Our First Embryo Adoption Story

For those of you who don't know. We adopted our daughter, Gracie, as a frozen embryo in 2007. We have an open adoption agreement with a wonderful couple in Utah. The following is basically the message that I shared at our church this past Mother’s Day. It covers a time span of nearly 22 years, so it is long! But, I hope it will encourage you to trust God and to persevere!
Our former pastor once told us, “The greater the test- the greater the testimony!” Well, today, I have a testimony to share with you. It is my testimony of God’s faithfulness as I lived out an almost 22 year test to motherhood.
Like most people, I expected my life to be ‘normal’- fall in love, get married, and have children after a few years. At our wedding, one of the ministers gave this advice, “Learn to laugh at yourselves in the midst of stressful situations- burnt meals, flat tires, and someday…dirty diapers.” We so expected to have children that our very first, “major” argument as husband and wife was over the name of our first child! We think this is rather funny now, because it would be another 22 years before that would ever be an issue! We were married for about 6 years when we decided it was time to see what life would be like with dirty diapers! But, after two years had passed and no children had come, we realized we needed to seek out some answers from the medical profession. A few months later we were told that we were indeed unable to conceive children on our own. We were referred to the University of AR School of Medicine to discuss the option of invitro fertilization. At the time, we knew very little about the procedure. It was not done as readily in the early 90’s as it is now. I started reading up on it (not on Google, but actually checked out books at the library), and discovered that one of the shortfalls of invitro was the dilemma of what to do with unused embryos. Byron and I both believe that life begins at conception and we had a problem with freezing embryos indefinitely, only to see them eventually destroyed. However, it was a non-issue at the time, because we were told that we were not good candidates for invitro fertilization anyway! So, we began exploring other ways to build our family. We looked into foreign and domestic adoption. Lack of money made these options unattainable. A few years later, we found out about an adoption agency in California that had a program called, ‘Snowflakes’. They were helping couples adopt frozen embryos! Unfortunately, this too was not an option because there were no facilities close enough to the small town we were living in that could facilitate such a procedure. We even began the process to become foster parents. But, every time we began to pursue something, we ran into brick walls. In fact over the course of twelve years, we either - moved, lost a job, or had some sort of devastating medical crisis every two years! Stressful situations indeed! There was no way that we could just “laugh at ourselves” through all of that! In fact, it doesn’t seem enough to describe those years in two sentences. They were trying in many ways. We didn’t have to go through what many of my friends have faced…unsuccessful IVF or miscarriages, but everyday for all of those years, there was Nothing but barrenness. God alone was our strength, our peace, our hope, our very breath!!! Throughout this time of waiting, God’s presence was undeniable. I was learning to stand on God’s Promises. At just the right time, He would often give me a song of encouragement. (Like Nothing is Too Difficult for You~ One day I was drying my hair and a song ‘dropped into my spirit. I began to sing…”Nothing is too difficult for You. You created all I feel and see. You made the mighty mountains high and yet You know and touch my life. I’ll praise You now and through eternity.”) He would bring in an evangelist or a friend who had a “word” for us that confirmed once again that we would have children some day. For instance, at one point in our journey, a young evangelist came to our church. The Lord used him to deliver the Gift of Knowledge to us. (It’s when you supernaturally receive knowledge about someone’s situation, when you would have no other way of knowing these things.) He didn’t know us, didn’t know our struggles with infertility. He didn’t know that we had been believing God for a child for over 8 years at that point. But, he came up to Byron and said “You and your wife are going to have a baby girl and she’s gonna come out singing! Around that same time, a missionary came to our church. We went out to lunch with him and afterwards he said to me, “God has told me that if you will continue to worship Him, He will give you the desire of your heart.” Well, this was good news, but I can remember thinking….”which desire of my heart? I have quite a list right now.” Later that evening, the missionary approached me again. He explained that he was hesitant to share the entire message with me because it was very specific. But, after talking to our pastor, he realized that it was from God. He said, the desire referred to is concerning a child. God is going to give you a little girl. Wow! ~another piece of hope to ‘tuck away’ in my heart. Sometimes I would unearth a treasure in God’s word that I’d never seen before that spoke right to my situation. Like this verse…Psalm 113:9- He maketh the barren woman to keep house and to be a joyful mother of children. This scripture encouraged me when nothing seemed to be happening.
I was learning to pray without ceasing. I can vividly remember praying to the Lord as I took walks. I would thank Him for our children. I’d ask the Lord to protect our little one wherever he or she was…frozen, in an orphanage somewhere, in a mother’s womb. I didn’t know, I just prayed…
As the months turned to years and the years turned into more than two decades…I personally began to feel a little silly when I talked about having children- one day. In fact, in 2004, I was done. Byron had been diagnosed with cancer and was going through chemotherapy. He wasn’t working and we really didn’t know what the future held for us. At that point, I just wanted to know that life was going to settle down- that my husband would live and not die and declare the works of the Lord. I told God, “I don’t have to have children. I’m really tired of fighting that battle of faith. Let’s just forget about it.” But, as I stood up from burying my face in the seat of the lazyboy, I sensed that God and I were not on the same page. I strongly sensed that I needed to trust Him a little longer, and that He had not given up. I was learning that God’s delay is not God’s Denial. ( A phrase that I heard from Jessie Duplantis) Three years later, I realized that at about that same time, Gracie was conceived and placed in cryopreservation. I didn’t know it, but when I was giving up, God was just getting started!
* I Cor. 13 We see through glass dimly.
*II Corinthians 5:7 “We live by faith, not by sight.”
In 2006, we were experiencing a time of peace and calm. Byron had just received a full time position at our church and we sought God’s face about adopting, once again. We were considering traditional adoption and embryo adoption. We felt God give us the green light to pursue embryo adoption. By this time, a doctor in Tennessee (not California) had started an organization called the National Embryo Donation Center. They were more than happy to help us get started with the process. We were the first couple in Virginia to adopt frozen embryos through the NEDC, and were bounced back and forth between Bethany offices for about a month. We even received a letter from Bethany telling us that they would not be able to help us. Once they figured out what to do with us, I was faced with something totally unexpected. During my first visit with Dr. Keenan at the NEDC, he felt a nodule on my thyroid. He said these were actually very common, but because a healthy thyroid was necessary in carrying a baby to full term, I’d need to get it checked out. Long story short, after the ultrasound and biopsy, it was determined that these were suspicious cells and that I’d need surgery. I was completely shocked when I received that phone call. I had absolutely no expectation of anything other than good news from the surgeon. I was the healthy one. Well, not only was I dealing with the concern over my health, I was devastated because everything concerning our embryo adoption came to a screeching halt. In the midst of this, I learned something very important- empathy. This experience helped me to understand how my DH must have felt all those years before. He felt he was to blame for our infertility. It was so hard on him, and I’d always try to comfort him, but I really didn’t ‘get it’ until I was the one causing the delay. Finally, after 6 weeks of waiting, my surgery day came. The nodule was benign! Several weeks of blood work to make certain my thyroid was working after half of it had been removed, and we were back on track! Our wonderful caseworker at Bethany got our homestudy completed in no time at all, and our transfer happened in September. Then- in June of 2008- I became a mother for the first time at the age of 42 to a beautiful baby girl! (And she did come out singing… Kind of a cute synchopated ah uh, ah, uh, ah uh! :)

I am learning to Trust in God’s Faithfulness and Redemption
Gracie was frozen for almost 4 years, but even in that frozen state- everything that she would ever become was all there. At the National Embryo Donation Center, they often say- “Not a potential life, but a life with potential!” Gracie was being preserved for us, for just the right time. Once, shortly after Gracie was born, I asked the Lord why we had to wait so long to become parents. It seemed to me that many years had been wasted in waiting. I was impressed with the following thought. “Did you want Gracie?” Of course, my answer was, “Yes! I love Gracie!” Then this realization came to me. Gracie wasn’t in existence 20 years ago, 15 years ago, or even 10 years ago. God brought the three of us together in His timing.

The story I’ve shared today is about trusting God for a child. Your faith may need to be applied for entirely different reasons. Maybe you’ve felt enslaved by the past, maybe you’re trying to get victory over a sin issue but it seems you’ll never be free. Maybe life or a dream or an answer you’ve been praying for seems ‘on hold’ or ‘frozen’. Believe God that He still has everything in place! Just as Gracie’s DNA- everything about her- was there in that tiny, microscopic embryo. God knows every detail of your dilemma and has the perfect solution. He is a faithful, coordinated genius! And not because I say so, but because His word says so!
Ps. 89:33- Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.
Heb.12:1-3- “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith…Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Ps. 130:7- (Holman version)- Israel, put your hope in the Lord. For there is faithful love with the Lord, and with Him is redemption in abundance.

Oh how I pray that you would get this message of redemption today. I pray that you would allow the Holy Spirit to fill you with expectation and hope; that you would step out and trust the Lord to do what only he can do! He has a plan!
Joshua 29:11-14 (Holman Version)- “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you’-this is the Lord’s declaration- ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’ ‘You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you.’ -the Lord’s declaration-‘and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you’- the Lord’s declaration. ‘I will restore you to the place I deported you from.’”

Here is a Beth Moore quote: “He (God) not only diffuses our past of all power to harm and haunt us, but He infuses it with power to help others.”
Barrenness is difficult and painful. Believing and trusting God for children when every door seems closed is not easy either. However, the joy and thankfulness when the promise is fulfilled is beyond description. It almost erases those years of pain. I very strongly believe that every trial serves a greater purpose, and I pray our story will be useful in encouraging others.