FAQ: Embryo Adoption

Our journey is ongoing, so this post has been updated as of 2/16/21!

By now, you’ve probably read enough of the blog to understand that we’re pursuing embryo adoption. (And if you haven’t, head on over here to read our three-part infertility story!) But at this point, I’m guessing you might have a lot of questions. (Click here to jump straight to the FAQ section.)

That’s totally normal. Embryo adoption is not widely known, and there’s a lot to it.

That’s why part of our mission here is to raise awareness. We believe strongly that we’ve been called to educate others and to share this redemptive process so that more embryos will have the opportunity to become who God created them to be.

We pray that other families struggling with infertility will consider whether God is leading them down this path as well. We pray that the couples who have completed their families through in vitro fertilization (IVF) and have remaining embryos would consider donating them to give both the embryos and another hopeful couple the gift of life. And above all, we pray that the glory of our redemptive, miracle-working God would be on full display.

We are so excited to share this story with you, but we hope it doesn’t stop with you. We are asking you to partner with us in our goal of raising awareness.

How can you do that?

  1. Please share our story/this blog. You may know us super well or barely at all. You may know us through work, through church, or through someone in our family. Maybe you don’t know us and you just stumbled on this through research or through a friend of a friend. No matter who you are, you can share our story. And if not our story specifically, you can share about embryo adoption.

    1 in 8 couples are struggling with infertility. It’s more prevalent than you realize. And if you yourself haven’t experienced infertility, there are probably several couples in your circle who have, are now, or will. Consider sharing this information and the hope of embryo adoption.

  2. The second way you can partner with us is helping us raise funds. As you may know, adoption is—quite frankly—expensive, and embryo adoption is no exception. We fully believe that God will provide what we need when we need it, because what He initiates, He sustains.

    If you feel led, we are humbly asking you to prayerfully consider supporting us with a donation, knowing that your gift will help bring about a story of redemption and restoration. More information on that at our GoFundMe and below. Please know that we are now pregnant with our first adopted son, but as we hope to return for sibling transfer attempts with our remaining adopted embryos, we will incur new costs.

  3. Pray. If the first two options aren’t for you, that’s totally okay! We are asking, though, that you pray. Pray for us and this journey. Pray that God’s name would be glorified. Pray for the donor families who are selflessly parting with their genetic children to give them the best life. Pray for the adopting families who are taking huge steps of faith as they walk through this extensive process. And pray for the embryos—that God would protect their lives and bring them to the right parents.

Below, I’ve tried to answer some of the more common questions people ask when first learning about this concept. I hope this will be a helpful tool, but please check out the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) to learn more! And, if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me through the Contact page!

FAQ: Embryo Adoption

What is embryo adoption?
Embryo adoption can be summed up as giving birth to one’s adopted child. Couples who walk through infertility are often given the option to pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF) in order to conceive a genetic child. As fertility doctors attempt to give their IVF patients the best chance at a successful pregnancy by creating as many embryos as possible, this act also leaves a surplus of frozen human embryos when those parents have decided their family is complete. There are an estimated 700,000 – 1,000,000 frozen embryos in the U.S. right now.

Those parents must decide what to do with remaining embryos. They may pay yearly storage fees to store the embryos indefinitely. They may destroy them. Or, they may donate them to another infertile couple.

Embryo adoption offers those embryos the potential of life.

What is in vitro fertilization (IVF) and how is this different?
In an IVF process, the woman takes medication to mature several eggs, and the doctors will then retrieve those eggs and mix them with the man’s sperm in a lab to fertilize the eggs. The fertilized eggs are embryos. Then, the woman will take more medication in preparation for an embryo transfer, and the doctors will transfer one or more embryos directly into her uterus. Pregnancy occurs if any of the embryos implant in the lining of the uterus.

In embryo adoption, we are adopting embryos that have already been created by another couple. These embryos are currently frozen in storage, suspended in time. Neither Brian nor I will share any DNA with our children, as the embryos came from another woman’s eggs and another man’s sperm.

How does the transfer process work?
We had our first frozen embryo transfer in May 2020! Here’s how it worked: The embryos that other couples have donated are currently frozen in storage. After Brian and I selected a family, we mediated an agreement with them, and we were placed in the May 2020 transfer cycle. I prepared my body for the transfer with a lot of medication to ensure an optimal uterine and hormonal environment to give the embryos the very best chance at successful implantation. After preparing, we drove down to the NEDC in Knoxville TN, where two of our embryos were thawed. They both survived the thaw and were the highest quality! Our doctor transferred both embryos into my uterus via catheter (a very quick and painless 20-minute procedure–it’s crazy!), and we found out about two weeks later that one of our embryos successfully implanted and we were pregnant! We were sad for the embryo we lost, but so grateful for the one who stuck around!

Whenever we return for transfer attempts for a sibling, this transfer process will be the same. We have four remaining embryos that we adopted, and so at some point, I will prepare my body with medication the same as before and we will travel down to TN again for another transfer attempt for siblings, Lord willing.

Why did you decide on embryo adoption instead of IVF?
Great question–I’ve actually dedicated a whole post to this topic, so I encourage you to check that out. Here’s the short version: We were presented with the option to do IVF with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) where they take a single sperm cell and inject it directly into an egg. However, we both felt strongly this is not God’s story for us. God has different plans and purposes for each of His children. For us, we felt a strong call that for us to pursue IVF would simply be us attempting to control/fix the situation in our own power. Please hear me—I am not saying that IVF is the wrong choice for everyone, though we do think it is important to be prayerful about the number of embryos created and transferred. Each couple must discern how the Lord is leading them. For us, we sensed God wanted to use our infertility in a different way, and we see Him so clearly in embryo adoption as He is a God of redemption. We know that God has a very strong heart for orphans, and although these embryos haven’t been abandoned by their genetic parents, they have been frozen at the earliest and most vulnerable stage of life. And now, they need a home and a womb and a family. And we can be that family.

Why did you decide on embryo adoption instead of fostering or traditional adoption?
Another great question. As mentioned above, we believe God has a very strong heart for orphans. Fostering/adoption is an option for everyone, not just for infertile couples. However, we know that the impetus to consider fostering/adoption is often infertility, as was the case for us. We did prayerfully consider fostering or traditional adoption, but we felt that was not the door God was opening at this time. He has a different path for each of us, and right now, embryo adoption is ours. We are not closing our hearts to fostering/traditional adoption forever, but we trust God will lead us each step of the way if that is something He has for us in the future.

Other factors we were drawn to with embryo adoption is the potential to experience pregnancy and childbirth and the opportunity for siblings. If we achieve a successful pregnancy from our adopted embryos, we will have the chance to return to the NEDC to attempt to become pregnant with siblings, and we are very excited about that possibility as we’d love to have 2-3 children (or more!) if the Lord wills.

Will your children know their genetic parents/where they come from?
Yes. We are doing an open adoption as we believe it will be very important for our child/children’s growth and development to know who they are, where they come from, and who their genetic parents/family are. We plan to communicate that to our children in an age-appropriate way from the very beginning. As our embryos will typically come from couples who have completed their families, our children will have full genetic siblings out there in the world, and we want them to know each other! Many adoptive parents have shared that their relationship with their donor family was one they didn’t even know they needed, but they are so grateful for it. We’ve even heard of adoptive parents and donor parents vacationing together with their kids, who all share the same genetics!

What are all the steps involved with embryo adoption and where are you at?
There are quite a few steps, so I will provide a very simplified version of the process. I encourage you to check out other embryo adoption resources (NEDC, Snowflakes, Embryo Adoption Awareness Center) if you want to dig into more details! Here’s what our timeline looked like:

Bieber NEDC
Outside the NEDC from our first appointment in January 2020!
  • We submitted our application, fee, and letter to donors to the NEDC in Oct 2019. We also searched for an adoption agency to do our home study, and we selected Haven Adoptions. (I’ve written all about our home study process here, and the five things we did that helped it go smoothly!)
  • After the NEDC reviewed our application, we completed additional paperwork and bloodwork.
  • After they received the paperwork and results, we were scheduled for our initial visit in Jan 2020 and I began taking medications in preparation for the visit. In the meantime, we worked diligently on our home study in Nov/Dec 2019.
  • We had our home study visit right before Christmas, and our report was finalized in Jan 2020.
  • We traveled to Knoxville, TN for our appointment at the NEDC on 1/10/20 (you can read more about what happened at that appointment here). To sum it up, they did a trial transfer (essentially doing the transfer process without transferring anything) to confirm that my uterine lining responded appropriately to the medication and that there would be no issues for the real transfer. I was medically cleared, and we met with our doctor, the donor/patient coordinator, the embryologist, and the IVF nurse to learn about the process in more detail.
  • The NEDC approved our home study, and we entered the matching process in Feb 2020.
  • In the matching phase, we received donor profiles and we narrowed it down to our top two families. After careful prayer, we selected one family and within three hours we received word that they chose us back! We were officially matched on 2/25/20.
  • Our social worker mediated our open agreement, as we have chosen to pursue an open adoption.
  • We were scheduled for a May transfer cycle and I took several medications to prepare. (Read more about that fun experience here! It includes Brian stabbing me in the booty with a 1.5-inch needle!)
  • We returned to Knoxville, TN for the frozen embryo transfer (FET) on 5/13/20 and found out on 5/26/20 that we were pregnant!
  • We had a few early ultrasounds and blood draws at a local fertility center to make sure everything was progressing smoothly. Then, we worked with our local OBGYN in Pittsburgh, PA throughout the rest of the pregnancy and we gave birth to our beautiful baby boy, Remington Rome, at a local hospital on 1/9/21! (I will be sharing our son’s birth story in a new post soon!)
  • When we are ready to return for sibling transfer attempts, we will travel back down to TN for another medical clearance. When cleared, I will begin the medication preparation again for another frozen embryo transfer, and we will head back down to TN again for that.
At our frozen embryo transfer on 5/13/20! This was just before they took me back to perform the procedure. It’s crazy how fast and painless the transfer itself is. It’s a LOT leading up to it, but for the transfer itself, we were in and out in about 45 minutes! Praise God!
Loved getting to check off the boxes on this poster!
Our official pregnancy announcement!
Our son Remington Rome, born 1/9/21 via emergency C-section! Birth story to come!
Our beautiful baby boy!

How much does embryo adoption cost? Is it covered by insurance?
As with any assisted reproduction technology, embryo adoption involves some significant costs. We paid for our application ($400), our program fee ($2100), our initial medical appointment in TN ($660), our home study ($1400), our open agreement mediation ($1700), medications for the cycle ($800), the cycle monitoring leading up to the transfer ($600), and for the first transfer cycle in May ($4000). As we’ve shared, we pay for the transfer process and the medications for each cycle per transfer attempt, so some of these are costs we will need to pay again when returning for a sibling attempt(s). We also will continue to have travel costs for our trip to and from TN.

We spent roughly $14,000 on our first pregnancy and we anticipate spending anywhere up to $50,000 in total, as we are hoping to also have siblings through the NEDC from our adopted embryos. The costs are so variable depending on the number of transfer attempts, the number of donor families and therefore open agreements involved, etc. and so it is very difficult for us to give an exact cost.

Our insurance does not cover anything prior to pregnancy, so we are paying everything out of pocket.

How can we support you?
If you are able and feel led, you can help us raise the funds. We are still planning to return for additional frozen embryo transfers with our four remaining adopted embryos in the hopes of having siblings. We fully believe that God will provide what we need when we need it, because what He initiates, He sustains.

We are humbly asking you to prayerfully consider supporting us with a donation, knowing that your gift will help bring about a story of redemption and restoration. Please take a minute to view our GoFundMe campaign—in it, you’ll hear from us in a video and we’ve also provided a line-by-line breakdown of the costs involved in embryo adoption. You can also navigate to our GoFundMe campaign by clicking “Support Us!” at the top of this website.

We are so thankful for the friends and family that have already begun to help us with these costs; we cannot express how much that means to us. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

Featured image photo credit: Peter Hrydil, Slate Visuals

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Jeanna Walker

    I am so excited for you both! Thank you for sharing your story and making more people aware of this wonderful option that’s out there.
    My husband and I are also in the process of Embryo Adoption through NEDC and we just got notified that our Doners chose us back. It is an incredible feeling and now we are in the mediation stage. Our hope is to have my 1st transfer in March. Y’all are not far behind!
    Enjoy the process! Praying with you.

    1. Jenna Bieber

      Congratulations! That’s SO exciting that you’re in the mediation stage–definitely hope to be not far behind you! 🙂

  2. Christina McCrone

    I can’t tell you enough how encouraging your story has been to me the last few days. We found it by googling how to reduce PIO pain and since then I’ve read almost every single post. We’re 6 days after our first IVF FET, and our little embryo was 6 days old at transfer. Possible 2 ICMs 😳 sometimes over the last 3-4 months I’ve only seen the hard parts and the bad parts and sometimes I only see the good. The last month has been so hard to see the good and your story has completely changed that and I can now remember that God turns all things to good, whether our first little makes it to full term or not. We only fertilized half of my eggs (7) so we’d use all of our embryos, there’s no way we could let them be discarded or donated to research and all five that started growing lived to day 6 and were viable. Thank you for reminding me of the good parts and of how God supports us infinitely more than any family or friend could 💕

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