“We were devastated and heartbroken,” embryo adoption mom Roslyn Cheatham remembers.
Who wouldn’t be? Roslyn and her husband, Joe, had just learned their foster daughter was, well, no longer theirs. She had been in their care since she was five days old. Ever since, for close to two years, their home had been her home. “We were almost at the point where we could start the adoption process,” Roslyn says. “Out of the blue we received a call from Social Services saying they found a distant relative in another state. The courts would be awarding custody of her to that relative.”
How It All Began
Joe and Roslyn met in 2002 and married not long after. Both brought along children from previous marriages –sisters Akaya and Fatima belonged to Roslyn, Thomas was Joe’s. So yes, their home was already teeming with life. But the Cheathams desperately wanted to have children together.
Nothing they tried over a five-year period, however, was resulting in success. Roslyn became pregnant but suffered a painful miscarriage. Then, before she was even in her mid-30s, early menopause set in. “We soon realized our chances of becoming pregnant on our own would be slim,” Roslyn and Joe say.
Next Best Option
Seeing foster care -and eventually, hopefully, foster adoption- as their next best option, the Cheathams fostered many children over several years. Of course, that ultimately resulted in that tearful parting with the baby girl they considered their own. It was too much. The Cheathams valued the foster care system and appreciated the chance to provide temporary stability for some of the children therein. Their own family’s time with the system, though, was at an end, they decided.
But that didn’t mean they were giving up. Roslyn still felt there must be an answer, something they were missing. She turned to Google and searched “adoption.” That was how she and Joe found the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) and embryo adoption. Roslyn could essentially become pregnant with their adopted child. She’d be carrying a frozen embryo remaining from another family’s successful in-vitro fertilization. The concept blew their minds. “As I did the research on the NEDC, we realized it was the answer to our prayers,” Roslyn recalls. “We could experience pregnancy together. We didn’t have to worry about the child being taken away. I was able to carry the child physically. And it was affordable!”
Embryo Adoption Completes Picture
Embryo adoption through the NEDC finally completed Roslyn and Joe’s family picture. Their first frozen embryo transfer (FET) produced Joslyn Grace in 2008. Next came Marissa Nycole through another NEDC transfer in 2011. And the whole thing was truly a family affair. Older siblings Akaya, Fatima and Thomas helped pick the donor family from which their little sisters emerged.
“Without Joslyn and Marissa our family would not have been complete,” the Cheathams say. Now 12 and 9, their parents describe both young ladies as leaders with a wide variety of talents. Both are honor roll students involved in Girl Scouts, church, singing and gymnastics. And you may be seeing them on the screens of your entertainment devices in the future: both are pursuing potential careers in acting. “Joslyn will be filming a show this December in Orlando,” Roslyn shares. “Marissa has been successfully picked up by an agent. We feel confident she’ll land a role in commercials and/or a show.”
Joslyn and Marissa are also playing another role: aunt. Their older siblings have three children ranging from 6 years to 5 months old. These nieces and nephews (grandchildren to Roslyn and Joe) spend a lot of time at their grandparents’ house, meaning Joslyn and Marissa have learned to care for them.
Ties That Bind
The intergenerational bonds in the Cheatham family clearly run deep; far too deep to get swallowed up by a pandemic. “Although COVID has slowed down a lot of things, our family remains close,” Joe and Roslyn say. “Everyone plans to celebrate Christmas in Florida this year so we can support Joslyn in her first film production. We’ll still practice the three Ws and social distancing.”
It’s a wonderful life; one the Cheathams hope can be an inspiration for others. “We recommend the NEDC to other married couples who have gone through what we went through. We especially send African American couples the NEDC’s way,” Roslyn says. We’re grateful for families like Roslyn and Joe’s. Their lives bear out a fundamental truth undergirding the NEDC’s life-changing mission: You don’t have to share genetics to be happily secured in the ties that bind.