“I had always dreamed of being a mom,” embryo adoption mom Andrea Darby says. And when she says always, she’s not exaggerating. “In kindergarten, on career day, I dressed up as a stay-at-home mom.”
This noble ambition never left Andrea. It was still the desire of her heart as she pursued and obtained her nursing degree at college. And it was still her vision when she married Nicholas, whom she had met at the university they both attended, not long after that. Nicholas, still making his way through medical school when they tied the knot, was on board. The plan was set. Now they just had to put it into motion. That would be the easy part, right?
Well, not so much. After more than a year and a half of not doing anything to prevent conception, the Darbys naturally began to wonder if something was wrong. “I mentioned our lack of conception to my OB/GYN,” Andrea recalls. “Later, a 7 p.m. phone call from my OB/GYN revealed shocking news that changed the course of our lives forever: Nicholas’s semen analysis had shown zero sperm.”
Nicholas and Andrea soon learned surgery and advanced IVF would be their only route to possibly having genetic children. “Even then, we would only have around a 10 percent chance of having a child, and it would be very expensive and possibly have lasting side effects,” the Darbys say. “The early certainty and permanence of Nicholas’s diagnosis was devastating. But at the same time, it allowed us to have quicker, complete closure to the situation.”
The Darbys spent the next two years in intense prayer and discussion. They still had the desire to add children to their family. But they wondered just where God was leading them. “There was grief for the path that we had thought our life would take mixed with many tears, some arguments, and even times of lightheartedness,” Andrea remembers candidly. “Our ultimate desire and our constant prayer was to follow God’s will, knowing that He would use our unique situation for His glory.”
There were a lot of options before them, and the Darbys considered them all: domestic adoption, international adoption, embryo adoption, foster care, even remaining childless. In the end, knowing the huge amount (hundreds of thousands, at least) of tiny lives in frozen limbo in the U.S., Nicholas and Andrea landed on embryo adoption. That meant they would pursue parenthood through Andrea essentially becoming pregnant with their adopted child. That would come about through the transfer of an embryo or embryos, remaining from another couple’s IVF, to Andrea’s womb.
“We realized how many embryos had the potential to perish if not adopted,” says Andrea. “We saw this perishing as precious babies dying, as we firmly believe that life starts at conception. So Nicholas and I ultimately decided on embryo adoption.” They chose to take their journey through the National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC), a Christian nonprofit that shared their desire to honor and protect embryonic human life.
In March 2019, their first frozen embryo transfer (FET) with the NEDC yielded a heartbreaking result. “Nicholas and I had our first transfer of three precious souls that ended in an early first-trimester pregnancy loss,” Andrea recalls, adding that their disappointment still didn’t erase the cosmic value of what they had done. “We are so thankful that we got to give our first three embryos the chance for continued life and to open our hearts to them.”
Bursting into the World
A few months later, Nicholas and Andrea were back at the NEDC in Knoxville for another FET. “Our second transfer in July 2019 brought our precious Vivian bursting into the world nine months later!” they say. “She has brought our lives a joy that we never imagined possible. Everyone who meets her loves her. We say that she is so ‘busy’ —always curious and exploring. She has a wave and a smile for every person that she sees.”
That vision Andrea had way back on kindergarten career day ended up coming to life. That it happened through embryo adoption, which didn’t even exist back then, just adds a special layer of blessing. And the Darbys say their story isn’t over yet. “We are honored to be a part of the NEDC Family. And we cannot thank them enough for being agents of God in bringing us our little girl. We thank God every day that He had a better and bigger plan for our lives than we could have ever dreamed possible,” Andrea says. “While our infertility journey initially had so much heartache and disappointment, I would do it over again a thousand times to get to Vivian and her six frozen siblings that we have waiting on us at the NEDC.”
Through all the ups and downs, Nicholas and Andrea were finally able to rightly discern the road God had for them. Now they see every sweet smile and coo from Vivian as a special window into His grace, saying, “To see her happy and thriving has truly put a ‘face’ on embryo adoption for everyone who hears her story.”