Donating embryos for adoptionCreating a Family is dedicated to providing education and support for all parts of infertility–including the little discussed parts. And one of the least discussed aspects of infertility is what to do with the remaining frozen embryos after fertility treatment is completed. When you are living in the famine of infertility, it’s hard to even imagine having excess embryos, but many infertility patients are in just this position. Here is how one couple decided to donate their embryos to another couple, Lindsay and Rick Alford. (Lindsay uses the term “embryo adoption”, while others prefer “embryo donation”.)


Our story began seven years ago when I gave Rick Alford my forever. During the infancy of our relationship, as with most couples, Rick and I explored each other’s hopes and dreams. Neither of us desired anything out of the ordinary, I wanted to get married and have children. Little did we know, this simple dream would lead to major challenges and test the best of relationships.

I remember November 17, 2008 like it was yesterday. It was the day I learned I wasn’t pregnant after six failed intrauterine inseminations (IUIs). I literally dropped to the floor and cried for five hours straight. My poor mother had to listen to me cry for the first hour knowing my heart was breaking into a million pieces and there was nothing she could do or say to make me feel better. I was devastated. I had to face the harsh reality I may never be a mother. Somehow I managed to pick myself up and press on. On February 1, 2010, my life changed forever. It was the day Rick and I decided to try in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Ten and a half months later, I gave birth to beautiful twin girls. The IVF process, however, created five grade A embryos, Liv and Mia were just two of the five.

An Unimaginable Decision

We were faced with an unimaginable decision to determine the fate of the three remaining embryos. We knew we couldn’t keep them frozen forever, we also knew we couldn’t afford five children. The next option was to destroy them, but that option didn’t sit well with us either. We couldn’t imagine destroying them simply because our family was complete. The last option was to give them up for adoption–embryo adoption.

I dug deep and thought about the four years of tears, medication, pain, and frustration I went through to get the embryos to this point. I just knew there was another female out there who wanted them – a loving woman fighting for the opportunity to become a birth mother.

Yet, I still felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. How could we let another couple give birth to and raise our children? Children we created out of love. If we gave them up, would they grow up to understand we made our decision out of love? For months, sleep seemed impossible and I would often cry myself to sleep. There was no way around it, my heart hurt and I wondered if I could find the strength to be selfless.

We opted to give our genetic embryos up for adoption to a couple in the Midwest who had been trying to get pregnant for 10 years. We realize it’s not the right choice for everyone, but we knew we had to do what’s best for them while they were in our care and if given the opportunity to speak, I bet they would have told us to give them a chance…somewhere, anywhere at life. I also couldn’t help but look at Liv and Mia playing with their toys and think, they could have easily been two of the remaining embryos and are only here by chance.

Open or Closed

Our clinic only offered closed adoptions, which we weren’t comfortable with. We placed our embryos with an adoption agency because we knew we wanted an open embryo adoption. We wanted these children to have access to their full medical history, where they came from, what they may look like and most importantly, they’ve always been wanted. We also wanted Liv and Mia to know their genetic siblings and for all of the children to determine the extent of their relationship.

Parenthood is a privileged denied to many. To experience the joy of easing someone’s heartache and give life is incredible, indescribable actually.

The Rest of the Story

Sadly, the transfer of our embryos to the other couple was unsuccessful. Ironically, this news was so much harder to handle than the decision to donate our embryos to this couple. The adoptive parents had been trying for so long…

I shared the sad news with a few close friends. One friend replied, “You were meant to give your embryos up for adoption so God could help you come to a peaceful closure.” I wish it were that simple. We didn’t make our decision to give the embryos up for adoption for peace of mind. We were captivated by the adoptive parent’s love story and truly wanted this to work for them. Sure it’s hard to imagine someone giving birth to and raise your genetic child but we were willing to unselfishly take the chance.

~Lindsay Alford is content strategist by day, loving mom by night. In her spare time, she enjoys blogging, outdoor adventure and coaching couples through the journey of fertility woes.

Could you donate your unused embryos to another infertile couple?

Image credit: Emi Caroline