When we graduate high school and start our lives as young adults, most of us make plans. We try to roadmap, loosely, what the rest of our lives might look like. Surely there’s wisdom in that. What we can’t take into account, however, are the surprises that will crop up and change everything. Over and over, the element of surprise has reshaped the world of embryo adoption parents Chad and Melissa Cowan.
For starters, they never would have met if Jesus Christ hadn’t turned Melissa’s life upside down. She didn’t see it coming, but in 1999, she put her trust in Him and became a Christian. A year later, she found herself part of a singles ministry at a church. That was where she met Chad. The two of them started dating a few years later and married in 2004. These unexpected relationships, with her Savior and her husband, were now the focal points of Melissa’s life.
Of course, not all surprises are so welcome. Melissa and Chad wanted to have children, but ended up spending 11 years running into the spirit-sapping buzz saw of infertility. “The rollercoaster of hope and disappointment, grief and acceptance, just became a cyclical pattern that made us both feel powerless,” Melissa remembers. “Do you go into debt to seek treatment? How many times do you try before stopping? Do you pursue foster care? What about adoption? The pressures of these conversations can strain a marriage, but they also force you to decide what is important to you as a couple.”
Trusted Advice Pays Off
It was the advice of trusted friends that finally led them to the National Embryo Donation Center. Embryo adoption was an option the Cowans weren’t even aware of before those conversations began. But the team at the NEDC had helped their friends become parents, and as it turned out, did the same for Chad and Melissa. Their son, Landry, arrived 12 years into their marriage. He had been frozen for almost 11 years. The Cowans never would have believed it if you’d have told them, during all those years of infertility, that their son was already alive and waiting for them. Landry was conceived and frozen just nine months after Melissa and Chad’s wedding.
Melissa describes her son, now almost 3, this way: “He knows that God loves him and that God placed a love for music in his heart.” From the time Landry was 18 months old, Chad and Melissa say he showed a strong interest in music. He has a lot of instruments that he “pretend plays” (guitar, fiddle, harmonica, trombone, etc.) and a couple (ukulele, violin) that he plays for real. His parents suspect they might have a budding virtuoso on their hands. They’re beyond thankful for the joy his laughter, happiness and high energy have brought to their home.
Instincts Aren’t Always Right
And there’s something else the Cowans are grateful for. “The greatest surprise of embryo adoption has been the relationship with our donor family that I never knew I needed,” Melissa says. Her and Chad’s first instincts were to pursue a closed adoption. But as they studied more, they decided it would be best for their child’s long term well-being to have an open relationship with their embryo donors. They’re confident they made the right choice. “We communicate regularly, sharing not only the milestones and funny antics of our son and their two children, but also the hardships and joys of life. Now, I cannot imagine life without our son or our wonderful and loving donors.”
Only God, using the NEDC, could turn Chad and Melissa’s seemingly lost highway into a road of redemption. “[Medical Director] Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, [embryologist] Carol Sommerfelt and the whole NEDC staff have used their medical training and research to do something that I never knew was possible. It seems like it should be impossible, that there would be too many obstacles and barriers to make this work, but I’m here to say it works,” Melissa says. She still sounds a little surprised.