Follow me on the crazy, hopeful, discouraging, funny, and ultimately successful (one way or another) path to parenthood while facing infertility.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Embryo Adoption... Beginning the Process

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.


  1. "Surreal, and oddly beautiful it its complexity." Yes. I think you have done a thorough job of researching the options, looking into your heart and considering possible outcomes. It is so complicated but I hope this process will continue to bring you closure. I'm glad that there is a service out there that allows you to find the most positive outcome.

    1. Thank you! It has been a rough couple of weeks. I just can't stop spinning my wheels on stuff like this until there's a resolution, so I am so very glad that we decided not to delay the decision another year. Thank you for your thoughts, and I am also so glad that there are so many options for this situation, and that this one is so accepting of all kinds of embryos. :)

  2. Wow. What a lot you had to sort through to find resolution on such a complex situation. I can understand why you'd be SO ready to finally be done with it and move forward both with your embryos and with your parenting journey. I've learned a lot from you about the process.

    1. It does seem like absolutely everything is a process, right? I guess nothing is straightforward when you have so many genetic factors in the mix, not necessarily your own, on all counts. Such an interesting conundrum, but I am so grateful to have a solution. For both my homeless embryos and my babyless home! :)

  3. I can't even begin to imagine how much that took for you and Bryce to sort through all the facts and feelings and come to a decision that will lead you to peace at closing the door on such a big part of your life. You are right that it's so complex.

    I'm glad you found a solution that feels "right".

    1. Thanks, Aimee... it was certainly a lot of sorting. What a great way to put it! It is complex, and I am super grateful for the options. And the peace, sad as it can be at times.

  4. This is very difficult task to find out the best treatment option when you come to know that you are diagnosed with infertility problem. Because at that time you are completely under stress. I would like to appreciate both of you. Really both of you are very strong person. Professionally I am a doctor at Test Tube Baby centre in India and I can understand the situation of the persons who are infertile.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and your appreciation, Sumita... there are so, so many complexities to the infertility world that we never even imagined we'd face, so it is so important to have compassionate doctors like yourself.

  5. How exciting! Looks like we won't be the only ones going through an adoption process next year! Many blessings to you and may your adoption process be easy and glorious.

    Megan Richards

    1. I hope the same to you! Thanks, Megan! Always easier to travel this journey with friends by your side. May next year bring us both the joy we've been hoping for.

  6. Hi! I found you through Non Sequitor Chica, and just voraciously read through a ton of your posts. My heart goes out to you - you guys have been through a LOT. You write about it beautifully.

    This post was especially fascinating to me, as my husband and I just had a discussion about donating embryos. My clinic does not allow it (although perhaps if I arrange it through a third party! I didn't know it was an option) but I was saying I WISH it were, because if we end up with "extras" it certainly seems like a waste to just destroy them. My husband thought it was very unlikely anyone would want someone else's embryos in the first place, and also felt very uncomfortable with the idea of someone else raising "our" child. I've only been through one round of IVF so far, but I already feel like if what we've done so far could help someone else have a child, we absolutely should try to.

    All of this is hypothetical of course, since we don't even have a baby yet, much less extra embryos yet. But I was definitely thrilled to hear there are donation / adoption options!

    1. Thanks for visiting and reading up, Alice! I am flattered and so glad to have you join me. I appreciate your compliments! So, according to Snowflakes, they can always work with clinics if you send the consents and everything so your clinic can talk with them. No one can keep you from donating your embryos if that is what you so choose, which is good to know! Snowflakes/Nightlight Christian Adoption was never an option at either clinic we worked with per the frozen embryo paperwork, but it is apparently your call to decide what organization to go with and it doesn't matter if they aren't specifically endorsed by your clinic.It was amazing to me that there are so many people looking to adopt embryos or use donated embryos... the number of babies born through Snowflakes alone was astonishing. The whole "our child" thing is so interesting, because we totally felt the same earlier in the game but circumstances changed. I hope that you don't have to wrestle with these decisions, and that you have the embryos you need to create the family you desire without muddling through all this. But it is nice to know all your options, right?

      I am glad I have been helpful to you!

  7. This is so, so interesting. Thank you for sharing this amazing, complex process. I think you and Bryce are incredible for thinking through all of this and making these decisions.

    I actually looked at Snowflakes at one point in my journey as an option to obtain embryos, and like you, was put off by some of the language they use (I'm Christian, but of the liberal, pro-LGBTQ, feminist persuasion). As someone who came extremely close to having to terminate a very wanted pregnancy (in the second trimester, no less) for my health and safety, the non-termination clause bothers me too. It's good to know there's a way around it. I totally hear you about the openness thing. It's great that this agency allows such contact.

    So glad that you've found something that works for you and are finding peace with it.

    1. I really have been impressed with Snowflakes and think that they are a great option, at least from the placing parent side. I am so glad that I asked all the questions I did and didn't assume based on their worldview that they wouldn't be a good fit. It has been interesting to make these decisions, and intense and exhausting, but I'm glad that sharing it is helpful (as it is to me to help process all this complexity). It is lovely to have some peace and closure. Thank you for your thoughts!

  8. I'm glad that you were able to figure out a place for your embryos as I know that it was a tough decision. What a nice weight off your shoulders before Christmas!

    1. Oh, yes! Big weight off our shoulders. Now we can concentrate on our own adoption process, and continuing to prepare for our own Mystery Baby! (So many Mystery Babies in the picture...) It was an exhausting decision but I'm so glad the wheels are in motion. Thank you!

  9. I love how thoroughly you analyze these complex situations and come to just the right conclusion. Although I know that you are mourning for your own loss, but having your embryos adopted feels exciting. Your continuing to build your family, but just in a more unconventional way than you could have possibly imagined. It's a wonderful gift for you, and the recipient family. I hope the joy you find in having made the right decision slowly starts to outweigh the sadness in having had to make this decision in the first place. Hugs.

    1. Oh, we are almost ridiculous in how we go about these decisions, but we can honestly say that we thought long and hard and considered all the options. :) It definitely feels exciting to give these embryos a chance somewhere else and see what happens. It's like a whole other mystery to see unfold. I so appreciate your hugs as I balance out the mourning of what's not to be and the celebrating of so much possibility!

  10. So many difficult thoughts and feelings to sort out in your decision making process. I've been reading along with your other posts. It seems hard to make a decision when I could imagine as a planner you may have thought your thought through all of the possibilities. The not knowing part does seem difficult, but glad to hear there are options for embryo donors. It seems like you all carefully looked into your options, asked some great questions and took the time and care you needed. That part of you and your husband that is out there is important and loved. Hope you both find peace in your decision. Well wishes for your embryos. Many hugs, friend.

    1. The not knowing would have driven me batty. I am so glad that there are organizations that do embryo adoption with at least some level of openness, to take that mystery out of the equation. It is wonderful to have this option available, and to find that it was actually pretty flexible, which we had originally thought it wouldn't be. We are feeling a lot of peace, but the sadness and excitement poke through at times. It's a very surreal place to be, but it will be so interesting to see how it all unfolds. Thank you for the hugs!

  11. Welcome to Snowflakes! You have done a great job evaluating our program based on your worldview vs ours. We do accept all embryo donations and we do work darn hard to get each embryo placed into a loving family.

    Many people are able to put aside their fear of have 'someone else' raise their child because they are able to select the recipient family and actually have a connection for future communications.

    We're happy to know you are pursuing parenthood via a new path and wish you all the best in 2016!

    1. I have been so impressed with Snowflakes and all the people that I've spoken with! We are so grateful that your program exists. The openness and ability to help choose potential parents for our embryos was so appealing. I have to admit when I first saw your comment I was like, "OH NO! I hope I didn't offend anyone!" but I am glad that's not the case. Hopefully. ;-) Thanks for stopping by, and for your well-wishes for our future parenthood through adoption!