous. Their road to the titles of Mum and Dad are filled with many doctor visits, medications, procedures, tears and the emotional roller-coaster none of us that haven’t been through it can even imagine. They go through it all happily and hopeful for the cutest prize at the end: their baby.
During each IVF cycle, the number of embryos produced vary greatly from person to person. Some end up with enough for only one transfer while others end up with enough to store for the future to grow their families as they choose.
But what happens when your home (and car) are filled with the laughter of your little miracles and your family is complete and you still have embryos in storage?
Currently, parents are given very few options, these are usually to either keep the embryo straws frozen, which includes paying fees to a clinic yearly – storage fees can run from $750 a year to the thousands – and paying these for an indefinite amount of time is not a viable option for many families. Storage space is also fastly becoming a logistical issue with 100,000s stored across the USA alone.