How To Embrace The Vulnerability Of Embryo Adoption

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Just this week on a business trip, I ran into a friend who shared a story that shook me. This friend explained they have a family member struggling with a question all too familiar to me in my research: Having remaining embryos from IVF and struggling with what should be done with them.

They can continue paying storage fees. They can consider placing them for adoption. A third option, which I do not at all believe they are considering, is to allow them to be destroyed.

I’m so thankful for that last point. This family, like so many others across the U.S., recognizes embryos aren’t a bunch of valueless cells. They are babies, tiny as they might be.

Yet the remaining two options are painful. It is a pain I have never personally experienced because I have never been in their position. Consider that on the one hand, freezing an embryo suspends a human life. On the other hand, placing embryos for adoption means a necessary loss of connection, even if a successful and loving open adoption occurs and the biological family retains a relationship with their child.

I would never ever claim to know what it is like to be in the shoes of a placing family. In my new book, “Frozen, But Not Forgotten,” I describe how our placing family explained their decision. They struggled mightily with what to do, but destruction of those precious babies was never an option.

Eventually, they took the step they had been trying to take literally for years: To pick up the phone and begin a conversation about what placing their embryos in an adoption could look like. They wanted their babies to have the best possible chance at life. And by God’s grace, they eventually selected our family to join them on this journey.

You might find yourself in similar circumstances today. I can only imagine the vulnerability you are feeling. But I want to assure you that adoption is an option. Hundreds of U.S. families and many hundreds of others around the world have successfully been through this process. It will never remove pain or the feeling of loss entirely, but it offers the one thing none of the other options I’ve shared can do: It offers hope.

Of life. Of family. Of a generational legacy of placing the vulnerability of the heart above the numbing sensation our culture too often champions to shield us from the reality that embryos aren’t just cells.

They’re people like you and me. We can choose to take up their cause by taking the first step.