Summer 2022

The story of our summer is a long one, full of ups, downs, and loop-de-loops. So bear with me as I try to find the words to share it all with you. This will be a long post, so hang with me as I continue to process the highs and lows with you on this blog.

After school let out in May we headed to Knoxville again for our 2nd frozen embryo transfer. This time we decided to choose a set of 2 embryos from the closed donation pool. This decision was made after the emotional toll our first open transfer took on me. After losing those babies, I also mourned the loss of the future I had imagined with our donors. Clayton felt strongly that we should make the switch to closed. “All babies deserve a chance at life. They don’t get to make the choice of open or closed adoption, and we need to respect the choice of the biological family,” Clayton told me. His words gave me the assurance I needed. I’m so thankful to have a husband with a grounded, level headed mind. He helps me see more clearly when my emotions can cause me to overthink details many years down the road.

With this transfer, we also decided to make a vacation out of it and take Clark with us. It was very special to be able to include Clark in the process. We have explained embryo adoption to him in kids terms and he understands to the best of his 4 year old ability. However going to the National Embryo Donation Center with us and being able to experience the process seemed to help him understand even more. The day of the transfer I told him, “When you were a baby God put you in my tummy. This time God and my doctors are helping to put a baby in my tummy. And afterwards, we will pray that it grows.” Transfer day went smoothly and our two embryos were safely placed inside me, ready for the chance to attach and grow.

After the transfer we headed to Gatlinburg for a few days in the Smokies. It was a really sweet trip. Clark especially loved the Pirates Voyage Dinner Show (we were all impressed to be honest). We also did some hiking and explored Anakeesta. Also on our trip, we got to spend some time with my best friend Jessi and her family outside of Nashville. We always treasure time with them and it was so special to see our kids play together. Clark is already asking to go on vacation to Tennessee again!

Here are a few highlights from our trip!

Once we made it back to Branson we continued the dreaded “2 week wait” until my blood draw. Unfortunately once test day came, we got the news that our transfer did not work, another failed transfer. I had been taking at home tests prior to the blood testing, and even though they were negative I was still crushed by that phone call.

At this point, we had said we would be finished after the 2nd transfer. We didn’t want to try again. So as we were processing the loss, we were also processing moving on as a family of 3. I am forever grateful for Clark and if God wanted it to be just the 3 of us, I know that would be perfect.

A couple days later, I received an email from my nurse at the NEDC (she, by the way is amazing and I now consider her my friend). She very sensitively asked if we were interested in trying again in the July cycle. I received this email on June 3rd, meaning if we wanted in we’d need to make a fairly quick decision. I remember shutting my computer and thinking, “nope, I’m not putting myself through this again.”

Later that day, while Clark and I were at White Water of all places, I started thinking about it more….I thought, well what if I can get another transfer in before I go back to school. So I sent an email asking what the dates would be, just so I’d have the information.

Over that weekend, Clayton and I spoke with our close friends and family and began to weigh the pros and cons. Of course my dad, always the encourager and dreamer said, “YES! Why wouldn’t you try again!”.

The more we prayed the more we began to feel our hearts soften to one more transfer.

That Monday, we had a video consultation with my doctor in Knoxville to go over the 2nd transfer and to discuss our plans moving forward. As we discussed a 3rd transfer I told him we weren’t planning to try again, but the idea of fitting it into my summer break made me reconsider. He looked down at his calendar and said, “Well, how to you feel about a June transfer?” I remember saying, “June?!?, June is now!”. He smiled and said that as long as my baseline lab work came back okay, I would be good to jump right back in. So the next morning I went in for bloodwork and started taking my medications again.

We got right back onto the database to select a new set of embryos. This time we landed on a set we had previously considered. They were still available and we both had peace these were our babies.

Also, during this same time frame, Clayton got the unexpected news that his job was ending. I add this to the story because, it truly felt like all of our plans were completely upside down. And saying yes to another transfer also meant, paying for another transfer during a time when our financial status was a question mark. However in the midst of the uncertainty, we just knew that God would provide and everything would be okay. Although we had a lot of unknowns, we had peace this was the right choice.

We also decided that my mom would take me for this transfer! This was mostly so Clayton would be available to work (he started working a couple days a week with a good friend of ours cutting trees and also doing his own photography). He also said, “Wait your mom can go?! I really think she should because everything is always okay when your mom is there.”

So the last week of June, my mom and I headed to Knoxville. It was a great road trip with my mom, it’d been forever since we’d taken a trip just the two of us. On July first, mom and I headed to the NEDC. This was my 4th trip there (including my initial visit) so the familiarity was definitely a plus. Also everyone there is so kind and genuinely rooting for you.

After the transfer, we stopped for some McDonalds French fries. This is an IVF superstition, it’s not medically proven to help, but I figured it was a good excuse for a snack! Also, as with every transfer I went back to the hotel for a long nap. The transfer day medications always make me sleepy. Mom and I were able to go to a nice dinner that evening, before heading home early the next morning. It was truly a blessing having her with me! She even did my shots for me, which is not an easy job to do. But she did a great job! Mom’s really are the best ❤️.

This time during our two week wait, I decided not to take any home pregnancy tests. I felt really hopeful it was going to work and I wanted to hold on to that hope as long as possible. On July 11th, I went in for bloodwork (I’ve had so many blood draws in the past year and a half!). That afternoon I received another phone call from my nurse in Knoxville, this time is was good news! My beta HCG numbers came back high (253), I was officially pregnant!!!

We were obviously so happy to have such a strong positive test. It was so fun being able to tell our families and close friends this amazing news. At this point I was officially 4 weeks and 1 day pregnant. This is a little confusing, but it has to do with the fact the embryo is already a few steps ahead of a traditional pregnancy at the time of transfer.

Next we waited for our 6 week ultrasound. For my local fertility monitoring, I used the Women’s Clinic in Springfield. They are wonderful and I received such great care there, I highly recommend them if you live in the area! On the day of our 6 week ultrasound Clayton and I were excited to get a glimpse of our tiny baby. As soon as the ultrasound started our technician asked, “How many embryos did you transfer?”. I smiled and told her 2, then asked if she was seeing two babies? She confirmed that she was. She then continued to measure and we got to see each babies heartbeat. Then to all of our shock, she found a 3rd baby, a 3rd heartbeat. One of our embryos had split on its own into identical twins. This meant 3 babies! We all cried, including our ultrasound technician (she is also a friend I have gained in this process).

I will never forget the way Clayton and I felt leaving that appointment. We literally didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We finally decided to go get some food and try to process the thought of triplets. I remember Clayton saying, “I feel like I weigh 300 pounds and 3 pounds all at the same time.”

For the next 3 weeks we continued to process the news. We worked through the fears and the shock and finally got to a place of excitement. We began to imagine life as a family of 6 and all the sweetness 3 babies would add to our household.

On August 17th, we headed back to Springfield for our 9 week ultrasound. Unfortunately we learned the devastating news that our set of identical twins had stopped growing and no longer had heartbeats. As shocked as we were initially to see 3 hearts beats , we were equally as shocked to only see one. Again, we all cried.

To be honest, this was very hard for me to process. Although I was so thankful to have one healthy baby I was very frustrated to endure another loss. I didn’t understand why God would show us 3 babies and then take 2 away so quickly. I was mad because if He only intended to give us one child, why did He allow my heart to love 3.

Infertility and our process of embryo adoption has been one of the hardest trials on my faith. There have been many days I wanted to tell God to sit in the corner on the other side of the room and leave me alone. I didn’t want Him to leave me completely, but I needed some space. I couldn’t open my Bible or turn to Him for the comfort I know He so freely gives. Thankfully God knows my heart and sees my pain, He is big enough to see me at my lowest and love me no matter what. I’m also grateful for the power of prayer and thankful for those who have stood in the gap and prayed when I could not.

Over the past few weeks, we have been processing our loss and adjusting back to the idea of one baby. We know having one baby is a lot safer for me and the baby. We also have continued peace in knowing that I have now given 7 babies a chance at life through embryo adoption and 6 are with Jesus.

The past week and a half have included some big milestones and huge reliefs for us. I am finally finished with my fertility medications! We had a little celebration, complete with sparking cranberry juice after we finished our last progesterone shot! I’d basically been on medications since May, so this was a BIG deal!! I also was officially released back to my OB here in Branson. She delivered Clark and is his pediatrician, so she knows our family well and has been a big supporter of embryo adoption. I had my 12 week appointment this week and everything looks great! Our sweet baby is growing right on track. It was a blessing to hear this good news and to see our baby again on the ultrasound.

I am officially 13 weeks today (9/11/22). While I’ve been excited to share the news publicly, I’ve also been nervous. Because of all the unknowns, it still feels a little risky to make things so public. However, the more people we have praying with us, the better. Plus since we started this process so openly, I truly wanted to keep the sharing our story.

Even though this road has been hard, much harder than I expected we are thankful God called us to this journey. He never promised following His will would be easy. He also never guaranteed us a baby. He is gracious to walk beside us through it all. And by His grace, we said yes one more time. Through His strength there is life growing inside me. A beautiful image bearer. Who was chosen, first by God and second by us, and who is loved beyond measure by us all.

Surrender

I’m struggling to compose my thoughts into words for this post, yet I feel it’s time to give an update to our embryo adoption story. After taking some time to pray and heal from our first transfer in November, Clayton and I have decided to try one more transfer. Although we have peace that we are supposed to try again, this time our planning has felt a lot different. Fully knowing the emotional and physical toll this process can have on my body and choosing to walk through this again is difficult. Definitely harder than the first time.

We have spent the past 3 months preparing for our second attempt. This meant more medical testing and physical clearance on my end, choosing more embryos, financial planning and renewing our home study. Thankfully these steps went fairly well and are complete now. We are planning and preparing for our transfer in the coming months.

I think the reason I’m struggling to write all of this is because the past few months have been very emotionally draining for me. The counselor in me suspects that I am still dealing with the grief of the babies we lost. Also, probably some PTSD too as we walk through the process again and from the overall effects of 4 plus years of secondary infertility. I know people often talk about the difficulties of infertility, thankfully people are sharing more and more. It’s one of those things in life you might not fully understand unless you are faced with it personally. In an attempt to share some of my struggle, here’s an excerpt from my prayer journal two months ago.

“No one knows what to say to me.

No one can give me any advice.

People just feel sorry for me.

No one cares or thinks about it as much as I do.

I’m exhausted.

I’m frustrated.

I’m confused.

I feel invisible and alone.

I act strong, but on the inside I’m drowning.

Am I depressed? Is this PTSD?

Should I give up?

Should I keep fighting, pushing forward?”

I don’t share this for sympathy or attention, but simply to be transparent with the raw pain so many face when dealing with infertility. It’s yet again, a good reminder to be kind to others and sensitive to the fact that you might not know the hardship someone is walking through. Waiting and uncertainty come in many different forms and they are all hard to endure.

Thankfully despite the heaviness, I know I’m not alone. God is my rock and my fortress (Psalm 18:1-3). I also have a great support system in Clayton, our family and friends. We are blessed to have some amazing prayer warriors in our corner.

I’ve also found strength in returning to our original reason for choosing this path to grow our family. These tiny, frozen babies are waiting for a chance at life. They are the smallest image bearers of Christ and represent the most fragile state of life. This is bigger than our desire for a baby. It’s bigger than wanting to give Clark a sibling. It’s about protecting and honoring the unborn.

Recently, on the Bible Recap (which I highly recommend!!!) the host, Tara Leigh said, “Prolonged trials will always lead to despair and sin if we fail to trust God.” Those words remind me that I can choose to sit the fear of the unknowns, or I can choose to trust God. While we don’t know if another transfer will result in a baby, we do know God is faithful no matter what the outcome. He is our strength. My word of the year is surrender. And that is truly what this process has been for me. Surrender. I’m continually laying this at his feet. We will faithfully keep taking steps down the road He’s called us to and surrender the results to Him. We aren’t promised the outcome we desire simply because of obedience, but we are promised that God will go with us through it all.

Hope still…

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

On November 1st, Clayton and I transferred 2 perfect embryos at the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, TN. We woke up that morning feeling excited, nervous and hopeful. The transfer process was quick and easy, in a matter of minutes these sweet lives we adopted were placed safely inside of me.

The next two weeks were very long as we anxiously awaited my first blood test to check my HCG levels. This would officially determine if I was pregnant and if the transfer was “successful”. 

Finally, the day of our test came. I went early that morning to get my blood drawn and again awaited the results. When the phone call finally came that afternoon, I found out our transfer was successful, we were officially pregnant. However, we had to celebrate with caution, as my initial numbers were very low. This left us with mixed emotions knowing that lower numbers can often be a sign of early loss. We were told to stay hopeful, continue with my medications and test again in two days. So, we kept going and kept praying that our numbers would be at least doubled in two days. 

Two days later (on a Friday), I went in for another blood draw. That afternoon did not get the news we were hoping for, my numbers had dropped even lower. At this point, Clayton and I were given the choice to continue the medication through the weekend and test one more time on Monday, or go a head and stop treatments. We made the choice to continue, as we wanted to ensure we’d given our babies every last chance at life. For clarification purposes, when I say medications and treatments, I’m not only referencing hormone pills, but the big Progesterone in Oil shots (PIO for short). These are given with 22 gauge 1.5 inch needle and administered into the lower hip area. Clayton did a wonderful job giving me these, however they can leave hard knots behind, they are not fun. 

Monday morning finally came and I went for my last blood draw. When our nurse from the NEDC that afternoon with the results, she confirmed our greatest fears, my HCG levels no longer indicted pregnancy. We’d lost the baby, an early miscarriage. 

Grief is a strange process, I know they say we all respond to itdifferently. For me, my grief seemed to come in waves. I have felt the highs and lows over the past few weeks. I also think with each blood test I was preparing for and accepting grief more and more (although hoping and praying it wouldn’t come). We were obviously heartbroken and so disappointed. After months of paperwork, preparing, matching, medications and spending thousands of dollars, we did not get to keep the baby we were praying and working for. 

However, in the midst of the pain, I truly felt the nearness of God. One afternoon as I was crying, scriptures kept coming to my mind. Verses like;

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Psalm 61:2

Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.

Hebrews 13:5

I’ll admit in the moment I was both comforted and annoyed by these verses at the same time, all while feeling thankful that my knowledge of scripture has etched its way onto my heart. I was comforted because I knew God was with me in the sorrow. Yet annoyed because I couldn’t help but think how he could’ve spared me from it. 

In the days and weeks that followed, I found myself craving my normal life and routine. For me, all I wanted to do was go to work, like normal and focus on helping others. After work, I wanted to come straight home to my boys. I have found so much joy and comfort in Clayton and Clark the past few weeks. 

All throughout this process, I have prayed our embryos, these tiny image bearers, would reveal God’s power and bring others closer to Him. While this didn’t happen in the way we’d hoped, I can still see the way God is working and receiving glory through these tiny lives.   

First, He worked the fact that our embryos survived the thawing process (something we’d been praying diligently for).

Second, I achieved pregnancy and did get the carry these tiny lives for a short time. 

Third, God spoke through something beautiful Clayton shared with me. While we were in the two week waiting period he said, “You know what, these babies can’t lose. They will either be here with us, or in heaven with Jesus. But no matter what we’ve given them a chance and they are no longer frozen and waiting.” Wow, talk about powerful. I’m so thankful for a husband who can speak Godly wisdom into my life. 

And finally, by the unexplainable peace I felt. Clayton and I both felt the comfort of the Lord and experienced His peace which truly surpasses all understanding. I remember calling my parents a few days after we knew we’d for sure lost the baby and telling them, “I am okay.” And I truly meant it. Although I was still processing a lot of big emotions, I knew deep down I was okay in a way I couldn’t quite explain. 

So, what’s next for us? Well, we aren’t 100% sure yet. We can definitely try to transfer again and we most likely will. However, for right now we are taking a pause through the holidays. We want to fully enjoy the Christmas season with Clark, as it is so magical with a 4 year old. We are soaking up his excitement and enjoying family traditions. I also needed a break from the medications and hormones. No matter what, we have big decisions to make moving forward, so we are also using this time to pray and seek the Lord. We would appreciate your prayers for peace and comfort, as well as confidence in our decisions moving forward. We know God has a plan for our family and we will continue to trust in Him no matter the circumstances.

Ready for Transfer

We are happy to announce we have completed the mediation process and now have a transfer date! 

Clayton and I spent the summer working on matching and mediation process. During this time we worked with a mediator to negotiate the terms of our open adoption. It was our choice to do an open adoption as we felt this will be best in the long run.  While we have not spoken directly to our donors (only via our mediator), we already feel a sense of connection to them. We plan to have limited contact at first, but we are open to more if the relationship progresses naturally. 

We are very excited and hopeful, but also nervous and cautious at the same time. It’s all about to get very real. Now that the paperwork/legal side of our process is complete, the physical side of things will begin for me. Soon I will start a variety of hormone treatments to prepare my body for the transfer process (this includes shots, which I’m pretty nervous about). I’m confident we will figure it all out, but it will be brand new to us, a learning curve for sure. 

Due to the how personal this process will get and how sensitive the details may be, we’ve chosen not to share our transfer date publicly. I will say that our scheduled date is before the end of the year. 

We would greatly appreciate your prayers as there are a lot of unknowns still ahead for us. While we are hopeful, there are still risks ahead. Ultimately we trust that God is in control and has a plan for our family. We know He called us to embryo adoption and that He will see us through this journey. 

Specific ways you can pray:

-peace over our family

-that the medical preparations would go well

-that our embryos survive the thawing process

-that our transfer is successful and results in a healthy pregnancy 

Chosen and Accepted

We are excited to announce we have officially chosen our embryos and the donating families have accepted! 

This is a huge praise and major step forward in our embryo adoption process. For us, the matching process was much harder than we expected. We were overwhelmed by the process both mentally and emotionally. I mean, imagine trying to select your potential child. It’s a lot. We prayed God would draw us to the same families. We definitely took our time and didn’t rush our decision.  

Throughout the process I knew we couldn’t make a wrong choice, but we prayed God would give us peace. I believe that sometimes in life, God makes answers crystal clear and other times not so clear. But as long as we, as Christians, are seeking Him and walking in obedience we are inside His will. I honestly thought this would be one of those decisions where we would be making a bold step without a perfectly clear answer. But thankfully, I was wrong. 

One afternoon a few weeks ago I was spending time with one of my best friends and processing all of my thoughts out loud. As I was talking in circles and trying to explain the tangled web of thoughts in my head, she calmly reminded me of a dream the Lord had given me previously. In that moment I felt God give us our answer! It was an Ah-ha moment, one of those, “why didn’t I think of that!?”, kind of feelings. I sure and thankful for friends who point me to truth. 

For now, I don’t plan to share the details of our matches publicly. There are parts of our story, the more personal details, I want to keep for our family (at least for now). However, I will say that we have matched with primary and secondary donor families. Between these two families, we will have 5 embryos saved for us. 5 tiny little frozen lives. 5 sweet image barrers of Christ waiting for a chance at life. 

We are now in what is called the “mediation period”. We chose an open adoption, so during the next few weeks we will be working with a mediator to determine the level of openness we will have with the donors. This could range anywhere from a yearly email update, to meeting in person. At this time, Clayton and I are leaning towards starting off with minimal communication, but we are open to more if the relationship develops organically. We believe an open adoption will be best for our child in the future as they will have the opportunity to know their biological family if desired. 

Once the Open Donation Agreement is finalized, we will move forward to scheduling our embryo transfer. At this point I do not have an estimate for this. I’m trying to keep an open mind and limited expectations on the timeline. We are trusting God will work out the details as we know His timing is ultimately best.  

I’ll close out this blog by sharing a really powerful story. 

This summer Clark and I have been visiting our local library weekly. He gets 7 dinosaur books and I choose one Christian fiction book for the week. Last week, as we were checking out, I was sharing with the librarian how much I enjoyed the last book I read and the reasons why (The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers, READ IT!!!!!). She looked at the Karen Kingsbury book I was going to check out and suggested that I swap it for one of the author’s newest releases. I said yes and took home her recommendation without so much as glancing at the title, let alone reading the synopsis. Later that evening I opened the book and to my surprise on page 5 I read the words, “frozen embryo” and “transfer”. The book the librarian had suggested was a story of embryo adoption! I was so shocked I started yelling for Clayton. He thought something was wrong at first and almost didn’t believe me when I told him, but was equally amazed at how God had placed this book in my hands. I cannot wait until we return to the library this week for our new books. I’m so excited to tell the librarian this story and how God worked through her suggestion to speak to my heart. 

I know I said that was the end, but I do have one final story. This past Friday I was able to spend time with of my two dear friends that I don’t get to see often enough in person (thankfully we Marco Polo almost daily). These two gifted me with a jar of flowers. 5 Zinnias to be exact. One to represent each of our frozen embryos. It was truly one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received in my life. Not only did this gift show me the deep love and support my friends have for my family, but was a true representation of the beauty within this whole process. At times I am unsure and fearful about the unknowns still ahead. But I am choosing to cling to the truth of God’s words that His plans are good and His ways are higher than mine. I’m thankful for friends that encourage me to walk in these truths and remind of His goodness. 

The Waiting Game…

As my last post excitedly announced, we completed our home study on April 9th! We were so excited to be finished and move on to the matching phase. I assumed once the home study was sent we would start viewing profiles right away. However, in reality it took about a month and a half. That might not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, but when you are dealing with infertility and trying to match up a school teacher calendar it definitely feels like forever! 

Honestly, the last month or so has been hard for me emotionally/mentally. After finishing the home study, I went from “get-it done” hyperdrive mode to having nothing I could do. And nothing I could control. A complete halt. To say I lost hope would be inaccurate, I knew it would work out in God’s timing, my hope is in Him. But emotionally, I felt a little shut down. We also learned that my ideal timeline of a July transfer was no longer a possibility. When our home study was submitted, there were 30 families ahead of us to be processed. This meant getting through the matching process and starting medications all before July was not possible. In reality, it’s a good thing. It means more people are in the process of adoption and more babies will be born. Also rushing the matching process is NOT something we wanted to do. We want to make a prayerful, well thought decision. So I’ve just had to let go and try hard to keep my mind from circling down the negative hole of self doubt. 

In the meantime, we hosted an adoption yard sale fundraiser. I was so hesitant to do this. Honestly, I do like asking for help (unless it’s from my mom!!). So it took some humility on my part, but we finally decided to go for it! We were blown away by the support of our friends and family. Many donated items to sell and others came to shop and some did both. My mom and my Grandma Janice even came down to help for the big event! We had a lot of fun and doubled the goal I had hoped for. I also had so many conversations about embryo adoption. We had signs up explaining our sale which led to many questions about what exactly embryo adoption is. Most people said something like, “Woah, that’s cool, I’ve never heard of that!” I also spoke with several encouraging adoptive and foster mommas. I even met one woman whose brother actually used the NEDC for an embryo adoption!! A HUGE thank you goes out to everyone who supported us! 

After the wait, we are FINALLY here, to the matching part of this journey. Clayton and I were granted access to the donor portal. We have just begun our search, however we do have several profiles we are interested in. I know you might be curious about what the database is like, so I’ll try to explain it for you. We are able to see physical information such as hair color, eye color, height, weight etc. We can also see a full family medical history, as well as the donor’s educational background and careers. And finally, the amount of embryo’s being donated and if they have any children. 

We are relieved and humbled to be able to view profiles. As we look through them, the reality of these tiny lives is becoming more real. And thinking of their biological families, while imagining the hardships that may have led them to IVF and then adoption is a weight that is not lost on us. 

It’s also been really encouraging to see God working in our decision. Although we still need to pray over the profiles more, Clayton and I have been drawn to the same families. We feel like we are on the same page and that God will give us peace. 

We will be choosing a primary and back up donor. Once we request them, they will have the choice to choose us back. Then, we will enter a negotiation period where we agree to the level of openness and form a contract. 

We would definitely appreciate your continued prayers! We are thankful for a great support system and community of believers.

Home Study Complete

Two weeks ago we officially completed our home study process! This was a huge step in our Embryo Adoption journey. While I’d always heard home studies could be a difficult process, I had no idea what to expect. So I thought I would share a little about our experience with you in case you are curious too.

We used the Lutheran Family and Children’s Services of Missouri for our home study. They were one of the organizations I had started researching when we were praying about traditional adoption. I liked that they were faith based and local to Springfield. 

After completing our initial application we were assigned a social worker named Tina. She reached out to us and gave us an overview of the process and a list of all the documents needed. To say the least, there was A LOT of paperwork involved. I’ve jokingly said they asked for everything from our marriage license to our cats shot records and in between! But seriously, we do have two outside/shed kittens and we had to take them to get vaccinated to provide shot records!! 

Thankfully, I love a good organized checklist and Tina told us what to do every step of the way. I wouldn’t say that I am a naturally organized person, however when I am working towards a goal I love knowing exactly what to do and checking things off. Especially in this situation, infertility and adoption, this gave me a feeling of control when I’ve previously had a very limited amount. 

Tina was another huge answer to prayer. I wish everyone in the world worked as hard as Tina! She was always so quick to respond and helpful. I don’t think I ever waited more than an hour for her to reply to my emails. She truly lives out what the bible calls us to do, “work as unto the Lord.” (Col. 3:23). She not only made us feel important and cared for, she also inspired me to be even more efficient in my own work. 

Clayton and I both had to write out personal essays overviewing our lives. We answered questions about everything from our childhood upbringing to our to how we handle conflict in our marriage. These answers were then later used in an individual interview we each separately completed. We also had to have several reference forms completed by friends, family, employers and pastoral staff. While we didn’t get to see these forms fully, we did get to hear a little bit of what our references had said in our final review of the home study. It brought me to tears to see the way our family and friends support us and believe in us. It was truly humbling. 

Other items on the list included fingerprints for background checks, physical examinations and TB tests, all of our financial/bank statements and information, retirement fund verification, proof of insurance and more. 

The final step was a safety audit of our home. I feel like this is the step everyone hears about and worries about. But this was probably one of the easiest parts. Again, we had a list of what was needed. Thankfully since we have Clark, our home already has baby gates, outlet covers, and safety knobs. We just had to double check and make sure everything was in place. 

In the end, we were deemed as physically, mentally, emotionally and financially fit and able to add another baby to our family. 

We’ve had a few friends ask, “Is it frustrating to have to do all this work when you are already parents?”. The short answer to that is yes. To be honest all of this can be frustrating at times. But we are keeping our eyes on the goal and trusting God as we follow the processes set in place. We know it will all be worth it in the end and we feel God guiding our steps along the way. 

So, what’s next? Now we are waiting again. The National Embryo Donation Center will process the results of our home study and then give us access to their embryo database, which means it will be time to select our embabies (embryo babies). We are anxiously awaiting this time and would love your prayers in advance. 

We are also having an Adoption Garage Sale Fundraiser this weekend! We’ve been cleaning out our closets and our friends and family members have been donating items too. So if you are local and want to come shop, message me for our address! 

Initial NEDC Visit

Things are moving right along with our Embryo Adoption process. I haven’t had anytime for updates lately because we have been busy, busy, busy! I’m very thankful for the busy though, because this means we are moving closer to our goal.

Last week, Clayton and I traveled to the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, TN for our first appointment. After our 10-hour drive, we arrived late Wednesday night in time for our Thursday morning appointment. We were very excited to meet the doctors and team members, and for everything to feel more real. From the time we walked into the office, until the time we left we are treated warmly and kindly. They even offered me a cup of coffee when we got there, which I greatly appreciated since I had to throw away my undrinkable hotel coffee.

First, we met with Dr. Gordan. He went over the medical side of things and then quickly got to my physical exam. Part of which is an ultrasound, I was sure glad that was early on in the appointment because I was told to arrive with a full bladder (that might have been the hardest part of the appointment!). Dr. Gordan preformed a few exams to make sure everything was good to go on my end. Thankfully, everything checked out perfectly and I was cleared physically, and allowed to use the restroom!

After that, Clayton and I sat in a room while different team members came in and explained the various aspects of our Embryo Adoption. We learned more about the matching process (we will get to begin viewing matches once our home study is complete). We also learned about the stages of embryos and lots of other scientific information. I was sure glad to have Clayton there to help me understand it all, he’s better with scientific terms than I am.

I had been praying two specific prayers for our appointment:

#1- medical clearance

#2- we would feel seen, cared for, and welcomed

Both of these prayers were definitely answered.  I loved learning more about the heart behind the NEDC. Each person there truly cares about helping families and desire every embryo to find a loving home. Their work is their mission and it shows.

Another huge blessing was being told that if we can get our home study done in a timely manner, we will be on schedule to head back to TN in July for our actual transfer!! This was my hope all along 😊 -I will write a separate post about our home study soon.

Additionally, we were given a $500 scholarship through a grant offered by the NEDC. It was definitely a nice surprise! Every little bit helps toward our costs and fees.

When we stop and think about it, we continue to see God’s hand all over this process.

I’ll be honest, I get overwhelmed at times. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes. I’m pretty good at putting on a tough face and pushing towards the goal most days. But like anyone facing challenges, I have my moments of breaking down and feeling like I can’t do it. Thankfully, in those moments I have friends and family who remind me that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. He is literally moving mountains to bring us together with our sweet baby. He knows which embryos we will choose and exactly what our family will look like moving forward. He goes before us, and behind us, and beside us, all around us. He is working and we can feel it. It’s pretty amazing that He chose us for this journey. His special, perfect plan, just for us.

‘The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf…Deuteronomy 1:30

You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Psalm 139:5 

We also got to have some fun along the way! We spent a night in Nashville and got to visit some of my dearest, oldest friends. Here are a few highlights from our trip.

While on our drive, we had lunch at the Lemonade House Grill in Poplar Bluff, MO. We also shared a flight of lemonade. They were so yummy, and our food was great too!
Late night Jet’s pizza in our hotel room. Clayton’s first time trying Jet’s 🙂
Super cool LEGO store we stumbled upon outside of Nashville, Music City Bricks! We just happened to drive by, Clayton saw the sign and had to check it out.
Dinner with my bestie, Jessi and her crew. We loved getting to spend the night with them. And you may be asking why we are holding a pelican in this picture? Because, why not!?
We got to have brunch with my dear friends Matt and Jason too!

The Process

I’ve had several questions about timing and the process of Embryo Adoption. So, I wanted to go into more detail on the steps and timeline. But before I do, I want to clearly state, I am not an Embryo Adoption adoption expert. We are still fairly early in the process and I would never claim to have all the answers. We are researching and figuring it out as we go. My desire is simply to share as we are learning.

Our initial application through the National Embryo Donation Center, which we submitted in January, was an online form. We answered a variety of different questions. Most were basic informational questions, while others asked about our family, personalities, community, church life and more. We had fun describing each other’s personality traits and sharing about our family and friends. The final section was a bit more difficult. They asked us to write a letter to our potential donor family. As you can imagine this took some time and a lot of thought. We wanted the words to be sincere, thoughtful and intentional. Once we completed the letter, we submitted the application and application fee.

Next, we received confirmation that our application was accepted and began follow up paperwork. We also both had to have some blood work done, specifically HIV testing. We actually turned this into a date believe it or not, nothing saying romance like getting blood drawn!  Here we are below enjoying our quality time at the hospital 🙂

We also began our home study application, which meant more paperwork. We are using the Lutheran Family and Children Services of Missouri to complete this portion of the process. Our home study application was accepted and we are now in process of gathering all the legal documents needed. We will also have our first interview this coming week! Not all Embryo Adoption programs require a home study, however I’m glad ours does. Yes, it’s more work, but I believe going through the process honors the life our future child. It also helps give peace of mind to the donor family.

Our next steps included the following:

-Initial visit to the NEDC in Knoxville, TN in March  – During this visit, the physicians will go over my medical history, we will meet the NEDC team and go over the process, additionally a “trial transfer” will be done to make sure there are no physical barriers which may impede the actual transfer or pregnancy.

-Complete the home study -more paperwork, as well as personal interviews and a home evaluation.

-After our initial visit and home study are complete, we will be given donor profiles to view and will be able to choose our embryos – SO EXCITING!!

-Legally have the embryos transfer to our names

-Return to Knoxville for the actual transfer (ideally we’d like to go over the summer, I know it might not fit into my perfect teacher timeline, but that’s my hope).

Typically, this process takes roughly 6 months total.

You may be wondering why I’ve said “embryos”. We will mostly likely adopt more than one embryo. One reason for this is there is a risk the embryos may not survive the thaw (75% do survive the thawing process). We will also most likely transfer more than one embryo at a time to increase the chances of a successful implantation.  

“According to the latest statistics from the CDC, the national average pregnancy rate for embryo adoption is 50 percent and the national average birth rate is 40 percent. These statistics are from a database of all U.S. assisted reproductive technology clinics. The NEDC’s overall pregnancy rate per transfer is 55 percent and live-birth rate is 45 percent.” -National Embryo Donation Center

Other questions:

-Will we get the choose the gender? No, although some embryos have undergone preimplantation genetic testing, for practical and ethical reasons, the NEDC does not share the information with recipients.

-What if we don’t get pregnant? If the transfer is not successful the first time, we can try 2 more times with the National Embryo Donation Center. As heartbreaking as it would be not to get pregnant, we see each transfer as giving the embryo a chance to leave their frozen state and have life.

-Is it expensive? This is tricky to answer. Embryo Adoption is roughly $10,000.00 through the NEDC. So yes, $10 Grand its a lot of money to us. However, when you compare this to the cost of traditional domestic infant adoption, which averages around $30,000-$40,000.00, it’s definitely more affordable.

I think that is all for now. But if you have additional questions, just ask. I’m happy to answer them, or at least try my best!

If you’d like more details, please visit the following websites. This is where the bulk of my information and research has come from.

Be Still

The D-group bible study I’m a part of is currently reading a book called, Bearing God’s Name, Why Saoni Still Matters. In the first week, one of the corresponding scripture readings was Exodus 14. As a read through it, I was struck by this section of the text: 

10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

“Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the dessert to die?” I had to chuckle when I read this, because it sounded both over dramatic and yet completely relatable at the same time. While I’ve never been attacked by an Egyptian army or any army for that matter, I can totally understand the heart of where the Israelites were coming from. They were scared, confused and oh so human, just like we still are today. God had literally just freed them from slavery, but they quickly forgot the goodness of His mercy because the couldn’t see what was coming next.

Throughout our infertility journey I have felt similarly.  Scared, confused and wondering what is next.   While part of the infertility battle is physical, it’s the mental battle I struggle to win. I’m often consumed with my thoughts and emotions.  I’m sure I have said a lot of dramatic things to the Lord and to my husband, sounding similar to the Israelites. Things like:

“Why would God give her another baby but not me?”

“Why doesn’t anyone understand what I am going through?”

“Why don’t they ask me how I am doing? Do they not care about me?”

“Am I a bad mom? Is God punishing me by not giving me another child?”

“I am the most selfish person for wanting another child when I already have one beautiful, miracle son when other families have none. I’m wrong to desire another baby.” 

But God. God steps into the lies and says, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” 

Chills. The last line always gives me chills and totally puts me in my place.  I am an action, solution-based person. If there is a problem I want to fix it. Me. On my own. I don’t like to ask for help, I just want to take care of things myself. I’ll gladly help you with your problems, put me in and let me help you fight, but I’ve got my own battles just fine. No. This is control, or a false sense of control anyway. The Lord says to be still. To surrender. I’m continually learning when it comes to stillness. My mind goes 100 miles a minute. Always thinking, planning and preparing and even self-loathing. 

Not only does God want me to be still, but he also deserves the glory. His power, not mine. His saving, not mine. His plans, not mine. So, I’m learning to turn my battles over to Him and trust Him daily. I am learning not to compare my story to others, and enjoy the unique journey God has placed us on.

He will fight for me, I just need to rest in Him and be still.