My last post ended in a quiet lonely place. In order to receive this update, you'll need to come along with me as we jump off the quiet couch and head down the carnival maze that has brought our journey to where it is today. You’ve all been asking “How is the adoption process going?" Here’s the honest truth: we HAVE officially adopted not one but SEVEN little humans! This blog post will be longer than usual but hang with me. It’s a miraculous story worth reading.
The past year has been a roller coaster of emotions. We continued down the agency route then private adoption route which led us into some heartache and a general sense of feeling like something wasn’t quite right. We long for a baby so badly, but we don’t want to make any decision based solely on time or finances. We want this process to be led by the Lord and follow the unique plan designed for our unique family. International adoption, Domestic Agency, Domestic Private, Surrogacy, Foster to Adopt… so many options. How is it possible that we want to start a family so badly but we continue to be faced with closed doors, disappointment, heartache, and a general sense that we’re missing something?
In our adoption training with the agency, we were in a room full of adorable couples with beautiful love stories. All of them seemed so deserving, so desperate for a child. At that time this particular agency had 40-50 families in their waiting pool (they typically try to keep is below 25) and they had only finalized two infant adoptions the prior year. We were trained that mental health disorders, substance abuse, and incarceration are all common in biological parents and all things we should prepare ourselves for. Other legal resources show that between 2005 - 2006 there were 2,365 non DHS adoptions including step parent, second parent, independent, relative, private agency and international adoptions finalized in the state of Oregon. Those statistics have dropped every year since then and in 2013 – 2014 the number of finalized adoptions in Oregon was 781. That’s a 67% decrease in seven years. Professional resources say that fewer teen pregnancies, more effective birth control that is easier to use, tax dollars dedicated to birth control and sex education in schools all contribute to these statistics. Fewer unplanned pregnancies is wonderful news for the greater good of society, but what does it mean for couples like us who are relying on adoption to expand our own family?
We want to feel needed in the world of adoption. Looking around that room of waiting couples and looking at those statistics made us feel unneeded and in the way of other couples fulfilling their own dream. We wanted it to be our path because we had already spent time and money heading down that road, but we knew in our hearts that it didn’t feel right. That feeling is rather annoying and frustrating when you are trying to be obedient to not head down the wrong road but you are also not seeing the correct road pop up anywhere on the radar.
In the midst of these frustrations my sister gave me a mother’s day gift on a holiday that’s usually difficult for me. There were a couple of children’s books in a lovely gift bag. One of the books is written by Nancy Tillman and I still can’t read the first page out loud without tearing up, “I wanted you more than you will ever know, so I sent love to follow wherever you go.” I love our child so much and we haven’t even met yet. “You are my angel, my darling, my star… my love will find you wherever you are.” I knew that our journey would end with this child in our arms, but where? When? How?
It was the Tuesday after a Labor Day weekend, when I received an unexpected call from a friend. She has been a surrogate three times and has been a source of knowledge and support. She knew we were feeling discouraged by our current path and we popped into her mind as she was camping and making breakfast with her family. She was asking her children how they like their eggs cooked and in that moment she thought of us. There are so many ways to cook an egg, so many ways to welcome a new baby into the home, maybe we hadn’t been exposed to all of our options. “Have you ever thought about adopting embryos and putting them in a surrogate?” was her question. We chatted a while then said our goodbyes. I found myself listening for the sake of being polite but in my mind I was thinking, “This is crazy! No way would it ever work for us.”
I went home that night and immediately started doing research. Our minds were blown away by the process and our hearts were instantly drawn towards the idea. For both of us this just felt right inside. So what is embryo adoption anyway? THIS is a great link to explain more. Essentially, there are many couples who choose IVF as a plan to start their families. Once their family is complete, there are often remaining embryos. We are not talking about egg donation or sperm donation. These are viable fertilized organisms in the early stages of development. They come from an egg and sperm that have been connected in a petri dish and monitored under a microscope for 3 to 6 days before being frozen. It is estimated that there are over 600,000 frozen embryos in the USA and what is to become of them once their biological parents have a family that is complete in size? They can be discarded, donated to science, or donated for adoption. I knew that “my love will find you wherever you are” but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that “my angel, my darling, my star” was already conceived and frozen, just waiting for us.
Why did the path feel so right to us?
- We get the peace of mind knowing that our child is growing in a safe environment free from drug and alcohol abuse.
- We got to review detailed profiles with generations of medical and mental health history.
- The child(ren) have become ours prior to birth. There’s no need to worry about a birth mother/father changing their minds and our hearts becoming discouraged again.
- Couples who create embryos have spent a lot of time, thought and finances toward actively making the decision to start or expand their family. We desire an open relationship with the biological parents and sibling(s) of our child(ren) and it seems likely that in most cases a relationship with an embryo donor might be more stable than a relationship with a biological parent who chose adoption due to an unplanned pregnancy.
- We have the opportunity to begin bonding with our child(ren) before birth. Feeling that kick in the tummy, hearing the heartbeat, seeing the ultra sounds, being in the room to hear the sound of that first cry after birth – these are all details we never dreamed we’d get to be a part of with traditional adoption.
Matt and I read many testimonies and came into contact with another couple who has a daughter and son, biological siblings, adopted as embryos. Their story is beautiful and it made this new concept become a tangible reality. We quickly knew this was the path for us. We knew there were many embryos waiting to be adopted and that part of the process would be easier than traditional adoption, but there was still one huge elephant sized missing piece to the puzzle. Many women are drawn to this process because they have the opportunity to give birth to their adopted child and experience all the emotions that pregnancy brings. I cannot carry my own child. The cost of traditional surrogacy and the cost of the medical embryo adoption process combined would be more than we could fathom affording even with fundraising efforts. So, maybe it was nothing more than a dream after all…
I mentioned this embryo adoption concept to my friend Hollie. Her immediate reaction was much like Matt’s, “that is beautiful and amazing, I can’t believe more people aren’t doing this, I can’t believe we never heard of it before, you have to do it, it’s perfect for you,” and then the addition of some life changing powerful words, “I would carry your adopted embryos for you.” I wasn’t looking for anything more than confirmation from a friend that I wasn’t crazy for thinking this might be the path we are lead to take. So, to receive a womb offering so quickly took me back a bit. I felt tears swell up inside but held them back. This whole process has been so emotionally painful from the beginning. So, I wouldn’t dare get my hopes up that her statement could be true, people say things without thinking them through, besides I could never accept a gift so selfless and generous. I could never accept a gift that I could not return. I temporarily decided not to practice what I’ve preached in my previous blog posts. I proceeded to hide in the closet and shove my fears deep inside the junk drawer.
Weeks went by and Hollie continued to bring it up. She has a light hearted laid back personality that is calming to me. We had a heart filled dinner date that I will never forget. She expressed that she was serious, that she had thought it through, talked to her husband, and she deeply wanted to be our compassionate surrogate. We laughed and we cried; I cried a lot. I knew that night that I could allow my heart to relax and that I must somehow allow my heart to accept a life changing gift of this magnitude.
In the following weeks Hollie and I sought out professional counseling on the topic separately from different therapists. Then the four of us (Hollie, her husband John, Matt and myself) all went together to see a therapist who specializes in surrogacy. She gave us a big thumbs up and confirmed that all our hearts seemed to be in the right place. Next Hollie and I went to see the fertility specialists at Oregon Reproductive Medicine. A series of various blood tests, psych tests and ultra sounds all proved that she was the perfect candidate to be a healthy surrogate. Next came the legal details. Hollie and John have a separate lawyer and Matt and I have our own. They drew up a 40 page contract for us to review and sign. Yes Hollie and John understand they have no parental rights to this child(ren), yes Matt and Jourdan will be covering all her medical and other related expenses, no we do not believe in selective reduction, etc. It felt a little over the top considering we are best friends who fully trust each other, but it’s wise to treat the process with thoughtfulness and respect.
The counseling and the legal advice brought many difficult questions to the surface. There are so many “what if” scenarios, all extremely unlikely, but all details that should be discussed. Both our counselor and lawyers were surprised to hear that we were on the exact same page with all the difficult questions they threw our way. We grew up together since birth, attended each other’s childhood birthday parties, were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings, we attend the same church and our values and beliefs are aligned. That is an uncommon benefit supporting the health of this new angle to our relationship. Through the horror of all the unthinkable details of our contract I couldn’t help but to throw some humor and laughter into it. Per my request our lawyer added a bullet point to her usual layout to include, “Matthew and Jourdan agree to deliver to Hollie, on a regular basis during the pregnancy contemplated by this agreement, ice cream from Salt and Straw ice cream." I know that Cinnamon Snickerdoodle happens to be her favorite. It's a good thing I'm delighted to deliver it to her because now it is legally binding. John and Hollie got a good laugh.
Our transfer date is April 28th, exactly one month from today. Oh happy day! Last Monday Hollie started a series of injections to prepare her body for the transfer. We were together visiting her dad in California at the time. Matt, Hollie and I snuck into her dad’s bedroom with prescriptions in hand preparing to administer the very first injection. Her dad said, “Hey what are you three doing in here?” We replied, “We are going to your room to make a baby together!” The process is exciting and stressful but together we fill it with humor and love.
How many people does it take to make a baby? In this case, the answer is six. We have two adopting parents who long to love and raise a child (Matt and I) + two selfless individuals who are willing to host the fetus through birth (Hollie and John) + the two biological parents who chose life for their unborn embryos by donating them for adoption. Six, sometimes it takes six to make a baby.
- Details on our seven embryos! Where did they come from? What do we know about them
- Details about Hollie – more about our special friendship and photos from our childhood.
- Transfer day details and photos! April 28th is only one month away!