Meet two families who are building a story about life, sacrifice, and one very loved little girl.
Cecile and Michael DeMartini wanted to grow their family and assumed they would need the assistance of in vitro fertilization to conceive. When they naturally conceived their third child, though, they knew they would need to do something with their remaining embryos.
“It wasn’t an instant choice,” Cecile said. “It took us three years to make that choice. We wondered is it okay to give away your embryos because it isn’t convenient? What kind of family were we exposing them to?”
“What does it mean personally to me that I have a biological child somewhere else? How am I going to feel about it?” Michael asks. “I came to the realization that life is more precious than my personal feelings.”
So the couple agreed to donate their embryos through the Snowflake Embryo Adoption Program, where they were matched with the Reas.
The Reas had one child and were eager to have more. After several miscarriages, they tried a number of fertility treatment options but felt that embryo adoption was the right fit for their family: Joanna could carry the child, they could share the pregnancy with their older daughter, and bond as a family before the baby even arrived.
“We knew there were families who had embryos and were struggling with what to do with them. We felt like we could take some burden off of them and still grow our family,” says David.
Like many families who participate in the Snowflakes program, they were initially a little hesitant about an open adoption; as time went on, though, they became much more comfortable getting to know their donating family.
“Snowflakes had been our mediator through handwritten letters and emails,” Joanna said. “We felt more comfortable with that. It gave us some limits, some guards in the beginning.”
“Anyone with a young child knows that you need to acclimate your family. It’s hard enough, and a little distance was good at the time,” David said. “As Vivienne grows and becomes more aware, that’s when we’ll start to introduce the idea and the explanations [of where she came from] at whatever level she’s at. That’s when the contact becomes more open and direct...it’s ultimately about what our daughter is most comfortable with. It’s her story and we want to be sensitive to that.”
Cecile Demartini agrees. “I don’t want to confuse Vivienne. Life is confusing enough as it is. I’m following David and Joanna’s lead as far as they want to take it.”
The Reas are grateful to the DeMartini’s for their gift.
“They made an amazing, loving choice to donate those embryos. We had this miracle, Vivienne who has blessed our lives more than we could ever imagine,” Joanna said. “We’re so thankful for that opportunity. It’s a life-giving option and we’re on the receiving end of it.”
“It’s an incredible testament to the power of life,” David says. “If you go through this process, you are saying that this matters, this life matters, it’s not just a couple of cells you keep in cold storage or discard. It becomes a person. Ultimately, this is Vivienne’s story and part of who she is. She’s going to direct that story. She’s got a lot of people who love her for various reasons.”
“She’s lucky,” Joanna adds.
Vivienne and her older sister Natalia experienced the joy of meeting one another during a recent holiday visit. The sisters enjoyed playing games, braiding hair and hanging out together. They hope to do it again soon.