NOTE: This embryo adoption story was written firsthand by NEDC mom Jeni Gardner.
Danny and I met in 2003 when we were invited to join an exploratory mission trip to the Dominican Republic with mutual friends. We did not hit it off at first. But after a week together serving, we felt a connection that we pursued upon our return to Charleston, SC. Eleven months later, we were married.
Before we met, the Lord had already pressed upon each of us a desire to adopt. Entering into committed relationships with our Savior a bit later in our lives (we both grew up in the Church, had seasons when we were not walking in obedience, and then were drawn back to Jesus), we definitely understood the beauty of adoption – we ourselves are adopted in our relationship with Jesus! We weren’t sure what adoption would look like for us, but it was often a topic of conversation.
In 2005, we learned we were pregnant with our first child. Madeline was born in December. Then we added John in 2007, Miles in 2009, Micah in 2011, and Judah in 2013. In August of 2015, we experienced our first loss: Jacob Isaiah was stillborn at 35 weeks. We were heartbroken, but trusted that somehow the Lord would use this chapter of our story to glorify Himself in some way.
When friends at church shared their story of embryo adoption through the National Embryo Donation Center, Danny and I both felt like the time had come to pursue adoption – specifically embryo adoption. I love being pregnant and our entire family was very hopeful that the loss of Jacob would not be the end of our pregnancy story. So the process began. And went very quickly! We began our application and home study in June 2016. We submitted a letter with a photo of our family to an amazing family in Minnesota. They accepted our request for an open adoption of their embryos. We were ready!
Having never experienced the pain of infertility, our eyes were opened in many ways to the lengths that many couples go to as they desire to add children to their family. My heart was so softened as my body experienced the medications (those injections HURT!). Our first transfer in November 2016 did not achieve pregnancy. We were somewhat surprised as we never expected it not to “work”. Once more our hearts were softened. I wasn’t pregnant, but three embryos went from frozen to the arms of their Creator. Definitely not a fail.
In March 2017 we returned to the NEDC, this time with our five children. Dr. Jeffrey Keenan, patient coordinator Kathi Young, nurse Lynda McCollum, and embryologist Carol Sommerfelt were all so sweet and tender with us. What a blessing to our family as we all prayed together. Matthias and James Gardner were welcomed into our family November 14, 2017. What JOY they bring! They are the sweetest babies. There is no shortage of love for them with five older siblings always eager to hold, feed, and play. Also exciting for us are the relationships we have with their biological family – both the donor family in Minnesota and biological twin sisters just recently born to another embryo adoptive family in Tennessee! The tapestry the Lord is weaving through these relationships is so very beautiful. We are humbled and thankful to be a part of it.
We feel passionately about embryo adoption. People hear our story and are often shocked to learn of the many babies waiting for homes! The ministry of the NEDC is one that we talk about often as we have opportunities to share our story of embryo adoption. We are so thankful for the work of Dr. Keenan and the entire staff of the NEDC.