He went from sharing a dish –not food, but a petri dish; the sort they keep in scientific labs- to sharing a swimming pool with his genetic siblings. Alex, the boy in the picture above, has a story that can only result from embryo adoption.

Alex’s parents met through a college ministry about a dozen years ago. Like most couples, they wanted children. Unlike most of their peers, however, they chose not to have biological kids. This couple simply didn’t want to pass on a genetic abnormality. They anticipated a hard road ahead. They were right. “We tried adoption from both the foster care system as well as a domestic infant adoption agency, but ran into barriers. We felt drained and tired as we waited,” they recounted.

Exhausted but resolute, they forged ahead to explore other options. Thanks to a blog, they learned about embryo adoption. Living in the South, they were within driving distance of the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. “We were worried it wouldn’t work and we’d have no money left and no baby,” they shared. “But we felt like we were in good hands with the NEDC.”

They were indeed in good hands. Even the best medical care, though, doesn’t guarantee a smooth path. After three transfers, 11 embryos and a miscarriage, they finally met their take-home baby. Alex just turned a year old in August. “He is so full of life and zest. He always has a smile on his face,” according to his proud mama.

Alex isn’t the only blessing all of this produced. His parents have an open relationship with the family who donated the embryo that became Alex. The families have gotten together several times. In fact, the donor family came all the way from the West Coast this month to celebrate Alex’s birthday. Alex’s half-genetic siblings are 16, 13, and 12 years old. He has full genetic siblings as well. Those six-year-old twins resulted from the same in-vitro fertilization cycle that produced him. “They know they were in a dish with Alex before they were put in their mom’s belly, and that Alex was frozen and their mom couldn’t have more babies,” Alex’s mom explains. “So she helped me have a baby when a doctor put Alex in my belly.”

The two families spent a week grilling out, swimming and making memories. Just how they came together to share their lives is an involved story, to be sure. But the ‘why’ behind it all, like the explanation to Alex’s genetic siblings, is really quite simple: rather than narrowing the affections, true love expands the capacity of one’s heart to welcome and care for others. Because of that, Alex’s birthday party was not only a celebration of his young life, worthy of honor as that is. It was a living, breathing picture of love’s multiplying effect in motion.

Click here to apply to adopt embryos. For more info on embryo adoption, click here. For more info on embryo donation, click here.