Embryo Adoption Story


“…Children of life are we, as we stand with our lives uncarved before us, waiting the hour when, at God’s command, Our life-dream shall pass o’er us…” Life Sculpture, George Washington Doane, 1799-1859

In childhood, I never once questioned what I wanted to be when I grew up.  Motherhood was always my life dream.  The day we found out we were infertile I thought my life dream passed not “o’er us” but by us.  Little did I know that my life dream was going to give me a window to the womb that few parents ever experience.

Our youngest daughter, Tori, now age two, was born at 33 weeks and 6 days.  She came into our family via domestic adoption.  Our middle son, Ty, age six, arrived at a mere 25 weeks and 2 days.  He was the smallest baby we had ever seen and a miracle indeed.   Like Tori, Ty also came into our family via domestic adoption.

Our oldest son, Tanner, age 9, arrived a full 9 days late and weighed in at 9 pounds 11 ounces.  Tanner, however, was the tiniest human being we had ever seen.  I first held him when he was 24 hours past conception after having been cryopreserved for over 3 years.  He was at the 2 pro nuclei embryonic stage of life when I first held him in a black cryopreservation tank.  When I gave birth to him in May of 2001, he was the first “Arizona Snowflake” to be born as a result of embryo adoption and the 8th in the United States.

At Scottsdale Moms Blog, we were curious to discover more about embryo adoption since we had not heard of it before… So we asked several questions and Doni was sweet enough to share her answers with all of us.  (Thanks Doni!):

SMB Asked: What is embryo adoption? (at what point during the adoption process is the child legally yours?)

According to www.embryoadoption.org:

“Embryo adoption is a relatively new process in which individuals who have their own frozen embryos agree to release them to the adopting couple. The adopting family may either be known or anonymous to the donors. The intent is that the embryos will be transferred into the womb of the adopting mother so that she and her husband may bear a child and be that child’s parents.”

Due to the high numbers of embryos cryopreserved as a result of IVF treatments, many families seek alternatives for their frozen embryos.  In the past, embryos that were not immediately transferred had limited options.  They could be thawed and transferred into their genetic mother at a later date, donated anonymously, frozen indefinitely, donated to science for research, or destroyed.   In 1999, Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency out of Fullerton, California, began the world’s first embryo adoption program called “Snowflakes”.  Unlike anonymous donation, families with cryopreserved embryos could choose an adoptive family much like birthparents would in a domestic adoption.  Legal paperwork transferring the embryo(s) from the genetic family to the adoptive family occurs before implantation into the adopting mother’s womb.  At the point the legal paperwork is complete, the embryos legally belong to the adoptive family.  In the state of AZ, by law, I am Tanner’s biological mother even though I am not his genetic mother.  While there is currently no state with laws governing embryo adoption, Nightlight Christian Adoption uses the same steps and similar forms to those used in a domestic adoption.

SMB:  What is your experience with embryo adoption?  Why did you decide to go this route?

After nearly six years of infertility, my husband and I were ready to pursue domestic adoption but I was still grieving the loss of carrying a child within my own womb.  In 1999, I heard a radio show talking about the “Snowflake Embryo Adoption Program” and knew instantly it was the best of both worlds for us.   The opportunity to adopt and the added blessing of getting to carry our child(ren) seemed the perfect answer to our prayers.  We were chosen by a couple in the Northwestern United States in 2000 and Tanner was transferred into my womb in August of 2000.

SMB: What types of families consider embryo adoption?

When we first approached our IVF Dr. about embryo adoption, his first question was an obvious one.  Why would we adopt the embryos of another family instead of simply going through IVF ourselves?  In our case, we had already attempted one IVF procedure and no embryos were conceived due to the health of my husband’s sperm.    After this failed procedure, our Dr. suggested that we try again using donor sperm.  He sent us home with a booklet describing generic characteristics of many donors.  After much prayer and consideration, we decided that we did not feel right about creating life outside of the marriage bond using my egg with another’s sperm.  Not to mention the fact that we were very uncomfortable with trying to choose a donor from a catalog.

While there were other more invasive procedures we could have tried, we opted not to go that route.   We had decided early on, that we would only attempt IVF on a few embryos from a fresh cycle.    We did not want to cryopreserve embryos and find ourselves facing the tough options that many other families have been presented with.   Protecting life was (and is) paramount to us and we realized that our options for IVF were very narrow and would not likely result in a pregnancy.    We, however, believed, that crypreserved human embryos, needed loving parents to give them a chance to continue their development, be born, and be nurtured in a family that love and adore them.  We adopted Tanner for the same reason we adopted Tori and Ty domestically.  We wanted to be parents and all three of these children needed parents.  Tanner just needed us a little earlier.

Snowflakes answers the question this way:

“Snowflakes can help create families for couples whose infertility does not allow them to create their own genetic families, specifically couples considering egg or sperm donation, or couples who want to build their family through adoption and be able to experience pregnancy and control the pre-natal environment of their child.”

SMB:  How long does the adoption process take?

In our case, we were chosen by a genetic family within four months of submitting our paperwork to the adoption agency.  It then took a few months to complete paperwork, find a Dr. to work with us, have the embryos delivered from the clinic they were in to ours, and schedule our transfer.  Depending on the number of genetic families to adoptive families available, the timeline can fluctuate.  According to Nightlight’s website, the application package usually takes 2 to 3 months depending on time required for your adoption home study and the matching wait is usually 1 to 4 months.  Legal document notarization and embryo travel coordination usually takes 1 to 3 months.  In total, it can take between 5-13 months before the embryos travel to your clinic.

SMB:  How much does it cost?

Program fees vary depending on agency but Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency quotes the following fees:

Snowflakes Program fee:  $8,000.00

Home study agency fee:  $1,000-$3,000

Fertility clinic frozen embryo transfer fees:  $3,000-$5,000

Total Fees:  $12,000 to $16,000

SMB:  What is the greatest challenge a family can/does face with an embryo adoption?

As with any IVF attempt, there is a risk of unsuccessful transfers and pregnancy loss.   While Tanner was born as a result of our very first transfer, we did lose several babies (all of Tanner’s genetic siblings), in first trimester miscarriages in subsequent transfers.  According to our Dr., this was not a result of an embryo transfer, but the chromosomal makeup of the embryos that we adopted. Losses can occur in any pregnancy and embryo adoption is no exception.  At last count, there have been over 200 children born through Nightlight Christian Adoptions program alone and other Adoption agencies across the United States have now instituted their own adoption programs.

SMB:  What is a local resource for families to find out more in Scottsdale/Phoenix?

For more information on Snowflakes Embryo Adoption program, please visit:  https://www.nightlight.org.

A decade ago, my life changed dramatically the day I carried my firstborn child in a cryopreservation tank across a parking lot during a typical hot Arizona summer.  I put my children in the front seat of my car, wrapped a seatbelt around them, secured them with my hand on the tank and thanked God for the incredible privilege of parenthood.  While Tanner’s conception didn’t happen in my womb, it most assuredly, happened in my heart.  My life dream passed “o’er me” and filled my empty arms.


Doni Brinkman is a SAHM mother to three children, Tanner age 9, Ty age 6, and Tori age 2.  She is homeschooling and running a part time photography business in her not so spare time.  She was blogging before blogging was cool with archives going back nearly a decade.   She has lived in the Valley of the Sun since she was 4 years old and has been married to an AZ native for nearly 16 years.  To read Doni’s whole story about infertility and her journey to adoption, check out her website.


  1. Love snowflake adoptions!! We aren’t sure where the Lord is leading us yet for our 4th adoption, but it may be snowflake! What a phenomenal testimony to the preciousness of life! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love snowflake adoptions!! We aren’t sure where the Lord is leading us yet for our 4th adoption, but it may be snowflake! What a phenomenal testimony to the preciousness of life! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Doni! I love the story of your family and how the Lord has lead you to each one of your precious babies! Though I already knew your story :), I loved reading it again!

  4. Doni! I love the story of your family and how the Lord has lead you to each one of your precious babies! Though I already knew your story :), I loved reading it again!

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