I watch a lot of weird stuff (don’t ask me why, because I don’t know). I have mentioned here in the past that TLC is one of my favorite television channels. Shows like body bizarre and My 600 lb. Life, have my heart and I have been watching for years; weird right?
Image courtesy of Pexels
One day I stumbled upon a short documentary on YouTube talking about embryo adoption. YouTube also knows I love weird stuff, so they stay suggesting the kinds of things I enjoy watching. The picture of the baby on the thumbnail caught my attention and I knew I just had to find out what it was all about (plus I’m a baby fanatic).
I posed a question in the title of today’s article: can you adopt or donate an embryo? Regardless of what your answer might be, let us start by defining what an embryo is. Embryo according to Google.com is an unborn or unhatched offspring in the process of development, in particular, a human offspring during the period from approximately the second to the eighth week after fertilization.
How do you get an embryo out of the body?
The process of getting an embryo outside of the human body happens this way; the woman is injected with hormones to stimulate her body into producing a large number of eggs over 8-12 days, then the eggs are harvested from the ovaries and fertilized with sperm, through a process known as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The reason why a doctor would harvest multiple eggs is that not every egg results in successful fertilization. So they have to get a good number, to increase the chances of fertilization and eventually, conception. The fertilized egg and sperm is known as the embryo. Depending on what a couple decides to do with their embryo, the embryo is either implanted in the uterus of the woman or frozen till whenever they are ready to get pregnant. (A couple in the United States sometime last year, got pregnant with an embryo frozen for 25years! crazy part, the mom is just 25 years old! Omg!)
In some situations, like the documentary I watched on YouTube, couples end up having many embryos and are not sure of what to do with them (except they are willing to have a bunch of kids running around) they either donate them for research, destroy them (sad face) or donate them to a couple in need of children (interesting!)
The story of the documentary unfolded like this: a couple had issues conceiving and had to turn to IVF for a little boost to help them get pregnant. In the process they had 12 embryos, out of those 12, only eight made the cut. From the healthy eight, they decided they wanted only two kids! (Crazy right?) What is now going to happen to the six? I asked as I stayed engrossed, lost in discovering a phenomenon I never knew existed.
They left them frozen for a while, without coming to any resolution, and focused on their two offsprings. This couple happened to have a mutual friend with another couple battling infertility for over 15 years. They had tried IVF, but it did not work for them. They also had given up on ever becoming parents, when their friend approached them with the possibility of someone saying—mama and dada to them, through embryo adoption.
“Getting Pregnant is not as easy as our Mothers made it seem”
Let us sidetrack for a minute—growing up especially in countries like Nigeria, our parents (especially the mothers) warned their daughters not to go close to boys because they would get pregnant. The conversations went like this—Ada, (a girl’s name) stay away from boys oh! If you go close to them, you would get pregnant! I remember when I first got my period, and my mom said to me—now you have to be careful of boys! Did I mention that was the most awkward conversation I ever had with my mother?
Anyway, with the guys, they usually said to them—make sure you don’t bring any pregnant girl home! Use protection, or keep it in your pants! That is if they even talked to them about sex. Our movies didn’t even make the sex talks any better. Once you saw a single girl who lived with her parents run to the bathroom or outside to puke, then you knew that the inevitable had happened! (e don happen.) With these rants from parents and misinformation from Nollywood movies, you would think as soon as you got married that after a few months, there would be a belly bump.But that isn’t the case for everyone. You will be astonished to know the number of couples dealing with infertility.
Back to the story at hand, the friend both couples had in common, decided to talk to both parties (separately) asking if they would be comfortable with donating their embryos (the couple who owned them) and if they would be willing to adopt an embryo (the couple who needed children).
The husband from the couple in need, immediately objected! You have to understand that this method of adoption is a foreign concept to most people—I did not even know about it until I stumbled on their story. The husband wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to love a child that didn’t come from his body. His wife was devastated because her lifelong dream was to be able to birth a child. Maybe the man wasn’t as receptive because he already fathered a child from a previous relationship, before meeting his now wife of 15 years.
The couple who didn’t have kids needed the time to work through their differences. The wife was going to resent her husband if he did not agree to go ahead with the adoption, and the husband, his wife, if they went through with it. So they had work to do. On the other hand, the ones who were approached for the donation also had to do some thinking, like if they really wanted to give up their unborn kids to total strangers. After a couple of weeks, they decided to meet; and go through a bunch of questions like:
Couple A (Parents): I hope you will be able to take care of the kids, say we agree to an adoption.
Couple B (soon-to-be-parents): I hope you wouldn’t come and claim the kids in the future.
I can imagine the extensive conversations, research, background checks, and paperwork that had to happen before they decided to move forward with the process. The first embryo which was going to be implanted died in the process of thawing, and they implanted another one. The donating couple was gracious enough to donate all six of their remaining embryos to the couple in need! This is crazy! I thought, (but in a good way). The second embryo implantation was successful! And the woman got pregnant almost immediately!
She kept the other couple in the loop throughout the pregnancy (not that she had to because this wasn’t surrogacy), but they liked each other and wanted to remain in both their lives. After nine months, she gave birth to the most beautiful boy ever, and when her husband first set his eyes on their bundle of joy, he couldn’t hold back the tears! It was love at first sight, according to him.
Then I began to wonder, how would the other couple with kids, introduce their children to this newborn child? Cousins’ maybe? And that was exactly what happened! When they brought their kids to meet the baby, the mom said—meet your cousin.
I am glad both couples were at peace with their decisions in the end. Couple A did a noble thing, by gifting their embryos to a family who could not conceive the natural way but had a desire to be parents. That is sacrificial love.
For me though, I don’t think I would be willing to donate my embryo. Let me not even say I don’t think, I know I wouldn’t because, in my head, that is my child. And I cannot be separated from them in that way. Would I be willing to adopt an embryo vs. a child, I would go the child route, I am actually thinking of adopting one (or two) in addition to having kids biologically.
I have questions:
1. What if these kids adopted via embryo adoption, meet with their biological siblings later on in life, and fall in love and get married, then what?
2. What if the biological parents of the embryos decide that they want their kid back, say we maintain a relationship to avoid question one?
3. Would my child be happy with me, discovering one day that I gave them up? This is just me, I don’t have issues with couples who become parents this way, and it is a blessing. But for me, it’s a no-no.
I think in the dating process, this conversation should be had, just in case you happen to find yourselves in the boat of infertility, you know exactly what options are available, and which you are willing to take, so you both don’t butt heads if the time comes.
So what do you all think? Can you adopt an embryo or can you donate one? Why and why not? Let’s talk about it! Send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave them below in the comments section.
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About The Author: Evi Idoghor is a Christian, writer, and content creator on Letstalknationblog.com. She is a chemical engineering graduate from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Consumed by her love for writing and desire to effect change, she launched her online platform––Let’s Talk Nation––to tap into her creativity and start meaningful conversations that would make a difference around the world.
Most of her writing has been influenced by her time spent in America, where she lived for about 11 years. Also, she lived in Nigeria and South Korea and currently loves traveling the world while learning about other fascinating cultures. You can find her on all social media platforms with @eviidoghor.