Do We Need a Home Study for Embryo Adoption?

We believe they are absolutely necessary! Here are a three main reasons why we at Nightlight agree that embryo adopting parents should have a home study completed before adopting embryos.

Reason #1: Having a completed home study follows best practice for adoption. After all, embryo adoption ultimately results in a child being placed in a home just like any other form of adoption such as Domestic or International Adoption. This child is just at the earliest stage of his/her life.

Reason #2: Requiring a completed home study is in the best interest of the Adopting Family. It is important to us that our adoptive families feel educated about their decision and confident in their desire to adopt a child through this unique (and not so well-known) form of adoption.

Reason #3: Requiring a completed home study is in the best interest of the Donor Family. Having our adopting couples complete a home study gives peace of mind to our donor families. Home studies involve appropriate amounts of education, assessments, and even include background checks. We want our donor families to feel at peace knowing their embryos are being placed with families that are prepared, educated, and committed to loving and raising these children.

Whether you’re adopting embryos through an adoption agency or another entity, a home study is often required. Did you know that Nightlight Christian Adoption also offers another option for embryo adopting families? We offer what is called a Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE). The SFE is a more cost effective option, requires only one home visit, and can be completed within 1-2 months. We offer this option to any family no matter the state or country they live in!

To learn more about our Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit our website.

by: Kristen Schaedel

Natural vs. Medicated Cycle for your Frozen Embryo Transfer

It is an exciting thought that you can carry your adopted child through embryo adoption! However, there is a medical side of this adoption process that requires some thought. One decision families are faced with is whether to do a medicated (sometimes referred to as hormone replacement) cycle or a natural cycle when preparing for their frozen embryo transfer (FET). There is a lot to consider when weighing these two options.

To begin, remember the goal in preparing for your FET—it is to maximize your chances of pregnancy and delivery of your baby. The idea, broadly, is to mimic the natural environment of the uterus where conception is most likely to occur. The partnership you develop with your doctor and partner fertility clinic is going to be instrumental in navigating your decisions.

Natural Cycle

This depends on a woman’s body, the predictability of her cycles, and her ability to monitor her cycle. A natural cycle typically does not use any kind of estrogen replacements and may or may not use progesterone.

Medicated (Hormone Replacement) Cycle

The protocol here uses a combination of estrogen and progesterone to ensure that the endometrium (lining of the uterus) is ideally prepared to receive the thawed embryo. Most physicians prefer the endometrium to be 8-14.5mm thick when performing a FET. Remember that this protocol will vary based on each unique woman, be sure to talk to your doctor about your options.

Another hurdle is to determine with your doctor which method is best for you, your embryos, and your unique body. Also, it is important to know that some doctors will not do a natural cycle oftentimes because the predictability rate of a successful outcome is not as researched or known.

Remember, this decision needs to be a cooperative one between you and your physician. It is important that you are all on the same page for your pregnancy success! Another important aspect of the FET is a discussion and agreement with your physician regarding how many embryos you will transfer in that particular cycle.

Regardless of the method you choose, here are some things to do after your FET:

  • Pamper yourself!
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Keep your stress levels low
  • Limit caffeine

To learn more about embryo adoption and if it is the right option to grow your family, visit Snowflakes.org.

 

By Dawn Canny

PCOS and Embryo Adoption

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that can cause issues such as insulin resistance and irregular menstrual cycles. More importantly to most women, PCOS can stop ovulation from occurring, which in turn impacts fertility. Around 6% to 12% of US women of reproductive age have been diagnosed with PCOS, making it one of the most common causes of female infertility today.

Have you been diagnosed with PCOS? Are you fearing the possibilities of infertility? Are you already experiencing some signs that things may not be working as normal?  If you are in one of these difficult spaces, be rest-assured that there are options for you!

One great option for women struggling with PCOS-related infertility is embryo adoption through our Snowflakes program! Compared to IVF where the ovaries must be hyper stimulated for egg retrieval, embryo adoption allows women with PCOS to avoid this process entirely. This is significant, since IVF can increase risk of developing a dangerous condition called ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome in women with PCOS. This condition can be deadly, and may require hospitalization or surgical procedures in order to be successfully treated.

Thankfully, research now shows that using frozen embryos can improve the rate of live births in women with PCOS without the risk of hyper stimulating the ovaries. Similarly, using frozen embryos allows women with this condition to have safer and more successful pregnancies than women who do IVF. This gives women with PCOS a safe and fulfilling option to achieve their dreams of pregnancy and motherhood!

If you are dealing with PCOS, is embryo adoption the option for you? It just might be! Click HERE to read the story of a Snowflakes Embryo Adoption family who overcame PCOS-related infertility through embryo adoption! To learn more about embryo adoption and donation, visit Snowflakes.org.

 

By: Kaelah Hamman

Gestational Carriers and Embryo Adoption

Surrogacy for pregnancy and gestational carriers seem to often be a trending topic online. We all know that social media can be a source of very helpful connections and information, but it is not always the best source of truth.

Here are some of the myths surrounding surrogacy/gestational carriers and embryo adoption that we have heard that we want to clear up!

  • MYTH: A “gestational carrier” is the same as a “surrogate”
    • If a woman is a “surrogate”, that means that she is biologically related to the baby she is carrying. A “gestational carrier” does not share any genetics with the baby she carries. In embryo adoption, if the adopting mother is not carrying the child herself, then they will utilize a “gestational carrier” because there is no genetic link between the embryo and the woman carrying the baby.
  • MYTH: You can save fees by using the DIY method to find a gestational carrier
    • When considering the gestational carrier option, the cost can be prohibitive unless you happen to know someone who is willing to be a surrogate on your behalf. Even then the costs can be high, and this is not an area where saving money should be the biggest priority.
  • MYTH: I need to adopt embryos before the gestational carrier agreement is drafted by an attorney.
    • It is important that the details of the gestational carrier agreement be settled before an embryo adoption match is made. Be sure to find a local family law attorney who is skilled in the field of assisted reproductive technology. The agreement between the embryo adopting family and the gestational carrier needs to include details such as:
      • Willingness to travel to the appropriate clinic for the frozen embryo transfer(s)
      • Details on how many transfers the gestational carrier is comfortable with
      • Confirmation that the carrier has been screened to carry a pregnancy
      • The fine points of how many embryos the gestational carrier is comfortable with transferring at any one time
  • MYTH: What my acquaintance in Texas knows about gestational carriers and how to navigate the process must apply to me in Florida.
    • Be really careful here. The laws surrounding surrogacy and gestational carrying are very specific and vary different from state to state.

If you are considering embryo adoption using a gestational carrier, be encouraged. Families have managed this in the past without issue…just be aware that there are still a few important things to consider and plan for.

You can learn more about Embryo Adoption on our website. See more details on gestational carriers on pages 30-31 of our Embryo Donation and Adoption FAQ Booklet.

Couples Weary of Domestic Adoption Find Success in Embryo Adoption

 

Domestic adoption has been an incredible choice for many families, but for others it simply does not work out in the end. They become weary of domestic adoption because of long waiting times for the child of their dreams.  That was the experience of Dana and Tim Ericksson, who had two birth mothers change their minds during their domestic adoption journey. The couple went on to successfully give birth through embryo adoption.

After trying to conceive a baby for eight years, Dana and Tim never thought they would see a positive pregnancy test.

Thanks to embryo adoption — an option that allows the adoptive mother to experience pregnancy and give birth to her adopted child through the transfer of donated frozen embryos — Dana became pregnant.

“We had been married 15 years and we had been trying for eight years and never once been pregnant,” Dana said. “I never thought it would happen for us. It was surreal to be able to experience it.

Having a biological parent change their mind is not the only concern, though. For many, the cost of a domestic adoption can be a huge deterrent. Domestic adoption can reach upwards of $30,000 or more. That price simply puts domestic adoption out of reach for many couples without taking on significant loans or personal debt. The health of a child can be a concern, as couples won’t have an opportunity to control the prenatal environment and may be unsure about what conditions their child experienced before they were born. Domestic adoptions can also take years, making the timing of growing a family unpredictable.

Many couples who are pursuing a domestic adoption have not yet learned about the option of embryo adoption. It might be that they have heard of it, but are afraid of entering the world of assisted reproduction again. Most of the couples who choose embryo adoption have experienced failed IVF. They finally find success by adopting embryos. The cost of embryo adoption is about ½ the cost of domestic adoption and takes it about 8-12 months to be matched with a placing family with remaining embryos.

Curious? Learn more about frozen embryo adoption, visit Snowflakes.org.

 

Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day

 

 

What memories do you have as a child around this time of year? Perhaps, like me it was the family gatherings, the giving of gifts, blessing those who are not so fortunate, or just watching the snow fall. It always looked so beautiful as its gentle blanket covered the landscape. Each snowflake adding its own impact.

 

In celebration of the season, I remember cutting out snowflakes, adding glitter, and using them to add a little sparkle to my daily life. Did you ever cut out snowflakes in order to decorate for the winter season? And did you know, there is even a special day allocated to that every year. The day is called, “Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day.” This year it’s celebrated on December 27th, 2020. Imagine all around the world people are making unique paper cut outs of snowflakes.

 

Some of us only think about snowflakes during the winter months, but there is more than one meaning for the word snowflakes. Do you know another type of snowflake that while frozen inspire people to get excited about love, hope, and happiness?

 

These are the kind that exist throughout the year. Here in the U.S. its estimated that there are over a million of these types of snowflakes. Imagine a million frozen snowflakes. That’s a lot of snowflakes! If you haven’t guessed by now, I am talking about frozen embryos.

 

The idea of using the word “Snowflakes” to describe frozen embryos was coined by a company called Nightlight Christian Adoptions, who handles various types of adoptions, including embryo adoptions. In fact, it was Nightlight who started the whole idea of embryo adoption here in the United States.

 

What is Embryo Adoption? Couples who grow their family through the process of IVF often find they have more embryos than they need to build their family unit. Therefore, once their family is complete, a couple may place their remaining embryos to be adopted. This is a beautiful gift for an adopting couple who, without the placing family’s kindness, may never have had the opportunity to become pregnant and have a family they can call their own.

 

During this holiday season of love and goodwill, perhaps, you might give a thought to the million or more embryos that are just waiting to be born. Maybe you, yourself, have embryos you would like to place for adoption. Or maybe you’re someone who would like to adopt embryos, to have the opportunity of becoming a parent, and welcoming a new baby into your home. Each one adding their own little sparkle.

 

written by Jen Grams

Adopting Embryos Created with an Anonymous Donor

 

Even though embryo adoption has been around for more than two decades, sometimes this kind of adoption can be a bit of a brain bender. But when you consider that life begins at conception, embryo adoption is such a beautiful way to build your family and rescue embryos from being frozen in time and space. At the beginning of a couple’s embryo adoption process, oftentimes the idea that the embryos are created through the placing family’s egg and sperm begins to form in their minds.

What surprises many adopting families is learning that nearly 50% of donated embryos are created through donor egg or sperm.

But if you put yourself in the shoes of the placing family, this decision is not so surprising. The desire to build a family can be extremely strong. Perhaps a family has gone through three rounds of IVF with no success, and the doctor advises them to consider using a donor egg. Many infertile couples continue their journey with a resounding YES! to donor egg and/or sperm.

What are the Pros and Cons for adopting couples thinking about adopting embryos created with a donor?

PROS:

  • Due to the average age of the donor, these embryos are typically more rigorous in achieving pregnancy.
  • Careful screening of donors for genetic, medical, and psychological issues is done.
  • You will receive a donor profile from the fertility clinic as part of the matching process.
  • Many adopting couples’ hearts and minds are put at ease when they realize that children have been born to the placing family resulting from these embryos.

CONS:

  • Discovering the identity of the donor can be difficult, as anonymity is still common-place in the fertility world.
  • The donor’s health history is not updated after the time of the donation.

What are some special considerations to keep in mind when adopting embryos created with a donor?

  • Work to understand the placing family’s motivations. Start by remembering your own grief work around not being able to have a genetic child and your own family building expectations.
  • Know you can choose to not adopt embryos created with anonymous donors, but be prepared for a longer matching time.
  • It is your responsibility as a parent to build a solid foundation for your child by telling them their whole story. You don’t want your child to learn about their beginnings from someone else.
  • There are resources available to you to help you explain to your child about their beginnings.

Talking with Kids About Racism

2020 will likely be remembered for many things. We have faced challenges in the forms of a pandemic, national calls to quarantine, businesses and schools shutting down, and lives being lost. We have also experienced protests erupting across our great nation due to an outcry for justice and an end to racism. The topic of racism is not only trending in many headlines and in bestselling books, but is also being discussed in our communities, churches, and around our dinner tables.

For our adoptive parents and especially for those parenting children of color, the discussions you may be navigating with your child in this season about race and racism may be more difficult than those you’ve faced in the past. It is heartbreaking to see children hear about, experience, or digest what racism is and the brokenness, division, and pain associated with it. However, this is a topic that our children will inevitably be faced with. It is important that we engage the conversation with them and set a precedent of talking openly and honestly about the issue.

Our desire is to help encourage, support, and equip you to talk about race and the difficult topic of racism in your home. These topics can be uncomfortable and challenging. Many parents are hesitant to discuss them because they are fearful of saying the wrong thing. However, if we want to raise the next generation in a way that will empower them to achieve greater racial equity and unity, then it’s critical to lay the groundwork in engaging in these discussions. If you’re raising a child of color, it is crucial that you create a safe environment in your home for these conversations to be had. Latosha Morrison, the creator of the organization, Be the Bridge, has stated that “you can’t fix something that you can’t acknowledge.” By teaching our youth to recognize unfair treatment or inequality, then we can also teach them to stand up for themselves and others.

Here are some recommendations and resources for transracial adoptive parents that we hope will help empower you to have deeper, more beneficial discussions with your kids about race and racism:

1)      Build a solid foundation.  Children have a deep desire to know their history. It is our responsibility as their parents to not only discuss issues related to race but to instill a sense of pride in our child regarding their rich heritage. What an honor it is to be able to communicate to a child that they are created by a loving God who made them in His image, exactly as they are. If you have been given the honor of a child of color then you have the responsibility to help them develop a strong and enriched racial identity. You can do this by teaching them to be proud of the color of their skin, the texture of their hair, and the richness of their culture. Affirm who they are and the unique gifts that they’ve been given. Instilling a positive racial identity is something that takes time, effort, and intention. Children face new insecurities and questions about their identity at each stage of their development. Helping them to feel valued, worthy, special, and confident in who they are is so worth every second of thought and action you can put into it!

NACAC’s Seven Tasks for Parents: Developing Positive Racial Identity has some great tips for how to do this well, and The Conscious Kid’s website is dedicated to promoting healthy racial identity development in youth.

2)      Celebrate your child’s racial/ethnic heritage and history. What an honor it is to not only get to celebrate who your child is, but also to celebrate their culture and the rich history of those that came before them! Adoptive parents with children of any race that is different from their own should be intentional about embracing their child’s racial and cultural community. Introduce them to books, TV shows, and toys that include characters and historical figures of their race. Listen to music, eat foods, and participate in celebrations that are well known in their culture. Hang beautiful art that reflects people that look like them in your home. Find activities in the community where your child can interact with other kids who look like him or her.

3)      Outsource.  Seek out men or women of color who are willing to speak into your life and your son or daughter’s life. If you are not a person of color yourself, then your child’s lived experience is something that you won’t be able to fully share with them. You won’t know what it’s like to be a minority in this country or what it feels like to be stereotyped or treated differently due to your skin color. It’s okay if you don’t know how to answer every question that your child has as it relates to race. It will be a gift to you and your child to have someone else who can offer their perspective, experience, and support.

4)      Talk about the hard things. While there is much to celebrate in embracing your child’s race and culture within your home, it is critical to understand the challenges that come with raising a child of color in a society where racism exists. The history of racism in this country is undoubtedly difficult to discuss. However, the fact that prejudice, discrimination, and racial inequality still exist and that racial tension in this country has recently received so much national attention, has brought about increasingly heavy and painful conversations as children of color try to make sense of it all. Creating a safe space for your child to talk and share about difficult issues related to race and racism is so very important. NCFA recently released a wonderful publication, called Proactive Engagement: The Adoptive Parent’s Responsibility When Parenting a Child of a Different Race. It addresses the responsibility of discussing issues surrounding race and racism with children, and the complexities adoptive parents face trying to protect their children from racism whenever possible, while at the same time preparing them for the racism that they will inevitably face. We highly recommend referencing this article as it also includes wonderful resources and advice about what’s appropriate to discuss and share according to the age and developmental stage of the child.

5)      Celebrate heroes and advocates. When considering how difficult it is to confront issues like discrimination and racial inequality with children of color, I recalled an episode of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. In that episode, Fred Rogers talked about when he was a little boy and would see scary things on the news. He stated “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” It is so important to teach children about the many good, caring people in our communities who are working for change. A good starting place could be teaching them about civil rights heroes such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Ella Baker, John Lewis, Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Whitney Young, Ralph Abernathy, Ruby Bridges, and so many more. In addition, it is important to discuss and celebrate individuals who are currently leading the way in educating about racism and advocating for better standards for racial equality. Who are you learning from? What community leaders do you see trying to make a difference? Who are people or organizations that are bringing people of all races, backgrounds, economic statuses together? While we still have important work to do in this country, let’s remember the helpers and talk about ways that we can all be a part of the change.

6)      Pray together. Pray as a family for racial equity and reconciliation in your community, city, and nation. We know that the Kingdom of God will include every nation, tribe, people, and language. We can pray together for help in loving our neighbors well, and for God to bring people together in ways that we haven’t seen or experienced before. When you feel led, take the opportunity to lament as a family over instances of racial injustice that occur. Many times, lament comes before healing. Pray that God will bring healing to our brokenness, that He will move and change hearts, that He will raise up godly leaders, that He will reveal to us our own biases, and that we can be a part of the work of reconciliation that is so close to His heart.

In our work with transracial adoptive families, Nightlight has worked to educate families well on issues related to parenting children of color. We are seeking to strengthen our education and thinking through ways that we can better support and equip our families both before and after their adoption. Part of the work we have been doing was to update the list of resources that we recommend for transracial families. There are so many new books and websites available and we have tried to compile a thorough list of helpful materials. We hope you will find some resources that will be a blessing to your family.

–Amy Eudy, Home Study Manager

Preparing for a Frozen Embryo Transfer

 

You have decided you want to pursue embryo adoption and have completed all the necessary steps. You have chosen an agency, filled out an application, completed the home study, have been matched with embryos, finalized the contract, and had the embryos shipped to the clinic!

Now you are super excited to get to the fun part, right? The day of your long awaited frozen embryo transfer (FET)! However, you may have to wait just a little bit longer before that special day.

Your clinic may require some preliminary tests before you are ready to begin preparation. Once you have been medically cleared, then you are ready to start the prep work!

First, you will typically begin birth control, followed by an ultrasound to make sure the lining of the uterus is thin and blood work to check hormone levels. Then, your reproductive endocrinologist will prescribe estrogen pills to build up the uterine lining, followed by another ultrasound and more blood work. (Some REs may even allow you to complete a natural cycle transfer with no birth control or medications. Talk with your clinic to see if this is a possibility for you!) REs have an “ideal” thickness that they like to see the uterine lining before they proceed with an FET, but don’t be discouraged if your lining is not within that range! Many women, including myself, have gone on to do transfers with a lining that was not considered optimal and had a successful pregnancy!

About five days before your scheduled FET, you will begin taking progesterone in oil injections each day. It is not the most fun, but so worth it once you see that positive pregnancy test! I would recommend warming the oil with a heating pad or by rubbing it between your hands before you start. It also helps to sit on a heating pad for a few minutes before the injection, as this will help prevent lumps under the skin. Massaging the injection site immediately afterward can help prevent those lumps, too. Switching injection sides each day is recommended, so you do not get too sore on one side.

The day of the FET is really quite simple and easy compared to everything else leading up to it! You will come to the office with a full bladder (yes, really), get changed in to a medical gown and hairnet, and the doctor will perform the FET using a small catheter. You get to watch the embryo get implanted right there on the ultrasound!

At this point you are done! Try to keep busy and focus on other things during the two week wait for the pregnancy test. You will continue the progesterone in oil injections for those two weeks after your FET and continue them for several weeks after if you have a positive pregnancy test.

You got this, mama! And if your FET resulted in a negative pregnancy test, you are strong and courageous for giving those little embryos a chance at a full life!

 

-An Embryo Adoptive Mama

For more information, please visit Snowflakes.org

The Quality of Embryos Does Not Equal Pregnancy Success

 

It was a dark snowy Friday night when I was driving to meet my husband at a local fundraiser.  I typically drive in silence but I had stumbled across a radio program that caught my attention.  My husband and I been unsuccessfully trying to build our family for over three years.  The initial testing had left us without answers.  We were preparing to meet with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) and were nervous about the ‘next steps’.  At the time we did not know embryo adoption existed. Should our next step be IVF? Could we do IVF and still honor our faith and honor life?  These discussions were weighing heavily on my heart. As I listened, the message focused on the sanctity of human life, even in its earliest stages, and my tears welled up.  A part of me was scared this was my answer: IVF was not part the right choice for us.  As I arrived at our destination, I saw my hubby, rolled down my window and said I would meet him inside. As he walked away, the message concluded and right there in front of me, fireworks started going off.  I couldn’t have planned the timing better, but there they were…. Fireworks.

A few weeks later our RE advised us that they would do a workup on me and then likely would recommend IVF if all came back ok.  We shared our beliefs with them about not creating more embryos than we would use. They hesitantly agreed to honor our wishes, warning us our chances of conceiving would be significantly reduced with these restrictions.  We left feeling a little defeated and more confused than ever.

We returned to our RE’s office ready to discuss the recent test results and next steps.  We were floored when our doctor said ‘premature ovarian failure’ and said our chances of conceiving even with IVF and without any of our ‘restrictions’ were less than 5%.  I was shocked!  I was angry.  I was confused.  I was every emotion under the sun.  I was devastated.  But now we knew for sure: the door to IVF was shut.

Somewhere in the fog of the next few months, I learned of embryo adoption and that night of fireworks started to have new meaning and new hope.  I had been heartbroken over the possibility of not being able to feel life grow inside me.  I wanted to experience the joy of childbirth.  Embryo adoption truly was and is the answer to our prayers.  We began our embryo adoption.

A year later, we had been through one failed FET and had been matched with a second family.  We were head over heels in love with this family. They had chosen life for their three embryos and had agreed to place them with us.  We felt such a strong connection to the family and were overjoyed with the match.

When our embryologist received the embryology report, she called to tell us we should consider sending the embryos back. We quickly said no, we were committed to our babies.  She went on to tell us the embryos were graded a B, BC, and C and there had been a power outage when they were being frozen.  The power blipped for just a second and then the generator kicked in, but with the fragility of embryos, she feared we wouldn’t even have viable embryos once they were thawed.  We were crushed but held onto hope that this was the plan for our family and we needed to stay the course.

Two months later we were pleasantly surprised to show up for our transfer with two viable embryos ready to transfer and one left safely in cryopreservation for a future attempt.  On September 15th we heard the words we had waited so long to hear: “You’re pregnant!” On June 2 we gave birth to our beautiful baby girl, Makenna Lee.

And let’s not forget about that little ‘C’ embryo that was waiting in the freezer for us.  Against all odds, he survived the thaw beautifully and we completed our family with the birth of the sweetest boy ever, Alexander Brooks.  While embryo adoption may not be the right choice for everyone, it blessed us beyond expectation and measure.

 

–Embryo Adoptive Family Testimony