Last Updated on December 11, 2020 by Chris and Lindsay
It is likely that you are not familiar with the term “embryo adoption.” Embryo adoption does not get much prime time attention. This is especially true compared to its close relative, In Vitro Fertilization (better known as IVF).
Sure, on their own or in different contexts both “embryo” and “adoption” are more familiar. But combining them creates a unique scenario in which the world can be transformed. This occurs where modern technology meets the caring hearts of adoptive parents.
What is Embryo Adoption?
Embryo adoption is the transfer of a developed embryo to an adoptive mother to be nurtured in the womb. If successful, the fetus will develop to term and be delivered into the world. However in most cases the parents will have no genetic relation to the child. This is because most embryos donated are from completely unrelated families who have experienced successful IVF.
As a result of the rise of IVF, many embryos sit on the shelves in medical facilities awaiting implantation. This occurs because each family going through IVF will have as many embryos developed as possible. In the IVF process several, but not necessarily all, embryos will be transferred.
However the woman might experience pregnancy in their her transfer. This would leave the remaining embryos unnecessary. They are then frozen, awaiting future decisions by the family. These embryos are affectionately called “snowflake babies.”
At this point the family has several options:
- Discard the embryos,
- Pay for storage for future use in family planning or
- Place them into adoption.
Families who choose to place them up for adoption forfeit the unwanted embryos in similar fashion as adoptive placement of born children. Embryos are considered legal property and thus their transfer is accompanied by contractual arrangements overseen by governmental regulation.
It is estimated that between 700,000 to 1,000,000 successfully developed embryos are available for adoption worldwide.
When Embryo Adoption Becomes Personal
Dwayne and Erin would be the first to admit that embryo adoption was far from the top of the talking points when they began dating in high school. Gradually, of course, they did share dreams of purchasing a home and starting a family. But even ten years after their first date they were in no rush to begin the path to parenthood.
They will tell you that they were ready to have kids the moment they were married. But they were not in a hurry and they did nothing to either promote or obstruct the course of nature. For the first five years of their marriage they were as happy-go-lucky as could be. They chose to focus instead on another major goal of theirs: to own their own home together.
However as time progressed in their marriage they could not help but to suspect that something might be a little off. Putting forth due diligence they found that Dwayne was infertile. This in itself, however, did not entirely discourage their plans to start a family. It is estimated that upwards of 15% of couples are infertile. And thanks to IVF and a variety of other infertility treatments, it is possible to carry on with family development.
Like many of the tens of thousands of other families in similar situations, Dwayne and Erin turned to IVF. However after several transfers and subsequent miscarriages they soon spent their entire bank of viable embryos.
Although IVF has a relatively low success rate (under 40%), this time became troubling for them. It was strike two against them, so to speak.
Shifting Perspective Toward Embryo Adoption
However, Dwayne and Erin focused on their marriage at a time when many couples begin to fall apart. They nurtured their own relationship within the confines of a greater community that extended to their friends, family and church congregation. It was during this time that one of Dwayne’s former classmates reached out and recommended that they look into embryo adoption.
Through the next few months they began researching embryo adoption and completing the prerequisites for embryo adoption through the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC). Because the process of adopting an embryo is similar to adopting a born child, they were assigned a case worker and completed home studies. Additionally, due to the nature of carrying the embryo, they also completed a series of medical background checks.
Dwayne and Erin elected to have an “open adoption,” which meant that while they sorted through general demographic preferences, they also wanted to have a relationship with the donor family. In these instances even though the children would be biological siblings, the parents would help the children understand their relationship with different parents. Dwayne and Erin wanted their child to know his or her origins and to be able to share in the extended family that allowed them to exist in the first place.
Getting to Know Dwayne and Erin
In March 2018 Erin received the transfer of 3 adoptive embryos. As we planned our Grateful American Road Trip, we reached out to them the week of this event and waited with bated breath for the results…
However in the days preceding our meeting Dwayne shared that the embryos did not take. They were, of course, disappointed. But when we met up with Dwayne and Erin over dinner to discuss their story we were pleasantly surprised to find that they were not devastated.
They have a heart for starting a family. And while this recent miscarriage has prompted them to question and investigate whether Erin also has unknown issues preventing pregnancy, it has not stopped their will to move forward as husband and wife and, perhaps, parents one day.
They shared that they will attempt one more embryo adoption in the fall of 2018. We hope to meet with them again at this time to cheer for their success.
Joining in Their Campaign
In addition to hosting garage sale fundraisers and the generosity of friends and family, Dwayne has launched a t-shirt sales campaign with a design he produced. He said he would be more than happy to update us on the next round of production as this in itself has turned into a side job!
And while Dwayne and Erin have not placed a priority on crowdfunding to support their embryo adoption efforts, they do humbly accept donations to their YouCaring campaign. We would be pleased if you are willing and able to contribute to their journey to parenting!