Family. It’s such a basic word that is used frequently by most of us, but I think if we each shared what that word ‘family’ means to us, we would find that we have very different definitions.

I was adopted as an infant and grew up with parents who I am very close to. I was fortunate to have a wonderful life and feel very blessed, knowing had my teenage biological parents made a different choice, I quite simply would not be here.

I married my college sweetheart and like many do, we talked about starting to have children. Our first son, Grant, was born on June 9, 2006, just two years after we were married. It became time to think about having additional children and after a few years of trying, we recognized there was likely an issue. A series of doctors and a surgery for my husband provided no improvement in being able to conceive. We became patients at our local fertility clinic and were told that our best option was to try IVF and if that did not work, we may need to consider a sperm donor. It was a very emotional time but I believe things happen for a reason. My husband’s company had great fertility insurance (which was rare at that time) and I felt this was our sign to proceed. We went through a round of IVF and were so excited when we found out that both embryos were growing and we were pregnant with twins!

I carried Nolan and Karlin to 35 weeks, 5 days (nearly full term for twins) and had them naturally on June 22, 2010. They spent no time in the NICU and had nearly perfect Apgar scores. The hospital staff told us they were thrilled with how healthy we all were and how everything had gone with their birth. We now had three healthy kids and loved our little family.

With having Nolan and Karlin through IVF, came the decision about what to do with our remaining 9 embryos. We knew that we wanted to give them all the chance at life. After all, I felt so strongly about this given my own story. We tried two separate frozen embryo transfers after I had the twins and neither time resulted in a pregnancy. The medications, shots and phone calls with our negative results became harder each time. After the second time, my husband decided that we had tried enough and he couldn’t watch me go through a fourth IVF/FET cycle. We still had three remaining embryos.

I thought about the embryos often, frozen in the tank in Des Moines, Iowa, not far from our home. We had always said we would keep them frozen until I was 40 and then could make a decision about donation. It continued to weigh on my heart and I decided that we needed to make a decision earlier. My mom actually had read an article about Nightlight and shared it with me. Again, a sign, I felt.

We went through the process of being matched and actually ended up saying “yes” to the first family we were matched with. We read and re-read their profile and everything fit. On June 2, 2015, our biological son, Corey, was born to an amazing family nearly two thousand miles away from our home in Iowa. Seeing his photo for the first time was so hard. He looked exactly like my three when they were born. But, I was also grateful that he was here and healthy!

Fast forward 7 years. We text often, share pictures of our kids, are Facebook friends, send video messages, the kids are pen pals and we have been to visit each other’s families. We have also met in Las Vegas for time together. We both send Christmas gifts for the kids and I send Corey gifts on his birthday. I love their family dearly because they are included when I define what ‘family’ means to me!