Making the Decision
What if he never needed it? Would it have been a waste? Would I look back 30 years later and wish we'd made a different choice? Definitely not. I decided that it was better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Besides, maybe it wouldn't be my unborn son who would one day need a stem cell transplant—it could be my mom, my husband, or even me. Cord blood can only be saved at birth; we'd never get another chance to bank it.
So, instead of trying to talk my mom into giving us something more practical, we sincerely thanked her for the gift. We chose Viacord as the company that would store our son's blood, and the company sent out the infamous box with the bold red inscription that took up residence by our front door. [Editor's note: For a list of reputable cord blood banking companies, be sure to visit the Parent's Guide to Cord Blood Foundation.]
When we went to the hospital, we took the box with us. I was so preoccupied with our baby that I never noticed the cord blood collection. It didn't interfere in any way with my delivery or our bonding time. When my husband made our joyful telephone calls announcing the birth of our son, his first call went to Viacord. They sent a professional courier who politely admired our son, took the box, and left. A few weeks later, we got a stack of papers with all kinds of medical data which basically said that they'd collected enough blood for storage and gave our son's blood type and some other medical information. We sent a copy to his pediatrician and stuck the other one in a folder, where it remains.
When we learned we were expecting a second son, we decided immediately to bank his cord blood. According to the New York Blood Center, the chance of siblings having matching cord blood is one in four, but even if it was one in two, I think we'd have banked his blood. By that time, my OBGYN and the hospital staff were better informed, and no one thought we were nuts. The biggest change, as far as I was concerned, was that Viacord had developed a slipcover for that box; visitors who saw it by my door could easily tell that it was for cord blood banking and not a sure sign of vampirism.
If You Don't Bank ... Donate
Cord blood banking remains expensive and, in spite of the potential benefits, many parents decide not to do it. When making your own decision about banking, take into account the potential future uses and read the fine print on everything. If you choose not to bank your child's blood, you may consider donating it through the National Marrow Donor Program or the National Cord Blood Program—it might save the life of another person who has been waiting for a matching donor.
Medical researchers find new uses for cord blood every year, and as more data is released, I am increasingly glad we decided to have our sons' cord blood stored. It's just one less thing to worry about.
This article is one mom's opinion and not intended to replace medical advice.