IVF and Embryo Adoption

IVF and Embryo Adoption

Eleven years ago, my husband and I were desperate for children. He was finishing his medical residency and our dream was always to have children soon after.  I had gone off birth control for about a year and never had a cycle.  I had had issues with hypothalamic amenorrhea for years, but the bandage was hormonal birth control pills (a different discussion for a different time) which did nothing to fix my issues for the 10 years I took them.

Thankfully, we had really good insurance at the time as my husband was employed by a big hospital system and I was able to see a fertility specialist.  There was no quick or easy fix.  Our options were wait and see if my body would recover over time or to begin hormonal options to stimulate ovulation.

  At 29 and never a good “waiter” (God has done a big number on my heart since then), we decided to begin exploring fertility treatments.  Our first attempt at hormonal injections made my ovaries overstimulate big time because I had SO many eggs (a good thing), I just wasn’t ovulating.  So, we canceled that cycle as I could have become pregnant with many multiples and decided to go straight to IVF.

I’m going to pause here and insert some unpopular opinions.  The fertility industry is a huge machine.  It’s a money maker for hospital systems and while there are SO many families that truly need intervention to become pregnant, I feel that so many couples are encouraged to move forward with treatments like IVF before lifestyle factors are considered and ruled out. I realize myself that I was looking for a quick fix and that’s exactly what was offered to me.

  Looking back, had we had access to integrative medicine, like my husband practices now, I likely would have been able to balance my hormones and thyroid and optimize my health.  It makes me SO happy when he shares with me a story about helping a couple get pregnant avoiding interventions and instead optimizing health.  It’s not always possible, but sometimes it is and the overwhelming stress and dollars spent can be minimized.  Ok.  soapbox over.

 I am beyond grateful for God’s perfect blessing of a successful IVF treatment cycle and the incredible gift of our oldest son Adler.  He made me a mom and everything changed the moment I saw his heart beating, especially after all we had been through.  We experienced an incredibly successful IVF cycle (remember all those eggs?) that resulted in 13 healthy embryos one of which is now my son Adler.  

Like many things in life, it’s incredibly challenging to consider the long term reality of the consequences of our decisions.  We were told our options for our embryos early in the process.  We could transfer them ourselves (trying for more children of our own), donate them to a family or to science, or destroy them. It’s a heavy load at the time, but one that it’s easy to dismiss to figure out “later”. 

 As Christians, we believe that God created life and that it should be valued as such from the time of conception so neither destroying the embryos nor donating them to science were an option for us.  Low and behold, my body healed itself and I have been able to conceive naturally on multiple occasions since.  On top of that, God called our family to foster care and adoption and a family of four little boys.

We knew that we wanted to donate the embryos to a family of our choosing, not that of a fertility clinic- one that would raise them to know and love the Lord and to raise them similarly to how we would have raised them ourselves, but we had no idea where to begin.  It all seemed so overwhelming and honestly easier to keep them frozen. That’s probably why there are millions upon millions of frozen embryos sitting in fertility clinics across the United States.

When making big decisions with many emotions involved, it can be impossible to think about the long term repercussions and realities of our choices.  Like, actually CHOOSING a family to donate our embryos to.  It’s a HUGE deal and while many fertility clinics offer anonymous donation, that was not what we wanted for our babies.

A few years ago this predicament was not at the front of my mind.  We had four boys, were in the middle of adopting two of them out of foster care, and about to move to our new home on the other side of town.  I was reading Focus on the Family’s magazine and my eyes got really wide as I read about a program called Snowflakes specializing in Christian embryo adoption through a company called Nightlight Christian adoptions. It was just what I was hoping to find!

I sent in an inquiry with Nightlight and the Snowflakes program and soon after had a lovely conversation with a representative named Jen.  She had a lovely Australian accent and shared the specifics of how the program worked.  In short, we would fill out a bunch of paperwork including all of our medical history, create a booklet about our family, and offer lots of detail about characteristics of an ideal adoptive family for our embryos.  

A short time later, we started the process.  Nightlights was really great about helping us to complete the process in bite sized chunks, giving us a reasonable amount of time to get all the steps completed and walking with us along the way.

After all the paperwork was complete we were connected with a new representative who oversees the matching process who told us we would wait for up to six months for a match.  There are stories in the media all the time about frozen embryos born decades later, but I’ve learned through this process that rapidly changing technology, especially with the freezing process, has eliminated many clinics from accepting our embryos that were frozen in 2012.  I can’t help but wonder what the situation will be in five more years?

We were very excited the day we learned that a potential match had been found.  I savored every moment reading the details about a sweet California couple choosing embryo adoption over IVF, their commitment to Christ and all of their interests including pictures of their extended family.  I couldn’t stop smiling. 

After prayer, a few clarifying questions, more prayer and reading and re-reading their profile, my husband and I signed the paperwork.  We know as Christ followers that this life requires surrender of so many things.  We were Holy Spirit nudged to let go of the challenges and hesitations created by uncertainty and kept reminding ourselves of ALL the ways God has worked in our lives and how diligent the Snowflakes team is about making matches that help create lasting relationships.

Just last week, I heard from the sweet couple who shared with us that they will be completing their first embryo transfer any day now.  While the concept of someday meeting our biological children who are being raised by another couple is still hard to comprehend, I very much look forward to the relationships that we pray form and the opportunity for all of our children to know each other. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m so grateful for programs like Snowflakes and the opportunities they provide for families to grow and thrive.

I marvel at the fact that God adopts each of us into His perfect kingdom.  I’m grateful that I have the unique opportunity to experience adoption from both sides.  To Him be the glory!

If you know of a couple who conceived via IVF and may have frozen embryos OR a couple who is struggling with infertility and may wish to consider embryo adoption please share: https://nightlight.org/snowflakes-embryo-adoption-donation/

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