We live in beautiful Chattanooga, TN and have been married for seven years, but friends for over a decade. Shortly after getting married, we began trying to conceive, but I always knew in the back of my mind that we would have difficulty. My cycle had always been irregular/non-existent, but numerous providers had dismissed my concerns and had chalked up the irregularity to my family history and level of physical activity.
We made the decision to meet with a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE), and after looking at my labs she immediately diagnosed me with PCOS. We tried a couple medicated cycles with Femara, but had no luck. One morning in the Fall of 2016, I woke up with the worst pain I had ever had in my life. I called my RE who immediately scheduled me for an ultrasound and suspected an ovarian torsion, meaning one of my ovaries had twisted around the ligaments that hold it in place. I had surgery the next day and sure enough, she corrected the torsion and removed some of the larger cysts I had. I was hours away from losing my ovary.
Frustrated by the inability to conceive on medicated cycles, we simultaneously began pursuing traditional adoption and also got on the waitlist with our clinic for embryo donation. Long story long ;), we had two adoptive matches fall through before our names made it to the top of the list at our clinic for embryo adoption. Our clinic provides unused embryos that are donated anonymously from couples, so there is no contact with the donor family. It wasn’t ideal but after so much loss, we tried it anyway. We had a positive test, only to find at 6 weeks there was an empty sac. We couldn’t believe it. My husband almost completely gave up.
Having lost so much money at this point, we felt defeated. Nonetheless, I decided to post a snippet of our family and a picture in an embryo donation group I’m in on Facebook. Three days later, our donor family reached out to us. We chatted via text & messenger, Facetimed, and they chose to give us their two remaining embryos! In my heart of hearts, I finally had hope, yet dared not verbalize it. Both embryos were frozen in the same straw. So, to get one for transfer, they had to thaw both. The plan was to refreeze it and save it for later but it was struggling in the thaw. Our RE told us we would lose it if we were to freeze it, and we had promised our donor family we would use both. The RE gave us a 10% chance of them both working, so we transferred both to give them both a chance. I will never forget the look on my husband’s face when we went in for our first ultrasound and she said, “Yep. Looks like you’re having twins!!!”. It was PRICELESS.
I could go on and on, but I’m here as an advocate for embryo adoption. Friends, there are roughly one million embryos in storage worldwide, and while I have never been in the shoes of one deciding to donate their embryos, I can only speak of the indescribable gift that our donors have given us. Many couples with remaining embryos aren’t even aware that you can donate them. Did you know that you can personally select your recipients through an independent match and choose the degree of openness that you desire? It really is like having extended family members.
Our relationship with our donors is beautiful. It’s open, relaxed, and supportive. We are connected on social media. We text, video call, exchange Christmas/birthday gifts and are truly friends. They have shared with their children in age-appropriate ways that they helped another family have babies, and those babies are their siblings. They are thrilled to have given their remaining embryos a chance at life and to have had the chance to change the life of another family. I can’t wait for covid to calm down, so we can visit them in person. There will be plenty of hugs and happy tears.
I am so honored to be an embryo recipient and to have been entrusted with such a special gift. We’re in the process of trying to find another match to give our girls some siblings. While it’s much harder this time around since we are trying to find embryos with racial similarities, I know our story will continue to educate and inspire others. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about the embryo donation process.
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