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Have You Considered Embryo Donation or Adoption?

13 Jun 2023 3:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Many have gone through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to conceive a child. For those who have experienced it, infertility can be difficult and emotionally taxing. But when it is successful, the struggle becomes worthwhile as it brings a precious baby into our lives. As parents, we understand the love and happiness our children bring to our lives. Have you ever considered that you could extend that gift to others through the incredible process of embryo donation? 

What is Embryo Donation?

Embryo donation is a beautiful way for those who have undergone IVF and have remaining embryos to offer them to individuals or couples experiencing infertility. These embryos, often referred to as "snowflake babies," are generously gifted to recipients who are unable to conceive using their own eggs or sperm.

The Options: Closed, Semi-Open, and Open Embryo Donation

Embryo donation offers different options in terms of the level of contact and communication between donors and recipients: closed, semi-open, and open embryo donation.

  1. Closed Embryo Donation: In a closed donation, the identities of both the donors and recipients remain confidential. No direct contact is established between the two parties. The donor couple usually provides limited medical and genetic information to ensure the well-being of the potential child. This option is suitable for those who prefer anonymity and a clear separation between the parties involved.

  2. Semi-Open Embryo Donation: Semi-open donation allows for some level of communication and information sharing between the donors and recipients while maintaining privacy. The degree of openness is agreed upon by both parties, typically involving the exchange of medical and genetic information. Communication might occur through a mediator or agency, ensuring that personal details remain protected. This option allows for some connection and the possibility of updates, while still respecting the desire for privacy.

  3. Open Embryo Donation: Open donation involves a higher level of contact and ongoing relationship between the donors and recipients. It allows for direct communication, potential meetings, and sharing experiences throughout the pregnancy and beyond. Open donation often includes the exchange of identifying information and allows both families to develop a more personal connection. This option is beneficial for those who desire a deeper connection and the potential for an extended relationship between the donor and recipient families.

The Story From An Embryo Donor:

We had our second child through IVF, and with two children, our family is complete. But we had one remaining embryo unused, and we kept it frozen with our fertility coverage for 3 years. We knew our family was complete with 2 children and a dog, but we were also uncomfortable with the idea of destroying the embryo. We thought about how at one point, we had 2 embryos to select from, and our daughter was chosen to be transferred by the clinic (because we didn’t want to make that decision). Our sweet little girl was once an embryo—and the idea that she may have been the one to not be selected by our clinic and have been destroyed ––that didn’t sit well with us. And donating the embryo to science is also destroying it. So when our embryo storage benefits expired, we made the decision to explore embryo donation. 

I contacted our fertility clinic and they recommended some matching services. We ultimately went with the National Registry for Adoption (NRFA) at because it’s free, easy, and not affiliated with any religion. I made a profile as a donor, included pictures of our family and described ourselves and what we are looking for in a recipient family and in an embryo adoption. I thought I wanted a semi-open adoption, but this quickly changed to wanting an open adoption as we went through the process. We made a profile last April. We wanted a happy and loving family, above all else. But then we also realized that we did have some additional requirements. We didn’t care about religion or political affiliation, but soon realized that there were characteristics about a potential family that we cared about that might be associated with those things: we were looking for a family that is pro-science (because having a healthy child who gets all recommended childhood vaccines is important to us); we wanted this child to grow up in a home without guns around; and for the family to be accepting if the child grows up to be LGBT, as a few examples. Soon, we had a few families message us in our inbox. I spoke with three of them. One was a no-go. The other two seemed great. I didn’t want to belabor this process and drag it out. These two families met my requirements: they were happy and loving; they were accepting of all types of people and would keep this child healthy and safe. No need to keep looking. So I scheduled Zoom calls with both families with my husband. My husband and I both agreed on our top choice, and we notified them right away. I have to say—the joy and tears from that couple when we told them that we chose them will always be with me. It doesn’t get better than that. We were making their dreams come true. We also realized that we like them and want to keep them in our lives, and we want an open embryo adoption. We want to be along for the ride every step of the way. I kept reading blogs from other embryo donation families about how their families are very close, they vacation together, they keep in touch, and their biologically-related children are in each other's lives. We wanted that. This family wanted that, too. This was still April 2022, and we just made our profile on NRFA just weeks before. The family wanted to move quickly and were targeting a transfer date of August 2022. They live far away, and they wanted to fly out to meet us and do the transfer here at our clinic. There were some steps we had to do to make this happen quickly. We needed a contract. Luckily, NFRA has a low-cost legal service, and we worked with them to get one drawn up fast. My husband and I needed to get a special physical exam at our clinic. And our clinic required counseling to make sure that we would be emotionally ok with this process. Check, check, check. We got all that done in a matter of weeks. As donors, there is no cost to us, and the recipients picked up all of these costs. 

The family flew out here last August and they were lovely. They had a young child already who was their “miracle baby” and they made it clear that they would not be able to make another child themselves. Nor did they want to try. They came to our home for dinner, our kids played, and we bonded. During their stay, they did the embryo transfer at our clinic. A few days later, we took the kids to Happy Hollow for some fun. Our kids bonded so well with their child. The mom felt nauseous. I knew she was pregnant. She looked like a newly-pregnant woman. She was glowing and nauseous. It was pretty obvious to me. A few days later, they confirmed with a positive pregnancy test. We were all thrilled. They flew back home, and the mom and I have been in touch, texting each other regularly. The poor woman–she had a rough pregnancy. She was on bedrest for weeks. She had awful morning sickness. She went through all the pain that many moms have to endure to have a child. We told close family and friends. They asked “Does it feel weird to have your biological child out there?” No. It didn’t. It really didn’t. I felt joy and pride. I felt so happy that we could help provide life for this child who would have otherwise been destroyed, and to make a family’s dreams come true. This mom was the one who was going through all the pregnancy pains. She was the one throwing up, she was the one who couldn't sleep at night; she was the one who was on bedrest. We told our kids and our families. Our younger child has no idea what we’re talking about, our older child understands. She was weirded out by it. We didn’t want to push it, but said we are here to talk or answer questions. My daughter warmed up to the idea over time. 

Months passed by and one early morning I got a text that the baby was born. She sent a photo. I cried. I got all my emotions out. Got that over with. The child looks like my older child as a newborn. That is a strange feeling. But I got my feelings out, I was done with that. I shared the photos with my family. My older child agreed that this baby looks like her, and said the baby is cute. My daughter didn’t seem weirded out by it anymore. That was a relief. I have been in constant touch with the family. We see pictures, answer questions about health and how our children were as babies. People ask if I feel weird, if I feel like our child is “out there.” I do not. I don’t feel weird at all. I see in their photos how much they love their baby, how their older child is such a great older sibling. How this baby is so wanted and surrounded by love. How this family flew thousands of miles to get their baby to complete their family. It's his mother who is breastfeeding him; his parents who are up all night with their newborn; his parents who are taking care of him and love him; his older sibling who is enjoying welcoming a little brother to their family. This family is going through the exhausting newborn motions while I sit comfortably, well-rested, thousands of miles away getting text updates, enjoying life with my kids and husband. This is THEIR child. We are lucky to have played a role in bringing him to his parents. I remind myself: there is no limit to the amount of people who can love this child. Our journey has just begun. I am pleased with the close relationship I have developed with the recipient mom. I look forward to getting our families together, building our bond as a unique extended family; big family vacations and moments, and having our kids develop their special relationship with their biological brother. 

The Story From An Embryo Recipient:

The beginning of our story probably will sound familiar to many. We decided that we were ready to expand our family and started trying the old fashioned way. When that didn't work, we went to the doctor for next steps and went through years of increasingly expensive and invasive medical treatments. When we finally bit the bullet and did IVF, we figured that despite the pain and expense, at least it would work. Until it didn't. After several IVF rounds across multiple clinics, no one could explain why our embryos weren't surviving to a point where they could be transferred. We were devastated and started looking into options: egg/sperm donation, domestic infant adoption, foster care adoption, international adoption, and something that we hadn't heard of before - embryo donation/adoption. Our doctor recommended that we try some A/B testing with my eggs and my husband's sperm vs donor sperm to figure out whose gametes were causing the issue, but after doing a lot of soul searching and research, we decided to look into embryo adoption first.

We knew that we wanted an open relationship with the donors so that our future child or children would have access to ongoing medical history updates and be able to have a relationship with their genetic relatives. We wanted donors who looked similar to us, had similar values, personalities and interests, and ideally who were donating a batch of embryos so we could have genetically related children. In our ideal world, our families would become good friends and do things like vacation together. We decided against the religiously affiliated (and often expensive) agencies. I signed up for a Facebook group where families interested in either side of embryo adoption can learn more and connect, but none of the available profiles seemed like a good fit for us. I decided to look through some public listings on a website called miracles waiting, and one of the first listings that I saw sounded like it was written by us, had our IVF journey been successful. I signed up for an account and sent an email. The donor mom and I exchanged several, increasingly long emails and we set up a video call so that both couples could "meet". They agreed on the spot to donate all of their remaining embryos to us, and we started the process of drawing up legal agreements, doing the counseling that the clinic required (and that I also highly recommend to anyone considering embryo adoption), and taking legal possession of the embryos. 

A few months after that initial email, we flew out to meet the donors and their kids in person and transfer the first embryo. That little cluster of cells implanted, grew, and became the most amazing, curious, sweet, and silly kid that we are so grateful to be raising. Another embryo from the same cohort is due later this summer, and we can't wait to meet them! We have also become very close friends with the donors. We text and send photos and videos all of the time, celebrating parenting wins, bemoaning the inevitable challenges, and enjoying getting to know each other and our wonderful kids! Because of COVID and living far away from each other we didn't have as many in person visits as we would have preferred over the first few years, but the kids finally met last fall. It was so much fun getting to know the donors' kids better and seeing them all play together and bond. We're looking forward to seeing them again soon!

Embryo donation is an amazing gift. It allowed us the opportunity to become parents and gave us a new extended family that we love dearly. We are eternally grateful to our donors for giving us the most amazing gift ever.

To all the parents out there who have gone through IVF and have remaining embryos, consider the incredible gift of embryo donation. By donating your embryos, you can give the precious gift of life to another family and experience the joy of completing your own journey.

For those struggling with infertility, embryo donation opens a door of hope and the chance to build the family you've always dreamed of. Embryo donation is a remarkable act of love, compassion, and generosity. It has the power to bring miracles into the lives of those who long for a child. 

This article was kindly written and submitted by a San Mateo Parents Club member.

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