Our Path to Embryo Adoption: Learning That Every Story Matters
By Jenna Bieber
When my husband Brian and I decided it was time to start trying for a baby, we never imagined infertility would be a part of our story. But after a year and a half of trying, six cycles of Letrozole, dozens of OPKs, and too many vitamins, blood draws, and doctors to count, our world was completely turned upside down: Brian was diagnosed with severe male factor infertility and we were told that our only option to ever have biological children was to pursue IVF with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection).
I will never forget what it felt like sitting at the little round table in that cold, white doctor’s room. Watching the clock hands slowly spin while we waited there with nothing to do, a frustrating metaphor for what the last year of waiting felt like. I remember seeing the ultrasound equipment in the room and wondering if we’d get to have that experience. I also remember the box of tissues kept on the table and wondered if we’d instead have to have that experience.
And then the doctor walked in. The air was heavy the second she entered the room. She sat down, rushed through an introduction, and then, with an almost expressionless face, she gave us the diagnosis. And I remember that heavy, crushing feeling landing squarely on my chest so that I couldn’t breathe. It’s one of those moments you want so badly to be a nightmare, and it’s just not. We obviously knew something was going on, but we never saw this coming. Sure, this happens to other people, but not to us… I mean, we’ve worked so hard. We’ve done everything right. This CAN’T be our story.
As we processed the news, honestly, I really struggled at first. Now I wasn’t only jealous of people who could get pregnant naturally, but I was also jealous of people who could pregnant with medicated cycles, or IUIs, or even regular IVF. But God worked on my heart and slowly started to show me that every story is different, and that’s okay. And not even just okay, but good.
Just because this was our story didn’t mean I had been forgotten. It didn’t mean I had done anything to “deserve” this. It didn’t mean God was listening to everyone’s prayers but mine. My life wasn’t going to look like I thought, but I began to believe He was writing a better story for me than I ever could write for myself.
As Brian and I continued to process everything, we didn’t feel IVF with ICSI was the right path for us; we didn’t have peace about it. So we took some time to grieve—grieve the life we thought we’d have and grieve the very real loss of biological children. And as God healed our hearts, He also was growing a new seed in them that had been planted months ago.
I had been listening to a podcast months earlier where women bravely shared their stories of infertility. They were all different—different fertility factors, choices, treatment plans, and outcomes. But they were all processing their experiences through their faith and hope in Jesus, and there was a joy that coexisted with the sorrow.
I had listened to this one episode on embryo adoption, and it was the first time I’d ever heard of it. I was intrigued, but Brian’s first response was that it sounded super weird—too sci-fi. Adopting another family’s embryos who were frozen in time and becoming pregnant with and giving birth to our adopted child? Yeah, it is super weird (and kinda sci-fi). But it’s also super beautiful and redemptive. In that cold office when we received our diagnosis, embryo adoption was this warm hope that flashed through my mind, even then.
Over the month or so after our diagnosis, this seed of embryo adoption grew. We prayed, sought counsel, and talked with family and friends. And soon, we had a peace we hadn’t felt since we started this journey. We knew this was our story.
We didn’t know all the details, we didn’t have a perfect plan, and we didn’t (and still don’t) know how it’s all going to turn out. But we knew this was the beginning of something new and beautiful.
We submitted our application to the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) in October 2019, and it’s been an absolutely incredible journey ever since. After filling out a lot of paperwork, going to dozens of appointments, completing a home study, receiving medical clearance, matching with a donor family, mediating our open adoption agreement, and taking all kinds of fun medications (looking at you, PIO booty shots), we had our first frozen embryo transfer in May 2020. And now, we are welcoming our sweet adopted baby boy at the end of January 2021, and we couldn’t be more excited!
But throughout this whole process, what I’ve really begun to appreciate is how different our stories look. Heck, even within a specific path to parenthood like embryo adoption, I’ve learned that things can look really different. And it doesn’t always turn out how we hope.
And yet, every single story matters. Every moment of pain—whether it’s a prolonged aching or sudden, piercing devastation—matters. Every victory—big or small—matters.
So maybe it’s your first transfer, or maybe it’s your fifth. Maybe you’ve been trying for 6 months, or maybe you’ve been trying for 6 years. Maybe your treatment is completely covered by insurance, or maybe you’re fundraising to help cover the costs. Maybe you’re on a medicated cycle, or maybe you’re triggering for an IUI. Maybe you’re having twins, or maybe you’ve experienced a heartbreaking miscarriage. Maybe you’re using donor eggs, or maybe you’ve come to a place of peace with remaining childless. Maybe you’re adopting embryos, or maybe you’re fostering.
Whatever your story is and wherever you are right now matters. You matter. We need you, and we need each other. Really good things can come out of really hard seasons, even when it doesn’t look or feel like it.
For us, with our sweet baby on the way, we know our story is still far from over and that the journey is just beginning. We know there will be many more ups and downs. But we also know that God has been faithful all along and that He will continue to redeem the broken pieces of our infertility and to make something new and beautiful.
And so I want to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from John Piper as you consider your own story and how you keep moving forward: “Occasionally, weep deeply over the life that you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Feel the pain. Then wash your face, trust God, and embrace the life that he’s given you.”
*To read more about Egg & Embryo donation, click here.
Jenna Bieber is a 29-year-old follower of Jesus daring to trust in His promises in the midst of infertility. She is a worship leader, educator, and writer/blogger. She shares her embryo adoption journey on Instagram at @jennalbieber and loves raising awareness about infertility. She and her husband Brian live in Pittsburgh, PA with their precious cat Sir Pepperton, and they enjoy serving together at church, spending time with friends and family, and settling in with a good documentary and a glass of wine. They are currently pregnant with their adopted son and are due in January 2021.