When Julie and I began exploring embryo adoption seriously, we had more questions than answers. I had a whole bunch of questions because, well, I’m a journalist. I lost my shame a long time ago. If I don’t know something, I say so.
I keep asking until I’m intellectually satisfied. Or worn out.
You should adopt a similar mindset. No question is too small, dumb or controversial. If you don’t ask now, you might regret it later. Thankfully, there are a number of adoption agencies ready to answer your questions. If you aren’t satisfied with the responses you hear, or you have lingering questions, it never hurts to get a second or third opinion.
In no particular order, here are five questions you should start asking of a prospective embryo adoption agency.
What criteria must couples meet to be eligible for embryo adoption?
Because embryo adoption requires the transfer of one or more embryos to an adoptive mother’s womb, the adoptive mother must be physically capable of carrying a baby. Factors such as the mother’s age and health often are taken into consideration. Additionally, many agencies might require—or at least encourage—a home study as with other forms of adoption. Gain clarity early on to determine whether you are eligible or whether another form of family building might make more sense for you.
Why do you promote and facilitate embryo adoptions?
Julie and I are Christians and valued the fact that our agency’s staff promoted embryo adoption and supported qualifying couples in pursuing it because they believe God authors life and gives it inherent worth and value. Other agencies facilitate embryo adoption, embryo donation or both but do not share our belief system. Ask questions to gain clarify on whether you and your adoption agency are aligned in purpose and spirit. Those beliefs and attitudes will shape your entire experience. In our case, it made for an incredibly positive process.
What are the chances another couple will place embryos with us?
If you, like me, are part of a family with biological children, you might be wondering whether you have any hope. We faced the same question, and in our case the answer was yes. At the same time, our agency made it clear that our adoption process could be longer than others. Many couples that have used in vitro fertilization (IVF) seek to place their embryos with other couples who also have faced infertility. This gives them the opportunity to bless a family that has not brought a child into the world naturally. Be realistic and don’t be afraid to ask for an honest assessment of your own adoption timeline. Every family’s story is different. Better to be in it for the long but wonderful journey than to assume it will be a quick process and spend years pacing in your kitchen, wondering when your agency will call with good news.
Are we really ready to adopt?
I suspect most adoptive parents are like me in this way: They have questioned whether they could be, or should be, an adoptive parent in the first place. They doubt themselves. Is this a good idea? Will my child be damaged psychologically, since we’re not biologically related? Will I be any good at parenting? A good embryo adoption agency will be open and honest with you. Agency team members will remind you of your existing responsibilities to your biological children, spouse and, of course, any new adoptive children. Do you have the financial means, the emotional bandwidth and the spiritual resources to parent an adoptive child successfully? I can remember questioning whether our agency case worker believed we had the right stuff. Face your fears, know that to which you are committing and determine if there is a fit.
What is the next step we should be taking?
As a potential adoptive parent, you must take the lead. If you are serious about adoption, the clock is ticking. There are meetings to be held, serious conversations to conduct with your spouse and papers to be signed. Always close a phone call or email by asking what you can be doing to be helpful, informed and engaged in the adoption process. Maybe it’s reading from a list of recommended (sometimes required) books. Maybe it is filling out a batch of documents so your agency can help you move one step closer to finding a placing family. Carry the momentum of adoption forward each day, even if it’s only by encouraging your spouse that this will all be worth it.
Keep asking questions. I’m still asking, too.