John and Anika Dejong of Ontario, California, were unable to conceive naturally and happily adopted their first two children in 1999 and 2000. But the couple longed for another child, and Anika wanted to experience pregnancy.
In 2003, two embryos adopted from a family in Arizona were transferred into Anika's womb, and the Dejongs' third child, a healthy son, was born nine months later.
Cara and Gregg Vest tried to get pregnant for six years. After three in vitro fertilization (IVF) attempts, they faced the prospect of paying upwards of $30,000 for an overseas adoption or a lengthy wait for a domestic adoption. But embryo adoption would be a fraction of the cost and time. They now have one son and a daughter on the way.
My husband and I were twice blessed with beautiful, healthy girls through the miracle of IVF. Having witnessed the wonder of microscopic six-celled embryos transforming into the giggling, pink-cheeked children we love, we couldn't justify the destruction of the frozen embryos left over from our last in-vitro cycle. After the amount of tears, prayer, and hope that went into creating those tiny lives, we could never throw them away.
A year and a half after the birth of our youngest daughter, we donated the remaining embryos for adoption. They were adopted three months later by a couple in California who matched our requirements regarding marital status, education level, health, age, and religion. Although the decision was a monumental one for us, we felt it was the morally correct one. We hope that our choice offered those unborn babies a chance at life while giving another family the chance to experience the immeasurable joy of parenthood.
Embryo adoption is a relatively new and exciting path to parenthood, so there is no national oversight governing the process. Fertility clinics, however, such as San Francisco's Pacific Fertility Center (PFC), and traditional adoption agencies that participate in embryo adoption, such as the Snowflakes Frozen Embryo Adoption Program in Fullerton, California, and the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) located in Knoxville, Tennessee, treat embryo adoption much like traditional newborn adoption and have implemented similar rules and safeguards.
There are no religious restrictions per se, but age is certainly a factor, since a prospective mother must be able to safely carry a pregnancy to term. Some programs require that women be younger than 45, while others require an obstetrician's letter confirming that a woman is a good candidate for pregnancy.
The NEDC also requires that couples be married for at least three years and that adoptive parents complete the same home study required of live adoptions. The home study consists of a thorough medical screening, psychological testing, and a review of a family's finances. According to NEDC Public Relations Manager Diahn Oakley, "This is to honor the wishes of our donor families who want to place their embryos in the most stable home environment."
Joe Conaghan, PhD, lab director at PFC, adds that the clinic will allow adoption by single women and gay couples if the donors agree to meet with the PFC's "in-house counselor [to] discuss the issues before moving forward."