“My heart just sank,” Melissa Smart remembers. “I had every emotion imaginable, from sorrow to anger and everything in between.” Those feelings ambushed Melissa’s life one day in 2009. That was the day she found out, after four years of marriage, that she and her husband Tom were completely infertile. Both had dreamed of having a large family. Now it looked like that vision of a house full of kids was destined to remain just that: a vision. The sadness in Melissa’s soul ran deep, leading to an inner angst that stayed anchored in her spirit for a season. “I did not want to adopt at the time and would not discuss it,” Melissa recalls. “My heart was so broken, and I needed time to mourn.”
Fast forward a year, and her heart had healed. That was when Tom came home and told her about a testimony he had heard from Dr. Russell Moore, who at the time was a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. (Moore now leads the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, making him one of the country’s most prominent evangelicals). Moore had shared the story of how his family adopted from Russia. As Tom recounted Moore’s words for Melissa, “In that instant, God changed my heart forever for adoption,” she says. Unfortunately, Russia was no longer open to U.S. adoptions. So the Smarts raised money for what they thought would be traditional domestic adoption. The amount they were able to collect, however, was far short of what they needed. What would they do next?
“We had heard about embryo adoption at an adoption conference, but I thought it sounded crazy; like something from a sci-fi movie,” Melissa remembered. “Tom was intrigued, though, and wanted to check it out.” They moved forward, and their search led them to the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. As Tom and Melissa clicked around the website, they realized a frozen embryo transfer (FET) with the NEDC was more affordable than traditional adoption. Also, it would cost almost exactly the amount they had raised. “We headed in that direction, not knowing what God had in store for us,” the Smarts recall.
What the Lord had in store for them can be summed up in one word: a lot. The path of embryo adoption is not always smooth or short. Tom and Melissa endured a failed FET before God blessed them with a beautiful baby girl, Adeline, in May 2013 as a result of their second transfer. “It was a huge celebration when we had her,” Tom and Melissa say. “She is sassy and bossy and very smart. She keeps us on our toes and we could not love her more!”
The Smarts visited the NEDC three more times in the hopes of blessing Adeline with siblings. In December 2016, their third return transfer resulted in twin boys Jonathan and Jeremiah. “Jonathan is the thinker and the cuddler,” Tom and Melissa explain. “Jeremiah is our little ham. He is always laughing and putting on a show.” And the twins aren’t the only recent additions to the household. The same week they learned they were pregnant with the boys, Tom and Melissa welcomed a foster child barely one year old into their home. That child has now been in the house for more than a year. The Smarts finally have the large family for which they longed. It wasn’t just a dream after all.
“God chose to use the NEDC to grow our family,” Tom and Melissa say. “Without the NEDC, the 14 total embryos we adopted would still be frozen in time and these three precious children would not be with us. We will forever be grateful beyond words.”