Updated: May 29, 2019
John and Ashley's Story
*names changed for privacy*
John and Ashley got married in 2011 and both knew that they wanted to wait a few years before having kids so that we could enjoy being married for a while. About two years into their marriage, Ashley got some major baby fever, but John wasn't quite ready. They talked about it and agreed that Ashley would at least go off birth control, and they would not "try" but just see what happens.
Ashley thought that she'd get pregnant soon after she got off birth control but that wasn't the case. Two years went by and she still wasn't pregnant.
Ashley and John decided to go to the doctor and get things checked out. They did blood work and ultrasounds, and everything came out fine for Ashley. Then, John went to get a semen analysis and everything was fine for him as well. They had no answers as to why they weren't getting pregnant. So from that day forward, they decided to really "try" .
Ashley went out and bought the ovulation kits, basal thermometer, sexy lingerie and was ready to go. Even still, it took a year to finally see their first positive pregnancy test.
John and Ashley were over the moon excited, but unfortunately it ended in a miscarriage around 6 weeks into the pregnancy.
They started trying again right away but it took another year for them to get pregnant again. That pregnancy also ended in a miscarriage at 8 weeks.
At this point Ashley knew that something was wrong. One miscarriage could be a fluke but two miscarriages, coupled with how long its been taking them to get pregnant, seemed like there was something wrong.
Ashley and John went to the Fertility Specialist again and asked the doctor to give them every test they had so that they could find out what was wrong and hopefully fix the issue.
They ran a very extensive (and expensive) blood work test on both of them where they checked for everything in the book. That's where they found out that John has something called a Balanced Translocation. Essentially it is where two of his genes have pieces broken off, and those pieces have switched places with each other. You would never know that this was an issue, until you are trying to have kids. What happens when you try to get pregnant and your partner has Balanced Translocation, is the egg and sperm come together and try to form the DNA but those pieces of the broken genes won't always fit perfectly into each others spots and then they break off all together. The baby wouldn't have all of the DNA it needs and then would miscarry.
The doctor said that not all of the sperm are affected, and that they will possibly be able to have biological children at some point, but they would probably have to go through several miscarriages to get to that point. While overwhelmed, Ashley and John were also relieved to know what was wrong - but didn't know what to do about it.
A few weeks later Ashley was surfing YouTube and came across the Gathered Nest Channel. She was talking about their own embryo adoption . That was the first time Ashley had ever heard about it and was overwhelmingly excited and intrigued by the idea.
Ashley had always wanted to be a mom. She had always wanted to be pregnant, deliver and breastfeed her baby - this was an option that would give that back to her.
Ashley quickly gathered all kinds of information on the topic and brought it to John. He was just as excited about the idea as Ashley was. Within a few days they had decided it was for them, and they contacted their clinic about their options. As luck would have it, the clinic had just started an embryo adoption program and Ashley and John could do this procedure all in house.
So what is embryo adoption?
An embryo adoption is when a couple creates embryos through IVF and they have too many embryos left over that they don’t intend to use themselves. That family then has to make a decision on what to do with their remaining embryos. They can either discard of them, donate them to science, keep them frozen indefinitely or donate them to another family. Currently, there are over 600,000 embryos frozen throughout the United States*.
When a couple decides to donation them to another family, this is called an embryo adoption. It is called "adoption", because the receiving couple will be raising a child that is not biologically theirs. After receiving/adoptive couple is matched with a donating family, they will go through the legal process of getting the parental rights switched from the donor couple to the receiving couple.
Then the receiving couple will move on to the medical process. After the woman is medically cleared to make sure that her body is in optimal health to carry a child, they will transfer the embryo into her womb. She will be able to carry and deliver the child just like a typical pregnancy.
Compared to IVF, which can run upwards of $20,000, embryo adoption is more financially appealing at around $12,000 depending on the clinic. And while not as widely known or discussed about as IVF, IUI and other forms of fertility treatments, embryo adoption has been an option to couples since 1999.
The matching process is quite simple. Once a donor couple has chosen to donate their embryos, all their personal information goes into the embryo adoption database. A recipient couple then tells the clinic what they are looking for ie, ethnicity , health info, how many embryos, etc. Ashley and John decided who they wanted as donors based on who had similar ethnicity to them, how healthy they are, and how many embryos they were looking to adopt.
The clinic then does their best to match the donors and recipients accordingly. Once the clinic thinks they have the best possible matches, they send those profiles to the receiving couple to look over.
The clinic does this completely anonymously, and Ashley and John don't know what their donors look like, their names, where they live, etc. On the other side, the donors also don't have a say in who adopted their embryos. They don't know any information about the recipients of their embryos.
Ashley and John got on the waiting list in August of 2018 and were matched with their 3 embryos in October 2018. They then worked worked with their lawyers and the adoption was finalized in December 2018.
The next step now for Ashley is the medical process. She had her uterine testing done, which went well. They noted her thyroid level was slightly elevated, so they put her on thyroid medications, it has since come down in the last month. If her levels are good this month they will try for an embryo transfer in April 2019.
Embryo adoption may not be for everyone, but it was an invaluable gift for Ashley and John. It gave Ashely the gift she's always desired of being able to be pregnant, go through labor and delivery, and breastfeed. She is eternally grateful.
We will continue to follow Ashley and John's journey through embryo adoption and post updates here on the blog!
***UPDATE: As of March 2019 Ashely has been cleared to have the embryo transfer, this is planned for mid April 2019...to be continued!***
***UPDATE: As of late April 2019, Ashley and John learned the transfer did not work. We will keep you posted with any updates if they feel so inclined to share. Please keep them in your thoughts***
Learn more at www.embryoadoption.org
*statistic based on research performed by Lutheran Family and Children's Services.
Veronica DeStefano is a WAHM who lives in North Carolina with her husband who she adores, her three kids that she lives for, and a cat she tolerates. Veronica is a writer/blogger, photographer, and certified doula, but her most important and favorite role will always be, mom. In her very limited free time, she enjoys video chatting with her friends and family back in CO, crafting, practicing her hand lettering and calligraphy, reading, and watching ER reruns. You can find her other work on her personal blog, and her photography page.