Home Motherhood One Mom’s Amazing Embryo Adoption

One Mom’s Amazing Embryo Adoption

August 31, 2020

Hi there! My name is Gabby and my husband Donny and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary later this month!

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.” As a 17 year old, it was heavy information to process. But looking back now, I’m thankful that I had so much time to come to terms with my infertility. The finality of it was a “death” of sorts, that I could grieve and process, and then heal from. When I was dating my future husband, we were able to talk about what this would mean for our family and processed the realization we wouldn’t be bringing biological children into the world together. We agreed that 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 their extension, “Snowflake Embryo Adoptions.” 

When someone goes through in vitro fertilization (IVF) to grow their family, it often (hopefully) results in several viable embryos. Usually a doctor will transfer a fresh embryo or two to a woman’s uterus, and freeze the rest for potential future use. After a few years, when someone is done growing their family, they sometimes have frozen embryos remaining that they don’t intend to transfer. (this is often for a variety of reasons – dangerous pregnancies, several successful pregnancies so adding more children isn’t practical, cost, 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 for adoption with families hoping to adopt. 

Because my infertility stems from my ovaries, my uterus could (theoretically) still carry a pregnancy. The idea is similar to surrogacy where a woman carries a baby for someone else…but in this case, I’d be carrying my adopted-non-biological child! Embryo adoption was appealing to me and my husband for a variety of reasons… the costs associated are typically much lower than domestic or international adoption, there are hundreds, if not, thousands, of frozen embryos currently awaiting adoption, and being able to experience pregnancy and childbirth was a joy I’d never even imagined I could have!

We embarked on our Snowflakes 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 first embryo transfer! It involved pills, shots, and many, MANY doctors visits. Then in April, in an overnight shipping container, our precious embryos made the journey from Florida to our clinic in Pasadena. Our doctor thawed 3 embryos and 2 were viable for transfer. It was heartbreaking to hear we’d already lost one precious life, but we were hopeful we’d get the news we were pregnant with twins! 

It takes about 2 weeks after a frozen embryo transfer 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’d let these children and my husband down. Statistically…only 1 in 3 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 4 remaining embryos. Once again, one of them did not survive thawing, and my doctor felt it was wise to transfer the remaining 3. “Triplets!” We imagined to ourselves, “What an adventure!”

Two weeks later, once again, the nurse’s sad voice over the phone, and again we had to process a huge loss.  We had started the process so hopeful! “8 healthy embryos! What luck!” we thought. 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 couldn’t imagine putting my body through the meds, the lead up, the transfer and the loss AGAIN . . so we needed time to regroup.

We would also have to match with a new family and start that entire process again. But we decided, the “odds were in our favor” if 1 in 3 is truly successful, so we felt comfortable giving it one more final go. Snowflakes came back with a unique matching offer – 2 separate families that each had 1 embryo to transfer. They asked if we would be interested in taking both. So once again, embryos were shipped to our home clinic, 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 in a high risk pregnancy, but at that moment, I was pregnant!

At our first ultrasound there was one steady heartbeat – it was bittersweet. A healthy growing baby, and one more loss. All in total…we’d adopted 10 embryos and 1 made it to pregnancy. But what immense joy in the 1! By the end of my first trimester, my body had fully “kicked in” and took over the pregnancy. No more meds! No more trips to the fertility clinic! The day of my last visit to my clinic they sent me off with a baby blanket and a graduation certificate. I’d officially been transferred to a regular OBGYN for a regular pregnancy! It was wonderful and surreal! 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.

I was just a regular (albeit hugely swollen) pregnant woman! And at my 37 week doctor visit, my blood pressure had skyrocketed, so my doctor swiftly scheduled a c-section for later that week. 

On December 22, 2017 at 37.5 weeks pregnant, my son Deacon was born at a whopping 9 pounds, 12 ounces! 

So far we’ve had very little 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 his biological parents, 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 wouldn’t change things for the world! 

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