The Unexpected Joy of Pregnancy

About 14 years ago, after having an irregular cycle my whole life, I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. Which basically means that for unknown reasons, I went through menopause early. After looking at my blood work, I believe my doctor’s exact words were, “You’re absolutely never getting pregnant.”

At 17 years old, that was heavy information to process. But looking back now, I’m thankful I had so much time to come to terms with my infertility. The finality of it was a “death” of sorts; I could grieve, process, and then heal. When I was dating Donny, my now husband, we were able to talk about what this would mean for our family and processed the realization that we would not be bringing biological children into the world together. We agreed we wanted children, and knew that adoption would be in our future.

A few years into marriage we got “the baby bug” and started researching adoption more seriously. There’s so much information out there! International, domestic, domestic private, foster-to-adopt and more! We were overwhelmed by the many pros and cons of each method…as well as the staggering costs associated with many routes. We eventually discovered the organization, Nightlight Christian Adoptions and the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program.

When family is complete after pursuing IVF, they sometimes have frozen embryos remaining that they don’t intend to transfer. This is can be for a variety of reasons—dangerous pregnancies, several successful pregnancies so adding more children isn’t practical, financial strain, etc.). What to do with these frozen embryos is a huge dilemma many families face. Snowflakes matches families who have remaining embryos that would like to place them with an adoptive family.

Embryo adoption was appealing to me and my husband for a variety of reasons… The costs associated are typically much lower than domestic infant or international adoption. There are thousands (if not over a million!) of frozen embryos currently in frozen storage in the U.S. And my infertility stems from my ovaries, my uterus could (theoretically) still carry a pregnancy, so I would be able to experience pregnancy and childbirth was a joy I’d never even imagined I could have!

We embarked on our embryo adoption journey in 2014. It started with many applications, forms, background checks, and meetings—all the usual steps required in a traditional adoption.  Early in 2015 we received our first match! We adopted 8 embryos and started prepping my body for our frozen embryo transfer (FET). In an overnight shipping container, our precious embryos made the journey from Florida to our clinic in Pasadena. Our doctor thawed three embryos and 2 were viable for transfer. It was heartbreaking to hear we had already lost one precious life, but we were hopeful we would get the news we were pregnant with twins!

It takes about 2 weeks after an FET to get a successful positive pregnancy test, so we did our best to wait patiently.

The day I got the call from my doctor’s office that I was not pregnant, was one of the hardest moments of my life. I felt like my body had failed and that I had let these children and my husband down. Statistically, only 1 in three transfers are successful, so we knew there was a good chance it wouldn’t work on our first try, but it was still a deep loss we had to grieve.

We let my body heal for a few months, and tried again with our four remaining embryos. Once again, one of them did not survive thawing, and my doctor felt it was wise to transfer the remaining three. “Triplets!” We imagined to ourselves, “What an adventure!”

Two weeks later, we listened to the nurse’s sad voice over the phone, and again we had to process a huge loss. The idea that we had ushered 8 souls into heaven was both beautiful and heart wrenching. It was time to step back and evaluate everything. I could not imagine putting my body through the medication, then the transfer, and the loss AGAIN.

In the end we decided, the odds were in our favor. If 1 in three FETs are truly successful, we felt comfortable giving it one more final go. We jumped back into the matching pool with Snowflakes.

They came back with a unique matching offer—two separate families who each had one embryo to transfer. They asked if we would be interested in taking both. Once again, embryos were shipped to Pasadena, one from D.C. and one from Chicago.

We imagined the great stories of a twin pregnancy where the twins weren’t biologically related to us, nor each other… and this time when the phone rang, the nurse’s voice was joyful—we were pregnant! Words I’d never heard before! We still had a long journey ahead, since it was very early, but at that moment, I was pregnant!

At our first ultrasound there was one steady heartbeat. A healthy growing baby, and one more loss. All in total we had adopted ten embryos and one made it to pregnancy. But what immense joy in the one! Since embryo adoption is not a technical adoption in the legal sense of the word, the embryos were our personal possessions up until transfer, which means there was no finalizing the adoption, and it would be my husband’s and my name on the birth certificate.

On December 22, at 37.5 weeks pregnant, my son Deacon was born at a whopping 9 pounds, 12 ounces!

We have had a little bit contact with his biological family. We know they live in Washington D.C. and he has a big sister from the same batch of embryos he came from. I know that deciding to place their final remaining embryo with our family was a gut wrenching decision for them, and I don’t take their gift lightly. We often talk to Deacon about his wonderful family in D.C. who loved him so much they let me be his mama! As he gets older, we want him to understand his history, and allow him as much or as little relationship with them as he wants.

Today, it’s hard to remember life without Deacon! His head of crazy blonde curls, his precocious personality and his love of all things green have brought Donny and me more joy than I could have ever imagined! We grieved those early losses so deeply, but know that it was preparing us to parent this incredible child, and I would not change things for the world!

This story was originally published on the Shalice Noel Blog.

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