Five Choices for Embryos in Frozen Storage

 

Earlier this month, there was an article on the Today Show: The anguish of saying goodbye to my 25-year-old embryos.

It is sad to hear that so many embryos sit in frozen storage and forgotten, because the families who created them do not want to make a decision on what to do with them. You do not have to leave your embryos in frozen storage for over 20 years! There has not been any research done regarding the ‘shelf-life’ for frozen embryos—many healthy babies have been born from embryos 20+ years old.

Fertility clinics throughout the U.S. are very familiar with the options available to people with remaining embryos:

  1. Keep them frozen and pay the annual storage fee. This is a reasonable option for people who still plan to attempt pregnancies with these embryos. It is a poor option for people who have completed their family and have no plan to use them.
  2. Donate them for reproduction through your fertility clinic. Clinic donation programs only accept embryos created at that clinic. Not every clinic has an in-house donation program. These programs are primarily anonymous. Once you donate, you do not know who receives your embryos, how many patients received your embryos, if any children were born to those recipients, and you never know if your children have genetic siblings living nearby.
  3. Donate them for reproduction through an adoption agency. A licensed agency, like our Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, will follow the best practices of adoption and help you choose a recipient for your remaining embryos. The agency will provide you with peace-of-mind by vetting the potential recipients with an adoption home study. You will know if a child is born. You will have the opportunity to develop communications with the recipient so you know what is happening in the life of your children’s genetic siblings.
  4. Donate them to science. There may be researchers interested in receiving donated embryos. Ask your fertility clinic for information regarding this option.
  5. Thaw them and discard them. If you choose this avenue, the clinic will discard them for you as medical waste. Some people decide to thaw and transfer the embryos in an undedicated and untimed transfer (meaning the likelihood of the embryos implanting are very slim). Other families are interested in having their embryos buried. Arrangements for burial can be coordinated through Sacred Heart Guardians and Shelter.

If you are considering in vitro fertilization or if you have embryos in frozen storage it is important to know your options.

If you have an interest in donating embryos for reproduction, the longer you keep the embryos frozen the more difficult it is to find a willing recipient for your embryos. However, we mentioned earlier that there is no ‘shelf-life’ for frozen embryos. In the fall of 2020, the Today Show shared another story about the birth of a healthy baby girl who had been frozen 27 years!

Rest assured, we do not recommend you keep your embryos frozen 27 years before deciding what to do with them! We recommend making a choice sooner rather than later. Visit Snowflakes.org to learn more.

 

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

Waiting During the Holidays: Survival Tips

The holidays are a time for merriment, cheerful moments, and spending time with loved ones. But for those who are waiting to adopt, the holidays may be a difficult or painful reminder of what is missing.  Waiting to adopt can be hard at any time during the year, but it can be particularly difficult during the holiday season. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NLT. Here are some things to try as you wait to adopt during the holidays.

  1. Start a new tradition- Putting off creating new holiday traditions because you’re waiting to adopt can be depressing. There is no need to wait! This holiday season, make new memories and start a few fresh family traditions that you’ll look forward to year after year. Bake cookies on Christmas Eve, take a drive in your pajamas to look at holiday lights, have a s’more’s and cocoa night. Creating new traditions as a couple now allows you to have more time to enjoy them together.

 

  1. Taking an adoption “breather”- Taking a step back to think about things other than your adoption process can give you some time to relax and rejuvenate. Hang out with friends or family, read a book, go for a hike, check out a National park, bake, watch a movie. Give yourself time to breathe, and when you are ready to think about adoption again you will come back with a renewed perspective.

 

  1. Self-Care, Self-Care, Self-Care – exercise, take a bath, get enough sleep, eat good food. Buy yourself a gift, go out for a spa day. Channel your energy into doing something nice for yourself. You deserve it.

 

  1. Start a journal- You may consider journaling as a way to express your emotions or save it to give to your child one day to show your feelings while you waited for them to join your family.

 

  1. Do something kind for others- No matter what time of the year it is; random acts of kindness can benefit everyone. They can positively impact others and they are great for the soul. Donate items from your home, send someone flowers for no reason, let someone check out before you in the grocery store line, volunteer at a local shelter or soup kitchen, cook someone a meal. The list is endless. Also, let others be kind to you.

 

 

  1. Pray and talk to God- Taking time to go somewhere quiet and pray and meditate is something every soul needs. Once we take these moments each day we feel more peaceful and possess the strength in our hearts to truly appreciate our “present”. Thankfully, when you bring God into everything you do, you can’t help but rejoice at all times. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

 

  1. Be honest with yourself (and others) – It’s okay to feel sad, be honest with yourself and others. Do not feel obligated to attend every holiday event you are invited to. It is okay to decline. Talk with your spouse or a close friend or family member about how you are feeling. It is also okay to enjoy the time spent catching up with family and friends or creating new traditions. Sometimes just talking about your feelings can provide the relief needed to take a step forward.

written by Nichole Chase, LMSW | Social Services Manager

Giving Thanks During Your Adoption Journey

 

It can sometimes be challenging to choose an attitude of gratitude when you are on the path of adoptive parenting.  Adoption inherently involves loss and grief, and the wait to bring your child home can seem unbearable.  How can we focus on giving thanks as we go through this stressful process?

Consider taking a few moments each day to identify something for which you are grateful.  Here are some possibilities:

  • Birthmothers who choose life for their unborn child.
  • Your current or future child.
  • Your support circle: friends, family, neighbors, coworkers…. Those who surround you with practical help and a listening ear.
  • Your adoption agency or attorney.
  • Your spouse.
  • Your parents and how you were raised.
  • Your child’s birth or genetic parents. No matter how you adopt, your child has birth/genetic family.  Your child would not be the special blessing he or she is without those key people.
  • Personal growth and healing throughout the adoption journey.
  • Additional time with your spouse dedicated to strengthening your marriage.
  • Grant agencies or other financial donors.
  • Friends you have made while on this journey.
  • Employment that grants you stability.
  • Your home and community.
  • Your health and physical wellbeing.
  • Family traditions.

Research has shown that gratitude has immense benefits.

Giving thanks can:

  • Improve Physical Health.
  • Decrease Depression and Anxiety.
  • Improve Sleep Quality.
  • Help Relieve Stress.
  • Enhances Empathy.
  • Improves Self-Esteem.
  • Increase Energy.
  • Feel Good.

Here are few other interesting articles about how giving thanks can benefit you.

Research on the Benefits of Gratitude

Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

Are you interested in developing an ongoing practice of gratitude?  If so, consider the variety of exercises provided by Positive Psychology, from journaling to making a collage or gratitude rock, to learning how to do a gratitude walk.

There are many books available specific to the benefits of gratitude and developing your own gratitude practice.  One that is fairly popular in the Christian community is One Thousand Gifts.  This list of children’s books can also help you teach your little ones to give thanks.

If you are in a season of contemplation, waiting, parenting, or supporting others who are pursuing adoption, gratitude can benefit all of us.  Find something that you are grateful for today.

 

written by Alicia Olsen

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Open Adoption

 

The concept of “open adoption” has become much more accepted in the last 30 years. Today, roughly 90% of adoptions are open, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Many families, however, still have questions and concerns about what that relationship actually looks like and what it means for them and their child. Below are a few of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to domestic adoption:

  1. What exactly is open adoption?

Open adoption is where there is some kind of direct contact between the birth family and the child and his or her adoptive family. This could include letters and pictures sent via email, text messages, phone calls, virtual meetings, or in-person visits. The amount of openness in an open adoption varies depending on the arrangement agreed upon by the birth and adoptive families at placement and the level of contact the birth family is comfortable with.

  1. Is open adoption confusing for a child?

I think this is one of the most common fears experienced by adoptive families prior to starting the adoption process– and understandably! Adoption can be a complex experience with a number of unknowns. However, studies show that when an open adoption is talked about honestly and openly, not only is it not confusing for a child but it is beneficial. When a child’s adoption story and their birth parents are discussed and/or introduced early in the child’s life, the child has a more secure and trustworthy view of themselves and their parents.

  1. Is open adoption the same as co-parenting?

Not at all. Once an adoption is finalized, the child is legally a part of your family, as if you delivered them at the hospital. You, ultimately, have say over how they are raised and their beliefs about their adoption and their birth parents. An open adoption just means that a relationship gets to be built between you, the child, and the birth family. Secondly, this birth family has chosen you to be the child’s parent for a reason. As your relationship with them develops, so does their trust and respect for you and what you decide is best for your child.

  1. What if my child grows up with an open adoption and decides they like their birth parents better?

Just as your relationship with the birth parents grows more secure over time, as does your child’s understanding of their birth parents’ role in their life. You are their parent. In an open adoption, the child grows to develop a more well-rounded perspective of who they are and where they came from. Through open communication, the child will grow to love their birth parents and establish a relationship with them as they age but it will not take away from the amount of love they have for you.

  1. What if there is a difficult situation in my open adoption and I don’t know how to handle it?

An open adoption will require difficult conversations at times, as does every important relationship. There is no guarantee that your open adoption will always be easy, but it will be worth it. Nightlight and other agencies are in place to help navigate the difficulties that can accompany adoption, including conversations about open adoption. If your family is ever confronted with a situation in your open adoption that you would like assistance navigating, we are here to help and support you.

written by Paige Lindquist

What Are Your Home Study Options For An Embryo Adoption?

Requiring a home study as part of the embryo adoption process follows the best practices of adoption.  Regardless of whether government entities recognize or regulate the adoption of embryos, the end result is that a child will be placed with parents to whom he or she is not genetically related.  The home study involves several elements, including assessment, education, and preparation.  It also provides peace of mind to the placing parents involved.

 

When adopting embryos, whether through an adoption agency or another entity, a home study is often required.  In addition to a domestic home study, Nightlight Christian Adoptions offers another option, the Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE).  Here are some things to consider when comparing the home study and SFE:

 

  • Cost:  Managing expenses is an important consideration for adoptive families.  The cost of home studies varies greatly and is often influenced by the cost of living in the region where you live, as well as the supply/demand factor.  You may be able to find an agency who will complete a home study for $1,200, while others charge $3,000 or more plus travel expenses.  Many agencies also charge a separate application fee.  The fee for an SFE is $1,500 plus travel expenses.  There is no application fee.
  • Availability: The SFE is offered to all families, regardless of what state or country they live in.  Traditional domestic home studies must be performed by an adoption agency that is licensed in your state of residence.
  • Modification: Some adoption agencies will permit a home study to be amended for the purpose of a domestic or international adoption if, for example, you begin the embryo adoption process and later decide to switch to a different adoption program.  The SFE cannot be modified to support any other type of adoption.
  • Timeline: The amount of time it takes to complete the SFE is mostly controlled by the adoptive family and their speed in gathering and completing the necessary paperwork.  It is possible to complete the process in 1-2 months, but the average is 3-4 months.  The time it takes to complete a domestic home study varies greatly depending on the agency you use and the state in which you live, but is generally a longer process.
  • Number of visits: Every state has different home study requirements, and that includes the number of face-to-face visits that home study providers must make before they can complete a home study.  Most states require 2-4 separate visits for a licensed home study.  The SFE requires only one home visit with an SFE provider, which can often help speed up the overall timeline of your adoption process.
  • Paperwork: SFE paperwork is similar to what is used in a home study, since we follow an adoption model.  However, it is often a smaller amount than what’s required for a home study and the requirements are more flexible since we aren’t having to follow the regulations of any government entity.

written by Beth Button 

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.

Racial Reconciliation and Adoption

 

Reconciliation is at the center of the gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

Jesus Christ was sent to this world to reconcile our sinful selves to God and call us to the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation means “to restore to friendship or harmony.” Christ first restored our relationship and harmony with God and now offers this same act as a ministry for us to participate in with others. Reconciliation is the very act of adoption – we were brought into God’s family after our brokenness was restored through Christ.

We see much division across our nation due to differences in perspectives and experiences. This spans across values, politics, faith, and racial issues, just to name a few. God calls us to walk in harmony with others and seek reconciliation. He calls us to see value in those that may look, act, or believe differently than us and not to separate ourselves. One of those areas is racial reconciliation, which has come to the forefront of our nation’s attention. For transracial adoptive families, you have been confronted with many feelings, fears, and concerns as racial tensions now confront us. As a world, we are challenged to consider what it means to seek harmony when any of our community is hurting and in need. What should reconciliation look like?

The process of reconciliation should first look like opening and evaluating your heart, mind, emotions, and actions, through guidance by the Holy Spirit. Laying yourself before God and praying along with David in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” As God reveals sin in our thoughts, words, and deeds, we can ask Him first for forgiveness and then turn to seek forgiveness and harmony from any that we have hurt. How might this look in a racial reconciliation context? We can allow God to examine our hearts for any judgments, prejudices, or racist thoughts, words, or deeds.

Being surrounded by our culture that has been permeated with racism, these thoughts can creep inside us, often without our realization. God can reveal these to us through prayer, reading books that address racism, listening to the voices of people of color around us, and examining our hearts. When we as individuals can do this, it plays into the greater movement of our society seeking harmony and restoration with others that have been wronged. We can seek harmony with our brothers and sisters of color around us and speak to others through our ministry of reconciliation.

Where does adoption fit into the narrative of racial reconciliation? Adoption can move us in the right direction, but this is done through changes in our hearts: not simply through the act of adoption. Transracial adoption does not fix underlying problems. A family adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity into their family will not automatically rid them or others of prejudice. When the adoptive parents open their hearts to reconciliation as they consider adopting a child of another race, He can show you any places of racial prejudice inside you to rid from your heart and mind, as discussed above. Adopting a child from another race or culture will naturally bring up conversations and comments from friends and family that will allow you an opportunity to speak the truth and confront any of their prejudicial beliefs, whether conscious or subconscious. These conversations allow others to learn about someone else’s experience that differs from their own and challenges them to understand. These are changes that can come from our experiences in adoption and can impact the greater sins of racism around us if you are mindful to do so.

Recognizing the joys and true challenges of bringing a child from another race into your home is imperative. Our desire at Nightlight is to help guide our adoptive families in this journey through education and support. We are growing the resources we have available to transracial adoptive families and hope you keep checking back on the blog for more information in parenting your adopted child.

–Heather McAnear Sloan, Director of Post Adoption Connection Center

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