It's official. We made the decision. Our infertility journey is officially over.
Yesterday we filled out the first part of the application for the Snowflakes program through Nightlight Christian Adoptions.
It was an interesting decision-making process, because while Snowflakes is the largest and oldest embryo adoption agency in the US, there were initially some things about it that bothered us, mainly things that we noticed in their Placing Parents guide that they have available on their website:
- They are a Christian organization, and we do not participate in organized religion. Much of the political belief system inherent in religious organizations tends not to mesh with our beliefs.
- Their verbiage is heavy on the personhood concept...such as calling the embryos "preborn children"
- While in their own words, the Christian in their name says more about who they are than who their clients are, they do ask their adoptive parents to "be committed to providing their child with a constructive, wholesome and spiritual home environment." Which is pretty open ended, because spiritual does not necessarily mean religious, but does this mean that most people who come to Snowflakes are in fact considerably religious?
- There was a nefarious-sounding clause somewhere in the information (which I could not find again for some reason) that stated that adoptive parents sign a statement in their contract that says that they agree not to terminate the pregnancy for any reason. Which raised my hackles, because someone who is going through the trouble to adopt an embryo and complete an IVF transfer and go through all the medications and everything obviously WANTS this baby, so the only reasons why termination would come up would be if something went dreadfully wrong with the fetus or the life of the mother was at stake. I did not at all feel comfortable with that.
Things we did like about Snowflakes from their website materials:
- They are the oldest and largest embryo adoption agency in the U.S., so they probably have this process DOWN.
- They offer closed donation, but really embrace openness between adoptive and placing families (this already began to make me giggle a bit, because it is incredibly weird to be considered half a placing parent in this scenario and also to be a waiting adoptive parent for an infant... it's beyond bizarre).
- All expenses are paid by the adoptive parents, so the only cost we would incur for this process would be the $150 fee for transporting our embryos from our clinic to their cryogenic facility.
- They even offer one year of free storage at their facility (which is nationally known) to placing parents while matching is going on
- We would get to be a part of the matching process
- We would get to know where our embryos landed
- We would get to know if a pregnancy and subsequently (hopefully) a birth took place
- We would have the option to get letters and pictures and see what half a Jess or half a Bryce would look like
- They accept embryos created with donor material
- They do everything possible to find a home for all embryos, due in part to their belief system, which is great and makes us feel better for sure.
The positives initially way outweighed the negatives, at least enough to place a call and get more information.
The whole thing is kind of a mindfuck, to be honest, on many counts. First of all, it's very interesting to deeply explore my thoughts regarding these embryos. I am totally against personhood legislation, because of its impacts on IVF and some contraception and early terminations. I am staunchly pro-choice. But this isn't a blanket choice, this is OUR choice. And we would not enforce OUR choice on anyone else, so we feel okay with our shifting between dichotomies on this one. Bryce and I had a whole long conversation about life beginning vs personhood beginning. When does a fetus deserve rights? It is a STICKY STICKY WICKET. I do not believe that our embryos are people with the same rights as fully formed humans. However, I do not believe that they are merely a "clump of cells," either. I believe that they are POTENTIAL people. I believe that these embryos were expressly created by us (and donor helpers and a zillion medical professionals) for the purpose of becoming future people. If I believed that embryos were just a cellular cluster, then why on earth would I be so gutted and devastated when those clusters failed? They were potential children. For us, they were the only children we had, these photos of clusters of cellular materials.
And so, for us, embryo adoption was the best choice...because it eliminates mystery. Just to clarify, for my purposes I am considering embryo donation an anonymous thing not requiring a home study or matching process, done through clinics. Embryo adoption has a level of openness, looks remarkably like traditional adoption since adopting parents must complete a homestudy and provide a profile, and we as placing parents choose who the embryos will go to. It's really strange, the parallels in the process for a potential baby vs an external living baby. It does consider personhood in it, which makes me feel squeegy, but for us personally the KNOWING is the piece to adoption that is missing in donation. You may feel differently about these processes, and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments (respectfully of course), but this is how I'm wrapping my head around this situation.
I couldn't donate my embryos and not know where they went. I couldn't always wonder if they were successful or not, if they resulted in a baby. I need to know. There's a funny connection there through biology (well, in half of the embryos anyway), and it would drive me crazy not knowing.
With the decision to look into Snowflakes further made, I called with a list of questions:
- Your materials really speak to people who have "completed their family" through IVF. Do you accept embryos from couples who did not find success? No success in the cohort at all?
- Will you accept 2PN embryos?
- We saw that you take single women as clients, does your religious bearing prevent you from placing to same-sex couples if we wished to have that as an option?
- What is with this contract clause about termination? How on earth is that even remotely enforceable?
- Are you okay with not just donor material-created embryos, but two sets of genetically unrelated embryos, one with my eggs and donor sperm and the other with donor eggs and my husband's sperm?
Heavy stuff, no?
I had a lengthy conversation with an Education Coordinator and Fertility Clinic Liaison, who intelligently answered all my questions and did a little further digging to get more specific answers. It was a hard conversation to have without crying, because my god, to relay our story for the umpteenth time never gets any easier.
-They do take embryos from people who have not been successful, but rarely.
-They don't have much experience at all with placing embryos for a couple who used two types of donor materials for two sets of embryos and are themselves in the adoption process. She wasn't sure if they'd EVER had this particular complexity. (And then she took our case so that we won't have to tell our story over and over, for which I am incredibly grateful.)
-Yup, they take 2PNs.
-They do consider same-sex couples, but they don't advertise it, and there are not a whole lot of adoptive families in this camp, but we could certainly specify our openness in this area.
-No, the termination clause is not truly legally enforceable, and it is mostly in place to heavily discourage selective reduction. They heavily recommend only 1-2 embryos per transfer for this reason. If a medical situation came up (which they stated that it hasn't to their knowledge), of course there would be options and the people most enforcing things would be us as the placing parents. Which of course we wouldn't enforce, not for a second. They do counsel adoptive families on this clause, and if they are uncomfortable with it they have altered it to exempt situations where the mother's life was at risk, and if clients STILL were uncomfortable they directed them towards other agency choices. (I was okay with this.)
-The non-genetically related sets of embryos coming from one placing parent was interesting. They will absolutely be fine with that, and it helps that they are both housed in the same clinic currently and we have all the information possible on both donors (but admittedly far less on the egg donor's side than the sperm donor's side).
And so, we felt comfortable enough to start the process.
We filled out YET ANOTHER online application that included our sordid history with IVF treatments. It never gets less sobering to see 10 transfers, 3 cancellations, 27 embryos transferred, 2 pregnancies, no births. ZERO children. There wasn't a place to put that we are in the adoption process and so we are actually expecting in our own right.
And now, we wait for the next step. I am so relieved to have the decision done, to put the waffling part of this to bed. I am not a person to delay a decision, to take a break, because my mind perseverates and perseverates and it is SO much easier for me to just rip the damn bandaid off. And it's so ripped. Wheels are in motion.
It's kind of exciting, actually, to think that we are giving these embryos a shot that they really never had in my uterus. I am sad, of course, but the closure on our end of the process is incredibly liberating. WE ARE DONE WITH IVF. I CAN MAKE PEACE WITH NEVER BEING PREGNANT. And, there's hope that in some weird way our genetics will live on elsewhere, and we get to know about it. Maybe. If it works. All those possibilities are a topic for a different post.
I can't say enough how much relief I feel in having this lengthy decision-making process done. It is fascinating to me that in choosing this option, we may have more of an extended family than we ever imagined. We'll have a child with a birth family, and then we'll have these other children out there that exist because we created their embryos once upon a time. Yeah, the whole thing is surreal. Yet at the same time, oddly beautiful in its complexity. How interesting it will be to watch it all unfold.