Rebecca and Chris Henderson of Hampton, Va., finally have the family they always wanted after more than a decade of heartbreak trying to have children.
The Hendersons had 11 frozen embryos left after their twins were born. They paid to keep them frozen and their options open until their third daughter was born three years ago. They weren’t comfortable donating their embryos for scientific research or destroying them as they believe life begins at conception.
Rebecca and Chris later allowed Kelli and Dan Gassman of Salem, Ore. to adopt their frozen embryos. Kelli and Dan are another Christian couple with similar beliefs as the Hendersons, who previously struggled with fertility issues. The embryos were planted in Kelli and she was able to give birth to their children now Trevor, 2 and Aubrey, 9 months.
“We have been blessed with three [children] when we didn’t think we’d have one, so, what kind of awesome is it to bless another couple and let them experience the same kind of joy we did?” Becky said.
The popularity of embryo donation has grown in recent years. Most who choose this option do so for religious or ideological reasons, said Sean Tipton, spokesperson for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
The term embryo adoption is favored by those who believe life begins at conception. However, the medical group has issued an ethics policy stating the procedure should be called donation and not adoption, because they believe embryos are not children.
“We are in favor of having people have lots of options as they build their family,” Tipton said. “But I do not think it’s important to recognize their ideological motivations.”
Most donated embryos come from families like the Hendersons, who have extra after a successful assisted fertility.
The Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program, part of the non-profit Nightlight Christian Adoptions of Orange County, Calif., acted like a dating service between the Hendersons and the Gassmans.
Both the couples said the match worked wonderfully for them.
“It was kind of like a joining of hearts,” Kelli Gassman said.
The Gassmans had their son in December of 2012 and their daughter was born in March 2014.
When asked whether the arrangement felt odd, Kelli and Dan said no.
Both couples decided on an open relationship so their kids could know their genetic siblings someday.
The Henderson twins, now 8, have met the Gassman’s son and know he’s their biological brother. They have a “sibling” book with his and Aubrey’s pictures and their children spend time together on Facebook and Skype.
“Having an open adoption with communication helps you get over the fears and the doubts, The what-ifs? It helps get beyond that,” Becky Henderson said.