Snowflake Babies:: Waiting for a Womb

I first heard about snowflake babies two years ago at a dinner party I hosted for a group of young women. Our conversation had drifted to the topic of pregnancy. One woman was pregnant with her third baby, another was anticipating becoming pregnant and one was intentionally postponing pregnancy to a later point in marriage. But the young woman who introduced us all to snowflake babies had been struggling with infertility for over three years. After many doctor visits, tests, and diagnoses, she and her husband had learned that low sperm count would mean a natural pregnancy nearly impossible.

We all immediately felt her pain and disappointment as she courageously shared her heartache. We understood her emotions because for many women pregnancy is more than an avenue to build a family; it is a rite of passage; it brings meaning to all our miserable menstrual cycles; it allows us the privilege of not only producing a new life, but nurturing one as well. In fact, pregnancy, while not for every woman, can for others feel like a spiritual experience as your body miraculously transforms to provide the perfect environment for life to begin as cells divide into an embryo, a fetus and ultimately a newborn baby!

Infertility Awareness

Yet, many women never experience pregnancy at all. And, for others, the struggle to conceive is mentally exhausting, financially devastating, and emotionally draining. Infertility statistics indicate that 1 in 8 women fight to conceive, impacting 10% of American females of childbearing age–6.1 million women! It’s clear infertility has affected most of us directly or indirectly. National Infertility Awareness Week, April 18-24, is an opportunity to acknowledge the anguish and intense battle couples are facing with the goal of understanding and support.

Snowflake Babies:: Waiting for a WombSnowflake Babies:: Waiting for a Womb

A Path to Snowflake Babies Adoption

Support is what the group of friends gathered around my dinner table that night offered as our friend shared about her interest in adopting a snowflake baby. Snowflake babies are frozen embryos created during the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. IVF is a procedure where a woman’s eggs are fertilized by a man’s sperm in a lab and then transferred to her uterus. “IVF is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology”, according to the Mayo Clinic. But, unfortunately, one of the realities many couples who choose IVF face is the fertilization of more embryos than they can transfer. As a result, the embryos are left in a frozen state of uncertainty. Parents must decide if they will thaw the embryos to die, donate them to research, keep them frozen, which requires paying storage fees, or donate them for adoption. It is estimated that there are 1,000,000 frozen embryos in the United States and thousands of them are eligible for adoption. My friend shared that as she and her husband researched IVF, they discovered embryo adoption and were immediately drawn to the concept of rescuing embryos that would otherwise not have a chance at life. Realizing the incredible need and the opportunity to give a human life a chance to thrive, she and her husband began learning about snowflake adoption.

From a practical perspective, the cost of embryo adoption is much less than traditional adoption and, typically, a couple can arrive at the point of transfer 6 to 9 months after beginning the process. Of course, there is a health screening process and not all couples are eligible. Interestingly, some embryos have been frozen for over 20 years waiting for adoptive parents.

Recently, Molly Gibson born to Ben and Tina Gibson broke a record as the longest frozen embryo {frozen 27 years ago} to result in a live birth. Her story was told on the TODAY show last December. Molly’s story is very unusual. Her mother even said, “It feels like a miracle.” But it reminds us that frozen embryos are just human beings waiting for a womb. To my friend and her husband, it made their journey with infertility more meaningful to know that it brought to them the possibility of giving a child a chance at life. Not long after that, my friend and her husband began the process of embryo adoption.

Pregnant with Twins

Choosing the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), the oldest and biggest embryo adoption program, was the first step in their journey. After lots of support, counseling and paperwork, their babies were transferred at the end of January:: that’s right, “babies!” She had 3 embryos transferred and two survived. She is due in October! A beautiful part of her babies’ stories is that they are from two different couples. Often couples choosing embryo adoption will select a group of embryos from the same parents. But my friend and her husband felt drawn to the “singles.” These are single embryos without siblings and often overlooked. The least likely to be selected became the perfect set of twins for two people with huge hearts of compassion for the forgotten.

What I’ve Learned

My friend has taught me many things during her journey with infertility. Her courage to be honest in sharing her struggles and emotions has shown me the powerful impact a person can have on others by simply being authentic. Her honesty allowed others to come alongside her, giving her the support she needed and deepening friendships. Her openness to embryo adoption taught me how deep and extensive love can be if we allow ourselves to embrace it. Finally, her diligent pursuit in finding the best path to start their family reminds me every day that hope is real, always present, and sometimes the best motivator in achieving our goals.

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Rebecca M., a mother of three successfully launched adults and recent grandmother to one adorable baby boy {Barrett, 12 months old} has enjoyed working with children her entire life. Over the course of her career, she taught nearly every grade level from preschool to 8th grade in private and public schools. Rebecca’s love of children and passion for education led her to a ministry of supporting young mothers by providing quality childcare. She now directs BELA, BridgePoint Early Learning Academy, a preschool program for infants through pre-kindergarteners. When she is not busy babysitting her grandson or managing BELA, she enjoys writing, gardening, swimming, and planning events. Married to David, her biggest supporter, friend, and companion for 31 years, Rebecca considers the strength of her family to be her number one life accomplishment and finds her greatest joys come from pouring into the lives of those she loves and serves.

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