Infertility, Embryo Adoption, and the Joy of Motherhood

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This post outlines the process of infertility and embryo adoption. Learn what that choice is like and how it can benefit your family.

Pregnant woman holding teddy bear

by Jessica Hayes

Infertility is a very common problem among couples trying to have children. Of course, knowing the statistics does not make it easier to accept this reality for your own family.

In walking through my family’s journey of infertility, I have found that it is too rarely discussed in open. Yes, it is painful. There is grief mingled with hope and expectant waiting. It is hard to see a dream put on hold, and sometimes removed altogether.

Yet so many couples walk this journey. So many families desire to grow and expand, but must overcome the difficult start of infertility. It is my hope and prayer that couples do not need to walk this road in silence.

Our experience of infertility

We tried to get pregnant for several years after we first got married. When it wasn’t happening for us, we began researching possible adoption ideas. We had always been interested in adoption, so it seemed like a natural next step.

Fortunately, wise friends spoke into our situation and we put the adoption plans on hold while we genuinely pursued medical answers for our infertility. It was emotionally overwhelming to consider the different options for adoption when every month was also a cycle of hope and disappointment.

Our close friends and family knew that we were trying to have children. We appreciated that they did not initiate questions or exploration of what might be going on – it was hard enough to talk about it together. I think everyone assumed it was emotionally difficult (and they were correct) and they were available without being pushy.

When we did seek deeper fertility testing, we were thankful again that the medical answers came quickly and the treatment path was straightforward.

Our doctor told us that 1/3 of couples experiencing infertility never get an actual diagnosis! We were thankful to know what was going on and to have answers.

We were also thankful that we had discussed the treatment options we knew about before our final visit with the doctor. This meant that when the doctor told us of the one possible treatment path forward, we already knew that this was a treatment we were personally unwilling to try.

Given the grief of the diagnosis, it was helpful that we did not need to discuss or debate the treatment options further. Decisions had already been made.

Choosing embryo adoption

After a period of grieving, we turned again to exploring our options with adoption.

There are so many options! International, domestic, sibling groups, newborns, older children – so many children needing safe and loving homes. Each option has its pros and cons, but each child is infinitely valuable. Learning about adoption is not for the faint of heart!

We came across a newer method of adoption known as embryo adoption, and it quickly became clear that this was the best choice for our family. Very few of our friends and family had even heard of embryo adoption! It is always a joy to explain the details to those who are curious.

Embryo adoption builds on the fertility treatment called in vitro fertilization (IVF).

During a couple’s IVF cycle, it is common to make 10, 20, or even more viable embryos. Of course, if a couple is in this situation, they are unlikely to try to give birth to all 20 of their embryos!

If this is the case, one of their options is to “donate” the remaining embryos to another couple, who can then use these frozen embryos for their own cycle of IVF.

Many clinics refer to this process as embryo donation. Legally, it is not an adoption because the child has not yet been born. However, we were more comfortable with the clinics that utilize an adoption approach.

Like every decision with fertility, adoption, and parenting, this is a very personal decision for every couple! But it is a decision worthy of research, thought, prayer, discussion, and intentionality.

For us, approaching this as an adoption was the best way to care for the child who would later be born, and whom we understood to already be alive, although microscopic and only composed of a few cells!

The joy of motherhood

We did move forward with embryo adoption, and today we are parenting three rambunctious toddlers. It has been a long road and it is a great joy to share life with these little ones today.

Although I am loving the blessing of motherhood, I have been surprised to experience that the grief of infertility remains.

It feels different today, certainly. But I am not sure that the pain will ever entirely disappear.

It is difficult to know that if we desire more children, there is a long road of adoption ahead of us. Even though embryo adoption is less expensive and time-consuming than some other types of adoption, it is still a lengthy process.

I do find that it is a great joy to offer comfort, encouragement, and hope to other couples in the middle of their own journeys of infertility.

When our friends experience miscarriages, I can cry with them in a unique way. When they experience their own joy of a positive pregnancy test, a successful adoption, or another step forward on the path, I can celebrate with them wholeheartedly.

Conclusion

Infertility is a hard diagnosis. I am thankful that it was not the end of our family’s journey. Raising my children is a joy, and I look forward to sharing with them one day how tiny they were when we first met them under the microscope!

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Jessica Hayes

Jessica is a marriage and family therapist, a Christian, a wife, and a mom of triplets. She loves being home with her kids and the chaos of life with triplets. As the host of the Love Your People Well podcast, she ministers each week to women looking to grow and strengthen their most important life relationships. She loves reading, board games, peppermint tea, and family time. Visit her website Love Your People Well here.

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