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Infertility

What is Embryo Adoption? Our First-Hand Experience Made Us Parents

How a decade of trying to conceive lead me to embryo adoption and ultimately our twins

What is Embryo Adoption? Our First-Hand Experience Made Us Parents

Source: Mary Leah Miller

I was not one of those women who knew exactly how many children I wanted to have, or what I would name them when I was a child. I knew I wanted to be a mother, but that was the extent of it. I didn't realize embryo adoption would be my path.

When my husband, Rodney, and I married, we had a five-year plan. I would establish my career before we started trying to have children. When we did start trying to conceive, we knew that getting pregnant may not happen right away, but we did not expect our journey to parenthood would take a decade.

Starting fertility treatments

After a year of trying to start a family, we were referred to a fertility specialist. Our fertility treatments began with rounds of clomid, but we had no success. We then progressed to intrauterine insemination (IUI), and yet again found ourselves unsuccessful. We moved on to IVF next and tried for several years without being able to conceive.

I will never forget our first IVF treatment. We knew it could take more than one round to achieve a pregnancy, but we were not prepared for what happened the day we went in for the embryo transfer. We were told there would not be a transfer as all our embryos had arrested, meaning they had stopped developing, and were not viable.

Rodney and I were devastated. Although we knew it wasn't a guarantee to get pregnant on the first try, we were not prepared for the possibility of not being able to transfer a single embryo. There were several possible explanations for what happened but no real answers.

We would go on to try IVF five additional times with specialists across the country. Each cycle proved similar to the first. Our embryos would stop developing around day three, never reaching a viable stage. With each successive IVF treatment, it became clear that there was an egg quality issue, and we began considering other options for starting a family.

Although egg donation was suggested to us, we decided it was not our path. We also began to consider traditional adoption. At the time, we believed these were the only options we had left to create the family we so desired.

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We were disappointed and confused why we couldn't create the family we wanted so badly. Six IVF cycles and years later, I was not pregnant and doctors did not seem hopeful that our genetic material would result in a pregnancy.

What is embryo adoption?

As we continued to consider the next steps in our journey to having a family, a friend of ours shared the story of a couple they knew who had adopted embryos through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program and had given birth to a beautiful little girl.

The concept of embryo adoption was intriguing. It would allow us to adopt and give life to precious embryos while at the same time allowing me to carry the children and experience all the joys of pregnancy, which is something I would be unable to do with traditional infant adoption.

The more we learned about embryo adoption and donor embryos, the more we were convinced that this was the path we were to take in starting a family. We started the process as soon as possible. Like traditional adoption, a home study and lots of additional paperwork is required.

The woman planning to carry the pregnancy is also required to get clearance from a physician to ensure there are no medical issues that would prevent her from carrying children. We also completed a family profile that described us and our hopes and dreams for our future children that the placing family would consider in deciding whether we were the family they wished to adopt their embryos.

Mary Leah Miller Source: Mary Leah Miller

Getting a positive pregnancy test for the first time

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Everyone at Snowflakes was so wonderful and supportive and made the process as smooth as possible. Less than a year after starting the process, we adopted four embryos from a placing family. Our first embryo donation transfer did not result in a pregnancy, but our second transfer was successful. For the first time in ten years, we experienced a positive pregnancy test!

At six weeks pregnant, we saw the heartbeat of our precious miracle, but unfortunately, we learned at our next appointment that the baby’s heart had stopped beating and I miscarried.

While we were sad and disappointed, our miracle baby provided us with a renewed sense of hope. Since we did not have any embryos remaining from our placing family, we chose to adopt additional embryos from another family.

In April 2022, we transferred two embryos from our second embryo adoption and learned shortly thereafter that we were pregnant! Not only were we pregnant, but we were pregnant with twins. On December 23, 2022, after a decade of trying to start a family, I gave birth to our children, Dalton and Mary Elizabeth.

Our journey to start a family is not what we had planned, but it has truly been a blessing. We only wish we had learned about embryo adoption sooner. However, we now know that we had to go on this journey to end up where we are. It has drawn us closer to each other and our faith.

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It also saw us use our time of waiting for good as we have been able to help launch a non-profit that offers community groups for women walking through infertility, miscarriage and infant loss, one-on-one connections, a couples’ community group, grief counseling for struggling couples, as well as grants for fertility treatments.

Many couples struggle with infertility and are constantly considering the next steps in their journey to start a family that results in live birth. It took us years to learn that embryo adoption was an option.

Thousands of frozen embryos are waiting to be adopted by a loving family and an amazing group of people at Snowflakes who are eager to help couples like us get matched with a placing family.

We are so grateful we found this embryo adoption program. It allowed us to adopt children nine months earlier than traditional adoption, which enabled me to carry them and give birth to them.

Our ten-year journey to start a family and experience pregnancy has been marked with ups and downs, but we would not change a thing about how our family was created. We hope that our story will encourage others to walk through infertility and also bring awareness to the beautiful gift that is embryo adoption.

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Have your own embryo adoption awareness story to share with the Today's Parent team? We'd love to hear from you.

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