In todays world there are many different ways to raise a child and/or have a baby. Finding out that you can not genetically have a child can be devastating and Can make you feel like there is no hope to have a “child of your own”. Many people struggling with infertility are made aware of donor conceived options, such as using donor eggs or donor sperm, but there is another, less talked about option – embryo donation.
Embryo donation is where a person is able to adopt an embryo from another family that has created embryos using IVF. They may have decided that their family is complete, yet still have remaining embryos that are frozen. There are also options of adopting embryos that have been created by donor sperm and a donor egg, but this is less common to my knowledge.
Every couple that is considering embryo donation/adoption (the terms are used interchangeably with generally the same meaning, although you should check with the clinic you are working with) will have different experiences. In my case, my husband and I were on the same page very quickly, we knew that adoption was always a realistic option for us, when we discovered embryo donation, we instantly fell in love with the idea of combining adoption with the ability to carry a baby through pregnancy. We decided to match privately with a family that was willing to donate 2 male embryos to us and we have since gone on to have a beautiful little boy and have grown to be close friends more like family with our donors. We were both open to having an “open adoption”, however we wanted the relationship to build naturally, therefore we chose to not put specific stipulations in our legal agreement and the let nature take its course. We now speak regularly, FaceTime, have met 3 times and are even planning to spend a holiday together this year. “The boys” as we call them will all grow up knowing each other and understanding that they are brothers. We already share their story with them and the oldest child (6) seems to truly understand. We also read picture books to our son regularly, and our hope is that he will learn to love his story and feel how much love it took to create him. This is what works for us, not all situations are like this, in fact most are not so it is important to communicate your needs, wishes and hopes for the future.
Here are a few tips that I suggest to any couple that is considering embryo donation.
See a psychologist that specializes in donor conceiving.
Most fertility clinics will have this be a mandatory step before beginning the process, but if its not, definitely see a professional to help you navigate your feelings about using an adopted embryo to get pregnant. It is a great way to have a safe space to speak with your partner about all of your feelings and make sure they are on the same page as you. There are a lot of emotions surrounding using an adopted embryo, most importantly the grief of how you imagined getting pregnant and brining a child into the world. Many people struggle with the idea of raising a child that is not their DNA, they fear that they may not love the baby in the same way they would if the baby was genetically theirs.
Research the different ways to adopt an embryo.
Do your research and decide what type of adoption you are open to or would like to pursue. Just as in traditional adoption, there are several ways to go about embryo adoption/donation. There are 3 main types of adoption: open, semi-open and closed. Open can mean that you talk very often to the family, have many visits, have them be in your child’s life in one way or another. Semi-open could mean that you both decide to only share pictures a few times a year, communicate only through emails but not meeting face to face. A closed adoption would simply mean you receive the embryos and the relationship ends, but you would still have the benefit of knowing the genetic parents and/or siblings. A good place to start is by talking to your fertility clinic and seeing what options they have available to you. You can choose to have a private adoption where you and the donating family work out your own stipulations with a lawyer, this can include how open you would like the relationship to be in the future. There are websites such as https://www.nrfa.org where you can create a profile and match with a family, you can still decide to have a closed adoption even if you were to choose to match privately. You can choose to adopt anonymously from either your fertility clinic or another one that offers embryo donation/adoption.
Join a social media group for Embryo Donation.
This is a great resource for anyone considering heading down this path, you will be able to read many first hand true stories that will help you decide what kind of adoption you are interested in pursuing. You can find support from families that have been through the same experience, have access to a resource to ask questions as they arise and also potentially match with donor couples.
Embryo donation was the right choice for my family. We couldn’t be happier with our decision, not only did it bring us our son, but we gained this entire village to help us show our son what love and true kindness is all about. If you are struggling to conceive your family, Im sorry, I know how hard it can be to navigate all of your feelings and think about options that were not always part of your plan, but when you are ready, embryo donation is a beautiful choice and just might bring you a miracle.