Top Three Reasons to Become a Dad Using Embryo Adoption

 

There’s a false notion in some circles of American culture that fatherhood is, well, unmanly. Changing diapers? Beneath us. Strapping on an infant in a Baby Bjorn? Emasculating (not to mention a little silly looking).

Sadly, adopting a baby is another activity that too often makes the list of unacceptable activities for men. I know. I was one of those dads—until embryo adoption upended my world.

This Father’s Day, you might be looking in the mirror and wondering what it means to be a man. You and your wife might be facing the daunting challenge of infertility. Or your spouse might be trying to convince you to explore embryo adoption to build your family, even though you’ve told her a hundred times it isn’t for you.

Let me offer some small assurance. Embryo adoption will forever change your definition of manhood, that’s true. But it will change you for the better. Whether you hope to become a first-time dad or to add another bouncing baby to your quiver, here are three reasons you should strongly consider becoming a father through embryo adoption.

Reason No. 1: The most fragile among us deserve the best of your strength.

Odds are good you probably aren’t a body builder, bouncer, or professional wrestler. That’s fine. Strength shows itself in many forms, most of all in families, where good dads really shine. It’s especially necessary when it comes to giving frozen embryos the best chance at life.

Consider this: Hundreds of couples who have used in vitro fertilization (IVF) to build their families are praying and working with an adoption agency to find a family to give their remaining embryos life. An embryo might only be a few days old, but for those of us who believe life begins at conception, it is also a baby with hopes, dreams and a future. What if that tiny life were part of your family? What could you accomplish together? What higher purpose could you achieve?

Reason No. 2: Now more than ever, the world needs fathers to contribute their unique gifts to children.

Boys who grow up to be men—and dads—are one of society’s most undervalued resources, according to Warren Farrell and John Gray, authors of the 2018 book, “The Boy Crisis”. In that book, they write: “Worldwide, the amount of time a father spends with a child is one of the strongest predictors of the child’s ability to empathize as he gets older.”

As a dad, you will help your children learn how to treat other people—with respect, love, and kindness. The traits you admire most in other people are traits you can have a direct role in fostering in our next generation of leaders. Embryo adoption enables you to make a difference not only in the lives of an embryo baby and the placing family from whom you are adopting, but in your community and the world. Children grow up to become what we model for them.

Reason No. 3: Because fatherhood will immediately begin reshaping your life’s priorities—for the better.

You might occasionally feel a tinge of guilt as a man. Perhaps you’re spending too much time at the office. Maybe you’d like to prioritize time with your wife, your spiritual walk or even a favorite hobby, but you simply can’t find the time.

It’s at times like these that watershed moments arrive to transform how you think about what matters most in your world. Embryo adoption might well be such a moment for you. The entry of a baby into your life forces you to rearrange your priorities. Caring for a little person means giving of your time, energy, and humility (as a dad to four, I eat humble pie for breakfast with a soup ladle). Yet it also means some of the most rewarding and inspiring moments of your life.

Embryo adoption isn’t for everyone. But if something inside of you yearns to be a dad, take the first step with your spouse. Learn a little. Ask questions. And consider the embryo babies and placing families who are looking to someone just like you to make a difference.

Nate Birt and his wife, Julie, are adoptive parents of Phoebe, a Nightlight® Christian Adoptions Snowflakes® baby. Nate blogs quarterly for Snowflakes® and is the author of “Frozen, But Not Forgotten: An Adoptive Dad’s Step-by-Step Guide to Embryo Adoption” from Carpenter’s Son Publishing. To subscribe to his email newsletter, visit www.frozenbutnotforgotten.com.  

How to Manage and Complete Adoption Paperwork

 

When my wife and I meet new people, I love explaining what I do for work and the joy I get from helping guide families throughout their adoption process. I love sharing the adoption stories and testimonies of the families we work with, and how each have a personal and unique journey through adoption. For those looking to build their family through adoption, the process is indeed a journey; one that will be simultaneously life-giving and challenging. As with any journey, often times the hardest part is getting started.

 

I find this to be especially true with the families I work with as they begin to navigate the adoption paperwork stage of the process.  Adoption paperwork is a necessary and vital part of the adoption journey, but it can definitely feel overwhelming for families.  Even the most organized of couples tend to have a hard time keeping it all together! At Nightlight Christian Adoptions, we acknowledge the difficulty of this process, so we have compiled a few tips to help families manage, and ultimately complete, their adoption paperwork.

 

     1. Break Paperwork Down to Manageable Pieces

 

One of the biggest mistakes I see families make in the adoption paperwork phase is when they try to take on every form at once. This usually starts out with good intentions as the family is driven by their excitement to keep the ball rolling, but it is almost always met with them becoming overwhelmed. Instead, we recommend that families break their paperwork down into manageable pieces.

 

Breaking the paperwork down is a beneficial way to both organize forms and find peace of mind by putting your work into perspective. A helpful way to do this is to separate the paperwork into corresponding sections in a folder or binder. An example breakdown of this is as followed:

 

  • Agency Forms
  • Home Study Forms
  • Financial Forms
  • Dossier Forms
  • Education Forms, etc.

 

Another way to break down the paperwork requirements is to separate responsibilities between you and your spouse. You can designate who fills out each section of forms and come together on the forms that require both adoptive parents to complete. Regardless of one’s method, breaking down the paperwork into pieces helps families manage their work and prevents them from becoming overwhelmed with the process.

 

 

  1. Utilize Your Checklists

 

A helpful tool that every Nightlight office provides for families is a checklist for the supporting documents of each case stage.  Viewing the adoption paperwork broken down as a checklist allows a family to physically track their progress towards completing their required forms. We advise families to always keep these checklists handy, and to utilize their own created checklists if it helps them understand the process more tangibly. For families with children in the home, this is also a way to get them involved in the adoption process. One idea for families with little ones is to have a checklist of adoption paperwork on a whiteboard or poster board where they can help you place a sticker or draw a checkmark when and item is completed. This could be a fun way to have the whole family feel a part of the adoption process while giving you a visual of your progress.

 

  1. Make Copies of Everything You Complete

 

Often times I find that families become so focused on filling out and uploading/mailing their forms that they forget to make copies for their own records. This causes an issue later in the process when a document needs to be resent or referred to, only for the family to realize that they mailed or discarded their only copy. Several of the documents completed during the adoption paperwork phase will need to be referred to again in the process, and ensuring that your family has access to what you have already completed will save a lot of time and energy in the future.

 

Your family might choose to store everything online or through hard copies, but regardless of the method it is important to keep records of your paperwork throughout the entire adoption journey. For example, a family that is adopting internationally might think that they are finished with their paperwork once they have arrived back in the U.S. with their child. However, in reality they will need several of their documents in order to obtain the child’s social security number, U.S. Passport, and start the re-adoption process if applicable. So a good rule of thumb is to always back-up and keep record of every document you complete!

 

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

 

This tip might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how frequently I hear from families who are hesitant to ask for help from their agency caseworker or adoption advisor. At Nightlight we are always willing to help walk our families through the process: from start to finish! This includes the paperwork phase, as we recognize the amount of work that is required and the confusion that comes with the process. From application, to home study, to dossier, to post adoption; whatever questions you might have regarding paperwork during your adoption journey, your Nightlight adoption advisor or caseworker is willing to help you find a solution.

So although paperwork is not the most exciting part of your adoption journey, it is something that is vital to the process. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with the amount of forms and documents, utilize the tools at your disposal to organize and manage what needs to be completed. As always, Nightlight Christian Adoptions is here to see that your journey end with you welcoming your child into a loving home.

 

written by John Hewitt, M.Div.| Home Study Coordinator

What is Secondary Infertility?

 

 

Last Wednesday, social media was flooded with photos of siblings—it was National Siblings Day! Some of you may frequently remember your brothers and sisters with fondness and great memories. Others may be reflecting on the colossal efforts you have made to have civil relationships with each other.

Siblings Day is a day of celebration, but it is also a day to acknowledge that not everyone has an easy time getting to a baby, let alone a sibling for their child!

Infertility does not exclusively occur with couples who are trying to start a family for the first time. Some are still facing infertility, even after they have brought a child into their home. They may desperately wish to give their child a sibling but it ends up being more difficult than they realized. This is called secondary infertility. According to the Mayo Clinic, secondary infertility is the inability to successfully achieve pregnancy or carry a baby to term after previously having a child.

Secondary infertility can come as a shock to many couples. And there are several emotions that come with the diagnoses: grief, guilt, shame, and even depression. However, through embryo adoption, a couple can still have hope to successfully expand their family.

Celebrating National Siblings Day does not look the same for every family. Siblings are more than just blood and DNA. There is no right way to grow your family—just look through some social media posts to see the countless unique ways families’ across the country celebrate their siblings. If you want more information on growing your family in a unique way, visit Snowflakes.org to learn more.

If Your Embryos Could Talk: Embryo Donation

Hello, hello! Yes, it’s me, your little embryo. Do have a moment to chat? It’s been sometime since you created me, and while I am super happy you did, but I was wondering what your plans are for me.

Are you planning to increase your family and bring me into the fold? If not, what if it were possible for another family to bring me into their fold? Have you thought about that?

Based upon your response and how long I’ve been here, I can tell you have been agonizing over what to do with me. I get it! I know you love me, and would have enjoyed having me be part of the “fam.” But let’s be real. Life is full of unexpected situations that come our way. For example, I bet you didn’t think you would be having to make this decision. Don’t feel bad, I have a great solution.

Why not help me be adopted?

Hey wait a minute, don’t dismiss the idea! Couples come in to the clinic where I am stored every week and leave teary eyed and dejected. For whatever reason they cannot have children of their own, and yet they are the sweetest most loving individuals. I feel bad for them. Honestly, if you place me for adoption, you wouldn’t have to keep paying my storage bill. I would not be feeling the cold anymore, and one of those amazing adopting couples would have the family they have always wanted. Plus, you would be the hero—my hero and theirs!

Come on think about it, if you were still struggling to have a family wouldn’t you want someone to do something like that for you? Just a thought…

 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

To learn about donating your embryos to another family, visit Snowflakes.org.

God’s Greatest Gift

 

 

As we enter the Christmas season, there are so many things to be thankful for: the health of living in a bountiful nation, the happiness of having choices, and the hope of what tomorrow will bring. Yet as we ponder these things amongst our daily to do lists, nothing would seem quite as important, if we did not have loved ones with whom we could share this season of joy and celebration with. Hearing family and friends laugh, and experiencing their embrace as they express their gratitude for having received what their hearts desired, reminds me of the blessings I have received from my heavenly Father.

He answered my prayer to become a parent. I longed to hold a little one in my arms and know I had been used by God to bring he, or she, into the world. What a wonderful blessing that would be…my little one is 25 years old now. I am forever grateful and amazingly blessed to be a part of such a miracle.  

During this season, perhaps you, too, have similar thoughts or feelings, desiring to become a parent, and welcome a baby into your loving arms and become part of your family.

Whether you have remaining embryos that you desire to place with another couple for the purpose of adoption, or whether you desire to adopt embryos so that you can know the joys, and challenges, of parenthood, we encourage you to reach out to us. The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Team are waiting to answer your questions.

 

We wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas.

Creating a Life Book For Your Adoptive/Foster Child

 

 

 

Creating Lifebooks for our children is one of those things in life that some parents follow through better than others, like sending out Christmas cards. The desire is there, we’ve pictured the outcome, we understand the appreciation it will bring others, and some have gotten as far as making a Shutterfly account. But then, before we know it, it’s December 24th, December 25th, January 1st, January 30th and we’ve convinced ourselves that next year we will do better.

I get it, life is busy, especially now that we’re parenting. But unlike Christmas Cards, that are eventually thrown away or tossed into a drawer, Lifebooks serve as  lifelong tools for our children. It connects a child with their past. It helps them make sense of their experiences, the good and painful. It’s a vehicle that facilitates discussion about the often-messy circumstances leading to their adoption, helps navigate their grief of losses and past traumas, and aids to dispel magical thinking or false beliefs that somehow they caused the separation from their birth family.  All of which, if handled correctly, contributes to strengthening a child’s positive self-identify.

Through a quick internet search, you can find a lot of wonderful resources about creating a Lifebook for your adoptive/foster child. Most of the blogs and articles are better than I could ever recreate. Here are some of the highlights that I’ve learned from my thirteen years working in the adoptions and foster care field.

 

  1. Lifebooks are not reserved for the Pinterest parent. Lifebooks are not meant to be perfect or even pretty. They are filled photos, artwork, words, historic information and journal entries. No Shutterfly account needed. Use a book were pages can be added and rearranged, such as a three-ring binder.
  2. Don’t know where to begin? Start with important dates and places. Stuck again? Search the web for template pages and ideas. Iowa’s Foster and Adoptive Parent Association IFAPA has created over seventy free life book pages for foster and adoptive families and social workers to use. http://www.ifapa.org/publications/ifapa_lifebook_pages.asp
  3. Do a little legwork. I know of one fost/adopt family whose daughter attended twelve schools in only eight years. To help fill in her story, they retrieved the names of the schools from former case workers and spent one summer visiting each school, taking photographs of the schools and asking the school offices for their daughter’s yearbook picture.
  4. Involved the masses. Contact important individuals from your child’s past and ask them to contribute notes and memories. These people may include case workers, foster parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, etc. Even if you don’t have many contacts from your child’s past, you must have had contact with a social worker who facilitated your adoption.
  5. Involve your child. The life book is for your child and in order for it to be a useful therapeutic too., they must contribute. When they are young it may be a drawing they made of their birth family. As they get older they can contribute more. They also must be allowed to handle it, carry it around, land ook at it when they please.
  6. Remain honest. A Lifebook should provide a child the truth about their own life history. The story can become more sophisticated as the child grows older. As painful as it may be, recording the reasons for the child’s adoption is important because truth dispels false beliefs that a child may otherwise have that they caused the circumstances that led them to be separated from their birth family and false guilt that may affect their self-worth. Lifebooks also allow for feelings, complicated and real, such as how much a child loves their birth parents and positive memories living with their birth family even when those parents may have been neglectful, abusive or primarily absent
  7. Leave lots of blank pages to continue to document your child’s growth, development, school progress, hobbies, and relationships etc.

The simple fact is there is no right or wrong way to make a Lifebook, but by not doing a Lifebook you’re missing a powerful way to positively impact your child’s sense of self and the way they view their past, present and future. It’s also a great way to deepen the parent/child relationship. The Christmas cards can wait until next year, your child’s Lifebook should not.

Embryo Quality: Does It Really Matter?

There are a variety of methods used by medical professionals to grade frozen human embryos, to project the likelihood of pregnancy success. This often includes Preimplantation Genetic Diagnostic (PGD) and Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) testing.

However, research has shown that these tests are not always accurate. Even lower quality embryos, when thawed and transferred, may result in healthy babies just as higher quality embryos do.

According to World Magazine, “Over the last few years, a handful of physicians in the United States and Europe have reported that embryos deemed abnormal by early tests could still grow into normal pregnancies—and they have the healthy babies to prove it. That means physicians have thrown away perhaps tens of thousands of embryos deemed abnormal that could have been healthy.”

One Snowflakes family knows this first hand. This family adopted six embryos and chose to thaw all of them. Four embryos survived the thaw and two embryos were transferred. The remaining two embryos were re-frozen, but were deemed by the medical staff as “incompatible with life.” Unfortunately, the family’s first frozen embryo transfer did not result in a pregnancy. Against the advice of the doctor, the family chose to thaw and transfer the remaining embryos, believing all embryos deserve a chance at life, not just the “good quality” embryos. The family ended up pregnant with twins from those embryos!

There are many embryos in frozen storage at this time who are not being used for family building purposes because they are deemed “low quality” or “poor quality.” Though these embryos could result in perfectly healthy children!

To hear more personal stories from families who took the chance of life with lower quality embryos, you can watch our webinar Personal Stories: Snowflakes Beating the Odds.

To learn more about embryo adoption and donation, visit Snowflakes.org.

Why Do We Support Open Adoption?

 

 

I’ve been working in adoptions long enough to see the significant trend toward open adoptions over the past forty years. I recall sitting in meetings in the 70’ and 80’s with an Adoption Committee in the first agency where I worked doing the matching of birth parents and adoptive parents. Actually it was a matching of child and adoptive parents because the couple would never meet the birth parents; it was just important that the child had features or background matching that of the adoptive parents. The adopting couple received a piece of paper with information about the birth mother and birth father, and in turn, the birth parents would receive information about the couple. First names only, if that, and perhaps some additional non-identifying facts. Then, the baby, who had been in foster care from birth awaiting the legal work to be done, would be placed in the arms of the adoptive family. Happy endings? Yes, usually more so for the family than the birth parent. Could it be better? Yes.

Secrecy surrounding adoptions began in the 40’s and 50’s with good intentions. It was believed to protect all the parties involved.

• The birth parents were protected from the stigma of pregnancy without the benefits of marriage.
• The adoptee was protected from the stigma of illegitimacy and the concerns of “bad blood” which was loosely connected with what we know today about genetics and carried with it the overtones of the “sins of the father.”
• The adoptive parents, often an infertile couple, would be protected from the stigma of raising an illegitimate child.

 

They were protected from dealing with their infertility and from facing the differences between being a parent through adoption vs. being a parent by birth.

Closed records also precluded the possibility of birth relatives seeking out the child, or heaven forbid, set them up for a potential kidnapping. Fear was the driving force.

By the 70’s adoptees were beginning to speak out about the fact they did not know anything about their biological families and their heritage. They had been cut off from that part of their lives. As a result of their efforts over the past three or four decades, the practice of secrecy has taken a turn–for several reasons:

Adoptees have voiced their belief that they have the right to know more about their biological roots. Birth parents have said they want to know that their child has had a good life. If they haven’t said it out loud (which many could not in years gone by), they have thought it—every day.

Adoptive parents have come to desire that connection for themselves and their child. They understand that a relationship with the birth parent does not diminish their role in the child’s life – or heart. Single parenthood, being adopted and infertility no longer carry the stigma they once did.

Adoption professionals, lawmakers and counselors have listened to the voices and tried to make laws and policies that provide helpful answers for all. Underlying our effort at Nightlight is our confident belief that some level of openness is good and emotionally healthy for all parties. It can be in the form of meetings, visits, letters, pictures, texts, videos, Facebook page or any number of other ways to have contact. In order to be a good fit for individuals in the adoption triad, relationships must be customized, but all good open adoptions are characterized by open hearts, understanding and a good amount of trust.

When birth parents and adoptive parents meet, there is a “realness” that appears. These are no longer people in a book, or birthparents who don’t care about the baby. They are real caring families who want to be parents more than anything meeting with a woman who is trying to make the right decision for her child in spite of her own sadness. Fears on both sides melt away, and relationships begin.

As contact continues through the lifetime of the child, the relationship can change, as all relationships do. They may increase or decrease in frequency. Lives go in different directions, but the child will know that everyone in his life, whether contact is frequent or not, that he is loved by everyone in his world. We now have several years’ experience with openness in adoption and they have proven to have very positive outcomes.

It seems that society at large and those who have not had a recent connection with adoption continue to believe that closed adoptions are the best. Having a relationship with birth parents is a scary proposition… “we’d really feel better if we could just go on down the road and pretend there are no other connections out there.” But the truth is there is another dimension to the child’s life. Adoptive parents’ lives can be greatly enriched by opening their hearts and getting to know the person responsible for bringing life to their child. Meeting and establishing a relationship is the greatest honor that can be given to a birth mother–to the person that has entrusted her child, and all her hopes and dreams for him to the care of the adoptive parents. It is an act that binds them together.

Is Egg Freezing the Only Solution?

Egg freezing may be used to preserve future fertility for women. Mature oocytes (eggs) are harvested from a woman’s ovaries, flash-frozen (vitrified), stored, and are later thawed to create embryos using in vitro fertilization Recently, we came across a very informative video series in which a 29 year old woman records her egg freezing experience.

It has only been recently that researchers have become more confident in successfully freezing human eggs. More women are considering it for a number of reasons:

  1. Cancer or other medical treatments: Certain medical treatments — such as radiation or chemotherapy — can harm egg numbers and quality. Egg freezing allows women to potentially have biological children in the future.
  2. IVF: After an egg retrieval cycle, some of the eggs may be fertilized for a current pregnancy attempt and other eggs may be stored for future pregnancy attempts. Embryos are created on an as-needed basis.
  3. Fertility Preservation: A woman may choose to freeze her eggs when she is young, unmarried, and just beginning her career. Then when she is ready to begin having children, eggs will be thawed, fertilized, and transferred.

The last reason is becoming more popular. One of the most important factors in successful egg freezing is the age of the woman. Egg quality declines as women age, so the earlier they are frozen, the more likely the eggs will survive the freezing and thawing process.

But is the process, expense, time, and risk involved worth it?

Egg freezing is costly, both financially and emotionally. Each egg retrieval cycle takes several months and some women may have to complete more than one retrieval in order to secure enough eggs for future use. The procedure to harvest eggs from the ovaries costs about $10,000, which does not include the cost of the medication and hormone injections the woman has to take for several weeks to stimulate her ovaries. After the embryos are frozen, there is an annual storage bill, averaging $600.00 a year. And when the eggs are thawed, fertilized, and transferred to the uterus through an IVF cycle, the cost ranges from $5,000 – $12,000.

Of course, there is no guarantee a woman will be able to have genetic children in the future if they freeze eggs now.

Are there other options?

Yes! There is another successful option for achieving a pregnancy in the future without incurring the expense of egg freezing. It is called embryo adoption. Embryos that have already been created IVF cycles are made available to for adoption. The adopting family uses the embryos to achieve a pregnancy and give birth. There is no expense for egg retrieval. No painful procedures. It’s affordable. It’s proven successful.

Anyone considering freezing their eggs should be aware of this option for future pregnancies. To learn more about embryo adoption, visit www.Snowflakes.org.

Protecting Your Baby From Birth Defects Through Nutrition

Women who are interested in embryo adoption are clearly interested in becoming pregnant and carrying a healthy child to term.  Did you know there is something you can begin NOW that will help protect your growing child in utero?

Take folic acid.

Jennifer Hofmeister, a Physician’s Assistant in Loveland, CO recently submitted an editorial on this subject.  Jennifer tells us:

“I want to make sure that all women in Northern Colorado who can become pregnant know about a simple way to improve their health to prevent brain and spine birth defects, such as spina bifida.

Spina bifida is the most common neural tube birth defect in the United States affecting 1,500 to 2,000 babies every year. Spina bifida is characterized by the incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord and/or meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord). While children can lead active lives with spina bifida, it is a serious birth defect that can result in severe physical disabilities, and there is no cure for the disorder.

Women can lower the risk of spina bifida in their future children by simply taking one pill a day: folic acid. Studies have shown that adding folic acid to a woman’s diet significantly reduces the risk of having a child with a neural tube defect, especially if women start taking the supplement before they become pregnant.

Birth defects of the brain and spine happen in the first weeks of pregnancy, often before a woman knows she’s pregnant. If a woman doesn’t begin taking folic acid until the start of her pregnancy, it leaves a short window for her and her baby to benefit from the supplement. Even if a woman is not planning to become pregnant soon it’s best to plan ahead and start taking folic acid today.

The easiest way for women to incorporate folic acid into their diet is by taking a supplement every day. Folic acid is available as an individual supplement or as part of a multivitamin. Always check the label to make sure it contains the recommended 400 micrograms of the supplement.

Folic acid can also be found in foods such as enriched breads, pastas and cereals. For the last decade, the FDA has required that manufacturers fortify these foods with folic acid. In addition to supplements and fortified foods, women can also eat a diet rich in folate which can be found naturally in beans, peas, lentils, oranges, asparagus, broccoli and dark leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale.

Even women who are not planning to become pregnant can benefit from getting enough folic acid every day. Our bodies make new cells every day — blood, skin, hair, nails and more. Folic acid is an important part of making these new cells. Deciding to start taking folic acid is one of the easiest healthy habits women can start today.”

So ladies, start your folic acid regiment today to protect the baby you adopt through embryo adoption tomorrow!

Learn more about embryo adoption at www.EmbryoAdoption.org.