Will Your 2023 Include Embryo Donation or Adoption?

 

Perhaps you are new to our blog, or maybe you are a faithful reader. We are glad you have found it!

The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2022. Twenty-five years of helping families with remaining embryos place their embryos with loving adopting families. Here are some reasons to celebrate.

  • Our 1,000th baby will soon be (or has already been!) born—a reason for great rejoicing.
  • Over 9,000 embryos have been placed for adoption through Snowflakes. These are embryos of all qualities and quantities and our team works diligently to find matches for all.
  • The transfer to pregnancy success rate is 54%. Of that, 90% will result in childbirth.

More people are learning about the options of embryo donation and adoption and choosing it for building their family. Raising awareness about this unique form of adoption is the biggest challenge our organization faces. Thank you for telling your family and friends about Snowflakes! Growth in the Snowflakes program over the past eight years has been amazing.

  • 28% average increase year-over-year in families choosing to adopt embryos
  • 27% average increase year-over-year in the number of babies born
  • 25% average increase year-over-year in families choosing to place embryos

Family stories are one of the best ways to communicate the benefits of embryo donation and adoption. Part of our 25th anniversary celebration has been to invite families to submit their stories to us. You may find another family’s story resonates with you and your circumstances.

In 2023, we thank those of you who have chosen the path of embryo donation or adoption. We want to welcome those of you who are considering embryo donation or adoption. Call us! 970-578-9700. We will listen to your questions and clearly communicate the way embryo adoption may be the adoption path for you.

We hope to speak with you soon!

How to Talk to Your Snowflake about Their Origins

 

“You cannot start a relationship on a lie and expect a high level of openness in return.” ~ A Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Mother

It is natural to be curious about our origins; and with programs such as Ancestry DNA and 23andMe, it has never been easier to get our hands on this information. This can be a great tool for discovering distant relatives or learning about your heritage. For those who are adopted, it can open a completely new world by answering questions and filling in the biological gaps. Unless the adopted person does not know that they are adopted…

Embryo adoption through the Snowflakes Program is a wonderful choice for family building! From pregnancy to bringing a newborn baby home, you get to experience all the joys and trials that any parent goes through. It can be easy to slide the fact that you adopted your child as an embryo under the rug. After all, you carried the child for nine months, gave birth, and have all of the photo evidence to prove it. While you can keep this private information from the cashier at Walmart, the soccer coach, and Gladys down the street, the most important person who needs to know that your child was adopted as an embryo, is your child.

It can feel very intimidating, and maybe you are just not sure where to begin. We recommend starting the second you bring your little one home from the hospital. There are two reasons behind this:

  • Your child will never remember a moment you sat them down to tell them they were adopted. (Children who are sat down and told “at an age where they can understand adoption” tend to look back on that conversation as a traumatic experience as opposed to the adoption being normalized throughout their childhood.)
  • You can get a feel for the words, themes, and methods you want to use to explain the story as your child grows. You might find it easier to use language young children may grasp more easily or find yourself using the actual terms; whichever one works best for you is great!

You might also find making a Lifebook for your adopted child to be helpful. Explain that you needed help having a baby, so a generous family whose family was complete placed their baby seed with your family. Include photos of the donor family, the day of the transfer, your child as an embryo, ultrasounds, pregnancy, and the baby. This is a great resource for adoptees that they can carry with them throughout life and look back on!

Children’s books are also great! What is better than normalizing their story by reading a book before bed? Snowflake Babies, Made with Love, The Pea That Was Me, and many others are wonderful stories that explain embryo adoption in ways that children can easily understand.

It is incredibly important to let embryo-adopted children know their origins. Secrets do not stay secrets, and that is especially true today with access to genetic testing at the tip of our fingers. When secrets do come out, relationships may become damaged as a result. Children may be left wondering, “My story is so taboo that we do not talk about it? Are my parents that ashamed of me?”

It can also be difficult as a parent of an embryo-adopted child, with thoughts of what will happen once the floodgate opens that they are biologically related to someone else. How will they react? Will they wish to go live with their genetic parents rather than us?

While these are normal fears to have, DNA does not make a family—love does. You will always be your child’s parents, not the man and woman who share DNA with them.

The most encouraging story we found on the subject is the story of Ingrid von Oelhafen, an infant abducted from Yugoslavia during World War II by German Nazis. When Ingrid was older, she began searching for her biological parents. After a lot of searching, she finally located them, but she said it made little difference in her life. Her memoir ‘Hitler’s Forgotten Children’ ends with this quote:

“It is enlightening to find our roots, but we are what we become through the lives we’re given.”

Talk to your children about the hard things and they in turn will talk to you about the hard things. Stay open and honest with your children, and respect them enough to tell them the truth—especially when it comes to their genetic origins. While it will be enlightening, it will not change whom they identify as their true family—you!

To learn more about embryo donation and adoption through the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit Snowflakes.org.

Why is Embryo Donation a Type of Adoption?

 

Did you know that embryo adoption has existed for 25 years?

National Adoption Month is recognized in November, where adoption agencies and families celebrate the beauty of adoption. However, embryo adoption is often overlooked. Why is it not considered a form of adoption even though thousands of families have participated in it for years?

Embryo donation and embryo adoption are two separate concepts, but are often confused as the same.

In typical embryo donation programs, the donor family creates embryos through IVF and can donate the remaining embryos to a family. However, the practice is not well regulated. Often clinics “in-house” will match the families and process all the paperwork. It is a hard and extensive process, and many clinics do not even find it worth the work to have an embryo donation program at their practice. The embryo cohort can be split up and often little communication or documentation is made between the donor and recipient family.

With embryo adoption, all the best practices of adoption are applied to embryo donation. In the end, the adoptive family will be receiving a child that is not genetically related to them, just like any form of adoption. Adopting families should feel prepared in how to parent their adoptive child, and placing families should feel assured that their embryos are going to a safe and loving home.

All adopting families are required to complete a home study which includes background checks, psychological evaluations, education, and home and post-birth visits. The adoption is finalized through a contract under property law.

Similarly to a domestic infant adoption, donors and recipients also choose each other and can decide the form of communication they are comfortable with. Families are given more information about each other than in a typical embryo donation program. Adopting families are given the donor family’s profile and medical histories so their adoptive child can know about their genetic background. The desire is that genetic siblings are placed together and families are encouraged to be open to discussing with the adoptive child of their adoption history.

The goal of embryo adoption is to provide safe homes for embryos who then become children. The only way to ensure the safety of the embryos is to apply the best practices of adoption.

The controversy over embryo adoption is often affiliated with the lack of knowledge about what it truly is and how it differs from typical embryo donation programs. There is also the ongoing controversy over the personhood of an embryo. Do embryos have the same rights as a child? The topic is still debated, but ultimately, the end result of any embryo donation and adoption program is a child being placed in a family that is not genetically related to them. The adopting family should be prepared to parent this child and placing families should be assured that their child is placed in a loving home.

Embryo adoption is another great form of adoption to celebrate this month. In fact, 1,000 Snowflakes babies will be born in just a few months! All these children would not have a home if embryo adoption did not exist. Join us in celebrating the families and children touched by this beautiful form of adoption.

To learn more about Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, visit Snowflakes.org.

Embryo Adoption Grants and Scholarships

 

Starting the embryo adoption journey through the Snowflakes program can be very exciting, but the financial component can take people by surprise. Adopting embryos does indeed have a cost, but the good news is that there are grants, scholarships, and loans out there that can help fund your fees for the adoption process, fertility treatments, and both!

See below for our compiled list of grants and scholarships that can help you through your embryo adoption journey!

  • Baby Quest Foundation Grants: This grant is awarded two times a year, between the amount of $2,000-$16,000. It can be applied to the embryo adoption process and is open to all who are permanent residents of the U.S.
  • Cade Foundation Family Building Grant: This grant is offered twice per year—spring and fall. Awards up to $10,000 per funded family to help with costs of medical infertility treatments. Applicants must have a diagnosis of infertility from their doctor and must be legal, permanent U.S. residents.
  • Footprints of Angels: Footprints of Angels is a nonprofit organization supporting women impacted by recurrent miscarriages and infertility. This grant states it will cover the costs associated with third-party reproduction, which includes embryo donation and adoption. Applicants must be citizens or legal residents of the U.S. and have a diagnosis of infertility certified by a medical provider.
  • The Hope for Fertility National Grant: This grant can be applied to the embryo adoption process, FET expenses, and blood work and tests. It cannot be applied to expenses for travel or medication. The grant is available to couples who are married, legal residents of the U.S., and have been officially diagnosed with infertility by a medical professional.
  • Gift of Parenthood: This grant helps couples and individuals struggling with infertility achieve their dreams of becoming parents through fertility assistance grants ranging from $8,000 to $15,000, available four times a year. This grant can be applied to embryo donation or adoption expenses. All applicants must be uninsured for fertility treatments, and treatments must occur at a Snowflakes partner fertility clinic that is a member of SART.
  • Nightlight Foundation Grant Program: Nightlight Foundation (formerly “Babushka Fund”) assists families who might not otherwise be able to afford the costs of adoption for a child who might not otherwise be adopted. A grant committee will review applications and make awards of $500 to $5,000 (with an average gift of $1000) to prospective adopting families. This grant could be available to Snowflake’s families who are adopting embryos through the Open Hearts Program.
  • Adoption Bridge: While this is not specifically a grant, this can be a great resource for raising funds that any grants may not cover. Nightlight’s crowdfunding website is where you can tell your embryo adoption story, post pictures, and videos, and keep people informed about what’s going on. You can accept donations from your friends and family, and these funds are sent directly to Nightlight.

This is not an extensive list, but it is a great way to start your research! Nightlight also offers all clients the opportunity to connect with our Family Resource Specialist who assists families in identifying funding resources for their adoption fees.  To learn more about embryo adoption or donation through Snowflakes, visit Snowflakes.org.

By: Paige Zapf

Traditional Home Study vs Snowflakes Family Evaluation

 

When you are adopting embryos through the Snowflakes embryo adoption program, there are two options you can choose from to fulfill the home study requirement of this program:  a traditional home study or a Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE).  When deciding between these two options, there are several factors to consider.  Among them are cost, the overall timeline, the adoptive family’s location and accessibility to home study providers, and whether the adoptive family may consider switching from embryo adoption to another type of adoption if their embryo adoption doesn’t result in a successful pregnancy and birth.

 

One benefit of the SFE is that the cost is almost always lower than that of a traditional home study.  Since only one face-to-face home visit is required and the paperwork is generally less intense, it also tends to be a faster process than that of a home study.  Third, each of our 10 Nightlight offices has multiple SFE providers who can travel to meet with families regardless of what state or country they live in, whereas home studies have to be performed by a licensed home study agency in the adoptive family’s state of residence.  It is also advantageous to a family to work with professionals who are well-trained in all things embryo adoption rather than a home study agency that is unfamiliar with this type of adoption.

 

There are also circumstances where it might be beneficial to complete a traditional home study instead of an SFE.  Some couples who apply with Snowflakes may already have a completed home study.  Others may find a local home study provider whose fees are lower than those associated with an SFE.  The main benefit of doing a home study is that if the adoptive couple plans to switch to another adoption program if their embryo adoption isn’t successful, this home study may be modified or updated to use for domestic, foster, or international adoption, whereas the SFE is only valid for embryo adoption.

 

Our Snowflakes team is always happy to discuss these options with you and help you decide the best home study option for your family.

How to Answer Strange Questions About Embryo Adoption

 

 

Embryo adoption is a unique option that can help families experience the joys (and challenges!) of pregnancy and childbirth with their adopted child. You may be starting the process through the Snowflakes program, but it is usually a new and difficult concept for many people. You may run into some interesting reactions and questions when you start to share your journey.

These are the most common questions we have heard that families were asked as they were going through the adoption process:

Q: “That sounds weird… like something right out of a sci-fi movie.”

If you get this comment, change the connotation from weird to amazing!

A: “It is a miracle, isn’t it?! It happens when science is combined with the miracle of life! But it’s not new—cryo-technology has been around since the 1950’s. It is amazing that God has allowed a way for leftover embryos from IVF cycles to be preserved so they can be used later on!

Q: “Isn’t it hard on the kid because they’re born in the wrong decade?”

This is usually a question you will get if the person is trying to wrap their minds around the concept of freezing the embryo. Since embryos have no known “shelf-life,” they can be frozen for many years, thawed, and then transferred in a cycle. There have been many healthy children who have been born from embryos ten years old or even older.

A: “A child born from an embryo has their birthday like any other kid, and that is their age. Embryos are frozen in time—and liquid nitrogen—somewhere in the first five days of development, and they stay at that stage until they are thawed and transferred.”

Q: “Isn’t it robbing orphaned kids overseas or in foster care?”

This is a tricky question to answer, because while it can come across as belittling or even judgmental, it’s usually based off of a person’s genuine care for orphans. Embryo adoption is just one of many adoption choices. Embryo adoption doesn’t replace other adoption programs, it expands the choices people have for helping children who need a family

A: “This is was right adoption path for us. It’s just like how a family may choose domestic adoption over international adoption. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. We’re still adopting a child—just much earlier in their development.”

As you pursue your embryo adoption journey through Snowflakes, we hope this better prepares you to answer well-meant questions with confidence. To learn more about embryo adoption donation through the Snowflakes program, visit Snowflakes.org.

By: Paige Zapf

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.