Groundbreaking fertility procedure allows couple to become parents by adopting embryos

(WXYZ) - When Allison started dating Josiah Hillaker, she told him right away, she wanted to be a mom.

“We had been on a few dates, and she says, ‘I want to have a little boy named Jeremiah'. And you sit back and say, What’s going on here?” recalled Josiah. 

It didn’t take long for Allison’s dream to become his dream. They got married and started trying to start a family.  

"Every time we saw friends they were like, when are you guys having kids?” said Josiah.

“We had visited many doctors,” said Allison. “Everything they had to say was pretty bleak.”

“It was hard for me to accept, because it wasn’t on Allison’s part, it was on mine,” said Josiah.

“It was an emotional roller coaster. In one breath you are excited that maybe there is something out there that can help you, and the next minute you are in despair thinking, will we we ever be able to have a family?” said Allison.

They came to accept they would not be able to conceive. They started looking into adopting a baby. They learned shocking numbers. While about 1 million couples are interested in adopting a baby in the U.S., only about 18,000 babies are put up for adoption every year. The wait could be more than three years.

Then they saw a pamphlet advertising the National Fertility Support Center.

“Most of them have never heard about this way to start a family,” said Deb Peters, CEO of the National Fertility Support Center near Grand Rapids.

When couples go through in vitro fertilization they likely create more embryos than they will use. Peters connects the parents of those embryos with adoptive parents.

“There are about 1.3 million embryos stored in labs all across the country,” said Peters.

"When I found out I could become pregnant with our adopted child, it was the coolest thought ever,” said Allison.  "I was like it is amazing we have come this far scientifically.”

Allison and Josiah were connected with a couple and adopted seven embryos frozen since 2005. They learned embryo adoption is about 1/3 the cost of in vitro fertilization. Doctors implanted three of the seven embryos they adopted and told them each has about a 30 percent chance of survival. They then waited for a call from a doctor. Were they pregnant?

“We waited in the nursery, praying. Please God. Let this be a positive test,” said Allison.

"I think we waited an hour,” remembered Josiah.

“To finally hear you are pregnant,” continued Allison.

“I think i just feel down on my knees, touched Allison’s stomach and said I can’t wait to meet you little ones,” said Josiah.

One embryo, conceived in 2005, then frozen for years survived growing into 2-year-old Jeremiah. 

“Josiah calls him Captain America. He was frozen in time for all these years,” said Allison.

Babies born this way are affectionately called "snow babies" because they are frozen before adoption. Allison and Josiah are hoping to get pregnant again with a remaining frozen embryo.

“We will see what God has in store for our family,” said Allison.

They told their story because they want to help other couples struggling and honor their beliefs.

“I am very pro-life and I think this is an amazing opportunity to save babies who are already out there,” said Allison.

“Why wouldn’t we save these little ones? It is the right thing to do,” said Josiah.

You can learn more about embryo adoption and the National Fertility Support Center at www.fertilitysupportcenter.org.

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