22 years old, the completion of her college degree in sight and a promising career in optometry on the horizon. Things seemed to be sailing along on a glide path for embryo adoption mom Susan Lee. Then, an unwelcome interruption. Susan learned she had brain cancer.
The months of surgery and intensive radiation that came next left Susan exhausted. A discouraging prognosis from her medical team wore her down even more. “The doctors predicted I would likely never be able to have children, as the radiation might have damaged my pituitary gland,” she recalls.
Undaunted, Susan recovered and beat cancer. Amazingly, she also defied the doctors’ expectations. Seven years into their marriage, Susan and her husband Perry (whom she met just two months after finishing her radiation treatments) felt a surge of wonder as they learned the almost-too-good-to-be-true news: she was indeed pregnant. “Our beautiful daughter Olivia was born prematurely and weighed only four pounds,” Susan and Perry remember. “She was in the NICU for a little over a month, but is now a healthy 16-year-old in her junior year of high school.”
Frustration returned once Olivia turned a year old. Susan and Perry tried, without success, to provide her with a sibling. So they turned to fertility specialists. Half a dozen procedures and thousands of dollars later, there was still no baby. The specialists told Susan she simply didn’t have enough viable eggs to get pregnant. “My spirit was broken and my husband was so exhausted from seeing me cry all the time,” Susan says. They were ready to get off of this emotional roller coaster.
Their exit ramp from the ups and downs came in a form neither would have expected. Perry stumbled upon a news article about embryo adoption and shared it with Susan. At first, she thought the idea of becoming pregnant with an embryo created by someone else seemed “out there.” But that feeling changed as she and Perry educated themselves. “The more I researched and prayed about it,” Susan says, “the more I thought it might be for us.”
It turned out Susan was right. She and Perry traveled to the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville for their frozen embryo transfer. There, they found the answer to their prayers. “Our perfect, healthy, beautiful younger daughter Avery was born without complication on September 26, 2008. She is 10 years old now and is a thriving fifth-grader who reads on a ninth-grade level.”
Explaining the process of embryo adoption is a personal matter. Each family decides for itself when is the best time to let children who were once frozen embryos know how they were born. In the case of Susan and Perry, they began telling Avery at a very early age. “It’s an opportunity to teach her that life begins at conception and is precious,” Susan explains. “We told her that God hand-picked her just for us; that some very wonderful people made a great sacrifice so that two people who weren’t able to experience the joy of having a baby… wouldn’t miss out on the miracle that she is.”