From Tom and Stacy L.,
This week is a big week for us, but to appreciate the weight of it, I am sharing our back story too. Our identity and faith in Jesus do not pivot on the experiences told below, but this is a part of our lives in which God has taught and changed us immensely.
When Stacy and I started dating over 12 years ago, we were both excited to learn that in addition to wanting children of our own, each of us felt that adoption was something we wanted to pursue in the future. As He so often does, God has a plan far different from our own, and despite sorrow and grief He has faithfully been a source of joy as we have seen Him unfold his plan. Little did we realize how strong the James 1:27 call to care for orphans would become.
Very early in our marriage, it became apparent that we were not going to start a family quickly. After many doctor appointments, what we were ultimately told could be summed up as, “If we pay the doctors enough they will give us a child.” For a number of reasons we rejected that option as God gently showed us that putting hope for the future in our own flesh and blood is foolishness.
Next, we started looking into domestic and international adoption, and God continued to change our hearts and minds. We went from being fearful of babies with unknown health problems and unsure about inter-racial adoptions to excited about what the future might hold. We researched agencies and briefly looked into foster care too. While we were in the process of filling out applications for a local agency that did domestic adoptions, a family member told us about a nearby church that was starting an embryo adoption agency.
We quickly learned what this agency was trying to do. Couples who undergo IVF can easily become responsible for many embryos, frozen in stasis within a week of conception, viable but with no womb to receive them. The agency was reaching out to couples such as these, and arranging for their embryos to be adopted by other couples hoping to start or grow their families. At last estimate, there are at least 600,000 and possibly more than 1 million frozen embryos in storage in the US alone. Our culture does not recognize these as children, but as property, tissue, and medical waste, with less controversy surrounding their destruction than abortion. The implications to the Christian remain the same, these are children in need of a home as desperately as any orphan could.
Embryo adoption was well suited for us. The ethical issues we had with fertility treatment were allayed, it addressed our desire and calling to help children without a voice, and it provided the opportunity for Stacy to actually carry the child. We immediately started working with the agency, and ended up taking custody of a sibling group of 6 embryos. Statistically speaking, our family should be larger, but through the sorrow of multiple miscarriages, including the loss of our daughter’s twin in-utero, only one survived. Our daughter is a great joy and a living testament to the sanctity of life. God gives all gifts for a set time before they are called back to Himself. Stewarding His children as our own is no different, whether we care for them briefly or a lifetime. Loss does not get lesser with time, but does become easier as we gain a fuller understanding of God’s sovereignty.
Since all 6 embryos could not be transferred at once, we started the process of becoming a foster home concurrently with the remaining transfers. We were licensed in WA, and ended up moving to CA for work. One of the hardest parts of the decision to move was giving up our license, and also withdrawing our names as candidates to foster/adopt two siblings close to our daughter’s age. When we arrived down here, we quickly began the process of relicensing, and have since cared for 3 different children. We have had our patience tested to the extreme: been accused, lied to, abused, threatened, and ignored while trying to care for these little ones. Quitting or giving up has often been so appealing, shutting off our emotions can seem like the easy way out, but these children need loving homes. They need a voice speaking for them out of a storm of uncertainty and fear. Our world is broken, and any system humans put in place is no different. Children in foster care need Christians to open their homes and hearts despite the risk, the pain, and the difficulty. They need to see Jesus’ love worked out in a tangible practical way.
This week is a significant milestone in our path of stewarding God’s children. Some months ago out of the blue, we were contacted by a local doctor who was aware of our embryo adoption story. She informed us that she had a family who wanted to donate embryos. After a lot more paperwork, we have taken custody of a sibling group of 4 embryos. The first one was thawed and transferred on Thursday. This week is one of hoping and praying for life, as we wait for Friday to learn whether Stacy is pregnant and what the future holds.
Stacy and I both would be glad to meet with/pray for/talk further with anyone about infertility, adoption, IVF ethics, foster care, or other related things. Without being overt, we are more than willing to share our story freely to help or encourage others in their faith and life.