Imagine a sports fanatic in the express lane at the grocery store asking you to explain the Star Wars series to him before he gets done bagging his groceries, and to add to the stress, let’s say you yourself only just found out about the Star Wars series two years ago, and you haven’t even finished watching it!
That’s pretty much what it feels like for many women and men when they try to explain to a friend or family member—who was able to conceive naturally—that they’re pursuing embryo adoption. So much to say, so little time!
The person receiving the information more often than not walks away confused, picturing a freaky sci-fi movie they saw one time (think naked clone-babies, about 12 weeks along, suspended in green slime mid-thumb-suck somewhere in your house) …
To avoid this situation, and to save your grandma from the terrible thought of you extracting a growing baby from some poor woman’s uterus (true story, y’all) … send your friend or family member this blog post.
First of all, let’s start with this: What is an embryo?
An embryo is a growing, developing human in its earliest form; a fertilized egg that is anywhere from three to six days along in its development. It is microscopic.
Where do these embryos come from?
The short-version is God: He’s the one who gives and sustains life, even in the lab. Here’s the longer version: There once was a couple who was struggling with infertility. Because of this, they chose to do in vitro fertilization to grow their family. But, oh no! This couple ended up with more embryos than they felt they could implant/give birth to/raise themselves. When this happens, the couple (after freezing the embryos for safe-keeping until they decide what to do) has only a few options: 1. Give these growing embryo-babies a chance at living full lives by gifting them to another family to implant/grow/give birth to/raise/love, 2. Pay to keep the embryos in a frozen state indefinitely, only to have them disposed of when the couple stops paying or dies, 3. Donate these little growing lives to science, or 4. Trash them. The first choice, traditionally known by the recipient families as ’embryo adoption,’ is a God-honoring, pro-life choice for this couple to make, albeit a hard one.
What is the actual process of embryo adoption like?
First, a recipient family must find the embryos they wish to adopt. This can happen through an agency, a fertility clinic, or privately (knowing a couple who wants to donate). Once the recipient couple finds their embryos, they and the donors sign a legal contract stating the embryos are officially the children of the recipients. They also decide on things like whether or not they want the relationship to be open. The embryos then travel, frozen, to the recipients’ fertility clinic of choice, or the recipients travel to where the embryos are being stored. A fertility doctor monitors the woman’s ovulation cycle, normally giving her estrogen and progesterone (among other things) leading up to implant day. Implanting the embryo is called a “frozen embryo transfer.” It is a simple, in-and-out procedure where the embryo is thawed, loaded into a straw-like device, and placed into a woman’s uterus. The entire process usually takes no more than 20 minutes. Then, the woman leaves, takes it easy for a day or two, continues taking her meds, and prays that the embryo will dig into her uterine lining and make him/herself cozy. After that, the woman goes back for a blood test (around day 8 or 10) to see if she is pregnant or not. If so, the woman will take a second test to confirm two days later, and then, if still pregnant, will say ‘goodbye’ to her fertility doc (at around 8 weeks), and move to her OBGYN of choice.
What embryo adoption is NOT:
- IVF (in vitro fertilization)—though the embryo was made through a couple doing IVF back in the day, someone adopting embryos is NOT doing IVF
- Using donor egg with your partner’s sperm
- Using donor sperm with your partner’s egg
- Having a little life (embryo) created for you with donor ‘ingredients’—though there is a company that does this, the majority of people on the embryo adoption route are implanting embryos that are already in existence and are frozen
- Recognized by the government as adoption
- Paying people to give you their babies (donors are not compensated; recipients simply pay for their own meds/treatment at their fertility doc)
- It is not “playing God.” Many eggs that are fertilized stop growing. Others don’t survive the thaw. And after three failed FETs with adopted embryos myself, I can tell you that no doctor or med, or any of my best efforts can make an embryo attach to my lining, grow, and survive in my womb. Life is a true gift from God, a miracle
Why people choose to adopt embryos:
- Because they can’t get pregnant naturally
- Because they’ve tried infertility treatments with their own egg/sperm, or even a donor egg or sperm, and they didn’t end up with a baby
- Because they carry a genetic disorder/disease that they could potentially pass on to a biological child
- Because they have a conviction about unwanted embryos, believing life begins at the time the egg is fertilized
- Why not traditional adoption? Because the recipient wants to experience the blessing that comes with carrying and giving birth to a child; in many cases, it is more affordable than traditional adoption
About how much does it cost?
The cost varies depending on how you find your embryos (privately vs. agency), what meds your doctor wants you on, whether or not you have to travel, legal fees, and what your doctor charges for the FET/sonograms/blood tests, etc. It can range anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 total per try, not per embryo.
Is it ethical?
I think you would be hard-pressed to find someone who actually understands embryo adoption thinking it is unethical, simply because those who adopt embryos are saving a growing, developing, human life from the freezer, giving him/her a chance to live a full life.
To our future baby, whom we adopted as an embryo,
You may not have mommy and daddy’s ‘ingredients,’ but you most certainly have our hearts. You are a true gift to our family in every sense of the word, and we can’t wait to hold you in our arms.
Looking for children’s books about embryo donation/adoption? I’ve written two and they are available for purchase on Amazon!
Stormtrooper photo credit: Flickr/JD Hancock