My High Tech Pregnancy :: Our Embryo Adoption Story

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When you think of your journey to becoming pregnant, technology may not be the first thing that comes to mind. In my case though, it was the necessary component needed to get as far as I have… which is just a few days shy of my 2nd trimester.

I have PCOS which has affected my egg quality for years. After trying for several years to conceive naturally my husband and I ended up pursuing adoption and our son joined our family in 2017.

When we started considering baby #2 we decided to give fertility treatments one more try. Before adopting our son we had only tried non-invasive treatments. This time around though we wanted to give it our best shot and were willing to go all out. This is how we found out about Embryo Adoption/Donation. 

NOTE: The terms Embryo Adoption and Embryo Donation are interchangeable. Some people prefer one over the other since legally, it’s not an actual adoption. So some feel that term is misleading. Our family uses the term Embryo Adoption because adoption is already a word we use in our family, so it just keeps things familiar and concise. 

What Exactly is Embryo Adoption?

When a couple pursues IVF (InVitro Fertilization) typically their doctor takes eggs from the mother and sperm from the father and creates embryos in test tubes before they are implanted (1 or 2 at a time usually) into the mother’s uterus. Sometimes couples use their own gametes or sometimes they use egg and/or sperm donors. They might even use a gestational surrogate to carry the baby.

It’s not uncommon for a couple to create multiple embryos during the IVF process. But what if a family doesn’t need all their embryos? What if they’re done building their family and have embryos left over? Well, they basically have four options. They can indefinitely cryogenically store the embryos (but this gets expensive), they can have the extra embryos destroyed, they can donate them to science for research, or they can donate them to a family who maybe can’t create their own embryos. 

If they choose to donate their embryos to a family in need they can work with an agency to connect with a recipient family or they can try to find a recipient on their own through a private match. They may also decide to let their clinic find a recipient anonymously where there is usually no contact between donors and recipients. 

In our situation, our donor family found us. 

How Does an Embryo Adoption Work?

Once our donors found us and we started to get to know each other, we began the legal process of taking ownership of the lovely little embryo they wanted to donate to us. There were a lot of papers to sign and notarized that define everyone’s rights and responsibilities.

If you work with an agency they may require the recipient couple to complete a home study. Luckily we didn’t have to do this since we found each other independently. Once the legal process was complete we were able to transport our embryo from our donor’s clinic to our clinic where it would wait until I was ready for my FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer). 

Transfer Day: Stick baby stick

What is the Medical Process Like?

Overall the medical process is pretty straightforward but may vary slightly from person to person. First, you have to prepare your body for pregnancy with medications. Then at the exact right time the embryo goes through a thawing process and is then transferred into the uterus.

That’s the super-easy breakdown.

While that all seems simple enough, there’s a dozen, if not a hundred, little things that have to happen to make everything else work. Plus tons of pills and injections that can turn you into a hormonal mess for months. 

My process was luckily very simple. Once our embryo arrived at our clinic I began taking birth control for a few weeks to regulate my cycle. I also had two procedures done to make sure my uterus was healthy before my FET. I ended up having a small surgery to fix some issues in my uterus, but everything after that went perfectly. On July 3, we drove down to Charleston and at 11 a.m. a perfect little embryo was implanted into my uterus by our amazing doctor and her team.

We waited anxiously through the next nine days before I had my Beta blood test done to see if the transfer worked. On day nine our doctor confirmed what we had already suspected, I was pregnant. Four weeks pregnant to be exact.

A few weeks later I had my first ultrasound with our fertility doctor and already we could see our little baby taking shape. I remained on all my medications until I “graduated” from our fertility doctor at nine weeks. Since then I’ve been going to a regular OB and continuing on with my pregnancy like normal. 

5 Weeks + 6 days, our first ultrasound. We could already see the gestational and yolk sacs.

I’m thirteen weeks now and even though I’m still in the beginning of this pregnancy, I feel like I’ve come so far. We just keep celebrating every little moment along this journey. 

Have you gone through embryo adoption? What’s your experience?

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Carey Shofner
Originally from Indiana, Carey moved to South Carolina in 2009. She and her husband, Brett, met during college at USC and now reside in Forest Acres. She is an elementary school teacher turned stay-at-home mom to their wonderful baby boy. After struggling with infertility for years, their son, Milo, joined their family in November of 2017 through the beautiful gift of adoption. Carey enjoys writing and crafting in her spare time and even has a small Etsy shop and personal blog, both named Simply Shofner. Coffee and cats are her love language and she's passionate about adoption, education and social justice issues. She would describe herself as your totally basic, semi-crunchy, hot mess mom who loves strolling the aisles of Target and play dates at Starbucks.

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