The Beauty of Embryo Adoption
When I look back over the past 10 years, I’m in awe of God’s sovereignty, faithfulness, and grace.
Like many women, experiencing pregnancy and becoming a mom was something I dreamed about since I was a little girl. Coming from a relatively large family, I never thought we would struggle to conceive. Two years into marriage, we started trying. It wasn’t long before the months turned to years. The struggle dragged on and we grew weary. When two years passed with no positive pregnancy tests, we spoke with doctors. Initially our diagnosis was unexplained infertility.
Infertility is a deep, painful, and personal struggle. It changes you and your spouse in ways I’m not sure we fully understand. Infertility can either be a force that drives you to your knees and closer to the Lord and your spouse or it can be a trial that rips your faith to shreds and tears your marriage apart. My husband and I refused to let the enemy use this as a foothold. We’ve not been perfect in this journey, but thankfully grace abounds!
Three and a half years into our journey, we began fertility treatments. For six years, we went through failed medicated cycles, multiple surgeries, and four IUIs. Each surgery and treatment resulted in favorable reports from the doctors, but still our arms remained empty. During this time, the Lord began to stir our hearts toward adoption even while our desire to experience pregnancy continued to grow. Around this time, I learned about embryo adoption. Honestly, I was scared. What if we went all the way down this road and still ended up with empty arms? Emotionally, I wasn’t sure I could handle that. We were still bruised and grieving from failed treatments.
In February 2019, we attended the Waiting Well Together couples retreat. By this point, I had a burden for the millions of tiny frozen embryos whose lives are on pause. During the retreat, we visited with Toni. As we shared our story with her, she said something that switched on a light.
She said we can trust that God is sovereign over the lives of our children because they belong to him whether they come from our own bodies, through adoption, or some other way.
I still struggle with the “what ifs.” But 2 Corinthians says ‘to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.’ So when the attacks from the enemy come, I strive to replace the lies with truth from God’s Word.
Last fall, we began the process to adopt embryos through Nightlight’s Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. There are many ways to go about embryo adoption. Some fertility clinics have their own programs, and there are specific agencies like Nightlight. We chose Nightlight for multiple reasons: they’re faith-based; we would adopt embryos from the same “batch” so all of our children would be genetic siblings (this is their goal with every adoption); and we could have an open adoption with the placing family.
Snowflakes is similar to a “traditional” infant adoption program. We went through an application phase including a formal agreement with the agency, physician approval, a family evaluation (similar to a home study), and creating a family profile. After the application phase, we entered matching. This involved extensive questions about our personal preferences to help in the matching process, the presentation of our profile to a potential placing family, reviews of the embryology report by our fertility clinic, and our review of the placing family’s profile. Once a match is accepted, couples move to the contract phase (embryos are considered property by law, so the contracts transfer ownership of the embryos). The next step begins with shipping the embryos to the adopting parent’s fertility clinic and then the medical process can begin. At this point, it’s like the last step of IVF, where we schedule a frozen embryo transfer (FET) that hopefully results in a pregnancy.
We had a sweet reminder of the Lord’s sovereignty and grace during our matching phase. Six weeks into matching, we asked for continued prayers from our small group. A dear friend prayed specifically that we would be matched that month. I thought, “Well there’s only one weekday left in this month, so that’s highly unlikely.” Less than 24 hours later, we got the news that we had been matched! Oh, did the tears of joy flow! Not just because we had been matched, but because God had been so gracious to answer our prayer even when our faith was weak.
As we read the placing family’s profile, we were amazed at the Lord’s sovereignty. We learned that the embryos we had chosen to adopt were made before Brent and I had even met one another! So all those years ago, God was already making a way for our family to grow. I truly believe adoption is not second best or Plan B. Seeing a timeline on paper that clearly showed how God had been working in our lives and His sovereignty over our family left us in awe.
We accepted the match at the beginning of June 2020 and adopted 8 embryos. We’re planning to have an embryo transfer this fall. We pray that our transfer is successful, that we carry to full term, and that we are able to have subsequent successful pregnancies. Regardless of the outcome, our hope is in the Lord and His faithfulness. We’re so thankful to have been given such a precious gift by the placing family and pray that our story is an encouragement to others. Whether you’re at the beginning of your story to grow your family or you’re neck deep in the sorrows of infertility, remember God is faithful. Cast your burden on Him, and He will sustain you (Psalm 55:22).
This story was original published on the Waiting in Hope blog.
Release My Children
Our fertility journey began when I was twenty-nine. After trying to conceive for a year, I was diagnosed with low ovarian reserve. After seeing several reproductive endocrinologists, in vitro seemed the most promising option moving forward. My husband and I are very outcome-focused people, so with motivated spirits we pursued two egg retrievals and one transfer, and within six months we were pregnant. We were thrilled to be expecting our first son!
When he was 2 years old, we began pursuing fertility treatments again. This time, we ended up doing three egg retrievals. Unfortunately, after each retrieval, there were no viable embryos to transfer.
I felt crushed, depressed, and hopeless. I thought I would never be able to experience pregnancy again. I had done everything by the book—the injections, medications, acupuncture, diet changes, you name it! I thought, “Why was this happening to us? Doesn’t God know our deepest desire is to grow our family?”
Little did we know, God had a completely different plan in mind!
After the epic IVF failure, we began to consider adoption. We applied with a large agency that specializes in domestic newborn adoption, but as I started to read more about the traditional adoption process, the more I started to have second thoughts. We had concerns about expenses being extremely high, the health of the baby (including prenatal drug exposure), and the idea that the biological mother could change her mind even after the birth. I have the upmost respect and awe for families who are called to adopt traditionally, but these concerns were just not sitting right with us.
Then it happened: Early one morning I woke up at 2:30am, thinking ‘Embryo Adoption.’
Not knowing what it was, I Googled it (of course!) and discovered Nightlight’s Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. It made so much sense to adopt embryos that have already been created and are waiting for a safe place to grow! I found hope that I could experience pregnancy again. My husband was on board, and we prayed fervently about it.
God answered in the most profound way, “Release my children,” He said to my spirit. The definition of release is ‘to set free from restraint, confinement, or servitude.’ We had our answer.
We moved forward with our motivated spirits again! We flew through the home study, doctor visits, adoption education, and other qualifications. Snowflakes prepared us that it could take a few months to be matched, but we were matched in just two weeks! God’s hand was indelibly in this process from the start to finish. We found out that we were pregnant with our Snowflakes Baby, our second son, about six months after beginning our embryo adoption journey!
It is amazing to me that our child was fearfully and wonderfully created across the country the same year we first started trying to conceive. We got to finish what our matched family started and I know without any hesitation that this child was meant for us, to be carried and nurtured, loved and prayed for, by our family. I got to experience the natural birth I always wanted and the invaluable rebirth of my motherhood. We are so blessed beyond measure!
Two Cancer Diagnoses, One Successful Embryo Adoption
At age 24, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. As treatment, I underwent chemotherapy and radiation to my chest. This was before egg freezing was used as a fertility preservation method, so instead I had an ovary removed and cryopreserved in the likely event the chemo would affect my fertility. Fast forward to my early thirties—I was feeling healthy and happily married to my husband, Phil. We began trying to conceive naturally but knew the odds were not in our favor. We had known for a long time that having our own children was something that might never happen, and it was something we discussed early in our dating relationship. Having a family was always a part of our plan for our life together, we just did not know how it would be created.
About six months after we began trying, I was unexpectedly diagnosed with breast cancer, which doctors think was a result of the radiation treatment I had for my lymphoma. Before beginning chemotherapy for the second time, we decided to try an egg retrieval and to freeze the embryos to use after my treatment ended. But the retrieval was unsuccessful. My reproductive endocrinologist told us that even through IVF we were unlikely to conceive.
We revisited our options after I finished treatment. We still had my frozen ovary and found a doctor in St. Louis who was successfully transplanting ovarian tissue resulting in healthy babies conceived naturally. We traveled for the transplant procedure in February 2017. The transplant proved unsuccessful, which did not come as a shock. We began researching adoption.
We started on the road of traditional adoption, but after discovering embryo adoption, we knew that was the right path for us. We would hopefully be able to experience pregnancy, and the joys (and pains!) of that unique process.
When we found Snowflakes, we grew comfortable with the process and realized this was the right organization to help us on our journey to start our family. One of the reasons was because of the focus they put on the placing families’ experience, and they consider how our relationship will develop with our matched family. In our home study education about raising a child through embryo adoption, we grew to think of them as family even before we were matched. Their unique and wonderful story is a part of ours and our child’s lives.
We have been on a long journey to expanding our family, and it is our greatest joy to have brought home a perfect baby girl in November 2019. We waited six and half years since my second cancer diagnosis to hear the news that we would be parents. And, funnily enough, she extended her debut as long as medically possible, entering the world 13 days past her due date and after 46 hours of labor! She was worth every second of that wait. We are in the process of planning our next transfer very soon and cannot wait to continue adding snowflakes to our family!
Pregnancy Success Despite Premature Ovarian Failure
About 14 years ago, after having an irregular cycle my whole life, I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. Which basically means that for unknown reasons, I went through menopause early. After looking at my blood work, I believe my doctor’s exact words were, “You’re absolutely never getting pregnant.”
At 17 years old, that was heavy information to process. But looking back now, I’m thankful I had so much time to come to terms with my infertility. The finality of it was a “death” of sorts; I could grieve, process, and then heal. When I was dating Donny, my now husband, we were able to talk about what this would mean for our family and processed the realization that we would not be bringing biological children into the world together. We agreed we wanted children, and knew that adoption would be in our future.
A few years into marriage we got “the baby bug” and started researching adoption more seriously. There’s so much information out there! International, domestic, domestic private, foster-to-adopt and more! We were overwhelmed by the many pros and cons of each method…as well as the staggering costs associated with many routes. We eventually discovered the organization, Nightlight Christian Adoptions and the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program.
When family is complete after pursuing IVF, they sometimes have frozen embryos remaining that they don’t intend to transfer. This is can be for a variety of reasons—dangerous pregnancies, several successful pregnancies so adding more children isn’t practical, financial strain, etc.). What to do with these frozen embryos is a huge dilemma many families face. Snowflakes matches families who have remaining embryos that would like to place them with an adoptive family.
Embryo adoption was appealing to me and my husband for a variety of reasons… The costs associated are typically much lower than domestic infant or international adoption. There are thousands (if not over a million!) of frozen embryos currently in frozen storage in the U.S. And my infertility stems from my ovaries, my uterus could (theoretically) still carry a pregnancy, so I would be able to experience pregnancy and childbirth was a joy I’d never even imagined I could have!
We embarked on our embryo adoption journey in 2014. It started with many applications, forms, background checks, and meetings—all the usual steps required in a traditional adoption. Early in 2015 we received our first match! We adopted 8 embryos and started prepping my body for our frozen embryo transfer (FET). In an overnight shipping container, our precious embryos made the journey from Florida to our clinic in Pasadena. Our doctor thawed three embryos and 2 were viable for transfer. It was heartbreaking to hear we had already lost one precious life, but we were hopeful we would get the news we were pregnant with twins!
It takes about 2 weeks after an FET to get a successful positive pregnancy test, so we did our best to wait patiently.
The day I got the call from my doctor’s office that I was not pregnant, was one of the hardest moments of my life. I felt like my body had failed and that I had let these children and my husband down. Statistically, only 1 in three transfers are successful, so we knew there was a good chance it wouldn’t work on our first try, but it was still a deep loss we had to grieve.
We let my body heal for a few months, and tried again with our four remaining embryos. Once again, one of them did not survive thawing, and my doctor felt it was wise to transfer the remaining three. “Triplets!” We imagined to ourselves, “What an adventure!”
Two weeks later, we listened to the nurse’s sad voice over the phone, and again we had to process a huge loss. The idea that we had ushered 8 souls into heaven was both beautiful and heart wrenching. It was time to step back and evaluate everything. I could not imagine putting my body through the medication, then the transfer, and the loss AGAIN.
In the end we decided, the odds were in our favor. If 1 in three FETs are truly successful, we felt comfortable giving it one more final go. We jumped back into the matching pool with Snowflakes.
They came back with a unique matching offer—two separate families who each had one embryo to transfer. They asked if we would be interested in taking both. Once again, embryos were shipped to Pasadena, one from D.C. and one from Chicago.
We imagined the great stories of a twin pregnancy where the twins weren’t biologically related to us, nor each other… and this time when the phone rang, the nurse’s voice was joyful—we were pregnant! Words I’d never heard before! We still had a long journey ahead, since it was very early, but at that moment, I was pregnant!
At our first ultrasound there was one steady heartbeat. A healthy growing baby, and one more loss. All in total we had adopted ten embryos and one made it to pregnancy. But what immense joy in the one! Since embryo adoption is not a technical adoption in the legal sense of the word, the embryos were our personal possessions up until transfer, which means there was no finalizing the adoption, and it would be my husband’s and my name on the birth certificate.
On December 22, at 37.5 weeks pregnant, my son Deacon was born at a whopping 9 pounds, 12 ounces!
We have had a little bit contact with his biological family. We know they live in Washington D.C. and he has a big sister from the same batch of embryos he came from. I know that deciding to place their final remaining embryo with our family was a gut wrenching decision for them, and I don’t take their gift lightly. We often talk to Deacon about his wonderful family in D.C. who loved him so much they let me be his mama! As he gets older, we want him to understand his history, and allow him as much or as little relationship with them as he wants.
Today, it’s hard to remember life without Deacon! His head of crazy blonde curls, his precocious personality and his love of all things green have brought Donny and me more joy than I could have ever imagined! We grieved those early losses so deeply, but know that it was preparing us to parent this incredible child, and I would not change things for the world!
This story was originally published on the Shalice Noel Blog.
Choosing a Program For Our Embryo Adoption
After four years of dating, Tim and Ellen were joyfully married in January 2013. They always talked about having children. Tim frequently joked that he wanted 2.5 kids (the national average). Ellen’s younger brother was adopted from Russia at the age of two, so adoption was a part of the couple’s discussion for building a family. What they didn’t realize was how soon adoption was going to play a role in their lives.
Married two years, they began having discussions on starting a family. They started by adopting their four-legged kid. One who is white with black spots, and has the cutest ears—their puppy Gus! He was the practice round for “real kids.”
Tim and Ellen began attempting to conceive a biological child in the fall of 2015. In March 2016, having had no success, Ellen made an appointment with an OBGYN. The doctors told her everything looked in order and added she expected, “to see her back in her office pregnant in no time at all!” Unfortunately, that was not the outcome.
While the couple was on vacation in July of 2016, they were listening to a podcast, and an ad came on for a Bible Club ministry in Eastern Europe. A thought clicked inside Ellen’s head, “I want to adopt from an Eastern European country, and I want to do it now.” Immediately, through the magic of the Internet, she began researching international adoptions. They discovered it was going to be extremely expensive. The reality of attachment and potential medical issues were also concerning to them. Tim and Ellen concluded that at ages 26 and 27, and one of whom was still in graduate school, international adoption needed to go on hold.
In October, Ellen confided about their struggles to conceive and the desire to adopt to a co-worker. She then told Ellen about a couple she knew who had adopted embryos and given birth to their adopted child. Immediately, Ellen was intrigued. She went straight home after work and, you guessed it, started researching!
Tim and Ellen were blown away! They thought, “What an amazing thing to be able to adopt children as embryos and to carry them in pregnancy!” They spent several months thinking and praying about how to proceed. Ellen communicated with women who had gone through embryo adoption. She listened to video blogs, researched agencies, talked with agencies, and read the book Souls on Ice.
Tim and Ellen were doing medical tests with a fertility clinic. Finally, a possible reason for their inability to conceive was discovered: Ellen had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). The Reproductive Endocrinologist told them about intrauterine insemination (IUI), but they decided against it. “After getting the PCOS diagnosis, we decided embryo adoption was the right choice for us,” Ellen remembers.
Tim and Ellen considered three different agencies. All had great things about them, but they elected to work with the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. They felt comfortable with the people they interacted with and were able to get answers to most of their questions answered upfront. Tim and Ellen confidence in the program grew after each interaction.
In April 2017, Tim and Ellen submitted their application to Snowflakes. Their home study was completed in about three months. Then it was time to enter the matching phase of the program. Incredibly, Tim and Ellen were matched with a placing family in 10 days. They needed some time to pause, think, and pray. Two days later, they gratefully accepted the placing family’s invitation to match.
Next came the adoption and communication agreements. Once the contracts were returned, signed, and notarized by both families, it was time to ship with embryos to their clinic.
“Our ‘embabies’ arrived at our clinic in December 2017. We expect to have our first frozen embryo transfer in January 2018. It’s amazing to think that less than one year from submitting our initial application we could be pregnant with our adopted child!
“We eagerly await the day of our transfer. We are eagerly awaiting the day we can feel them kick as my belly grows. We are eagerly awaiting the day we can hold them in our arms. We are eagerly awaiting the day we can tell them how much God loves them.”
UPDATE: Ellen and Tim did have their first FET in early 2018, but it was unsuccessful. They had two embryos remaining. After taking a doctor recommended break and spending some time healing, they decided to move forward with a second transfer with their last remaining embryos. This time, their transfer was a success and their son, Ryan, was born March 2019!
Our Embryo Adoption Journey
I never thought in a million years I would be pregnant with an adopted baby. That changed three years ago. My husband and I were struggling to conceive, so we went to an adoption meeting. When we learned about embryo adoption, we both were immediately intrigued. After discussing it and then talking with doctors, we decided to move forward. We contacted Snowflakes because we had heard they were a wonderful Christian organization to work with. We underwent educational training on embryo adoption and were eventually told we would be matched with an adopting couple who had donated their embryos. When the day finally came that we were matched, we looked at the donor’s profile and burst into tears. They seemed like such a wonderful couple (and surprisingly like us in many ways). We were excited and hopeful to adopt their five embryos, overjoyed by the possibility of our children having siblings!
The embryos were moved to a fertility clinic in our area. The first embryo was transferred—and it implanted! We were pregnant for five weeks until the clinic confirmed I miscarried. A few months later, we transferred another embryo and it too miscarried. We took tests in between transfers to make sure we weren’t missing anything my body needed for success. A few months later we transferred another embryo and it implanted.
We went in for our next ultrasound at six weeks and the doctor confirmed that there was nothing there except an empty sac. We were devastated that we had miscarried again. All these losses began to feel like too much for my body and way too much for our hearts.
We continued to update the donor couple along the way through Snowflakes. We wrote them a thank you letter for the embryos, but it was so hard to put into words our overwhelming sense of gratitude. How do you thank someone for this—the opportunity to be parents? Our donor’s responses back to us were always so selfless and supportive. We couldn’t believe they weren’t sorry they had donated their embryos to us after three of the five had died.
We were beginning to think none of the embryos would implant. We talked about giving back the remaining two embryos to focus on infant adoption; we thought my body just wasn’t accepting of these embryos. We wanted them to grow and mature and be born.
Our doctor said the last two embryos were “Day 6” which meant they took a little longer to develop. It also meant a slightly lower chance of implantation. We prayed and prayed for direction for a couple of months.
On my birthday, we were surprised to find out that one of my high school friends had adopted a baby girl. She sent us pictures—the baby was so cute! My friend was so happy to have grown her family so quickly. I had no idea she was even pursuing that, so it all felt so fast to me. It also caused Dan and me to reconsider pursuing infant adoption instead of embryo adoption. But we still felt drawn to embryo adoption. So, we decided to transfer the other two embryos. The doctor said it was okay to transfer them both at the same time. (This all had taken place over the course of about two years.) On the day of the last transfer we would ever have, we got this letter from the donor parents:
Dear Dan and Rachel,
Thank you for the beautiful letter. I have read it over and over, and it brings me to tears every time. I am amazed by your strength and your faith. I’m sure you can imagine the discussions and tears that went into choosing to put the embryos up for adoption. We prayed we were doing the right thing. The moment we were notified that y’all had been chosen as the parents, I had a deep sense of calm in my heart. I knew that God had led us to make the right decision.
When we get to heaven, it will be your face those babies are looking for. They have heard the sound of your heart beating from the inside, and it sang them a sweet lullaby of love.
As y’all prepare for your transfer today, I am praying for y’all, for your doctors, and for your tiny babies. You spoke in your letter about us giving y’all a chance. In truth, we are forever grateful to y’all for giving these embryos a chance.
Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” I ask God to give you a baby to love here on earth.
The letter brought us to tears. We didn’t want to let them down or feel another loss. So, we moved forward with the final transfer, knowing God would reveal to us what He wants.
When they tested my numbers several days after the transfer, they weren’t going up like they hoped. They hadn’t doubled. We had experienced this too many times before: the numbers start to go down and then I miscarry. I continued with all my meds, and they tested again in a few days. When the coordinator called, she was just as surprised as I was to tell me that not only had the numbers gone up, they soared! It had worked once again!
We were so happy and thankful—but at the same time, we had been at this point so many times already. We continued to pray and pray. We tried not to be too hopeful but to just trust in God’s plan. We believed that whatever happened, it would be God’s will and we would get through it with His help.
We went to our six-week ultrasound nervous with tears as we waited for the doctor. We had never made it through this milestone—the one where we could possibly hear the heartbeat. This time we heard it! We heard the heartbeat! Dan and I were both crying tears of thankfulness. From there we continued to see the doctor each week. Every week, the ultrasound showed a healthy, growing baby. (Sadly, we did lose the other embryo and look forward to meeting that child, too, in heaven.)
At 10 weeks we graduated from the fertility clinic and moved onto our regular OB physician. The OB doctor continued to care for us, and at 20 weeks, we found out we were having a boy. We were beyond excited and thankful to be this far and to have this opportunity.
On January 29, 2020, we finally met our son, Calvin. We continue to thank God every day for this baby. We feel like the luckiest parents in the world. God has blessed us beyond what we deserve, and we pray He will equip us to be the best parents we can be to this little guy. We will share his story with him right from the start. We pray he not only knows he has so many people that love him—donor and adoptive parents—but that he will, most importantly, grow in his faith, know Jesus as his Savior, and rely on God to lead and direct him—just as we were trying to do in our journey to meet our child.
Embryo Adoption Journey: The Husband’s Perspective
September 2016—day one of our honeymoon. My wife and I decide to drive the Maui coast, along the Road to Hana. A multi-hour journey, hair pinned turns, and a day of reflection as we start our new lives and journey together. As we drive, we have our theme song on—Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. We have an mobile app assisting us, with the tour guide speaking to us about life, its purpose, and that the Road to Hana is more about the journey than the destination.
Our journey and a new chapter of our lives began that week. Like most, life is generally in sequential order and planned, and for my wife, she has always planned to be a mother. On this trip, we had hopes of continuing our journey of life and starting OUR family.
The honeymoon ended, months went by, and quickly we came to learn that starting a family would be harder than we originally thought. Patience…that’s what my wife kept telling me. But as time went on, our patience had grown to frustration. We kept quiet, wondering, broken, and numb.
Stepping in the door to the infertility center, we thought, “This won’t be so bad.” We will run some tests, find out the problem, and be on our way.
Days later, we got an alarming call from the doctor’s office. Sure enough, the test results came back and we were devastated. From these tests, it was determined our likelihood of having children on our own was very low.
We had so many questions, so many emotions, so many thoughts; it was overwhelming. Our world was crumbling around us, as we saw so many of our dreams never becoming a reality. We began undergoing fertility treatments to conceive, but after two failed attempts, we were left heartbroken and with a deep sadness.
We had many days of grieving and our desire to have a family was still very strong, so we began looking into adoption. Through this journey, we found Snowflakes Embryo Adoption. Instantly, we knew this was a perfect fit and one we wanted to pursue to build the family that we have always dreamed about. We felt that these embryos were our path to becoming parents.
In an attempt to take our mind off things (as we were trying to come to a big life decision), we went to see a new movie, Instant Family, which was about adoption (foster adoption, to be exact). The movie was great and very heartwarming. For those that have not seen it, I won’t spoil it, but in the end, the judge hits the radio and a song comes on. Not just any song, our song—the one Ashley and I play over and over—Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now. In that moment, we looked at each other, both of us wiping away tears. This was us. NOTHING’S GONNA STOP US NOW.
That week, we signed the adoption contract with the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. We proceeded with ongoing paperwork, deadlines, and all of the required educational pieces. The FBI clearances, bank statements, marriage evaluations, educational pieces, all went by with a moment’s time. Now, we were ready for our home visit, and we were a nervous wreck.
Despite our nerves, the home study went perfectly, and then came the matching phase. At that point, we were three months in and were informed it would take months for us to be matched. Months turned into days, and God had another plan.
Six days. Yes, SIX DAYS later, someone selected us.
We could not have been more thrilled with how perfect a match it was. Our placing family is truly wonderful and has become family to us. We have agreed upon an open adoption and have truly developed a bond with them that is indescribable.
Next came the hard part, mostly for my wife—the embryos arriving at our clinic, the blood work, the injections, the tests, and the hormones. It was a whirlwind of emotions, and with guidance from our doctor, all went as planned and we were ready for our first transfer.
Transfer day was a day surrounded by love, God’s blessings, and even a little bit of humor. And, of course, our song playing throughout. We anxiously counted down each day. Oh, how the days slowly dragged on.
After the first BETA we received the phone call, one we once thought we would never get, telling us “Congratulations, you are pregnant!” Ashley had them repeat themselves multiple times because those words were music to our ears. I started crying, looking at her. “We did it!! YOU did it!” We knew we still had a long journey ahead, but in that moment, we were celebrating.
Now along our own “Road to Hana,” I am happy to report that my wife is 28 weeks pregnant, and I cannot be more excited. She is a brave, courageous woman, and without her pushing, I don’t think we would be where we are today. The countless injections, the sleepless nights, the tears; it was all worth it as we embark on the plan we were meant to take: Embryo adoption.
As this pregnancy progresses and our story unfolds, we become closer and closer to holding our little Snowflake Baby in our arms.
Embryo adoption is the source of our greatest joy and hope. It has given us the opportunity to grow our family in the most beautiful way.
Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.
Photo courtesy of Portraits by Sharon.
Not Biologically Ours, But Completely Our Son
This is Snowflake #656. He is not ours, yet he is fully and wholly ours. He is our little miracle, our Masen.
We tried to expand our family for 10 years. It started with fertility drugs, then several IUIs, then graduating to two failed IVFs. Shortly after the IVFs, I got pregnant naturally—twice within a year! Both ended in early miscarriages, with one testing to have had Down Syndrome. Sometime in the middle of this journey, we became licensed for foster care and seriously looked into adoption. We initiated the adoption process once our foster license expired, but the first organization shut down, then the second organization closed its Philippines Program (our preferred program) just as we had begun attending adoption classes and filling out the required paperwork.
Because another IVF would be out-of-pocket, I turned to other means—I religiously used a fertility monitor, got fertility acupuncture, improved my gag reflex drinking Chinese herbs, sought out chiropractic care, dabbled in fertility self-massage, yoga, and even tried an at-home IUI-type kit I discovered. We finally decided to do one more round of IVF, only to have an incomplete cycle because none of our embryos made it past day three. That’s when our doctor suggested an egg donor.
I receive Focus on the Family, a Christian magazine, but I never have time to read it. Soon after the last failed IVF cycle, for no reason at all, I casually flipped through the magazine and read about the Snowflake Embryo Adoption Program. Can you say Divine Intervention? There was no doubt—this was ALL God!
The program allows families to share their extra frozen embryos (from their own IVF cycles) with other families through adoption. These parents have completed their families through IVF but have remaining embryos. They don’t want to discard their embryos, but they also do not want these precious lives just sitting in frozen storage. Instead of just donating their embryos to their clinic, they choose to have them adopted by another family and go through a process very similar to traditional adoption. We got to have the best of both worlds—I was able to experience pregnancy and give birth to Masen, through the miracle of adoption!
Masen is not biologically ours, but is completely our son. He is an adorable Hapa Haole baby, who we thank God for every single day. He has two biological brothers who I hope he’ll want to meet one day when he gets older. He is our Snowflake, our blessing, our God-send.
While many friends and family know about our journey, there are still so many others out there who don’t know about this option. If you (or someone you know) are struggling with infertility or have frozen embryos you don’t want to discard, Snowflakes is an option!
There is a God who loves you, a God who has amazing plans for your life. Just like he had a plan for our family and Masen. He is a God of hope, restoration, forgiveness, peace, and love.
In 2016, after 8 months of trying and not being able to conceive, we found out we were unable to have biological children. We were absolutely heartbroken. After taking the time to grieve, we began to think through what the Lord would have for us next. We found Snowflakes Embryo Adoption and loved that it was like traditional adoption in the sense the placing family would be choosing us. We began our embryo adoption journey in March of 2017.
With the help of the Snowflakes staff, we went through each phase fairly quickly and that December, we received notification a family had selected us to adopt their five embryos. It was such a sweet, sweet moment for us knowing we had just said yes, Lord willing, to our future children.
In April 2018, our embryos traveled 2,000+ miles and arrived safely at our clinic. That day we got a call from the clinic medical director, letting us know that due to the device the embryos were frozen in, the probability of them surviving the thaw was small and they would not perform the frozen embryo transfer for us. We were told there was nothing we could do, that other clinics wouldn’t take them, and to call them once we had been matched again. We were heartbroken. We knew that we would fight for them until there was nothing left we could do. We boldly prayed that the Lord would move mountains for our precious embryos.
That next morning, we got a call from Snowflakes and were told that another clinic nearby would accept the embryos. We were blown away at the Lord’s kindness and reassurance. If we had known the first clinic we had chosen would not have accepted the embryos, we would not have matched with our placing family. But God had a bigger, better plan. The Lord in His goodness made a way for us to be these precious babies’ parents.
Our first transfer took place in July 2018. The whole process was surreal. We had no idea if this transfer would take, but we prayed and hoped. We received a call from our doctor several days later, letting us know the transfer was unsuccessful. We had lost our precious baby—our child who was so graciously and sacrificially given to us, the child we had waited years for. We were reminded why we chose embryo adoption: to give each of the embryos we adopted a chance at life.
After taking the time to grieve and allow my body to rest, we went in for our second FET. When we arrived at the clinic, we were told they had to thaw two embryos that morning. Unfortunately, the first embryo fell apart upon thawing and was not viable. Again, heartbroken, we knew we would need to process this news. But due to our third embryo already being thawed and viable, we were motivated to move forward with the FET.
In September 2018, almost two years since we received the news that biological children were not an option for us, we got the call that we were pregnant! Words we never thought we would hear. We were in love with this sweet baby already and just in awe of the Lord’s kindness in matching us with this family. Our daughter was born May 25, 2019, which was 8 years to the month she was frozen as an embryo. We look back and we can see the Lord’s faithfulness over and over again. Even though we didn’t see it at times—He met us in mourning, in crying out, in the desperation, when we doubted, and when we celebrated and rejoiced.
We can’t imagine the emotions which have come with the sacrifice our daughter’s placing parents have made. We cannot adequately describe the gratitude in our hearts for the gift they have given us. We had a bracelet made for her biological mother, engraved with forever grateful on the front and five individual snowflakes inside—representing the five precious babies they gave us. Our prayer and hopes is this bracelet would be a daily reminder of the gracious sacrifice they made and their obedience to the Lord.
Our little girl is an absolute miracle and we thank God for her daily. We can’t wait to tell her the story of how the Lord made a way for us to be her parents. We pray the Lord would prepare her heart to hear it. We still hope and pray our two remaining embryos will transfer successfully and she will have genetic siblings in our family, in addition to the genetic sibling she already has who is being raised by her placing family.
The Gift of Openness
When we first began our embryo adoption journey, the idea of having an open relationship with the biological family seemed daunting. However, after researching best practices in adoption, we were confident the best thing for our adopted child was openness. Even with that knowledge, we were uncertain of what that would look like once our child was born.
During the pregnancy, Nightlight facilitated the communication. But shortly after our son was born, I decided to reach out to Amanda (Corey’s placing mother) directly. Holding my newborn son gave me an instant connection to this woman I had never met. I wanted to know more about her story and let her know that I felt gratitude for her gift, as well as compassion for the mix of emotions she must have been feeling.
We messaged back and forth, shared Christmas cards, and became Facebook friends. This seemed like a simple way for them to see photos of Corey without trying to decide what they would want me to send directly.
In all honesty, I had not considered all the implications of being Facebook friends. Should I look through her photos? Seeing her children’s faces felt like glimpses into the future – Corey looks just like them! What was our relationship, really? Over time, the more we communicated, the more comfortable it became and the less important those questions seemed. Defining the relationship became far less significant than allowing it to grow naturally.
It was especially important to us that we provide opportunity for a relationship between Corey and his biological siblings. Although we wanted him to decide how that relationship would develop as he got older, we also realized that having them in our lives could alleviate the pressure of creating a relationship in the future.
We had known from the beginning they were open to meeting and his biological siblings were already aware of Corey and his unique connection. So, when Corey was 3, we decided to initiate a visit. We live in different states, so traveling to meet them was a big adventure for us on many levels. We knew Corey would not fully understand the relationship he has with these new “friends,” and went trusting that God would smooth out whatever bumps we created in our uncertainty.
I spent the flight wondering what it would be like to meet. What would we feel? What would they feel? We had arranged to meet at a restaurant in their home town, and when they walked in, it was like seeing long-time friends. Of course, there was much to learn about one another, but there was also an ease about it we had not expected. Over the next several days, we enjoyed our time together. Our children became fast friends, and we all left glad we took the risk of opening our hearts.
I’m still not sure we can define in simple terms what this relationship is, but we are all so glad to embrace it. The kids have remained pen-pals, and this year, they are all coming to visit us!
As our children grow, each will begin to grasp their story in a fuller capacity. But today, I am grateful for the gift of openness.
Trusting in God & He Delivered
After getting married in June 2015, we believed, like most couples, that kids would naturally follow. We both had always dreamed of being parents, and the thought of infertility never crossed our minds. Our family even gave us baby items as wedding gifts! This is why we were so devastated when we received the news that Nick had male factor infertility and we would likely never be able conceive. We tried months of treatments, but to no avail. It became clear this was not God’s plan for us, and so we sought out alternative solutions.
When we attended our first information meeting at Nightlight Christian Adoptions, we believed we were there to begin the process of a domestic adoption. However, a new option was presented to us: embryo adoption. The idea was foreign to us, but also very intriguing. Tara yearned to carry her own child, and embryo adoption gave her that opportunity. When we went home that night, we asked for God’s guidance in making the best decision for our family that would also conform to His will. That Sunday we were sitting in church listening to a sermon when the pastor suddenly began to speak about adoption. It was almost as if he was speaking directly to us! We knew this was the sign we were looking for from God, and our minds were made up right there.
The matching process led us to a wonderful donor family with eight embryos. After Tara prepared for the transfer, we received news from our fertility doctor that all eight embryos had not survived the thaw. We were saddened and dismayed at our loss, but knew we had to persevere. Our second time through the matching phase resulted in a successful pairing with another amazing placing family. We accepted 11 embryos from them, and Tara began to again prepare for the transfer. This time, the first two embryos thawed proved to be viable! We implanted both, and nervously waited the two weeks to hear if we were pregnant.
When we walked into the fertility clinic and received the news that we were pregnant with twins, we experienced a joy like none other. We knew God had smiled upon us. Our happiness only increased when we discovered four weeks later during a sonogram with our new OB/GYN that our twins were in fact triplets! We knew that years of prayer had finally been answered, and we were prepared (or as prepared as you can be!) to tackle triplets head on.
During the 19th week of our pregnancy, our doctors informed us two of the babies were suffering from a condition known as twin-to-twin transfusion. In this situation, one twin is stealing blood and nutrients from the other, and it can be potentially life threatening for both children. The next day Tara underwent emergency surgery to correct the imbalance, which was successful.
During the 22nd week of pregnancy, Tara’s water unexpectedly broke. After rushing to the hospital, the doctor informed us that there was a 70% chance Tara would go into labor within the next few days, and if this happened, the pregnancy would be lost. It was the scariest news you can receive, but we trusted in God, and God again delivered. Tara would defy the odds and make it three weeks more before undergoing an emergency caesarian section to deliver two girls and a boy.
We were overjoyed to finally meet our three beautiful children, Judah DeVries, Macey Michelle, and Teigan Elizabeth. Each weighed under two pounds. However, tragedy would strike again, as our sweet baby girl Teigan passed away. There is nothing that can prepare a parent for the loss of a child, and we grieved our loss with our family. Although we would do anything to have her back, we were strengthened by our other two children. The three-month journey in the NICU was much like riding a roller coaster, with the highest of highs and lowest of lows, but ultimately resulted in us bringing home two healthy children.
Judah and Macey are now almost five months old and thriving. We could not be happier living each day with them and watching them grow and prosper. We know that we have Nightlight Christian Adoptions and embryo adoption to thank for making this possible. We will be forever in debt to all the wonderful people we have met and worked with along the way.
It is now our goal to spread the word about embryo adoption to as many people as possible. We believe that all life deserves a chance, and it is our hope that more people will hear our story and choose to pursue it as well. Although we have experienced grief, we praise God for Judah and Macey, and can’t wait to bring them another sister or brother some day!
We get it. You’re not alone.
Infertility was not on either of our radars when in the fall of 2016 we received confirmation: I have a low sperm count. We were stunned by the number–6 sperm, so specific! –and dismayed when months of treatment didn’t do much. (For those keeping score at home, we jumped from 6 sperm to 7. Wahoo.)
The worst of it was the feeling of isolation. Around us, our friends seemed to get pregnant with ease and pop out babies, and while some were more comforting to us than others, we felt like pariahs. For Chris, there was the sense that this somehow made him less of a man, less worthy of being a dad or around fathers. For Kari, having a baby was all she had really wanted in life. The thought of never having a child was the death of a dream.
We cried at dinner parties. We declined baby shower invitations. We became numb, the kind of numb that comes when you are terrified you may never again feel joy. The feeling of being completely alone was like suffocating under a great weight. We’ll never forget that feeling.
The stats, however, say we’re not alone. Far from it. One in 8 couples deal with infertility. That’s over ten percent of couples. For many, IUI or IVF is the answer. But for couples with severe male-factor infertility, like us, we aren’t considered good candidates for typical fertility treatments.
Doors kept shutting, one by one. Until, that is, we called Snowflakes Embryo Adoption after receiving a tip from Kari’s mom. They sounded kind over the phone. They gave us the first “yes” we’d heard in months. They sounded hopeful.
We talked with close friends and family about our decision, and in 2017, we completed the embryo adoption process and had our first frozen embryo transfer (FET). This resulted in a chemical pregnancy (or very early miscarriage) and once again, isolation reared its head. It told us we were dumb to hope. That we should give up. We didn’t know what to do.
But we tried again. And we’re happy to tell you that our second transfer has resulted in our son, 14 months old now, a wonderful child who is curious about rocks, likes to walk on his own, and keeps saying, “Dada!” even though we’re trying to teach him, “Mama!” We are grateful that the ups and downs of parenting are ours to have, despite the odds.
And the ups and downs can be YOURS, too. We know it might not feel like it. It might feel crazy, sad, weird, scary, frustrating. It might feel like another rabbit hole that goes nowhere. We’ve been there. And we know Snowflakes can offer hope.
We don’t feel alone anymore. Through infertility and embryo adoption, we’ve met so many amazing people — adoption workers, medical professionals, and couples just like you. We’re excited to raise our kids alongside other Snowflake babies, to raise awareness everywhere we go about embryo adoption, and to hear more stories of people conquering isolation with hope and community.
A Journey of Trust and Faithfulness
January 5, 2004 was the day our family’s journey began.
We were young (only 19) and in love and we knew that we wanted to start our family right away. Adoption was part of the heartbeat of who we were from the very beginning and we knew it would play a big role in our family in the future. Stephanie had done missions work at an orphanage overseas so when we first got married, we both agreed that we would adopt.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t get approved at that time because of our age. So, we decided to pursue starting our family through natural means first. However, as the years went on, we were still unable to grow our family and we had to really evaluate God’s plans. It took some time, but after a few years we realized God had something different in store.
According to doctors, our struggles with conceiving and pregnancy were unexplained. We suffered a lot of loss and heartache over the years, yet we had to trust that God was in control. We knew He had placed a deep desire in our hearts to be parents so we chose to keep on trusting Him.
After nine years of praying and waiting, we were blessed to become the parents of our beautiful baby girl from Taiwan and bring her home in February 2013. She was such an answer to prayer and we were amazed at God’s faithfulness in blessing our family. Many times before we brought her home, God had given us promises and dreams about her and it was amazing to see it all come to pass! And even as we adopted and brought her home, the Lord continued to give us promises and dreams about the future children Stephanie would carry in her womb.
Four years later, we began to feel the leading of the Holy Spirit to pursue another adoption. We just weren’t sure where to adopt from. While waiting for the Lord’s guidance, He dropped a new journey in our laps: Embryo Adoption.
We had no idea it existed or what it was, but as we learned more, we knew this was for our family. God began to speak to our hearts, revealing to us that THIS was what Stephanie’s womb was saved for…these future babies. They needed a home and a chance at life.
After completing the home study process, we were matched with and adopted three embryos through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, and transferred our first snowflake baby in January 2018. It was such a miracle to have that experience and from the very beginning we felt our theme was trust and joy. Even during a difficult pregnancy, Psalm 91:4, constantly resurfaced, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”
We knew God was with us and with this baby. She was born healthy and beautiful in October 2018. It is such an honor to be able to be used by God in this way and to welcome her into our family. It’s been an incredible experience and we look forward to welcoming our other two little snowflakes into our family in the future!
The Beauty of a Snowflake
“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.”
The day we were diagnosed with infertility (and given very few fertility options) was such a dark day for us. In an instant, our dreams of becoming parents to genetic children vanished, and we felt so overwhelmed with that loss. While we were heartbroken and frustrated that we were given so few options, we see now how God was preparing our hearts for the family He had always intended for us.
Early in our research, we had come across the beautiful option of embryo adoption. The fact that you could carry and give birth to your adopted child seemed like such an amazing thing! So when we were faced with the reality that we would not have our own genetic children, we knew that embryo adoption was something we wanted to pursue.
We didn’t really know where to start in the process, so we knew we would need some guidance. We chose the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, because they pioneered the process, and we wanted to partner with an agency that would uphold a high value on life. We are so grateful for our relationship with them. In each step of the process, we felt confirmation about our decision to pursue embryo adoption.
While we knew this was the path to a family we wanted to pursue, it was not without its own set of heartaches and struggles. We initially matched with a sweet donor family in our home state. We gave all the adopted embryos a chance at life, but unfortunately, we did not have a successful pregnancy. We were once again left heartbroken and frustrated, wondering if we would ever have children.
Nightlight was kind and gracious through the whole process. We did decide to rematch with another family, and soon we adopted more embryos. We welcomed our first 2 snowflake babies in November of 2016, boy/girl twins! They are our rainbow babies, the beauty of God’s faithfulness after the storm.
We transferred another embryo in November 2017, but unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to that sweet little one. We tried again with our last embryo, and we welcomed our third snowflake baby in August of 2018! He is such a blessing and joy to us, and we love the fact that all 3 of our snowflake babies are full genetic siblings.
We will forever be thankful for embryo adoption because through it, we got to experience pregnancy and become parents. There will never be enough words of gratitude to express to the donor families for the gifts they provided to us by making the decision to donate their embryos and entrust us with their care. It is incredible to me how God was preparing our family, even way back in 2007 (when our first embryos were frozen), and then again in 2009 (when our second set of embryos was frozen). How He led my husband and me to each other, walked with us in our road of infertility, and led us to pursue embryo adoption. He allowed us to skip all other fertility options so that we would discover and then choose this unique path to growing our family. I believe this is part of the reason we had to walk the road of infertility- because God always intended us to be the parents of these precious little ones. We had to stand out in the cold for a bit so we could stand back now and be amazed at the beauty of the family God created for us.
Placing Parents are the Real Heroes
We always knew we wanted to have kids in our family. And we knew that they could come lots of different ways. So we always thought we would have our kids by our own genetics and that we would also adopt. And after we had our daughter, we knew adoption was what we wanted to pursue for baby number two.
We met with an adoption agency in Indianapolis. We remember they were excited to have us, but they were pretty honest that if we wanted to bring home an infant we could be waiting a long time. But they were quick to tell us about another option called embryo adoption. This was an adoption path were we would be matched with a family looking to make arrangements for embryos they were not going to use after going through IVF.
When they were explaining this to us, it felt like it was sci-fi! But during the car ride home from the agency, we talked and the option just felt right for both of us.
However, we were coming from a desire to adopt and we believe first families and genetic families are an important part of a child’s identity. Most of the clinics, if you receive “adopted” embryos, it’s anonymous. And we felt like, for us and our family and our future kids, that was not the best option. We wanted a connection to their genetic family, so we chose an adoption agency for our embryo adoption: the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. We wanted the children who would come from the adoption to be able to know their story completely and have relationships with their genetic siblings if they wanted to.
The other reason we wanted to use Snowflakes over a clinic is because the Snowflakes model allows the genetic family (or placing parents) to choose their adoptive family. At most clinics, the adoptive parents choose the match. This was important to us because the placing parents created the embryos. They are theirs first. And they are the ones who should have that decision to choose whose they become.
We were first matched with six embryos, and over the course of two years we transferred those embryos. Sadly, those six embryos did not result in any babies. After that we took a step back to reflect on our journey. We had spent a lot of time, resources, and emotions on that match and those embryos and we still didn’t have our baby.
We remember those days of us being a little conflicted about what to do next. Do we move forward and match again? Do we try again naturally? Should we take a look back into traditional adoption? Our faith was a big part of our decision. We felt like there was a plan for us that was meant to be—there were other frozen babies out there somewhere, waiting for their forever home. So we decided to go back to find another match.
When a second family was considering us to adopt their remaining embryos, they had some additional questions for us. Their main question being, “Why are you adopting embryos when you are not infertile?” We knew they loved these embryos and they cared about them deeply. They were making an important decision. In the end, they chose us to adopt their embryos and we accepted.
On our first frozen embryo transfer with our new adopted embryos, we were pregnant right away! You could say we had a textbook pregnancy.
We have heard people say, “What you’re doing is go great by rescuing these embryos!” And yes, we are excited about it, but really the placing parents are the heroes. They are the ones that did something great, because had they decided to destroy their leftover embryos or keep them frozen, our baby would not be with us today. It was their decision that was life giving to the baby.
An International Embryo Adoption
I got all choked up as I watched the little pin-pricks of light on the monitor in the doctor’s office. The way they appeared was a miraculous sight I will never forget. Not for Emily, though. All she could focus on was how much she needed to go to the bathroom! But that is what this journey through embryo adoption has been like every step of the way. Sometimes miraculous, sometimes hilariously human.
Our infertility story begins just like any other, racking up doctor’s office visits like you are filling up a punch card at Starbucks. Each time they wanted to try something progressively more invasive. Our work requires us to live overseas, which complicated the situation further. Expats like us squeeze as much medical care as we can into each trip home, but it was becoming increasingly clear that natural conception just wasn’t in the cards for us. We looked into traditional adoption, but the small African country where we live doesn’t have a domestic program for non-citizens, forcing us to look to international adoption in a neighboring country. This meant a long wait and a slim chance of adopting a baby. In the end, we decided we were open to adopting an older child who needed a forever family, while we mourned the loss of never getting to care for our children as infants.
That is when we heard about embryo adoption from a colleague and it answered all our prayers. It was a child in need of a family, it was the opportunity to know our child as a roly-poly baby, and it was a gift for my wife to experience all the messy beauty of carrying and giving birth. We raised money, we prayed a lot, we bought plane tickets, we got discouraged and crash-landed a few times into pints of cookies-and-cream and old reruns of the West Wing, but eventually we made it.
We adopted five wonderful embryos from the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program and transferred two of them. Later that day, we sat in a little taco joint where I forbade Emily from moving an inch and brought her all manner of salsa options. She teased me, as if her walking to the drink-dispenser would cause irreparable damage. It was obvious this whole experience hadn’t just been about our son, but it brought us together as well. It made us the kind of parents our little Noah needs and he made us the family we had dreamed of being all along.
Three Boys and an Embryo Baby
I never expected to adopt. The concept wasn’t completely foreign—my wife, Julie, and I had discussed the possibility of adopting or fostering before we were married. But three years into building our family, we welcomed our first biological son, then a second, then a third.
God kept the door to adoption wide open, though. Our interest in embryo adoption began with Julie’s work as a researcher in an obstetrics lab. As part of her studies, she witnessed firsthand the amazingly complex design of each embryo. The experience convinced her each embryo is fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). It is not necessarily a culturally acceptable point of view, but it is our view nonetheless.
We also knew of families within our circle of Christian friends who had successfully adopted embryos. To be honest, the concept struck me as odd the first time I heard about it. When I suggested to my wife that we try for a fourth child, she replied, “Yes, but only through embryo adoption.”
Her comment took me off guard, and more than that, the conviction with which she said it. I’m not sure why. It shouldn’t have been a surprise given our history and our support of an adoption-funding organization that has helped many friends. I’m ashamed I didn’t appreciate the gift and honor of adoption back then.
I do now. More than ever.
Many families face infertility and remain steadfast in their faith throughout what I can only imagine must be a heart-wrenching journey. So why had God given us three of our own—yet planted the seed of adoption in our hearts? The answer was simple. We loved our biological children dearly, yet having come from large families, we had even more love to give.
By adopting embryos (we were blessed with three), we could give these children a chance at life. We made it clear to our prospective placing family in our letter of introduction that we had overflowing hope for these precious souls.
“Who knows what they might grow up to become—and how they might change the world for good,” we wrote.
God’s providence ensured everything worked out in an unbelievably wonderful way. If you are considering embryo adoption, let me encourage you: God works on His terms and His time. Trust it, pray about it, and go where you know you need to go.
Two years after beginning our adoption journey, we welcomed little Phoebe into our lives. She was the only one of three which survived the thaw. We committed to our incredible placing family that we would maintain an open adoption with regular correspondence and the possibility of an in-person visit in the future. Little did we know they lived less than two hours from our home, creating a perfect environment for nurturing a close relationship as our daughter grows up.
In short order, we began exchanging emails, following each other on social media, and generally sharing encouragement. Within two months of Phoebe’s arrival, our placing family had invited us over for a barbecue. It was a celebration I will never forget—of a family who loved its embryo babies so much that it kept them safe until the right time to place them; of our growing family finding its way with adoption; and of a strawberry-blond baby girl who fulfilled my wildest dream of being a daddy to a daughter.
Embryo adoption, as I imagine is true with any adoption, comes with risk and can be emotionally taxing. But if you seek children and the chance to demonstrate and receive love like never before, I urge you: Pursue it.
That clump of cells is a person. And that person will forever change your world for the better.
Nate is the author of the blog Thaw Your Baby: The Embryo Adoption Blog, where he shares practical embryo adoption tips and encouragement for couples seeking to adopt. You can also watch them speak about their adoption experience in the video Experience and Insights: A couple shares their embryo adoption story on YouTube.
Embryo Adoption Frees a Flurry of Snowflakes
I first heard about embryo adoption after my mother heard about it on a radio broadcast. It was 1997-1998 and the first embryo adoption program in the world, Snowflakes®, was in its infancy. Mom told me about what she had heard, and we hadn’t been married very long. I hadn’t even finished my degree. We hadn’t even determined to begin building our family – yet. Nevertheless, the idea of embryo adoption immediately captured my heart. I thought, “It’s incredible there are all these embryos in frozen storage, waiting, needing someone to give them a chance to be born.”
Being a mother, being a parent with Jeremy, was always part of our married future. In fact, I was 8 months pregnant with our biological son, Micah, when I crossed the stage to accept my doctorate in veterinary medicine. I loved being pregnant! I loved being a mom and was eager to have another baby shortly after Micah’s birth. Our daughter, Faith, had many health issues her first three years of life, some of them likely genetic, so when we started thinking about growing our family further, we turned our minds to adoption.
My parents had adopted three of my siblings domestically and my brother adopted two children internationally. But as much as I wanted to adopt, I loved being pregnant. Embryo adoption allowed me to adopt and be pregnant at the same time. It also fit our strong pro-life ideals that life begins at conception and deserves respect and protection from the moment of fertilization. Jeremy took some time to research and understand this truly unique adoption choice called embryo adoption, but once he said “yes,” he was fully committed.
We officially applied to the program in May 2007. We requested to be matched with a placing family who might have remaining embryos that would potentially be more difficult to place. A family with nine remaining embryos determined to place their embryos with us! These were multi-ethnic embryos – Hispanic/Japanese/Caucasian – and we were overjoyed because we already lived in an extended family with ethnic diversity through adoption. Our adoption contracts were completed in February 2008.
In April, those nine lives were shipped from California to our clinic in Pennsylvania. We scheduled our first frozen embryo transfer. The first transfer of two precious embryos was June 26, 2008. The result was bittersweet: one of the embryos, Peace, went to be with the Lord, while the other embryo continued to thrive. We met our adopted daughter, Grace, in March 2009.
When we originally considered adoption, we were thinking one or two more kids in our family would be perfect. But, after the birth of our daughter Grace, we knew our hearts belonged to all seven of the remaining embryos we adopted and we wanted to keep all of the siblings together. We determined to schedule a frozen embryo transfer of two embryos every 2.5 years until all the embryos were given the opportunity to become all that God created them to be.
Our second transfer, in March 2011, resulted in the birth of our twin boys, Isaac and Isaiah. In December 2013, we had our third transfer and in August 2014 we had our second set of twin boys, Jeremiah and Josiah – who are doppelgängers of the first set of twins! In August 2016, our hearts were broken when we lost our two babies, Charity and Trinity, during our fourth transfer. Our one remaining embryo had been waiting for 13 years to have his birthday. In May 2017, we welcomed Ezekiel into our family. His name means ‘God strengthens’ because God gave him the strength to be here after the many years of waiting.
Our family is abundantly blessed. Although not in our original plan to be such a large family, we are delighted and filled with joy as we parent each of our children. We appreciate each unique person who is a part of our clan and how we work together to accomplish life as a family. The fact that we have two sets of twins often starts conversation about embryo adoption wherever we go and my six Snowflakes are evidence that each embryo is a unique, genetic individual worthy of dignity and every chance at a real life.
Photo by F2 Photography
The Beginning of Embryo Adoption
Hannah Strege is a 19-year-old college freshman with a brilliant smile, big dreams of becoming a social worker — and an origin story that’s kept her in the public spotlight since she was no bigger than a grain of sand.
Life began for Hannah Strege, as it now does for tens of thousands of children every year, in a laboratory dish, where she was one of more than 20 embryos created during a routine cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF).
This popular treatment for infertility combines male sperm with female eggs in a controlled environment before introducing one or more viable embryos into a woman’s womb. To increase the odds of a successful pregnancy, doctors often create many more embryos than can responsibly be transferred at one time. This allows a couple not only to select the most promising embryos for transfer, but also to have backup embryos should the first attempts at implantation fail. The dark side-effect of this common practice is an enormous surplus of unused embryos — estimates range from half a million to as high as four million in the U.S. alone — frozen and waiting for a chance to grow and be born.
For many of these tiny children, that chance never comes. They are destroyed, donated to scientific research (that is: destroyed) or kept on ice in near-perpetuity while those responsible wait to decide what to do with them.
Her future uncertain, Hannah’s state of frozen limbo might have continued indefinitely had a pair of unlikely heroes not come to her rescue.
John and Marlene Strege didn’t set out to become groundbreaking pioneers. They simply wanted to welcome a child into their family.
Infertility issues, however, left them with few options — none of which was especially appealing to them. Doctors recommended IVF with donated eggs, but the Streges were deeply uncomfortable with the idea of using the eggs of another woman, thus conceiving a child outside of their marriage bond.
They also worried about what would happen to any unused embryos.
“John and I both grew up in LCMS schools and churches,” said Marlene Strege. “So we always knew that life began at fertilization and that God is the Creator of all life — not doctors.”
“These embryos truly are ‘the least of these,’” she said, referring to Jesus’ words in Matthew 25, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
It was this concern that led them to ask about a previously unheard-of possibility: embryo adoption.
“What would God think about embryo adoption?”
This was the burning question that John and Marlene wanted answered before they were willing to consider moving forward with the pioneering procedure. Indeed, it’s a question that continues to trouble the minds of many life-loving Lutherans to this day.
Seeking answers, Marlene decided to reach out to four people she thought might be able to help: the Rev. Dr. Charles Manske, founding president of Christ College, Irvine, now Concordia University, Irvine; the Rev. Dr. Samuel Nafzger, then head of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR); the Rev. Robert Dargatz, then assistant professor of Religion at Christ College and a member of the CTCR; and Dr. James Dobson, then head of the evangelical media ministry Focus on the Family.
“All four agreed,” recalled Marlene, “that if the original family was not going to go back and get the embryos, they needed to be adopted.”
Their response mirrored the official finding of the CTCR, expressed in its 2005 document “Christian Faith and Human Beginnings: Christian Care and Pre-Implantation Human Life”:
We consider that respect for human life can also be expressed by making embryos available for adoption by couples willing to provide the opportunity for life.
Bolstered by the assurance that this course of action would be God-pleasing, the Streges began to explore embryo adoption seriously.
The “embryo” part was easy. Their fertility doctor had access to any number of frozen embryos they could request. It was the “adoption” part that turned out to be much trickier.
At the time, embryos were (and in most states, still are) legally considered property, not persons. As such, they could easily and simply be donated — but adopted? In 1997, the necessary regulations and procedures simply didn’t exist.
The Streges were clear, though: They wanted to pursue an open adoption, whatever it took.
Guided by a friend at Nightlight Christian Adoptions, the Streges began to navigate California’s complex web of adoption requirements. They tackled mountains of paperwork, submitted to home studies and visits with social workers, and identified a family — Hannah’s — that was willing to place their embryos in an open adoption. Along the way, the Streges lost both their infertility doctor and their health insurance coverage for the procedure, paying for their adoption and medical expenses out-of-pocket with a providential windfall that arrived when John (a sports writer) sold a biography of then-up-and-comer Tiger Woods.
At long last, in the spring of 1998, the Streges’ adoption was finalized, and 20 frozen embryonic children were Fed-Exed to John and Marlene in Pasadena.
Then came the hard part. The scary, heartbreaking part.
Twelve embryos were thawed in succession. Only three survived the thawing process, and although all three were introduced to Marlene’s womb, not one of them successfully implanted.
Their nerves raw, John and Marlene waited anxiously as the remaining eight embryos were carefully thawed out on Good Friday. Again, only three survived, but of these three, two appeared to be fully viable. They were transferred to Marlene on Holy Saturday.
After one more anxious wait, the Streges finally had the good news for which they’d been waiting and hoping for more than a year.
“The doctor’s mouth just dropped when he saw the ultrasound,” said Marlene. “He determined that there was one baby, with one heartbeat, and he called it “a textbook implantation”.
“It was total excitement to find that I was pregnant.”
Hannah — her adoptive parents’ “gift from God” — was born December 31, 1998, the first-ever child to be born through embryo adoption. Her parents and Nightlight Christian Adoptions dubbed her a “snowflake baby,” reflecting her origins as a tiny, frozen, yet utterly unique human being.
Not every family with small children testifies before the U.S. Congress, but that’s what John and Marlene were called upon to do in July 2001. Scientists had recently discovered how to extract stem cells from unwanted embryos (destroying the embryos in the process), and lawmakers were grappling with whether or not to allow federal funds to be used for this controversial research.
Toddler in tow, the Streges stood before Congress to testify against embryonic stem-cell research.
“At that time, they were saying that these frozen embryos have no purpose,” said Marlene. “They’re in excess of clinical need. They’re extra. They’re leftover. They’re just going to be destroyed anyway, so let’s do research on them.”
The Streges’ testimony stood in stark contrast to this point of view, highlighting the humanity and dignity of all embryonic children and the need for them to be adopted and cared for in loving homes.
“It put a face to this topic,” said Marlene.
Five years later, in 2006, the Streges again traveled to Washington, D.C., to stand behind President George W. Bush for the first veto of his presidency. He used it to block the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005, a bill put forward to ease restrictions on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
Twenty years after Marlene’s long-hoped-for pregnancy, Hannah is a young woman on the threshold of adulthood, and her parents are adjusting to life in their newly empty nest.
“We are, all three of us, transitioning into a new season of life,” said Marlene. “We have such fond memories of Hannah’s childhood, in part because she had a wonderful Lutheran school to attend preschool to 8th and then a great Christian high school.
“However, this new season is also bringing new opportunities particularly for Hannah. It is so exciting to see the wonderful things God is doing in her life and the opportunities that are coming her way!”
Across the country, other snowflake families are now following the path first blazed by the Streges. Some 1,500 snowflake adoptions have taken place over the past 20 years — over 500 of these facilitated by Nightlight Christian Adoptions, which has since become the nation’s “leader in Snowflakes® Embryo Adoption.”
Seven Little Lives = One Great Gift
Allison and Brent met at their church, and two years later were married! Then baby-fever hit. The original plan to wait a year to start a family changed quickly. Their attempts at pregnancy success in that first year culminated in the sad diagnosis of infertility. That was a huge change in the plan! Thankfully, Allison and Brent were sure that God’s plans for them weren’t changed! They were exactly where He planned for them to be.
They had already discussed adoption even before they were married. They knew there were other paths to having children. One of Allison’s co-workers learned about Allison and Brent’s interest in adoption and told her about embryo adoption. Allison went home that night, excited to tell Brent about this unique adoption alternative. As they learned more, they prayed and they talked it over with trusted family and friends. They were convinced this was the right adoption choice for them and applied to the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program.
The adoption process started in March and ended in early autumn. They were matched with a family who gifted them with seven embryos – they were thrilled to adopt them!
The first frozen embryo transfer occurred in December with no resulting pregnancy. They had a second FET in April, but again, no pregnancy. With just three embryos remaining they scheduled their third transfer in June, thawing two of the embryos and successfully transferring one. The test was positive! They were going to have a baby in February!
But, the joy expected in February ended in a miscarriage at seven weeks. Heartbroken and devastated at their loss they continued to trust in God’s faithfulness.
In late November, they scheduled a FET, using their last remaining embryo. The embryologist was uncertain this embryo would even survive the thawing process. Their affectionately named “Bond Baby” (named after Brent’s love for 007) proved them all wrong! Two weeks before Christmas they received the news they were pregnant and due in August.
Their sweet and precious miracle daughter, Adleigh, was born on August 1. What joy and wonder she has brought into their lives – the best gift EVER! They are forever thankful to God and to the donor family for the gift of her life!
Hearts Thawed; Babies Born
Rachael and Pete were hoping to have children, but they found out quickly having babies may not be as easy as they expected. Fertility treatments lead to the birth of their first son Samuel and then a devastating miscarriage. Instead of continuing down the path of fertility treatments, they decided adoption would be a better investment of their resources. They chose to apply with Generations Adoptions, now a division of Nightlight Christian Adoptions.
After completing their home study, they were approved for a domestic infant adoption. Then they waited…, waited…, and waited…
The waiting was very difficult, but while they waited, God was working in their hearts. “I had not been feeling ready to face the significant chances of losing children who did not survive the thawing process, a risk associated with embryo adoption. But over that year, I became convicted that taking serious emotional risks is sometimes an important part of answering the call to love one’s neighbor as one’s self,” Pete remembers. After a year, it was time to renew their home study, and they decided it was time to switch from domestic infant adoption to Nightlight’s embryo adoption program, Snowflakes.
It took a few months to be matched with a placing parent who had five remaining embryos. The donor had read their family profile and selected them as a possible match! Rachael and Pete spent a weekend considering and praying fervently about this match. They decided their answer was, “yes!”
The couple completed the embryo adoption in October of 2015 and in December traveled to New York City for their first frozen embryo transfer. One of the two embryos thawed did not survive, but one did, resulting in the birth of their son Owen, Snowflake baby #487.
The relationship with their adoptive son’s placing parent at the outset managed by the Snowflakes staff. Over time both families have become open to more direct contact, and Rachael and Pete will meet her when they travel to New York for their next transfer.
People frequently ask Rachael, “What was it like being pregnant with your adopted child?” Her response, “Honestly, it was a whole lot like being pregnant with our biological son! I had a nurse at one doctor’s appointment get very confused as I was nursing Owen and telling her that my family medical history wasn’t pertinent for him because he is adopted. We had one friend who commented, ‘Wow, this is very 21st-century stuff!’ It really is fun to get to explain Owen is adopted, but that I did give birth to him.”
Parenting Owen has been a lot like parenting Samuel, their biological son. Owen needs just as much directing, teaching and correcting as his brother did. And it’s such a privilege to be the parents to both of these boys, despite the different ways they joined our family. “It’s not DNA that makes a family, it a choice to love and unconditionally accept these children as our own.”
Rachael and Pete are so thankful for Nightlight Snowflakes embryo adoption program and the role that they have played in bringing these children into their family.
A Journey of Joy and Happiness
Our family building journey has brought us nothing but joy and happiness! Unfortunately, it did not start out that way. We had one son we were certain we wanted more children. After three miscarriages [a genetic incompatibility factor], we decided to discontinue our attempts to conceive another genetic child. We decided to explore adoption as a means for growing our family. We first tried domestic infant adoption, but that lead to additional heartbreak.
We were determined to bring another child into our home – we have so much love to give! One day, I was sitting at my computer, and I decided to type ‘I want to have a baby!’ into the search bar. The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program was the first item in the search results list!
Like many people, we had never heard of this option before. What a strange and foreign concept! I called Snowflakes and gathered as much information as possible. The more I learned, the more I knew that this was the answer to our prayers. Full speed ahead! I submitted our application and honestly, I’m not sure my loving husband had actually processed what we were pursuing yet.
We completed our home study and selected a clinic. We waited as patiently as possible for a family to choose us to adopt their remaining embryos. Our first match didn’t work out. It was incredibly disappointing, but we received lots of encouragement from the Snowflakes team. Quite quickly we were selected by another placing family who had four kids through IVF. After the adoption was finalized we had snippets of contact with the family mediated by Nightlight. The family answered some question we had and sent pictures of their whole family.
We had our first embryo transfer. We transferred one embryo and learned we were pregnant. Joy! Happiness! Apprehension. Would the pregnancy stick? It did and the entire pregnancy was incredibly smooth—absolutely perfect. We decided we wanted to reach out to our placing parents and see if they would like to exchange email addresses. This led to us exchanging phone numbers. After texting, talking emailing we established a wonderful, personal relationship between us. We felt blessed and honored they chose us to be able to give one (and someday more) of their embryos a chance at life.
The Christmas after our embryo adopted son was born, both families agreed to meet at a hotel. As the family who gifted us with embryos came into the hotel lobby, I felt an instant connection. I was holding the baby they created; the baby they blessed us with. It is extraordinary to think that before any of us knew each other, or even were born ourselves, God had a plan. God knew this baby and He knew he would be a part of our family.
I hope our journey as ‘extended family’ has only just begun. The joy and happiness we feel now can only continue to grow!
Big Dreams of Building a Large Family
JV and Cathy Kennedy were married young and had big dreams of building a large family. When they had a miscarriage on their first attempt they were heartbroken. Then Christian was born followed by three more losses before Cambria arrived. Between the births of their son and daughter, the couple pursued testing, but despite visiting every fertility doctor in their area, they found no answers.
After suffering two more miscarriages it became clear the trouble was something genetic and the couple made the decision to adopt.
A workshop about the different adoption programs that their agency offered introduced them to the idea of embryo adoption. It wasn’t until the social worker was doing their home study, however, they began to give the idea some thought. Cathy recalls the social worker saying, “Oh, so embryo adoption might work for you too. Why didn’t you decide to do that?”
The question made them pause and consider their options again. JV explains, “We were afraid it was something that wasn’t safe for us – or not as safe for us as domestic adoption. After having so many losses we really just wanted to take the route that seemed the most guaranteed to bring us a baby.”
Cathy went to the doctor for yet another consultation. She came home with no new answers, but with a lightbulb, that embryo adoption seemed like a really good option.
After investigating and having their concerns alleviated they pursued embryo adoption with cautious elation. “When we thought about embryo adoption more seriously, we realized it was a way we could experience pregnancy. We got the blessing of adoption as well as feeling them move inside my body as they are growing. I would be able to nurse them after they were born. What could be better than that?”
Cathy got a referral to a doctor who not only had worked with Snowflakes before but was also willing to do a natural cycle with her. “There wouldn’t be the shots, which was a huge fear of mine.”
Three embryos were transferred to increase the couple’s chances of success. On the first ultrasound, they saw two heartbeats. In due time, along came Caden and Cooper, fraternal twin boys.
Not feeling their family was complete, the family had four more transfers and matched with another placing family before along came Cole. “He was the last of the seven embryos we were matched with to stick,” Cathy says. “He’s our healing boy”.
“People always ask us how we will bring it up – we will be honest with them from forever. I made this scrapbook which tells the story of their conception, of being matched with us, their whole journey from being embryos to being in our family.” The Kennedys often pull out their children’s story and read it to them. It’s a warm celebration. “We couldn’t imagine life without them.”
It Began with a Bucket
When Matt and Charlie DeVore got married, there was no question they would be parents. Matt had always dreamed of having a big family with five kids. But getting to that first baby seemed impossible. Charlie struggled to get pregnant. After unsuccessful fertility treatments, the couple was matched in a domestic adoption. Everything looked final, but then at the last moment, the adoption fell through when the birth mom changed her mind. After ten years and $35,000 spent in their attempts to build their family, Charlie was trying to accept the idea that she wasn’t meant to be a mom. “I think I went through a lot of emotions. I was just broken. I felt like a broken person,” she recalls.
The couple didn’t have the finances to try again and Charlie was left wondering and trying to decide if she could just walk away.
Then Matt’s uncle died in a car accident, so the couple drove to be with the rest of his family. Matt’s uncle was a farmer and had buried money in buckets. Part of the time spent together as a family was spent digging up the farm to find the inheritance he left behind. Everyone thought Charlie and Matt should have the first bucket to try again and have a baby.
Matt’s sister, Julie, volunteered to be a surrogate. But Charlie’s eggs had been problematic and didn’t get large enough to fertilize. They were beginning to feel they were out of options. That’s when Julie came back to suggest embryo adoption through Snowflakes. Charlie and Matt had never heard of it.
They were matched with a placing family welcomed a little girl into their family through donor egg IVF. Afterward, they conceived naturally and decided to donate their remaining embryos through Snowflakes. They chose the DeVores.
Julie carried the pregnancy for Charlie and Matt and gave birth to her niece, CJ. “Right away she held on to Matt’s finger,” Charlie reminisces.
CJ will know the other little girl – her biological sister – born from the same batch of embryos. And the DeVores will make her a book of her life story, so she knows all the people it took to make them a family and to erase their heartache.
“You know, she may not understand it all, but so she grows up with it. It’s never a shock or something that’s a secret,” Matt said.
The struggle and the hurt feel long ago. “There’s nothing left of that,” Charlie smiled. “It’s just a complete joy having her. Our dreams. Our dreams are right here.”
Military Families Succeed with Embryo Adoption
The first time we saw our oldest son smile after tickling him, it melted our hearts.
Our oldest son. There are times we’d never thought we’d say that. Our son. After years of trying to have children – going through rounds of natural attempts, then rounds of IUI and IVF, and finally having a doctor say that it was just not possible – we turned our hearts toward adoption.
We’d always known we wanted to adopt at some point in our family. We’d talked about it and laid out a path for us – have a child or two of our own, then go through a traditional adoption to add to our existing family. Although the desire to adopt had been on us, God did as He often does; showing who is truly in control when our plans are confounded and His plans are revealed.
Matt’s parents had been volunteers at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, and through Focus, we’d learned of embryo adoption and Nightlight Christian Adoptions and the hundreds of thousands of homeless snowflake babies waiting in frozen orphanages. We again felt the call of God on our lives, so we jumped into the process.
That process was challenged by our military duty location at the time, assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Israel. How were we going to find a certified social worker in Israel to do a home study? How would we track down a way to complete our background checks? And if they wouldn’t ship embryos overseas, how could we even do the transfer? One by one, God opened these doors, resolving each problem and making it clear that this is what He’d intended for us.
As we returned to the US, we found ourselves stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC, one of only a handful of bases with a military doctor who specialized in infertility and could administer the medicine protocol and perform the transfer. Out of dozens of possible locations to be stationed, God put us in the one spot that had the right doctor at the right time.
And that’s when the right family came along and selected us to adopt their little ones, a family with 20 frozen embryos and two successful births of their own. Nightlight Christian Adoptions brought us together, the embryos were shipped, and the military doctor performed the transfer at the tail end of Matt’s deployment to Baghdad in Iraq. Returning home, he joined me a few days later at the doctor’s office only to learn I was pregnant. The homecoming was complete in every way. God had taken us so far on this journey through the wilderness of infertility. He had taken our desires and bent them to His own.
On May 13th (a most special Mother’s Day present
), our twins were born – Jackson and Cade – crying and beautiful and alive. As alive that day as they had been eight years earlier when they were conceived. Now adopted, they were a part of our family, and we were humbled and honored to care for and raise them.
International Adoption Doors Closing – Embryo Adoption Doors Open Wide
Travis and Annette both dreamed of having a big family someday but knew the only way they would be able to expand their family was through adoption.
Travis had leukemia when he was a child and after eight years of extensive and grueling treatment he beat the disease, but it left him unable to have children. When they were ready to start a family, they decided to adopt internationally from Guatemala. Their first child, Cornelius, was adopted in February 2007. Sadly, when they wanted to bring home a second child, Guatemala had closed its doors to international adoptions. They decided to look more extensively into other forms of adoption, including embryo adoption.
Travis and Annette decided to apply through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program. The couple first matched with a family that had four frozen embryos. However, when they were ready for the frozen embryo transfer (FET), the doctor informed them that only two of the embryos survived the thaw. The remaining two were transferred but, unfortunately, a pregnancy did not occur. Both Annette and Travis felt a great sense of loss not only for the two transferred embryos but also for the embryos that did not survive the thawing process.
The couple strongly believes that life begins at conception. For them, losing these embryos was the same as losing a newborn baby. Travis and Annette courageously decided to try embryo adoption again. They matched with another family who had four remaining embryos. This time, Annette became pregnant! Their son Corbin was born early in 2011. In 2013, Travis and Annette went through the embryo adoption process for the third time and matched with two families: one with two embryos and one with three. This unique match resulted in a twin pregnancy: Cadence and Coralee, who were born late 2014.
Travis and Annette strongly believe in openness with their adopted children. The family has a relationship with their daughters’ biological family, sending updates and pictures of the twins as they grow, and leaving the door open to any potential questions the girls might have in the future.
The relationship has been so beneficial and valuable to the family that the couple wishes they could have the same relationship with their sons’ biological family. They are diligent in their efforts to help each of their children understand how they came to be a member of the family. Travis and Annette love their big family and are not opposed to it becoming bigger still. According to them, they have never had so much fun and would not want to live their lives any other way.
PHOTO CREDIT: Bethany Graham Photography http://www.photographybybethany.com/
Solution for a Variety of Infertility Diagnosis
While in college, David and Renee met during a mission trip in the states. Smitten, David transferred to Renee’s college in North Carolina and they decided to pursue a relationship. They married after dating for a couple years. Of course they wanted children – eventually and after five years of marriage decided to start expanding their family.
“Renee was able to get pregnant rather quickly, but unfortunately soon into that pregnancy she miscarried,” said David.
Renee’s physician discovered she was in pre-menopause. It would be highly unlikely that they would ever conceive again on their own.
Even before attempting pregnancy the couple had considered adoption, but never a specific type of adoption program. Renee was working as an adoption social worker and decided to inquire about domestic adoption through the agency she worked for – which ‘happened’ to be Nightlight Christian Adoptions. The Executive Director of the agency discussed domestic adoption with them and then asked, “Have you ever considered embryo adoption?”
Embryo adoption? Get pregnant? Carry a baby and give birth? It seemed too good to be true! Renee had never lost the desire to carry a baby and doctors could find no reason she couldn’t.
With eager hearts, David and Renee started down the path of a Snowflakes embryo adoption. They completed a home study and created a profile. They were matched with an out-of-state couple who had 12 embryos to gift to them. The donors had three genetic siblings from this same set of embryos.
“They choose us and we choose them,” said Renee.
Six embryos were thawed. Four didn’t survive. Two were transferred to Renee’s womb. About a year and a half after beginning their adoption search, Renee gave birth to their daughter.
They named her Hannah Faith. Hannah, because it means grace. And Faith, because, as Renee says, “Of the journey that it took for us to get her here after all these years.”
“I truly believe that God had her set apart as a little embryo for our family,” said David.
Hannah’s story won’t be a secret. Hannah’s parents plan to tell her all about how she joined their family.
Renee encourages families who are considering embryo adoption, “Remember that you are giving these little lives a chance to come into this world. Even if one embryo is eventually born, it was worth it all for that little life. Hannah was the only child born from our adopted embryos, but she was worth every step we took. We will never know why the others didn’t make it, but we wouldn’t change a thing.”
Another Family’s Story is Connected to Our Own
Many couples have questions about the open adoption model used by Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. They wonder how much will be expected from them when it comes to communicating with another family about their children. How open does an open adoption have to be?
The open adoption model simply gives families the opportunity to stay in contact. How much or what method they use to do that is entirely up to the families themselves. For the Trabun and Smith families, an open adoption means staying in contact through email and sending presents for special occasions.
Stephanie Smith and her husband, Brian, say that the embryo donation program was an answer to their prayers about what to do with their remaining embryos. The open adoption model was an added blessing.
“This idea that we could know something about [the Trabuns] and that they would know something about us, that was extremely appealing,” Stephanie said. “These people truly are in a position of providing these embryos with something that we can’t.”
She said that it is comforting to stay in contact with the Trabuns and see the children growing up. “We touch base, which I’m very grateful for, and to know that [the children] are running around, laughing, playing, reading, and growing, I’m glad they’re open to sharing that with us.”
“I’ve really appreciated the communication we’ve had with the Smiths,” said Christy Trabun, mother of four, three of whom were born from the remaining embryos she and husband Mike adopted through Snowflakes. “I love seeing photos of their children and seeing some of the ways our kids look similar…I think they have a lot of similar personality traits.”
Staying in communication with the Smith family has been beneficial for health reasons, too. When the Smith’s children developed a food sensitivity, they alerted Christy who was able to watch for and diagnose the same sensitivity in their son, Cade. Without an open adoption arrangement, Christy would not have been able to diagnose the allergy so early.
The Trabuns talk openly to their children about where they each came from, including the embryo adoption process. Christy uses pictures and age-appropriate information to help them understand how they became a part of the family and plans on continuing the discussion in the future as they are able to understand more. She and Mike say that being in open communication with their children’s’ biological family has helped prepare her for questions that they will likely have as they get older.
“[An open adoption model] has made us all the more sensitive to our children’s story of how they came to be a part of our family, and better prepares us for the day when they will have more questions about their genetic parents and siblings,” Mike said. “In a closed adoption model, you can easily forget that other lives and another family’s story are connected to our own.”
For now, the families have no plans to meet in person but will continue communication through email. In the future, though, they say they are open to whatever their children want.
“I don’t have any set idea of what may take place in the future,” said Stephanie. “We have to be respectful of their lives and privacy. But I feel comforted knowing that they love the children with all their heart.”
“As our children grow older, I think it will be good for our kids to be able to communicate in their own ways with the Smiths too if all parties are comfortable with that level of interaction,” Christy said. “We’re certainly open to however the future might pan out with regard to our connection to them and their children.”
The Medically Impossible Becomes Possible
Several years ago, we learned that it is medically impossible for us to conceive a child. Before seeing our fertility doctor, we had both separately learned about the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program. After receiving our diagnosis, we quickly realized we were called to adopt embryos. But like many adoptions, our journey was filled with ups and downs.
After several matches failed transfers and miscarriages we had another transfer in February 2006 with our remaining embryos, and we had decided that this would be our last transfer if it was not successful. Instead, though, we were thrilled to learn that we were pregnant, and this time we were expecting twins!
But once again, joy was accompanied by heartache when we had an ultrasound at 16 weeks and learned that one of the twins had died at the end of our first trimester. Thankfully, we were blessed with Ethan Richard, who was born on October 19, 2006!
When Ethan turned a year old, we began thinking about how to expand our family. After our first experience, we had no idea what the path would look like. We were matched with a genetic family and adopted eight embryos. We had our transfer last October, and just prior to Ethan’s second birthday, we found out that we were pregnant!
We were blessed with Tyler Matthew on June 21, 2009.
I find significance in the fact that he was our gift on Father’s Day, as we had previously had so many difficult Mother’s and Father’s Days, as is true for so many infertile couples.
World’s First Snowflake Adoption
Embracing new ideas and concepts, or expanding one’s notions of them, is what my story is about. I am the first adopted frozen embryo in the world.
When my parents, John and Marlene Strege, struggled with infertility, they were devastated. They only wanted a baby. My mother was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure, which meant she was not longer producing eggs. Distraught, she asked her doctor if he had any frozen embryos they could adopt. “Well, yeah, I’ve got a lot of embryos,” he said, while explaining that he had never been asked that before. In that moment, the ways that one might adopt a child had expanded to include frozen embryos.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, my biological family also had struggled with infertility. Desperate to give their only daughter siblings, they turn to in-vitro fertilization, or IVF treatments, and created 28 embryos. After transferring four, they became pregnant with triplets. They had 24 remaining lives with whom to concern themselves, myself among them.
My parents were anxious to get opinions as to what God would think of adopting embryos. Would this be biblically pleasing to God? They consulted with the late Dr. Charles Manske, the founding President of Concordia University Irvine, Pastor Bob Dargatz, who was a professor Religion at Concordia at the time, and Dr. Sam Nafzger, Head of Commissions on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in St. Louis, MO. They all came to the same conclusion: God valued all life, that life began at conception, and providing frozen embryos a chance would be honorable to God. My parents also contacted Focus on the Family, seeking Dr. James Dobson’s opinion on adopting frozen embryos and whether God would approve. Dr. Dobson called my mom a week after her original contact. He said that he now knew what to tell her, and that first he himself had to get counsel. He said he would not speak for God; however, he felt that it was a moral obligation to adopt frozen embryos if the original family was not going to use them.
My mom and dad were about nine months into the adoption journey (this is nine months after the original contact with Dr. Dobson) and not closer to finding a family who wanted to place their remaining embryos for adoption. Due to HIPAA laws (confidentiality of medical records), doctors could not give them names of people who had remaining frozen embryos. Then Dr. Dobson invited my parents to Colorado, to Focus on the Family headquarters. He thought they might need a break from the emotional stress. He arranged for them to have lunch with the director of the crisis pregnancy division at Focus. Six weeks later, the head counselor came to the director’s office and said, “I just got a phone call from a woman who has 20 frozen embryos she wants to place for adoption.” The director replied, “I know who the adopting family is!” She referred the couple to Nightlight Christian Adoptions and its executive director, Ron Stoddart, a close family friend doubling as our adoption attorney.
God’s fingerprints were all over this. My parents adopted 20 frozen embryos and we were shipped via FedEx from Nebraska to my parent’s doctor’s office in California. We had been frozen and awaiting a home for more than two years and were blessed to finally start on our journey towards the fulfillment of life.
Embryos are stored in straws, two to three per straw in my case, in tanks of liquid nitrogen. The doctor thawed a straw at a time. I was the only embryo out of 20 to survive the thaw and successfully transfer to my mother’s womb and finally to birth. On December 31, 1998, the Streges became my parents.
Nightlight Christian Adoptions has since established the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program and more than 580 embryo adopted babies (a.k.a. Snowflakes babies) have been born through this program. It has expanded the horizons and the minds of many waiting parents on how they might grow their families. Adoption is often overlooked and forgotten. Human life is a miracle, sacred and precious to the King. Miracles are born out of divine intervention. We are the Lord’s handiwork, servants of His kingdom. It is our job to take the gifts God has given to us and grown in our knowledge of who He is by how He works in our lives.
God placed may parents on a journey of a lifetime that resulted in answered prayers. My life has been a blur of pro-life activism. I have expanded on my mother’s initial vision for a child. To dedicate my career and my life to finding homes for frozen embryos awaiting a chance at life around the world. My parents took a chance on me. Look to God and expand your knowledge of Him and His potential to work in your life.
Cancer Survivor Gives Birth to Adopted Daughter
I heard about embryo adoption for the first time, I don’t know how many years ago, on Focus on the Family radio broadcast. I wasn’t married at the time, but I had childhood cancer and had undergone radiation on my abdominal area. Some of my doctors said to not worry about it, but another doctor said it could be an issue. I remember when I was about nine years old, a woman from church came over to our house because she was concerned about my fertility. She had a similar experience with radiation and was infertile as a result. So while I knew it was a possibility that I would have problems getting pregnant, it wasn’t something I focused on.
After my husband and I got married we didn’t waste any time trying to conceive, as we were both in our 30s. But we knew right away we were going to have problems getting pregnant. We discovered our chances of getting pregnant were very low—only about a 1% chance. We were referred to some of the best doctors in the country, we were told that I could not get pregnant genetically, but they thought I could carry a baby. I started thinking about Snowflakes (The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program) again, but it took my husband a while to warm up to the idea. He was more open to the idea of finding an egg donor. For women, I think it’s sometimes a little easier to think about raising a child who isn’t genetically related.
Women are natural nurturers, and we just want a child to love…it makes it easier, I think, for us to consider raising a child that isn’t genetically ours. For men, I think the desire to reproduce and have children that are a part of them genetically is stronger. It took us several years to get on the same page. I kept praying about Snowflakes and felt peace about it. I felt like embryo adoption was such a great gift, not only for us but for the family who was donating the embryos, as we would give those embryos a chance at life. We went through further surgeries and we tried a few “experimental” things to see if we could get pregnant, but nothing worked. One spring we were driving in the middle of Texas, and my husband was fiddling with the radio…and there was someone from Nightlight on a local AM station talking about Snowflakes. Shortly thereafter, my husband told me that he felt this was a confirmation for us to choose embryo adoption. We both felt that these embryos were all lives, waiting for a chance and that they are each deserving of that chance.
I would say the process with Snowflakes moved very quickly in my mind. The hang-up was getting the home study done through a local agency that was going through a lot of transition at the time. They did our interviews in July and August but didn’t complete the home study until December. We were very patient and every time we’d check in our caseworker would say that she just needed a few hours to sit down and get it done. We had been very quick on our part to turn in the paperwork in the summertime and complete the education portion of the requirements, but the home study wasn’t completed until Christmas time that year.
We were been matched with two potential families that we said no to for different reasons before we were matched with a family in California with three little boys, and nine remaining embryos. We were matched and just a couple of months later, in June, our embryos were shipped to our doctor’s office in Dallas.
Shortly after that, we went into prep for the transfer. It took us three rounds before my uterus would respond the way they wanted it to. We had done a couple of mock cycles and it had behaved, but this time, when it came to the real deal, it had a mind of its own. Finally, on the third time, everything went as it was supposed to. The doctor thought that only four of our nine embryos were viable, but that we had a good chance of getting pregnant with the four that seemed the strongest. We decided to thaw the best two and weakest three, and only one survived the thaw. Our doctors said we could transfer the one or thaw the rest, but we felt at peace with just transferring the one that survived. And that’s what we did. Everything went beautifully, I got pregnant, and that was Elisabeth.
I had a difficult pregnancy. We discovered mid-term (at 18 weeks) that I had a short cervix, so they put a stitch in the cervix to hold it together (called a cerclage). Everything was fine for a few weeks, as I was on modified bedrest at home; but then my cervix shortened pretty severely at 24 weeks, so they had me go on bedrest in the hospital for 8 weeks. They had hoped that my pregnancy would go full term, but my water broke at 31 ½ weeks. Since I was preterm, they let me wait it out until my labor started. I lasted about 3 days and I went into labor, at exactly 32 weeks. It was a pretty hard and fast labor, but Elisabeth came out breathing on her own and crying. Though she was 3 pounds 2 ounces, she was only in the intensive neonatal care units for 4 weeks, just learning to feed and grow. When babies are born that early, they can’t eat very well and aren’t very coordinated, but Elisabeth never had any issues. She was 4 pounds 5 ounces when we brought her home, still four weeks away from her due date.
I don’t think of Elisabeth as not genetically related to us. Having given birth to her, I don’t even think about that. I don’t think about there being any separation or difference. We are in an open adoption with Elisabeth’s genetic parents, but I’ve spoken more with her genetic father than I have her genetic mother, as her genetic family is from Greece and, the mother especially, doesn’t speak good English. We plan to be very open with Elisabeth about her genetic family. They are very happy for us, very interested and excited. They are not overbearing at all, but they do stay in touch by email and phone every month or two. They also sent her a big package of things when she was first born – clothes, toys and some other sweet things. They also sent a gold cross for her when she gets a bit older. It’s been just perfect. As her genetic father said, “We all needed help, us with having children and them with being able to place their embryos with a family, so this was a way we could help you and you could help us. For us that was the perfect match.”
Failed Fallopian Tubes Remedied
Mike and Michelle struggled with infertility issues for years when Michelle received the devastating news there were complications with her fallopian tubes, which would make having a genetic child extremely difficult.
Doctors advised them that their best chance of starting a family would be through in-vitro fertilization. As practicing Christians, Mike and Michelle felt the moral issues surrounding IVF made it an option they could not pursue. They were particularly concerned with what might happen to any embryos they would not use.
Instead, Michelle tried corrective surgery, which led to several failed pregnancies and eventually she required emergency surgery to remove her fallopian tubes. At that point, they knew the door had been closed forever on their ability to have a genetic child.
Even so, they did not lose hope.
Michelle was looking into different types of adoption when she came upon embryo adoption. She had never heard of the concept before and the idea intrigued her. She sent a text message to Mike saying, “What would you think if we gave birth to our adopted child?” To which Mike responded, “That’s the answer!” For the first time, they were able to visualize themselves with their own child.
After applying to the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, Mike and Michelle quickly found themselves selected by a placing family. Initially, they thought to reject this first match because it happened so quickly. They determined they should first take some time to pray and really consider the placing parent family profile. They concluded this was the right match for the.
Michelle and Mike had their first FET using just one of the four embryos they adopted and were blessed with the birth of their long-awaited daughter Elora.
They kept the remaining three embryos in storage until the time was right to try for baby #2 – who was born in January!
Open Adoption = Family Health
Chip and Lynda were no strangers to the struggle of infertility. Unable to conceive naturally, the couple decided to pursue other means of family building. But they agreed if they were not able to have a child of their own, that they would consider adoption. The couple first pursued in-vitro fertilization treatments, but after three cycles and they still had not achieved a pregnancy.
Chip and Lynda began to seriously consider adoption. They explored all forms of adoption, including embryo adoption, though it did not seem as appealing as traditional adoption. Ultimately, however, after a great deal of research, they chose to pursue an adoption through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. Their reasons? Embryo adoption had a shorter matching time, they did not have to wait on a decision from a birth mother, and they had the ability to give birth to the baby. They also liked the fact that embryo adoption was more secure compared with a traditional domestic infant adoption. The parents who were placing their embryos for adoption had already completed their families and now wanted to give their remaining embryos a chance at life with the help of another family.
At first, the couple was leaning towards a semi-open adoption with minimal communication between themselves and the biological family. After they had completed the required training classes offered by Snowflakes, their perspective on openness changed significantly.
On a separate occasion Chip and Lynda attended an event with several birth mothers. The couple saw how heartbroken some of these mothers were about not knowing where their biological children were. Or some of them were left wondering why the communication between them and the adoptive parents suddenly ceased. At this point, Chip and Lynda decided to pursue a fully open adoption. They realized that both the biological parents and the adoptive child would be happier and healthier if they knew each other and had a door open for unrestricted communication.
Soon after, Chip and Lynda received an important phone call to tell them a placing family had selected them to receive the couple’s remaining embryos. They reviewed the placing parent’s family profile and felt very good about the match and accepted almost immediately.
Finally, after years of infertility struggles, Lynda became pregnant! The couple communicated constantly with the placing family about the pregnancy and results of the doctor appointments from the very beginning. Daughter Cally is their delight and joy. They remain close with her biological family. The two families Facetime regularly and have gone to visit each other in person several times. Chip and Lynda absolutely love knowing their daughter’s biological parents—they have become an essential part of their unique family.
A Pro-Life Choice for Remaining Embryos
When Joe and I decided it was again time to grow our family for the third time, I was nearly 40, and we decided that it might be good to “walk our talk” on being pro-life by adopting. While considering and praying about the usual adoption issues – domestic vs. international, infant vs. older child, etc., we “happened” to hear a Christian Medical Society audio cast on embryo adoption. We looked at each other and nearly simultaneously said, “We could do that!”
Ultimately, we were selected by two couples – 2 embryos from one and 4 from the other. We were sent detailed medical and family histories of each of the placing parents, in case there might be anything about which we were uncomfortable.
First cycle: of the first two embryos thawed, one died in the thawing process, and the one that survived was transferred. It failed to implant. Although I never actually had a positive pregnancy test, that experience felt very much like a miscarriage. Joe and I were starting to wonder what we’d set ourselves up for.
When I returned to the infertility specialist to begin the second attempt, he re-evaluated everything and said, “I don’t know what happened last time, but it wasn’t anything wrong with you.” Healing words. So we proceeded with the process.
We thawed 2 of the remaining 4 embryos and both survived and were transferred into my womb. Within a week, I began to feel pregnant. Not surprisingly, the test was positive this time. However, the six-week ultrasound showed only one baby. He looked healthy and in a good position, but this was bittersweet news because he was alone
When Jacob turned 18 months, we began planning for a final attempt at pregnancy with the 2 remaining embryos. We were both surprised and thrilled when that next pregnancy test was positive! Again, the six-week ultrasound was bittersweet: only one healthy baby. We welcomed Samuel home later that year.
Our boys are genetic brothers as well as adopted brothers. We have pictures of their genetic older brothers, taken at about 3 years of age. If you saw them all in the same room, you could pick them out as four brothers. Someday, I hope we can meet their genetic parents in person to thank them. We are blessed.
Biological Sisters Meet; Born Years Apart
Meet two families who are building a story about life, sacrifice, and one very loved little girl.
Cecile and Michael DeMartini wanted to grow their family and assumed they would need the assistance of in vitro fertilization to conceive. When they naturally conceived their third child, though, they knew they would need to do something with their remaining embryos.
“It wasn’t an instant choice,” Cecile said. “It took us three years to make that choice. We wondered is it okay to give away your embryos because it isn’t convenient? What kind of family were we exposing them to?”
“What does it mean personally to me that I have a biological child somewhere else? How am I going to feel about it?” Michael asks. “I came to the realization that life is more precious than my personal feelings.”
So the couple agreed to donate their embryos through the Snowflake Embryo Adoption Program, where they were matched with the Reas.
The Reas had one child and were eager to have more. After several miscarriages, they tried a number of fertility treatment options but felt that embryo adoption was the right fit for their family: Joanna could carry the child, they could share the pregnancy with their older daughter, and bond as a family before the baby even arrived.
“We knew there were families who had embryos and were struggling with what to do with them. We felt like we could take some burden off of them and still grow our family,” says David.
Like many families who participate in the Snowflakes program, they were initially a little hesitant about an open adoption; as time went on, though, they became much more comfortable getting to know their donating family.
“Snowflakes had been our mediator through handwritten letters and emails,” Joanna said. “We felt more comfortable with that. It gave us some limits, some guards in the beginning.”
“Anyone with a young child knows that you need to acclimate your family. It’s hard enough, and a little distance was good at the time,” David said. “As Vivienne grows and becomes more aware, that’s when we’ll start to introduce the idea and the explanations [of where she came from] at whatever level she’s at. That’s when the contact becomes more open and direct…it’s ultimately about what our daughter is most comfortable with. It’s her story and we want to be sensitive to that.”
Cecile Demartini agrees. “I don’t want to confuse Vivienne. Life is confusing enough as it is. I’m following David and Joanna’s lead as far as they want to take it.”
The Reas are grateful to the DeMartini’s for their gift.
“They made an amazing, loving choice to donate those embryos. We had this miracle, Vivienne who has blessed our lives more than we could ever imagine,” Joanna said. “We’re so thankful for that opportunity. It’s a life-giving option and we’re on the receiving end of it.”
“It’s an incredible testament to the power of life,” David says. “If you go through this process, you are saying that this matters, this life matters, it’s not just a couple of cells you keep in cold storage or discard. It becomes a person. Ultimately, this is Vivienne’s story and part of who she is. She’s going to direct that story. She’s got a lot of people who love her for various reasons.”
“She’s lucky,” Joanna adds.
Vivienne and her older sister Natalia experienced the joy of meeting one another during a recent holiday visit. The sisters enjoyed playing games, braiding hair and hanging out together. They hope to do it again soon.
Rejected Open Adoption Model Leads to Love
Shortly after marrying Bert and Kryna moved to Scotland where Bert pastored a Presbyterian church. Next, the couple moved to Canada to shepherd another congregation. Throughout their travels and mission work, they also tried to have a child without success. Then they received the terrible news they were unable to have children naturally. Their doctor also explained to them the chances of their success using IVF were very low.
Kryna and Bert realized their only option to start a family were through adoption. In Canada, however, the only feasible option to adopt was through the foster system. This option did not appeal to Kryna, as she found it would be hard to handle the emotional hurdles of caring for a child only to find out they were not available for adoption. At this time the couple discovered the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program.
They liked the concept of embryo adoption. However, the idea of open adoption was scary. They were concerned they would be in competition with the biological family for the child’s affection and that it would cause division between them and their adopted child.
Kryna and Bert’s decision ultimately came down to one pivotal question: What was going to be the best for the child?
The social worker who completed their home study for the Snowflakes program was an advocate for open adoption. She shared with them that children in closed adoptions always have a deep need to know more information about their biological family. If the child is unable to obtain this knowledge, most often times it can leave them with a great sense of loss later in life. She also assured them they would always be the child’s parents because they would be the ones to raise the child, no matter who shared their child’s biology. Kryna and Bert then understood that openness did not mean giving up our parenting, but actually meant gaining more family.
The family Bert and Kryna were matched with have become so much more than ‘just their placing family.’ Annabelle and Tom have become their friends, their extended family. Kryna and Bert are blessed with three sons, Amos, Enoch, and Joseph–all who are genetic siblings! As the two families grow closer they encourage all of the children to consider one another as siblings and not just extended family. After all, they are! Bert and Kryna are grateful every day for the new family that they have established through open adoption and the children they are blessed with loving and parenting.
Even a Single Adopted Embryo Can Become Your Baby
My wife Pauline and I started our family late in life. Pauline was already 38 when we had our first child, a daughter who was conceived naturally. We hoped for a second child, but after a few years passed with no luck, we sought fertility treatment. Unfortunately, Pauline’s fertility had declined significantly over those few years, and we were told that the probability of us having a second child of our own even with treatment was very low.
We were advised to try IVF with donor eggs, but we rejected that option because of our Catholic faith and our belief that life begins at conception. So, we just prayed and hoped for a miracle, since there was still some remote possibility that we might conceive naturally.
More time went by without any results, and eventually, we started to look into adoption. Our research led us to Nightlight and the Snowflakes program. We had never heard of embryo adoption, and we were fascinated with the idea that we could expand our family while at the same time bringing into the world a living being in need of a loving home.
After a few conversations with Snowflakes, we began the application process. By the time we completed the home study and all of the paperwork (which took some time), Pauline was already over 45, and we worried a little about this since we knew that many families donating embryos specify a preference for families where the mother is under 45. Snowflakes suggested that we might get matched more quickly if we would be open to donor families with a single embryo.
We agreed to this, and within a few months, we had completed all the arrangements to simultaneously adopt two embryos from two different families. Unfortunately, one of the embryos did not survive the thawing process, but the other did, and nine months later Pauline gave birth Carolina, a beautiful and healthy baby girl, who is now almost three months old.
We had been told that the odds of success with one embryo to transfer were relatively low, and we worried about that too, but it worked for us!! We feel incredibly blessed and grateful to Snowflakes for helping to make this miracle happen.
Family Expands Using Many Options
Although Blaine and Kathryn had their three biological children and wanted more kids. They felt they should expand their family through adoption. And they did— child #4 was adopted into their family. They believed the door for adopting was still open. While researching different adoption agencies, they learned about embryo adoption.
What on earth was that?
To them it was a foreign concept; at the time, they did not even know what in-vitro fertilization was, let alone embryo adoption. So they did an extensive amount of research on their own trying to understand if embryo adoption was something they would be comfortable with pursuing. After hours of research, and with even more hours in prayer, they concluded that embryo adoption was the direction that they wanted to go.
Blaine and Kathryn chose the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. The couple was very open with the types of embryos that they were willing to receive: they were interested in giving the embryos that were having a harder time being matched with adopting families a chance at life.
Blaine and Kathryn were matched and later went in to have their frozen embryo transfer (FET). Only one of the three embryos they adopted survived the thawing process. They excitedly transferred this embryo into Kathryn’s ready-womb. They did get pregnant, but sadly the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.
After some time, Blaine and Kathryn decided they wanted to be re-matched through Snowflakes. This time around was unique as they were matched with two families who each had only one embryo to donate.
On FET day both embryos survived the thaw but inexplicably their cell division did not seem to be proceeding as expected. Blaine and Kathryn were committed to the life of these two embryos and went ahead with the transfer.
Miraculously in their opinion, Kathryn did become pregnant! At their 6-week ultrasound, a single heartbeat was detected. Though they had hoped for two babies, they were thrilled to see and hear one of the embryos survived and was now growing into a healthy baby.
They welcomed their baby girl Everly home and she has brought even more joy and happiness into their house. “She has been such a blessing to our family and is loved so much. We couldn’t imagine life without her!”
Chronology of an Embryo Adoption
August 5: Yesterday we had our embryo transfer appointment. Unfortunately, we had to thaw all ten of the embryos we adopted. This resulted in three embryos that we transferred.
August 19: Today we found out we are PREGNANT! This is still a critical time and we will know more at our first ultrasound. We hope to then find out how many of our three babies are developing and if there is a heartbeat(s).
August 27: We had our first ultrasound today and found out we have ONE baby! Everything was so tiny, but we were very fortunate to see a little flutter that the doctor said was the heartbeat.
September 13: We went in today for our eight-week ultrasound and everything looks normal.
November 22: Tracy is approximately 18 weeks along at this point. We go in for our next sonogram where we hope to answer the boy/girl question. Tracy has had some minor pregnancy symptoms but nothing too difficult so far (easy for me to say).
December 6: We had our 20-week ultrasound today and found out we are having a baby BOY! He appeared to be perfectly normal and healthy. We even got to see his fingers and toes. We are so in love with our little boy and are amazed at God’s miracle.
February 25: Tomorrow I will be 32 weeks along in my pregnancy. Only 8 weeks to go! At the last doctor visit, I was measuring a little small so the doctor ordered another ultrasound. Our little one was fine and was actually measuring 3 days ahead of schedule.
April 25: Forgive us our overwhelming joy in announcing the arrival of Jack Lewis Jones III, a.k.a. Trey. He arrived last night at 8:31 pm. He weighs 8 lbs 3 oz and measures 20 3/4 inches long. Tracy had a c-section and both Trey and Mom are doing really well. Words cannot express our overwhelming joy. Thank you to so many of you that have prayed for Trey and his arrival.
Life’s Obstacles Overcome with Embryo Adoption
We knew when we married in 1995 that we wanted to have a family, but we also knew that it would be difficult to conceive our own child due to my paralysis from a bicycle accident. About three years into our marriage we began the traditional domestic adoption process.
The following year we heard about Nightlight Christian Adoptions and Snowflakes on a radio broadcast. It took us about a year to get comfortable with the concept of adopting someone else’s frozen embryo. Kate was very excited, as she really wanted to experience pregnancy and childbirth.
Initially, we were matched with a couple who had six embryos, but none of the embryos survived the thawing process. We knew that because of our ages (by this time we were in our forties) we needed to act soon to seek another match. Snowflakes matched us again at no charge and 4 months later a couple with 5 embryos chose us.
What a glorious day it was when two weeks after our transfer date we found out that Kate was pregnant! Kate connected deeply with the baby growing inside her, and our daughter Zara was born. I was amazed that a scrawny three-pound baby girl could immediately and completely capture my heart the very moment I first saw her.
Zara is now a healthy, happy, smart, energetic bundle of joy who loves life and greets every day as the gift that it really is. We are so blessed and proud to have her as our daughter.
Ob/Gyn Suggests Embryo Adoption Solution
Ben and Stephanie had always wanted several children and they eagerly looked forward to being parents someday. However, after a few years of not getting pregnant, they discovered an infertility diagnosis that doctors said would mean they could never have biological children. Stephanie remembered, “This was like getting a bomb dropped on us! We wondered what this meant for our hopes and dreams.”
Before they knew anything of their infertility struggle, a coworker had told Stephanie about her friend having “Snowflake babies” and explained what that meant. Stephanie had thought at the time it was neat, but it wasn’t until her OB-GYN suggested Snowflakes Embryo Adoption as an option in the wake of their infertility discovery that she remembered. In the following weeks and months, as the couple explored embryo adoption, they knew in their hearts that this was the answer to their prayers.
As a part of their Snowflakes application, the couple had to indicate what ethnicities they were open to adopting. For a long time, the couple had felt a love growing within them for the Japanese people; a love that seemed random at the time but had just kept growing stronger. It seemed like it would be improbable, but the couple both strongly felt that they should put down Japanese. After submitting their application, they discovered that there were Japanese embryos waiting for a match. “We didn’t totally fit the placing family’s criteria, but we shared our story with the Snowflakes team and that we would love to adopt these embryos. They said they would forward our information on to the family to consider.”
Shortly afterward the couple family received a pretty ecstatic email back from the matching coordinator. Stephanie recalls, “She said ‘You’re not gonna believe this — this family has been looking for three years for a family they wanted to place embryos with and they think you’re the one.’”
Transfer day came and all three of their embryos survived the thaw. At their doctor’s advice, all three embryos were transferred. Only one embryo implanted. The couple was saddened at the loss of the two embryos but thrilled to be pregnant.
Stephanie’s pregnancy went well, and beautiful, delightful Annika was born.
After giving birth, the Hawkins told their agency they wanted to have direct contact with the placing family, a move that placing parent Gina calls an “unexpected blessing.” The two couples communicate regularly, exchanging e-mails and photos. And when Annika was 2 years old, the placing family came to meet her in person. Gina says it felt right knowing that Annika is where she’s supposed to be—with her parents.
Annika is now a bubbly, outgoing and fearless 7 year old who fills her parents’ lives with joy.
“We can’t imagine not having done embryo adoption and not having her,” Stephanie says. “There’s nothing like getting to carry your own adopted child and give birth! The risks involved are worth it.”
Trusting God’s Family Plan
We’ve known about Nightlight for many years and have known many families who have used them for their agency. What we were about to find out was that Nightlight was more than an agency… it was a family of believers who would pray for you, cheer for you and rejoice when God answered your prayers. In March of this year, we received an email about special case embryos from Nightlight. I was surprised to hear of genetic families who were open to older moms (I am currently 40) and many children being in a family already. The idea of special case embryos (at risk for a possible genetic issue) thrilled my heart in a way that can only be explained as God moving.
When I asked my husband about this, we agreed that we are pro-life which means defending life from its very beginning. Surprisingly, he agreed to have me call and ask questions. From that first conversation with Nightlight, I instantly felt at peace with their friendliness and resourcefulness. A few days later we received an email from Nightlight telling us a genetic family with special case Korean-American embryos had come forward. We couldn’t believe God demonstrated his loving care for us and our heart by giving us a potential match that would fit beautifully with our family.
We continued to see His miraculous hand through the adoption process. Just as we began to fear a bit about finances, God did an amazing thing by blessing us with a scholarship from Nightlight as His way of saying “keep going…I’m with you.” Through obstacles with paperwork in our state and medical scares, each time I emailed Nightlight I was assured they were praying for us, would support us and that God was with us. I have worked with three different adoption agencies for our previous adoptions and never have I felt such love and support as we did with Nightlight.
God has given us a new platform to speak and share His story in our lives and His heart for all children… even “our babies in the freezer” (as my 7 yr old likes to say with big eyes as she prays for them!).
We have had many opportunities to speak to our church and family to explain how the love of Jesus compels us as we move forward in this unique adoption. We have had the joy of choosing contact with the genetic mom of our snowflake babies and sharing with her about our process. We have been able to share our motivation and faith with our clinic and its staff and some have remarked that this story is amazing. We look forward to what God will do as I begin medicines this week and our baby transfer is set for September. We praise Him for giving us the courage to walk each step of this road and praise Him that He is with us. If God can be with a family of limited means and small faith like ours, then He can do great things in your family too when He’s the One who is calling you, He will be the faithful One who equips you to do it.
Love Arrives in a Microscopic Embryo
David and I were devastated after five hard years of infertility treatment to learn we could not have children. We had dreamed for years of the family that we would have together and had spent thousands of dollars and all our energy trying to realize this wish.
One day we came upon the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program and were overjoyed. After accepting I’d never be pregnant, I learned I could be pregnant, wear maternity clothes, give birth, and breastfeed my adoptive child. We were able to correspond with the biological family, share photos, stories, and medical histories, and have a connection for our baby to know his biological family someday.
We felt so much love for the family staring at us in the photos, and their twins were the most beautiful children I had ever seen. I knew we were led to this family.
After an amazing nine-month pregnancy, our little snowflake baby, Frank, was born in the middle of the night, in the middle of a snowstorm in a very crowded waiting room. He is such a joy! Frank was such a beautiful, calm, and social baby. He loved getting passed around and meeting new faces. As a toddler, his social disposition brought so much joy into this world. I see him leaning out of the grocery cart trying to play peek-a-boo with the stranger next to him. I see the stresses of the day melt from them as they smile and playback.
He is such a force in this world. I’m so excited to see how God will use him as a future husband and father. We participated in the White House press conference supporting the veto of the bill that would have removed restrictions on the use of federal funds in research that requires the killing of frozen embryos. We are blessed to have our son Frank, born as the result of the wonderful gift of frozen embryos to us!
A ‘21st Century Couple’: Embryo Adoption Changed Us for Good
Dan and Kelli met on a Christian dating website in their early 40s. A year after marrying, the couple decided they should build their family. After eighteen months with no pregnancies, Kelli decided to visit a fertility doctor. Their dream seemed to be ebbing away after undergoing six months of blood tests and scans and getting no concrete answers. Finally, their worst fear was confirmed: Kelli’s eggs were determined to be no longer viable. She would not be able to conceive a genetic child.
Kelli and Dan were heartbroken and grieved tremendously over the news. When visiting her family doctor for a routine checkup, Kelli recounted her test results through tears. The doctor suggested she and Dan look into embryo adoption, explaining the process of being able to experience pregnancy with the adoptive child. Intrigued, Kelli told Dan about the concept and together they spent hours researching online. The more they researched, the more they saw this was the solution they had been looking for.
Kelli immediately began contacting embryo adoption programs. Unfortunately, because she was 45, many of the programs said they were not able to help her as she was past the age requirement. Determined, Kelli continued to seek more information. Finally, they contacted Snowflakes Embryo Adoption and was told she was not too old for the program. She immediately broke down in tears of joy.
Dan and Kelli applied with the Snowflakes program and were matched with a placing family: Chris and Rebecca. After reviewing their family profile, Dan and Kelli knew immediately this family was perfect for them. They had many similarities and had gone through infertility struggles as well. Wanting an open adoption for their children, the two couples decided to meet face to face. Over dinner, they discovered they had more in common than they initially realized. It was clear the two families were meant to be matched with one another. “It was like a joining of hearts,” remembers Kelli.
Once the adoption was complete, Dan and Kelli scheduled their first transfer date as soon as possible. They transferred 2 embryos and two weeks later they learned Kelli was pregnant! She gave birth to their adoptive son in December. 15 months later, the couple welcomed a daughter from the same adoptive embryos.
Kelli and Dan made a “life book” to help their children understand their unique story from an early age, which includes their other biological sisters and parents. Both families have visited each other’s homes, and in between visits they keep in contact over phone calls, email, Facebook, and Skype. Dan and Kelli (and Chris and Rebecca) believe this relationship is beneficial for all children involved. They want all the siblings to know each other and not be afraid to ask questions.
“My sister-in-law often jokes with us that we are the ‘21st-century couple’ since we met online and then had our kids through embryo adoption,” says Kelli. “While it has been unconventional for sure, there is no doubt that God has ‘made our steps firm’ and orchestrated the forming of our family.”
Solution for the high cost of IVF
For so very long, Keith and I tried to get pregnant. It became painfully evident it wasn’t going to work. We looked into the in-vitro process but were discouraged by the uncertainty coupled with the enormous expense.
Researching on the internet, we discovered the potential of the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. We learned of the great success this option was providing couples like us. Our hopes were renewed. We applied with Snowflakes and they helped match us with a family with remaining embryos – a perfect, most wonderful family.
The process was thorough, and in fairly short order, our hopes came true. We were pregnant and gave birth to our precious Samantha. We are so thankful for the embryo adoption option–it was truly the perfect solution for our family.
Giving Embryos a Chance
After getting married, Jamie and Dan wanted to start a family straight away. After a year with no results, the couple went to see a fertility specialist. Finding no reason why the couple should not be able to conceive, their doctor suggested the couple try artificial insemination. After ten attempts at AI and a life-threatening pregnancy scare, the couple opted to try IVF instead. This failed as well.
Despite doctors telling them, they were healthy, the couple felt extremely discouraged that they were still not pregnant. “You’re kind of numb because it’s like, ‘Wow, this really isn’t going to happen?'” Jamie remembers.
Jamie and Dan knew they were done with IVF. They could not bear to endure one more fertility treatment. They started to seriously consider the route of adoption. During a night of researching different adoption agencies, Jamie stumbled across the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption website.
The idea of embryo adoption immediately intrigued her. She liked the fact she could experience pregnancy and give birth to her adopted child. She explained the concept to Dan and he loved the process as well.
“I liked the idea of saving these embryos because the embryo is the combination, and we believe that’s life, so all these lives are frozen that need some parents and we need some kids,” Dan says. “Let’s give them a chance.”
Jamie and Dan applied through the Snowflakes program and were matched with a placing family that had six frozen embryos. Those embryos were shipped to a nearby fertility clinic and two were transferred in Jamie. Nine months later, Jamie and Dan were finally parents to a beautiful baby girl. 16 months later, the couple welcomed their twin boys, born from the same set of embryos as their sister. They knew their family was now complete.
Jamie and Dan are also in contact with their children’s biological parents. They keep in contact regularly through email and they travel to meet them every summer. The relationship has been valuable during Jamie’s pregnancies and when it comes to medical questions about their children. The couple also loves that they are able to answer any question their children might have about their biological family.
Dan and Jamie are using an age-appropriate method to explain to their children the unique way they came into their family. They have a book with seeds and different pictures of their family. They use the book to explain how the placing family donated their “seeds” and helped them have children of their own.
Dan and Jamie’s daughter not only understood the concept but refers to the placing parents’ daughter, her biological sibling, as her sister. She even has a picture of her sister taped above her bed. “That told us that she got it and that it was special that it was her sister,” Dan recalls. They plan to tell the boys using the same method when they are old enough to understand.
“I feel like a traditional mom because I am, I’m their mother, and even though we have this unique situation, it’s kind of nice to have like a second family,” Jamie says. “Being a mom is being a mom, no matter what kind of kids you have. There are so many families that come about from nontraditional ways from different kinds of adoption, and this is just another unique way.”
Many Embryos, a Variety of Ethnicities
Why wasn’t one child enough for me?
Our son Thomas was healthy, smart, and full of fun. The process to adopt him and bring him to our home in North Carolina had been grueling. Now Vietnam was closed for adoptions.
Why wasn’t one child enough? And why, after Thomas joined our family did I still dream at night of being pregnant?
The reason, I know now, is that God had a plan for us.
For many months I had prayed to God to help me let go of the desire to add another child to the family. But international adoption didn’t seem like it would work for us again. And before we adopted Thomas we learned that the only way I would become pregnant was through IVF because we are both carriers for Cystic Fibrosis. With a 1 in 4 chance that any children we might have would have CF, that wasn’t a good option for us. Sperm and egg donors didn’t interest us either.
Then one day, I picked up a parenting magazine passed along to us by a neighbor. As I flipped through it, I found an article about embryo adoption. I had never heard of embryo adoption.
My skin felt like it was charged with electricity. Was this a way to add to our family?
I told myself that embryo adoption was only an option if I could find a Vietnamese embryo donor. What were the chances of that in the U.S.?
Not knowing what else to do, I typed “embryo adoption” and “Vietnamese” into the Google search engine.
And there they were, on a Snowflakes listing for multiethnic embryos. I waited a day and then called Nightlight Christian Adoptions.
I explained to the placement coordinator, “Look, you’ll think I’m crazy but I am a Caucasian woman and I am interested in the Vietnamese embryos. I have no idea if I can become pregnant and I’m already 40 years old.”
Surprisingly, she didn’t think I was crazy. She said some placing families had been waiting for several years for someone to adopt the embryos and they were beginning to lose hope.
Now I needed to tell my husband what I had done.
He prayed about it for a while and decided he was willing to try embryo adoption. Luckily, we were chosen by a placing family who decided we were perfect for their embryos. After the familiar home study process, physicals, and paperwork, the embryos were sent to our fertility clinic in North Carolina. The doctor implanted a single embryo one morning in March.
We didn’t tell anyone. But somehow Thomas knew. That afternoon, in front of my husband and me, Thomas pointed to my belly and said: “I want you to have a baby in there.”
Again, my skin tingled all over. And two weeks later, our clinic called to tell me that I was pregnant and all tests looked great.
My pregnancy was easy and uneventful. At 42, I gave birth to John. He is incredibly sweet-natured and handsome. People notice that he doesn’t look like me, usually assume he’s adopted, and frequently ask, “How long has he been with you?”
“Since he was an embryo,” I answer, giving me an opportunity to share this miracle in our lives.
A Gift of Hope
A life without children seemed a curse without a cure. My whole life I had dreamed of motherhood only to have those dreams crushed with the words “You and your husband are not likely to conceive children together.” For seven long years, we waited for our empty arms to be filled.
I read an article from Focus on the Family about embryo adoption. We quickly decided to pursue this exciting adoption option and finished our home study and submitted all our paperwork. In what seemed like no time at all, we received the much-anticipated phone call! A genetic family in the northwestern United States had chosen us to adopt their embryos. They mailed us a letter about themselves and pictures of their family.
Transfer day arrived. Two weeks later we received the news we had waited so long to hear. I was pregnant!
Nine months later, we sat staring at the most beautiful little boy we had ever laid eyes on. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the family that chose life for our son and allowed us the privilege of becoming parents. When we look at our son, we see the fingerprints of God. Infertility was a devastating storm in our life, but the seasons of plenty that came from the rain resulted in a gift of hope—our son, snowflake baby #8, Tanner James.
Death of a Dream Brought to Life by Embryo Adoption
After James and Kristy were married they felt no sense of urgency to start a family. At the time, James was busy working as teacher and Kristy was just finishing up cosmetology school. But after six years, they started to wonder why they were not getting pregnant. After some discussion, the couple decided to visit their doctors. Kristy’s test results came back stating she was healthy and she should have no trouble conceiving a child. However, James’ test results showed he had a zero sperm count; he would never be able to father a genetic child.
The couple was shocked at first. This news was a death of a dream; a death of an expectation. When you get married, you’re expected to have children. Most people don’t ever consider they will have fertility issues. After the shock had worn off, they started looking into other ways to build their family, for they believed God had a plan.
James and Kristy first heard about Snowflakes Embryo Adoption through an article in a magazine. The article explained how Snowflakes allowed families to adopt frozen embryos from other families that had undergone IVF. The mother is then able to carry and give birth to their adopted child. At the time, the couple did not think much of it (as they were not looking into adoption at that point). Six months after receiving the infertility diagnosis, one of Kristy’s clients opened up about her own struggle with infertility. After Kristy explained she was facing the same issue, the client proceeds to tell Kristy about her friend who adopted a baby through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption—the same program they read about in the magazine.
They came to the conclusion this was the way they were supposed to build their family. Their decision was solidified after the death of James’ grandfather, who left the couple an inheritance which was enough to cover the costs of the adoption. After going through a home study and through a matching process, James and Kristy adopted eight frozen embryos.
The fertility clinic advised they thaw all eight, due to the fact that not all embryos survive the thawing process. Out of eight, only three survived the thaw. All three were transferred and an ultrasound weeks later revealed Kristy was pregnant with twins! Kylie and Luke (who are Snowflake babies #84 and #85) were born.
James and Kristy are open with their children about the adoption. Kristy wrote a journal them, explaining how they joined their family. And the twins love it! (Luke especially loves the fact that he was delivered to the clinic via FedEx truck!) The couple strongly believes it was God’s plan for the twins to be a part of their family. And for that, they say they are truly blessed.
The Unknown Adoption Option: Embryo Adoption
When Josh and Kjersten got married they knew that they wanted a big family, so they started trying to get pregnant straight away. Kjersten started to feel sick with unexplained, severe hot flashes. Her doctor discovered she had primary ovarian insufficiency and she would have a < 5% chance of getting pregnant naturally. Surprise! Six months after learning about the condition, Kjersten did become pregnant! Sadly, she miscarried at nine weeks, which was devastating for both her and Josh. They knew that was probably their 5% chance of conceiving and that it would not happen again.
Josh and Kjersten started to look seriously into adoption. If they were going to adopt, they knew they wanted to pursue a program that had a big need for adopting parents. This led the couple to the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. As Kjersten remembers it, “When we found out we wouldn’t be able to have children of our own, we learned about embryo adoption. There are so many embryos waiting in frozen storage for someone to give birth to them.”
Josh and Kjersten spent the next couple of years saving money for their adoption. They were amazed that after completing all of their application paperwork and home study they were matched with a placing family within a week! The placing family that had chosen them had sixteen 2 and 3 day (day frozen) embryos.
They scheduled their first frozen embryo transfer. Three of the embryos were thawed and 2 survived. Their doctor assured them by explaining how healthy the surviving embryos looked. Two weeks after the FET they found out Kjersten was pregnant, but at eleven weeks she had another miscarriage. The couple was absolutely crushed over a loss of a second child.
But Josh and Kjersten had 13 more embryos they had accepted responsibility for and they scheduled a second FET. This time 4 embryos were thawed and again 2 survived. After the transfer, two weeks later the pregnancy test came back positive! Kjersten was able to carry until 32 weeks but had to be induced early due to preeclampsia complications. Even though Eleanor was born early, she was extremely healthy and active. She is happy, curious, and loved. Josh and Kjersten cannot wait to bring her nine brothers and sisters out of frozen storage and welcome them into their family one day.
High Quality Embryos Do Not Equal Pregnancy Success
It was a dark snowy Friday night when I was driving to meet my husband at a local fundraiser. I typically drive in silence but I had stumbled across a radio program that caught my attention. My husband and I been unsuccessfully trying to build our family for over three years. The initial testing had left us without answers. We were preparing to meet with a RE and were nervous about the ‘next steps’. At the time we did not know embryo adoption existed. Should our next step be IVF? Could we do IVF and still honor our faith and honor life? These discussions were weighing heavily on my heart. As I listened, the message focused on the sanctity of human life, even in its earliest stages, and my tears welled up. A part of me was scared this was my answer: IVF was not the right choice for us. As I arrived at our destination, I saw my hubby, rolled down my window, and said I would meet him inside. As he walked away, the message concluded and right there in front of me, fireworks started going off. I couldn’t have planned the timing better, but there they were…. Fireworks.
A few weeks later our RE advised us that they would do a workup on me and then likely would recommend IVF if all came back normal. We shared our beliefs with them about not creating more embryos than we would use. They hesitantly agreed to honor our wishes, warning us our chances of conceiving would be significantly reduced with these restrictions. We left feeling a little defeated and more confused than ever.
We returned to our RE’s office ready to discuss the recent test results and next steps. We were floored when our doctor said ‘premature ovarian failure’ and said our chances of conceiving even with IVF and without any of our ‘restrictions’ were less than 5%. I was shocked! I was angry. I was confused. I was every emotion under the sun. I was devastated. But now we knew for sure: the door to IVF was shut.
Somewhere in the fog of the next few months, I learned of embryo adoption and that night of fireworks started to have new meaning and new hope. I had been heartbroken over the possibility of not being able to feel life grow inside me. I wanted to experience the joy of childbirth. Embryo adoption truly was and is the answer to our prayers. We began our embryo adoption.
A year later, we had been through one failed FET and had been matched with a second family. We were head over heels in love with this family. They had chosen life for their three embryos and had agreed to place them with us. We felt such a strong connection to the family and were overjoyed with the match.
When our embryologist received the embryology report, she called to tell us we should consider sending the embryos back. We quickly said no, we were committed to our babies. She went on to tell us the embryos were graded a B, BC, and C and there had been a power outage when they were being frozen. The power blipped for just a second and then the generator kicked in, but with the fragility of embryos, she feared we wouldn’t even have viable embryos once they were thawed. We were crushed but held onto hope that this was the plan for our family and we needed to stay the course.
Two months later we were pleasantly surprised to show up for our transfer with two viable embryos ready to transfer and one left safely in cryopreservation for a future attempt. On September 15th we heard the words we had waited so long to hear: “You’re pregnant!” On June 2 we gave birth to our beautiful baby girl, Makenna Lee.
And let’s not forget about that little ‘C’ embryo that was waiting in the freezer for us. Against all odds, he survived the thaw beautifully and we completed our family with the birth of the sweetest boy ever, Alexander Brooks. While embryo adoption may not be the right choice for everyone, it blessed us beyond expectation and measure.
Male Infertility Overcome with Embryo Adoption
Ardent musicians Terri and Jason started to date in their mid-twenties. From the very beginning, they understood that infertility might be an issue for them. Terri had known since she was 16 years old she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). The couple agreed that when the time came they would be open to the possibility of adoption.
They married and decided to hold off on starting a family and focus on their music. That all changed in when Jason had a heart attack. Thankfully he recovered from the trauma without any complications, but it completely changed his and Terri’s attitudes on life. They now focused more time and energy on starting a family.
Since they suspected they might have trouble conceiving, they did not waste any time when they didn’t get pregnant quickly. Both went to be tested by their doctors. Terri was surprised to learn that she was in great reproductive health should have no issues with pregnancy. Unfortunately, Jason was informed that he had azoospermia and would not be able to conceive children.
The couple felt a horrific sense of loss from realizing that they would never be able to conceive on their own.
They learned about Snowflakes Embryo Adoption from their fertility doctor and decided to do more research. Both Terri and Jason liked the fact that they were able to know the biological family of their adopted embryos and decided to go ahead with the program. They applied and were matched with a family that had seven 2Pn embryos. The doctor at their fertility clinic explained that he had success with these embryos and there was no reason that the transfer should not result in a pregnancy.
Under the guidance of their doctor, all seven of Jason and Terri’s embryos were thawed. The plan was to transfer two and refreeze the remainder. However, two of the embryos died during the thaw and two more died during incubation. Of the three embryos that were left, only one was considered strong enough to result in pregnancy. The couple decided to go ahead and transfer two embryos (one being the strong one) and let one embryo grow out for another day to see if it could be refrozen. The next day, they heard from the doctor that the last embryo had died.
After the transfer, Terri and Jason waited on pins and needles until they were able to take a pregnancy test. They did not have any more embryos and knew that they would have to wait even longer to try again. Two weeks post-transfer they took a pregnancy test, it came back positive!
Terri had zero complications during pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby girl. In fact, out of the seven adopted embryos, their little “survivor” was the lowest graded embryo on the original embryology report. According to Terri, “Our amazing daughter is living proof that even the lowest graded embryos are beautiful and special and have so much potential. We are so blessed!”
Embryo Adoption Proves the Successful Solution for Infertility
Robert and Sarah’s infertility story, unfortunately, started very early in their marriage. After getting married in the couple started dreaming about the next step: having kids. They imagined they would begin their family right away, but unfortunately, about a year into their marriage, they were diagnosed infertile. “While some people have struggles with infertility, we were purely infertile,” Sarah said. “It was a shock and we had to first absorb the fact that we couldn’t have kids from our own genetics. It’s a grief factor of its own.”
Realizing that children wouldn’t come the conventional way, the couple turned to adoption and were exploring their options when a friend of a friend heard a radio announcement about Snowflakes Embryo Adoption. “She told my friend and my friend told me,” Sarah recalls. “Crazy enough, she was in Minnesota and we’re in Florida so it was quite a distance the news had to travel.”
But from the moment Robert and Sarah first heard about Snowflakes they knew it was exactly what they were looking for. Sarah was healthy enough and their doctor confirmed she would likely able to carry a child. To Sarah, that was the best part – possibly being able to carry a pregnancy. Also, Sarah was excited at the prospect of beginning to nurture the child both physically and emotionally in utero.
In 2005 the couple applied to adopt through the Snowflakes Program, completed a home study, set their criteria for a match and submitted their family profile. All with the hopes that they would find just the right match for them.
The couple’s first few attempts to achieve pregnancy, sadly, were not successful. But when Vance was born they were overjoyed. “He was worth the wait! A wait that at times felt foreboding and almost unbearable but nevertheless worth it,” says Sarah.
When they were considering adding to their family again, but with no remaining embryos from their previous adoption, they considered a traditional adoption and being matched with a birth mom. But, the possibility of being able to carry a pregnancy again helped them decide once more embryo adoption was right for them. They turned to Snowflakes once again and were matched with another placing family.
Hannah was born as a result of that placement. Now they have decided their family is complete. They are forever grateful for the opportunity to bring life into this world in such a unique way through Snowflakes.
There is life after embryo adoption too, such as Vance, at age 7, understanding his adoption story as best he can at his age. The family has chosen to communicate with their placing families through the Snowflakes team. Sarah says, “I still love sharing pics of the kids with Snowflakes to be passed along and observe things, especially in my daughter, that makes me think I’d really like her placing parents.”
Eric & Cathy’s Story
Like many couples, during our courtship and early marriage we talked often of the day we would be parents. Children are a gift from God and we definitely wanted our quiver full! You can imagine our dismay after a year passed without any success. This turned into a seven-year journey of medical interventions.
Early on we considered adoption, but continued to pray to the Lord and ask Him to confirm His will for us. While on the Internet one day, I came across embryo adoption. I was excited to find that there might be an opportunity for us to not only adopt, but also carry the child. After discussing this option with our doctor, we were ready and eager to begin. Although we considered other agencies, we were impressed with the dignity that Nightlight Christian Adoptions brought to the process and the emphasis that they placed on the value of these little lives. At the end of 2006, I contacted them and began our paperwork.
In early 2007, we were so surprised and humbled that we had been selected by a couple to adopt their five embryos. We read through their profile and immediately felt a connection to them. After praying about the decision, we contacted Nightlight and let them know that we wanted to proceed.
Having gone through the embryo transfer in October 2007, we eagerly awaited to find out the results. I didn’t sleep well the night before my doctor’s appointment on November 12th. And at 5:00 that morning, I couldn’t wait any longer. I took a pregnancy test and to my amazement it came up positive for pregnancy. I dissolved into tears and woke Eric up to tell him we were expecting. This is one of the sweetest moments we have ever had in our marriage. We just couldn’t believe, after all these years, we were going to be parents. This was the answer to not only years of individual, but collective prayers.
My pregnancy was a wonderful experience, a truly happy time for us. It is amazing to witness the handiwork of God. On July 8th our beautiful baby daughter came into this world. The best day of our lives! As Eric says, “We’re smitten!” Although we thought we understood, we now realize that the emotions of love and protection that you feel when you hold your baby are truly overwhelming. There are still times we find ourselves in tears, simply in awe of Kaitlyn’s presence in our lives. She is our miracle!