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How embryo adoption created a family

For two couples, the road to becoming parents wasn’t an easy one. When one pair adopted the embryos of the other, it connected them for life.

The Hendersons and the Gassmans share more than friendship. When Dan and Kelli Gassman had trouble conceiving, they turned to embryo adoption, which ties them with their children’s genetic family for life.

Their story starts with Chris and Rebecca Henderson, a couple with infertility struggles of their own. Rebecca was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) when she was 19, and after six years of trying to get pregnant on their own, they sought help. “Over the next two years, we did all the basic testing, monitoring and tried rounds of Clomid but to no avail,” she told me. “By that point, I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted and we agreed to take a break.”

After a break, they decided to try to find out some answers and see what direction they needed to take. Their fertility specialist said that their best chance would be in vitro fertilization (IVF), and while their first try was not successful, their second was. While her pregnancy wasn’t trouble-free, she gave birth at 34 weeks to healthy twin girls.

Unfortunately, Rebecca developed severe postpartum depression, and she and Chris decided that they wouldn’t pursue any more rounds of IVF to add to their family. However, during their prior IVF treatments, they had 13 embryos, two of which were implanted — this left 11. “After a great deal of prayer and research, we found the Snowflakes Foundation and agreed that putting our 11 angels up for adoption was the best next step for us,” she shares.

It wasn’t an easy decision, she explains. But after they got the paperwork, and just five days before a scheduled hysterectomy, they discovered she was pregnant. After getting over that shock, they went ahead with their paperwork to get the adoption process underway. And that’s where the Gassmans come in.

The Gassmans |

Photo credit: Gassman family

When Dan and Kelli Gassman had trouble conceiving, and test results on the couple came back with negative results, they had to consider a new direction if they wanted their dream of having a baby to come true. Even though their hopes were dwindling, Kelli really wanted to experience pregnancy, and while they had discussed traditional adoption, they didn’t feel that was the best fit for their family.

Kelli actually first heard about embryo adoption through her primary care doctor, and this set the ball rolling. An internet search turned up the Snowflakes Program. After making their decision and going through adoption paperwork (which included home visits, fingerprinting and the like), they set about getting matched. “Unlike traditional adoption, we went through a matching phase with embryo adoption where the donor family gets to select us and we can pick them,” Kelli explains. “Dan jokes, ‘The Snowflakes Program is the e-Harmony of babies.’ We always laugh about this.”

The Gassmans decided to travel to the clinic where the embryos were stored for a better chance of success. “Once the transfer date was set, then I was given a cryo calendar to follow that established the timeline for a full array of hormones, shots, monitoring, diagnostic tests, etc.,” she told me. “It was a very rigorous regimen and required strict adherence to the dates to ensure optimal success.”

While they were initially kept anonymous, the Gassmans requested that they wanted to communicate with the Hendersons directly. When they were able to meet in person, during the time they were in town for the transfer, they were thrilled to find out they got along wonderfully.

The transfer was successful and the Gassman’s first baby, a boy they named Trevor, was born in 2012 and the next year they came back for another transfer. This time, they became pregnant with a daughter, Aubrey, who was born this last March.

The families have kept in touch and remain friends. “It is a wonderful thing to give the gift of life,” shares Rebecca. “To us, it is equally fabulous to be given the gift of friendship and extended family in such a phenomenally unexpected way!”

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How to discuss adoption with your child

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