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Embryo adoption helps Birmingham couple grow their family after battling infertility

Mary Leah and Rodney Miller hold their two children, whom they adopted as embryos.
Mary Leah and Rodney Miller hold their two children, whom they adopted as embryos.
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Mary Leah and Rodney Miller have their hands full.

They welcomed twins Dalton and Mary Elizabeth on December 23, 2022, but their family's journey actually started ten years prior.

"I think like so many couples we thought we would start trying to have kids and it would happen, you know, naturally," Mary Leah Miller said. "I think that's what most couples think, and unfortunately for us, that was not the case."

Like many couples with fertility challenges the Millers opted for medical intervention.

They went through the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) to no avail. Doctors told them an egg quality issue kept their embryos from developing.

"It was tough," Rodney Miller recalls. "We saw doctors from here to New York, trying to get answers, trying to find someone who could do something different as far as the medication or the stimulation."

The Millers considered adoption, but they admitted it never felt like the right option.

"I really felt like I wanted to be pregnant," Mary Leah said. "I felt like I was supposed to be pregnant, and I think for a lot of women, that struggle with infertility, it's one of the things that they grieve, is that they're having problems and they're unable to carry a child."

Over the course of several years, the Millers went through six rounds of IVF. None of them were successful.

Then, they heard about embryo adoption from a couple who had success with the process.

So they set up a call.

"We got off that phone call, and, I think for the first time in years, we had a different type of hope," Rodney said. "I mean, we held on to our faith, the entire time and believed we were going to be blessed with a family, but after going through so many cycles of IVF over so many years and so many shots and being met with so much disappointment, having negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test, all of a sudden, we felt like there was something different here, you know, that this was going to happen."

That hope came from the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, which is a division of Nightlight Christian Adoptions.

"The embryos are remaining from couples who have had IVF," said Vice President Kimberly Tyson. "They have had as many children as they are willing to have in their family and now they remain in frozen storage."

Tyson says families looking to donate their embryos and families looking to adopt both create profiles, then a team matches them.

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"The placing families are kind of looking for stability, so we are looking for families that have been married at least two years or more," Tyson said. "Also, the adopting family has completed what we call an adoption home study which also brings some peace of mind to the placing family, that the famliies that we're going to presenting to them have been vetted through this adoption home study process."

The Millers quickly matched with another couple and adopted four embryos, but the results weren't what they had hoped.

"The first transfer was not successful," Mary Leah recalled. "[With] the second transfer, we did achieve a pregnancy, so that was amazing, but I did miscarry around eight weeks, and so that was obviously incredibly devastating. But it also was kind of the first time where we got a glimmer of hope in our journey because I was like my body knows what to do when presented a viable embryo."

Holding on to that glimmer of hope, they found another family and adopted five embryos. They transferred two of them, successfully.

Nine months later, Dalton and Mary Elizabeth arrived--twins, adopted, then born into a loving family.

"I think that's going to be really neat one day when they learn of their story and their journey to be able to say, you know, I carried you," Mary Leah said. "Yes, you were adopted but I also carried you. Mommy took care of you for nine months while you grew, and so I just think it's absolutely beautiful."

Mary Leah may have nurtured them for nine months, but the twins had been waiting much longer than that to be born. In fact, they had been frozen for about 10 years before being thawed and transferred to Mary Leah.

In that ten years, the Millers had been, unknowingly, waiting for them.

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Rodney said. "Now that they're here and they're born, I wouldn't change anything about the 10 years of grieving or the money that was spent on the different IVF cycles. Like these were intended to be our children, and we're so grateful."

The Millers said that they plan on transferring all five embryos and having more children. They currently keep in contact with the placing family, and they plan to let their children meet their biological family when they get older.

Tyson said that, typically, embryo adoption can be less expensive and have a shorter wait time than traditional adoption, but there are risks, and not every embryo transfer results in pregnancy.

For more information about the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, click here to visit the website.

Throughout their ten-year journey with infertility, the Millers realized how important it was to have support along the way. They helped found Carrywell, an organization to foster community with couples experiencing infertility, help find resources and give away grant money for procedures.

They spoke with Talk of Alabama's Katherine Page about an event to recognize National Infertility Week.

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