The following 3-part testimony was written by embryo adopters Doug and Valarie and edited by the EAAC for the purpose of this blog.
See Pt. 1 of this 3 Pt. Series.
We considered a Donor Egg procedure whereby a female donor is given drugs to stimulate egg development. The eggs are then harvested and would be fertilized by me in an IVF procedure. That just never felt right. In selecting who the donor would be and what a child that was biologically half mine and half theirs might look like the whole thing felt wrong. And it did not seem right to pay a fee for that service. We also had to consider the impact on Valarie of raising a child that would be biologically mine with another woman. It seemed like scientific adultery.
The whole time we were trying the IUI procedures and wrestling with IVF/Donor Egg options we kept getting signs about Adoption. Whether it was that small still voice that was speaking to us, or a billboard about adoption that never had been there before, or a friend mentioning out of the blue that his sister was adopted, we were being led to adoption.
We pursued International and Domestic adoption but for whatever reasons doors kept closing in that area. Whether it was age limitations, US Citizenship issues, or length of time married there seemed to always be a reason that precluded us from those options.
Had it not been for all of these trials we would never have been ready for Embryo Adoption. I truly believe this was the plan all along but we had to get to a place where we were ready to consider Embryo Adoption. We never would have been prepared for Embryo Adoption had we not been through all the trials and closed doors mentioned above.
We first heard about Embryo Adoption from our fertility doctor. Valarie found some information about it on the internet on an adoption website. As we learned more about Embryo Adoption it looked like a good option for us. Here is how it works:
Couples who have been through an IVF procedure transfer some of the embryos created in a dish. These embryos are 1-3 days old at the time and are a cluster of cells about the size of a pin head. Those couples have four options for handling the left over embryos: They can leave them in a frozen state indefinitely in which case they will eventually expire; they can thaw them and have them destroyed (incinerated); they can donate them to be used for stem cell research (in which case they are destroyed); or they can donate them for adoption.
There are approximately 600,000 frozen embryos in the U.S. that can be adopted if the biological parents choose that life giving option [EDITORIAL NOTE: According to 2002 Rand study 88% of embryos in frozen storage are still being considered for use in family building by the people who created them. It is estimated that no more than one-fifth of the remaining embryos are potentially available for donation to another family.]. Of course like other adoptions you have to go through a home study by an adoption agency to be approved to adopt, and in the case of an open adoption, you have to prepare a brief personal profile to let the biological parents know enough about you to approve the adoption. Unlike a traditional adoption it is not legally considered an adoption. It is currently considered by the courts as a transfer of property with the biological parents surrendering all legal rights to the child.
Naturally we had several concerns: We were concerned that the child would not look like us because we would have to choose between a Caucasian and Asian baby. That was overcome when we contacted our agency and found out that they had several mixed race couples who had donated embryos. We were concerned that we would not love the child like we would our own. That was overcome by talking to other couples who had adopted. We were concerned about the rights of the biological parents. That was overcome by learning that there were no rights and no direct contact was necessary if we chose only contact through the agency. We were concerned that we might be buying a baby and encouraging others to make more embryos just to make a profit. That was overcome when we learned that the donating couple does not make any money at all.
We also believed that it was a best option considering all the alternatives (IUI, donor egg, traditional adoption) for the following reasons:
- It saves a life that has already been created instead of creating another life.
- The adoptive Mother carries the child and has the opportunity to experience pregnancy and bond with the baby in her womb.
- One adoptive parent doesn't have to feel like it is the other parent's child but not theirs as with an egg donor.
- No second guessing about the child's exposure to a previous environment.
- Each embryo transfer had a 42% or 46% chance of pregnancy vs a single digit chance with each IUI procedure [EDITORAL NOTE: A 2007 study published in the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's (ASRM) Fertility and Sterility demonstrated a 35% pregnancy success rated using frozen embryos. (September 2007, Vol. 88, pS267)]
- Cost: it's much cheaper than traditional adoption. As a practical matter most people do not have unlimited funds to keep trying fertility treatments.
In January 2008 we made the decision to adopt the embryos of two Asian/Caucasian families. Only one embryo from one of the families survived the thawing process (these embryos had been frozen for a long time), and the other family's embryo that had been frozen for a shorter period of time also made it through the thawing process. In total we transferred two embryos (one from each couple).
Don't miss the conclusion of Doug and Valarie's story next Friday.
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