After reading the title, many of you are probably thinking what I thought when I heard the phrase, “embryo adoption”: “What is that?” I remember sitting in a Catholic marital class when I first heard it. The couple leading the class was not able to conceive the old fashioned way and wanted to pursue fertility treatment. Since In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) isn’t exactly favored among the Catholic community, they decided embryo adoption was the best option. Little did I know, this story was going to be part of my future.
When couples pursue IVF, they often fertilize several embryos. In many cases, couples end up having two or three children and decide their families are complete. So what happens when they still have embryos left? They may opt to have the embryos discarded, donated to science, or they can donate them to other hopeful parents. When the couple decides to donate their embryos, the embryos are frozen until selected by a parent or family seeking to adopt the embryo. The embryo is transferred into the woman to carry to term. This gives couples who cannot use their own sperm or eggs for various reasons the opportunity to experience and carry a pregnancy. We selected embryo adoption because our first son was adopted in the traditional sense, and we wanted him to have a sibling. We also wanted to ensure his sibling had a similarly special birth story.
Once we decided embryo adoption was our plan, and worked everything out with our fertility specialist, we were given a database of embryos to choose from. This was quite daunting as we had a long medical history as well as embryo success rates to look through. We made our decision based on a favorable medical history along with embryos that were successful in their transfers. The couple we selected was able to have two successful pregnancies from this set, which really stuck out to us. Once we made our decision, we had five tiny babies frozen in time, waiting to be born. The next step was to get my body ready for some serious baby carrying.
In order for IVF to be successful, whether you use your embryos or donated ones, there is prep work involved to get that uterus to be a baby-friendly environment. I had two surgeries to remove a septum in my uterus and had some polyps removed. This isn’t always the case, but the fertility specialist will run tests to make sure everything is covered.
The next step is injections. Once you are close to your transfer, there are medications you need to take. One of the many positives to embryo adoption is that you don’t require as many injections as you would using your own embryos. This is because there is no need to stimulate your ovaries. I had to take daily injections in my stomach of Lupron, which prevents you from ovulating. I did daily injections, in my bottom, of Progesterone which aided in maintaining pregnancy. I also had to take Estrogen pills, since that is a needed hormone for successful pregnancies as well. It sounds scary, but you will be amazed at how strong you are. When your end goal is to be a mama, you will do anything. The prep work is well worth the beautiful baby at the end.
The Big Day
Transfer day is a big deal. I Googled a ton to see what steps help make it successful. I am going to tell you what I did, but I need to remind you that I am a writer and not a doctor. This may have helped or not, but it didn’t hurt.
The transfer itself is very quick and painless. The embryologist comes into the room and has your embryo(s) in a tube then transfers them into your uterus. You can see tiny flecks of light on the screen which represent your babies. It is emotional and surreal. Now you are pregnant until proven otherwise. Technically pregnancy isn’t until implantation occurs, but try telling this to a woman who just had an embryo transfer.
Next, you go home, but on the way need to get a small fry from McDonalds. Don’t forget to wear your lucky pineapple socks. Pineapple is a sign of fertility and wearing socks helps keep your uterus warm. I even slept in my socks the entire two-week wait (more on this later). I ate pineapple each day, without the core, for eight days. Again, it all sounds like wacky voodoo, but if it helps you feel more in control, why not?
You have to wait for two weeks before you get your blood test to tell you if it worked, so anything to keep you positive and in control will help. I drank a ton of water, removed caffeine, and did fertility yoga as well. If you find yourself in the IVF or embryo adoption world, do your research and do what you need to do to stay calm and positive.
Embryo adoption is an amazing option if you are pursuing fertility treatment. It is less expensive than traditional IVF, involves less medication, and still provides the experience of pregnancy. We had our transfer on March 20th, 2020, and are now holding our perfect little boy. As I was already aware with our firstborn, you do not need the same DNA to be family. All you need is love and an open heart.