Emotional Healing through Embryo Donation

In 2008, my spirit was broken when my marriage ended after almost 12 years. Literally, overnight, I became the single mother of a 2 1⁄2-year-old daughter, uncertain and scared about the future. It took nearly six months to finalize our divorce, and I was faced with the reality of what to do with our four remaining frozen embryos. I was awarded custody of the embryos and soon realized the only option available to me was to place them with a family for adoption.

I did an online search and learned about Snowflakes Embryo Adoption and Donation. I met with a counselor through my church and prayed. Over the next year, I realized that I needed to do what was best for the remaining embryos, and for me. Those four frozen embryos were not a mistake; they were created so God could give them life. Once I really grasped this, it became clear I could do this – place my embryos with an adopting family.

I reviewed three family profiles presented to me by the program. The third family profile I reviewed felt like the perfect fit to me! They had two biological daughters and had opened their home to helping children in the U.S. foster program. They were raised with the same faith I was, and they learned about Snowflakes Embryo Adoption through their church. The Snowflakes team, working with me and the adopting family, really helped me determine what would be best for the children born from my embryos and what type of communication plan I would be comfortable with moving forward.

A little background on me...I struggle with control. As the adoption process began, the control freak in me continued to try and figure out God’s plan for these embryos. For their first frozen embryo transfer, the adopting family transferred two of the four embryos. My feelings ran the gamut. What if they had a girl? What if they had a boy?

The adopting family’s son, Josh, was born when my daughter, Shelby, was six. She was too young to understand all of the details, but I began the process of telling her the story. I did not want either of us feeling shame about my choice to donate my embryos. I introduced her to the adopting family and to Josh through photos. I described them as close family friends that were “like family.” She saw photos and received updates about his milestones and felt good about that. I struggled. Josh’s pictures were nearly identical to my daughter’s baby pictures! I found comfort in my faith and had confidence I had made the right choice.

When the adopting family was ready for their next frozen embryo transfer, the doctors had told them that there was only a 20% chance of pregnancy success. Against the odds, their second son, Matt was born in 2013. He was absolutely perfect and healthy in every way. Shelby, my daughter, was now 8. One night as we snuggled up in bed, she talked about “the boys,” as they would affectionately be known forevermore, and God facilitated a loving, honest dialogue between us about her brothers. Tears come to the surface as I think of that sweet, but painful conversation.

At Christmas, we flew to meet the family in person. It was scary and magical, awkward and perfect all at the same time. Josh was 3 and Matt was an infant. We savored our time with them and marveled at their beautiful resemblance to my daughter. My mind turned to what I had learned from my faith; God works all things together for good.

This past May, during a visit to see the boys, I realized and accepted my role in helping my daughter embrace this part of her family story. My role was and is to help her do what is best for her in connecting with her brothers. I am Shelby’s mother before anything else, and my job is to be true to that and support her as she builds a relationship with her brothers across miles and age differences.

I wanted to share my story because it’s uncommon to hear about people who have placed their embryos for adoption as a result of a divorce. When I made this decision, I did not feel like my family was complete. I wanted more children, but I could not do this with the embryos I had in storage. The choice to destroy the embryos was never a consideration for me, however. Even with fear and uncertainty about the future, I knew this was the right choice for all of us. My daughter has biological brothers who were adopted, and we are proud of it. While I have moments of sadness, those are overshadowed when I see the beautiful eyes, smiling faces, and hear the beautiful voices of the boys say, “Miss Jennifer!” It’s one of the sweetest sounds in the world.

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Email Paige@nightlight.org and help another family build their embryo donation or adoption story.