Elizabeth and Marty wanted to have another baby of their own, but struggled with conception. Elizabeth says she and her husband “were late to the game of parenthood.”
“We met and married in our mid 30s and never felt rushed to start a family. I was 38 when we decided we’d try to have a child.”
“By age 41 we were trying for a second child, which is when we realized we had problems. I had low egg quantity and low egg quality, and we were given very little chance to conceive. I had an unending desire to bring another child into our home as well as be pregnant again, but using an egg donor wasn’t for us.”
Their doctor recommended the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program, which matches embryo donors with couples desperate to start a family.
Elizabeth and Marty jumped at the chance to adopt an embryo. Within two months, Elizabeth was pregnant at 39.
The embryo transferred to Elizabeth had been frozen for 17 years! And on June 3, 2016, Marley Jade was born.
Marley Jade’s biological parents (who are unnamed) had unused embryos that they decided to freeze 17 years ago, rather than having them destroyed. They later then donated the embryos to the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program.
Today, Marley is a healthy girl, and her parents are thrilled to share their embryo adoption journey with other couples going through infertility issues.
But the embryo adoption process raises many ethical questions. Is it ethical to save and freeze embryos that other people can use in the future? Should any embryo be frozen for this amount of time, and is it safe?
The idea that embryos are frozen for over 17 years is a little concerning. While helping people have babies is ethically commendable, there is something very odd about using the term of “adoption” towards embryos. Children get adopted, but … embryos?
On the one hand, I can see embryo adoption as being a beautiful experience for parents who can’t conceive to go through a pregnancy on their own, and give birth to a child who has different biological parents.
But on the other hand, it’s strange to think that a frozen embryo could be thawed and then implanted into someone else. It’s a little Twilight Zone for me, and could be worrisome. How much should science be involved in “creating” children?
A commenter on Babycenter says: “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Imagine growing up knowing your parents had you created, then left you in a freezer for 18 years because they got their wanted baby. “
Elizabeth and Marty spoke to BabyCenter about their experience.
“Our first and only match came four months after we entered that phase of the process. Then came contracts, then getting the embryos to us and the preparations for transfer. The process from paperwork gathering to embryos being in our possession took 17-18 months,” they said.
The couple did not have information about the sex of the baby, and didn’t pursue to find out. “We let the doctor lead the way on selecting embryos to thaw and handling all the details leading up to the transfer.
“I remember the day of transfer was very exciting, but I remember also being very nervous, so nervous I was actually shaking. There was so much running through my head the day of the transfer — the hopes of finally getting a positive pregnancy test, the idea of disappointment if the embryo didn’t implant in my uterus, the excitement that our long awaited for baby could actually be in our arms in 9 months.
So many thoughts were running through my head. I also remember giving it all to God, which I had done months and months earlier in this process, but I had another round of it leading up to the transfer. I knew I had done absolutely everything I could to prepare for successful transfer and pregnancy. Realizing that anything can happen, I, at least, prepped myself for the best possible chance of achieving our dreams.
“As we hold our snowflake baby and look back on everything we did to achieve this dream, we see a pathway of peaks and valleys, persistence, hard work, and dreaming. We never gave up and kept the dream alive. It was worth every minute of the time we put in, and we could not imagine expanding our family any other way. Marley is as much a part of our family as our first born biological daughter.
The surprising part is that Elizabeth and Marty do know the biological parents.
“We have not met the donating family in person, but we love them and think about them just about every day. Our agreement is that we’ll exchange letters (emails and cards) and pictures once per year at a minimum. Both sides have already exceeded that. We’ve also agreed that if the children on either side want to meet down the road, we’d be open to that idea and help guide the process.”
When asked whether the couple has plans to use another embryo, they said they haven’t yet decided but they do have three embryos remaining.
“For families considering donating their embryos, you will help another couple realize their dreams of starting or expanding their family. Snowflakes is a wonderful option to consider because the embryos are already created and waiting.
Elizabeth and Marty’s doctor was not concerned about the length of time the embryos were frozen because the egg donor that the genetic family selected was young, and the mother was in good health.
“Marley is perfect in every way. Marley was created and saved for us before my husband and I even met, and before I even knew I would want children one day. It shows God has the perfect plan.”
But is it God’s plan, or should Elizabeth be thanking science?