Embryo Adoption: A Unique Option to Give a Child Life

Guest Post Written by Erin Odom

Although Tiffany and Micah Childs have two biological children, the couple has always felt led to adopt. But the costs and steps necessary to go through an adoption agency were overwhelming.

“Lord, if this is for us, you need to make this simple,” Tiffany prayed.

And God answered in a way the couple would have never imagined.

Image courtesy Tiffany Childs

Giving God Glory through Embryo Adoption

Tiffany and Micah have been friends of mine since high school. When I saw on Tiffany’s Facebook page that she was expecting triplets through embryo adoption, I was intrigued–and felt compelled to spread the word about this little-known ministry to “the least of these.”

With the increase of in vitro fertilization (IVF), there’s been a worldwide influx of fertilized eggs that parents must decide to discard, donate to science (and therefore discard) or give up for adoption.

Adoption is the only option for these babies to have a chance at life.

As a Christian, I believe that life begins at conception–meaning each and every one of these embryos is a real person. The Childs family feels the same way.

“These babies are made in the image of God and they deserve a chance to live,” Tiffany said. “They deserve all the things we can provide for them, which is, in the very least, a chance to live. To call a child a child even in its earliest form honors God and brings glory to Him.”

Image by simmbarb

Counting the Costs

Of all types of adoption, embryo adoption seems to be the easiest as far as paperwork and legalities go.

Because the medical community and government don’t see embryos as life, Tiffany explained, they are not protected as such and are merely considered property.

“It’s very easy to adopt,” Tiffany said. “You just have to get a transfer of property.”

Once Tiffany was diagnosed pregnant, her health insurance kicked in to cover the pregnancy. And her and Micah’s names will be listed as the parents on the babies’ birth certificates.

Compared to many domestic and especially international adoptions, embryo adoption can be more affordable. Each “transfer” or adoption of embryos can cost as low as $4-$5,000 if going through a private clinic. The downside is that not every transfer results in a pregnancy.

Tiffany encourages families to seek the Lord’s guidance in adopting–and to count the costs.

In less than a year, the Childs have lost 7 babies. The first two babies didn’t grow once in Tiffany’s womb. Three didn’t make it through the thawing process, and the last two again didn’t make it once transferred.

It was heartbreaking.

“But knowing that those children are with Jesus and no longer frozen is a lovely, precious thought,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany is due with her triplets April 6. Even the fact that she is expecting more than two babies is miraculous. Doctors implanted two embryos–but one split into identical twins. There was only a 1 in 10,000 chance that would happen!

Image courtesy Tiffany Childs

Rebecca’s Story

After I started working on this post, I received a comment from one of my Humbled Homemaker readers–a new mom of triplets. I checked out Rebecca’s blog, and I got chills when I realized she and her husband had adopted the babies as embryos!

Rebecca and Doug Walker have one biological daughter, but they suffered infertility for 8 years before finding out about embryo adoption. They saw it as the answer to so many of their prayers: it was more affordable than conventional adoption, it would allow a pregnancy to help heal Rebecca’s severe endometriosis and it would hopefully result in the child or children they longed for!

“When most people think of adoption, they think of adopting babies or young children,” Rebecca said. “I once had someone ask me why I didn’t adopt a child that was already alive. For my husband and I, we believe that these embryos are lives! Whether a child is running around at a orphanage playground or frozen in a vial in a doctor’s clinic, he/she needs a mom and a dad to love them and teach them about their Creator who wants to be their Savior.”

The Walker’s triplets are now three months old, and the couple–and big sister Audrey–feel immensely blessed.

Image courtesy Rebecca Walker

What about you?

Interested in embryo adoption–or perhaps donating your embryos if you’ve had IVF in the past? Check out these resources:

Had you ever heard of embryo adoption? What do you think about embryo adoption?

About Erin O

Erin is a follower of Jesus, wife to Will and mommy to three little redheaded girls (born in 2008, 2010 and 2012). She is a life-long, professional dreamer and recovering overwhelmed homemaker. Her mission is to encourage, educate and empower her readers at The Humbled Homemaker to live a grace-filled, natural life. She is the author of a 200+-page eBook all about cloth diapering-- Confessions of a Cloth Diaper Convert: A Simple, Comprehensive Guide to Using Cloth Diapers.

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Comments

  1. The Lord has graciously blessed our family through many adoptions – I am an adopted child and an adoptive mother, and after losing my first husband to cancer, my second husband adopted all three of my biological children, and we just adopted a baby boy through traditional adoption this year. Currently, we just completed an embryo adoption/transfer cycle through the NEDC and are awaiting the results.

    We earnestly prayed, sought Scripture and wise counsel from our elders before starting our journey down the road of embryo adoption. There are some that have been critical of our decision to adopt embryos because of their stance that Christian’s shouldn’t be pursuing IVF, which is really a different topic altogether. Our choice to adopt embryos is not an endorsement of IVF anymore than we endorse the immoral lifestyle the birth mother of our son was living when he was conceived. The result of both is still children with living souls that need to be adopted into Christian families.

    I agree with other posters that there needs to be dialogue going on regarding current IVF practices in our country, and Christians should certainly be prayerful and seek biblical counsel before engaging in assisted reproduction. I wept as we were told last week that two of our embryos did not survive the thaw, and all I could think of was, “Why in the world are we freezing babies if it can kill them?”

    The reality is that in our fallen world, man has ventured into areas that he probably should have left alone (but all in God’s providence). The result is that there are babies frozen in time that need Christian families to adopt them and bring them up in the Lord. As much as it breaks my heart that many embryos die when they are thawed, I didn’t make the choice to freeze them. I am glad, however, that the Lord has called my husband and I to rescue the tiniest of these among us!

  2. Thank you for your post. My husband and I were blessed to conceive twin daughters about 4 years ago through embryo adoption. The entire process was a miracle from God; from the transfer of “embies” to the blessing of pregnancy and the miracle of their birth. Every night as I tuck them in, I stand in awe of the gift that God gave us. They were fearfully and wonderfully made; this can be seen so clearly as my oldest twin twirls around singing praises to the Lord.
    In the next year, we plan on beginning the process of domestic fostering/ adoption, and will most likely pursue international adoption after that. We have begun talking to our twins about adoption, and they are very excited about having more brothers and sisters become part of our family.

  3. This is an interesting topic that I had never heard about. I think I have mixed feelings about it, but overall I am thankful that couples are choosing to do this. I just hate when couples make, say, 8 embryos for IVF and only implant 2. I know it’s costly, but those are lives!

    • I should clarify that I don’t recommend they implant 8. Just create 2 and implant 2.

      • It is sadder than that. Couples don’t just create those 8 embryos in an IVF cycle. The doctors generally create 10-30 embryos, and then just choose the best looking 8 of them to freeze. All along the IVF journey there are moral milestones to address. When embryos are thawed again later, an embryologist may say they “didn’t survive the thaw,” even though if placed in the uterus, they may implant and flourish.

        I am 100% pro embryo adoption. My husband and I adopted 6 embryos. Our first round we transferred 2, both implanted, and 1 survived. Yesterday we transferred 1. We changed the contract at the clinic we were at so that if the embryologist felt that 1 had not survived the thaw, it would still be placed in my uterus. We don’t want to be responsible for discarding life that God gives.

  4. I have to side with the few voices of dismay over this topic. While I firmly believe that life begins at conception, and I understand that these embryos are just waiting for their chance to be born, and shouldn’t be destroyed, are we glossing over the idea that maybe they shouldn’t have been created in the first place? Even by well meaning couples, who try to do IVF “responsibly”? Man’s attempt to “fix” something often leads to an exacerbation of the problem, and in this case, I would be concerned that embryo adoption would just serve to easily placate those who otherwise would find this process questionable.

    I think freezers full of potential babies is a huge tragedy, but I’m sorry to sound cold when I say, that I think that all of the millions of children, neglected and unloved in the world waiting for homes is a greater tragedy.

    I know, intellectually speaking, how can we compare life to life? But it’s natural to be more upset/angry about a already born child being neglected and abused, as opposed to a baby at the very beginning of his/her development without awareness of their situation. Yes, they have needs and just don’t know it, but the child left neglected and crying in the orphanage has needs and KNOWS it. I know you made an argument against this idea already.

    While I can be glad about life brought into the world, especially if saved form the brink of destruction, I can’t help but feel very conflicted about this idea.

  5. I am a subscriber to this blog and I, too, had never heard of Embryo Adoption before either. To be completely honest, my first reaction is dismay. I understand that what people normally consider adoption (children already born and breathing) is an expensive and arduous process. I also understand why people who aren’t able to conceive their own biological children would want to look at every possible option available, and that in the 21st century, this is one of them. But I don’t understand this for several reasons.
    First being that there is an entire world full of hungry, lonely children who go to sleep every night wishing for a better opportunity to come along. Way too many live their entire lives waiting. Embryos are not hungry, lonely, do not have feelings, and do not think for themselves.
    My second issue, and the only other one that I will raise, is that why would infertile couples choose to use second-hand embryos from another couple having fertility issues. These embryos weren’t implanted in the first place because they didn’t compare health-wise to the embryos that did get used. You’re just *asking* to have problems with carrying to full term and actually delivering a healthy baby. Please read this interesting perspective from an MSNBC article: “Snowflakes program had received about 750 [embryos] and had matched 70 donor couples with 48 other couples seeking to have children. Sixteen babies had been born.” (http://on.msnbc.com/pTFb6v) That is quite a substantial loss if you ask me.
    I’m sure I’ll get slashed and burned for sharing my rather negative opinion of the process, but I felt compelled to say *something* about it.

    • @Allison, Allison, Thank you so much for voicing your thoughts. I was hesitant to respond- of course I have a substantial “ball in the court” when it comes to these issues. I did however want to reassure you that I did struggle with these very same questions when my husband and I began talking about embryo adoption. Before adopting embryos, we did experience a failed domestic adoption as well as difficulties in adopting from an orphanage we both have contact with for different reasons. God kept putting these children- and yes I believe they are children- on our hearts. There was a specific point in time when I asked myself, “if I believe what I say I believe about life and when it begins, why would I not care for these babies as well?” Your point about them not having physical needs while frozen compelled me all the more to be a voice for them. There is no “consciousness” argument for adopting breathing orphans over frozen ones when we define life through Psalm 139:16 or as many others do; at conception. They did not ask to be created and have no choice in what happens to them. They do have needs but are unable to display them. To ignore them is to ignore those made in God’s image and show disrespect to whom He has created. While we have adopted embryos, we still have a heart for all orphans and hope to care for them in all the ways we can as well. I think the call is for everyone to do their part so all the orphans of the world are loved. To be very clear- I am not advocating one form of orphan care over another~ but calling us all to care for all orphans.

      As for your concern about their “viability”- you are spot on. There are many embryos lost. I know that first hand. I feel a great peace knowing I have done my part to care for each embryo we have been given to the best of my ability and allowed God to decided which lives to sustain. They weren’t destroyed in a lab or given to research- My husband and I treated them with the dignity and respect they deserve. This is not for the faint of heart and there are sacrifices to be made to live what we believe~ and to God be the glory.

      Thank you again for voicing what I believe many people wonder about when dealing with this issue!

    • @Allison, Allison- I can see why you bring up the point that some children are already born and seemingly have more needs. However, I do agree with Tiffany and her points made in her reply. What is key to remember is that whether a child is in an orphanage, a foster home, roaming the streets, or in a freezer, they all possess a soul. A soul that will either go to heaven or hell. A soul capable of bringing great glory to God or that will shame and blaspheme Him. With this in mind, we have an equal duty to help save their souls. The Bible speaks of orphans and/or the parentless and makes no distinction as to which type of orphan we are to help. The value of a person is found in the fact that they have a soul, not whether they can feel, speak, or can eat.

      Many factors go into why a couple would choose embryo adoption as opposed to more ‘conventional’ adoptions. For me, I have SEVERE endometriosis and having a pregnancy would afford me a little bit of help to fight my disease. I wasn’t attatched to the idea that I HAD to carry them and give birth to them, and definitely not attatched to the idea that the baby(ies) had to be mine biologically; however adopting embryos did allow for me to increase our family and save a life all while fighting my disease.

      It isn’t necessarily true that all the embryos that are frozen are not good quality. Many couples have transferred into the wife’s womb only some of the higest quality embryos and freeze the extras – the ‘good’ with the ‘bad’.

      Sometimes, even these ‘poor’ quality embryos still survive. I am living proof of this. On our second attempt at Embryo Adoption, three embryos were thawed. All survived the thaw. The embryologist told us that one looked excellent, one was just so-so, the other looked very badly. She so strongly believed that the quality wasn’t good, that she ‘promised’ us we had no chance of multiples. But I gave birth to triplets! God can accomplish anything. He granted life! He was not constrained by an quality labels doctors and embryologist put on our children!

      Some doctors/clinics do not have that great of success with producing live births through embryo adoption. It does depend on where you go to have the procedure done. Some Ob/GYNs do this procedure, but are far from being experts in this field. At the National Embryo Donation Center, they have an excellent track record. The doctor and embryologist are highly educated and practiced.

  6. I hadn’t heard of this until reading this! Thanks for sharing and for linking up to Mommy Monday!

  7. Wow! I did not know this was possible. Thanks for sharing this story with us.

  8. I think this is beautiful. I had no idea that there were so many “extra” embryos in clinics. It breaks my heart to think that parents would choose to have them discarded. I’m sharing this post on my FB.

  9. I think that to imply that, if un-adopted, these embryos are doomed to be eternally frozen rather than being “with Jesus” is a little harsh. I like to think of all babies before birth (however that birth comes about) as being “with Jesus.”

    • @jen, Those are some deep theological thoughts to consider. I do know this–I believe they go to be with Jesus when they die. Tiffany has lost 7 of her adopted embryos, and they all awake her and Micah and their siblings in Heaven.

  10. This is something that we have looked into before. I agree that a life is a life at conception. I think that it is wonderful to give these lives a chance.

    My personal concern with this process is the hormones that you have to be given before implantation. As an oncology nurse, it just seems like I saw quite a few cancer patients who had had IVF. I know that implanting the embryos is not the same, but when I looked into it, it did look like you had to take these extra hormones.

    I do think it is a wonderful way to adopt though. If I felt the a calling to do this, I would do it, but because of the physical side of it, it would have to be a clear calling.

    God calls everyone to different things. I love the way that adoption mirrors God’s love and adoption of us. We have a wonderful nephew that is adopted. But, he is ours just like the rest of our nieces and nephews and I love that!

    There are so many different options when it comes to adoption. My sister feels led to adopt an older child, & I have always been drawn toward Down’s syndrome children. I am just glad that people are willing to adopt, regardless of the way that they choose. God has a place for these children, and it is wonderful that people are opening their hearts up and adopting. I loved seeing the images in your post above!

    Thanks so much for letting people know more about embryo adoption. I do think it is a beautiful way to adopt. Also, I hope that this form of adoption may someday help people realize that these embryos are babies.

  11. Hello,

    I’m Jessica’s EA friend.
    I appreciate you shedding some light on Embryo Adoption. However, you have a couple of errors in your post that I think are important to correct.

    Embryos and Eggs are not the same thing. Eggs, are just eggs. They’re not fertilized. They’re not people. They’re just gametes. Embryos are tiny little human beings. You use the words interchangeably in your post but they are not the same. You said “each transfer or adoption of eggs…” And “not every transfer of eggs results in pregnancy…” Would you be so kind as to correct your post to say embryos in those places? :) It’s ok to discard eggs. It’s not ok to discard people :)

    I’d also encourage people not to make decisions based on the cost. I firmly believe that adoption is a calling. If God calls you to a particular route, He will provide the means to accomplish them. Our embryo adoption cost about as much as a traditional adoption. It’s more expensive than a clinic program, but we also have the amazing support of the adoption agency and network of other EA parents, which is not something that clinics can offer. Clinics are great too, but I encourage people not to write off Bethany and Nightlight just due to cost. If that’s what God has for your family, He’ll bring the money.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for shining some light on Embryo Adoption!

    Blessings,
    Jen (Mommy to 7 month old Snowflake Matthew)

    • @Jennifer, Thanks so much for your comments, Jennifer! (And congrats on the new baby!!) I apologize for my misuse of the word “eggs.” I meant “fertilized eggs,” but I should have written that! Rebecca also pointed that out to me. I apologize!

      Thanks for the input on the adoption agencies. Tiffany and Micah are going through a clinic because it was actually their own doctor. I didn’t get to include this in the post, but Tiffany had actually heard about embryo adoption years before they were led to do it while in the waiting room of her doctor’s office! They had brochures that told about it. They have had a great experience with going through the clinic, but she is the one who gave me the names of the two excellent adoption agencies.

      Providentially, Rebecca’s family lives very close to the National Embryo Donation Center, which made it very convenient for her family as well.

      Both ladies stressed to “count the costs” (emotionally, physically, financially) before committing to this. They both definitely felt called, and I would pray anyone who takes this step would have a clear calling from the Lord.

      I am personally tucking this option in the back of my brain, but I know it’s not an option for my family at the present time. I feel compelled to keep sharing about it, though! I get so excited to read about families like yours–and think about how your snowflake baby Matthew may have never been given a chance at life if you hadn’t adopted him. Praise God!

      Thanks again for sharing! :)

    • @Jennifer, Jennifer, you bring up a great point. There are different ways to adopt embryos. The difference is, adoption agencies like Bethany and Nightlight treat these adoptions as tradition adoptions. They do require homestudies and match families. It is a wonderful option for those who want to choose with whom their embryos end up. In our case, a clinic we were already familiar with had an “in house” adoption program where biological families simply relinquished their rights to their embryos and put them up for adoption without having any say in who adopted them. While we chose this option as a means to adopt our little ones, we totally support those going through an agency, of course. The cost was something we did consider but it was more about going through a familiar doc and facility. You are exactly right, God provides as He calls. May He bless you and your family!

  12. Wow–so many great comments/questions/thoughts! I was so honored to share these ladies’ stories and be able to spread the word about what I believe to be a very important subject. As is usually the case, there was much more the ladies told me in their interviews than I could fit into a blog post. I will try to answer some of these things that I learned through the interviews individually.

    Like many of you, my heart has been pricked for the plight of these frozen ones. They cannot help the way in which they were created, and they are made in the image of God. My family is not in the place to adopt right now–whether it be embryos or an already-born child–but it is something my husband and I have always talked about, and we are definitely open to whichever way He may lead us to adopt in the future.

    I will try to answer some of you individually now. Thanks for reading and expressing your hearts!

  13. I have several friends who’ve done embryo adoption. A few were never able to carry to term, but we are blessed to know a few little ones who are the result of a successful procedure!

    I agree that it’s certainly a God honoring option to consider, even for those who would not choose IVF for themselves or who question whether it is okay. You’re not creating a new embryo, you’re giving an already existing one an opportunity for life! In fact, a few of our friends who’ve adopted embryos wouldn’t do IVF themselves because they question it’s morality.

    Thanks for sharing this great perspective and helping to get the word out on this topic!

    • @Jenn, I think this sentence sums up this whole post well: “You’re not creating a new embryo, you’re giving an already existing one an opportunity for life! ”

      Thanks, Jenn!

  14. Another question- anyone know what actually happens long term to the frozen embryos? Do they eventually die from being frozen? Its so sad to think of all the babies frozen…technology can be such a problem sometimes.

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