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Family adopts frozen embryos

November 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
At this moment, an estimated 500,000 embryos are in storage -- a frozen limbo. Many are considered leftovers, embryos created but not ultimately needed for in vitro fertilization. Many couples struggle with what to do with their potential unborn children. So more and more are putting them up for adoption.Stephanie and Mike Maciborski can't imagine their lives without 1-year-old Mark and 4-and-a-half-year old Andrew.

It is hard to believe not long ago both little boys were frozen tiny embryos stored in limbo, in containers just like this one for years on end.

"You know it's just been an answer to a prayer for us," said Mike.

Mike and Stephanie struggled with infertility before entering this new frontier in adoption. By adopting their children as embryos, the Mission Viejo couple was able to experience all the joys of pregnancy and parenthood.

"The joy of seeing her tummy grow," said Mike.

"The delivery room, just every other woman wants to experience," said Stephanie.

Mark and Andrew come from two different sets of genetic parents. Both sets of parents used IVF, both were left with extra embryos.

Ron Stoddart runs Nightlight Christian Adoptions in Fullerton.

"We've had 185 babies born so far, and we have another 17 babies that are due," said Stoddart.

The idea for embryo adoption arose from the tough choices couples with extra embryos are facing:

  • Should they donate the embryos to science?
  • Donate them to infertile couples?
  • Or destroy their potential genetic offspring?
"And unfortunately, many families resolve that problem by ignoring it. If they don't think about it, don't deal with it, then it'll go away. Unfortunately, the embryos will not go away," said Stoddart.

"We do have people, that I guess you could say they've abandoned them," said Dr. Jeffrey Nelson, Huntington Reproductive Center.

Dr. Nelson estimates there are thousands of embryos in storage at his facility alone.

"We don't want this continued accumulation of embryos," said Dr. Nelson. "So best thing to do is be proactive and educate people ahead of time on what their alternatives are going to be."

A 2002 study found that only 2 percent of embryos are donated to infertile couples.

"I found that the reason for that was that families who had embryos did not feel comfortable in donating them to the clinic and never knowing what happened," said Stoddart.

So Ron developed a process similar to traditional adoption. Genetic parents have more control over who will adopt and raise their genetic offspring.

"I think it offers them a lot of peace you know, and a lot of comfort," said Stephanie.

Adoptive parents are screened and their medical and criminal backgrounds checked. Are they financially stable? Is their marriage stable? Genetic parents can also specify which characteristics are most important to them.

"They can determine the religion, whether they have other children, how long they've been married, whether the mom will stay home or not," said Stoddart.

Mike and Stephanie made a scrapbook for the genetic parents of Andrew.

"We are so looking forward to beginning our family after six years of marriage and the heartache of infertility," said Stephanie.

Mike and Stephanie hope both their kids will eventually want to meet their genetic parents. Andrew already knows he is adopted.

"We tell him he was like a little seed the doctors planted in mommy's tummy," said Stephanie.

"When I see a picture of a baby that's been born I realize that the alternative was that, that child would of been destroyed or still frozen," said Stoddart.

"We can't think of a greater gift they've given us -- their love and generosity. How unselfish to give these little embryos a chance at life," said Stephanie.

Both Maciborski boys spent two to three years as frozen embryos before being adopted.

Mike and Stephanie are hoping for a third child. They've adopted two more embryos from the same genetic parents as their son Mark.


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