Editor's note: American Christian couple Ashley Kellogg and her husband had a big multicultural family: six biological children and also seven children with special needs adopted from different countries. They took one more step forward—embryo adoption—to give life a chance.
In 2017, after China changed its rules for adoptive families that disqualified us from going back, we were discussing adoption options. We already had Frannie and Finton from China, in addition to six biological children. (To read their adoption story, please click here) However, our hearts still desire to meet the needs of other orphans. My friend Dana mentioned adopting embryos left over from IVF (in-vitro Fertilization) cycles that couples did not plan on transferring. Once a couple has grown their family through IVF, sometimes there are embryos left over that are either destroyed, donated to research, or become adoptable. We actually then searched for embryos that were tested to have Down syndrome, knowing they were often discarded or unwanted, but we were told repeatedly that they were always discarded. In the meantime, we learned about The National Down Syndrome Adoption Network. About 30 babies with Down syndrome are placed with adoptive families every year in the United States. In response, we got ourselves added to their registry and were eventually matched with Theo in 2019.
Then, four months later, we found out about Micah, and a year later, in the midst of a pandemic, we found out about Bryant. And just months later, we had Lottie, all through second-chance adoption. The Lord had clearly called us into these situations, and we were happy to say yes to what was best for our family. I would not change a thing. We are so incredibly blessed by our kids and humbled by the honor of being their parents.
But all the while, my desire to birth another child was still stirring within me. We had always talked about giving birth to a child after Theo because they would be so good for his development, just like Trixie has been for Frannie, who has Down syndrome. I was almost 40, and I knew this dream had a time stamp on it, but I also wanted the Lord’s will and not my own.
Once we decided we wanted to grow our family again, we knew that giving life to frozen embryos, rather than creating yet another biological Kellogg, was another way we could live out our deep convictions that every life matters and every child deserves life. Unlike most families, we chose embryos that had been frozen for over 5 years, whose mother was older, not of the highest grade, and also from mixed races. All these factors make them “less desirable." Most of the families adopting embryos have been unable to get pregnant without extensive interventions. In this case, they choose the highest-quality embryos with the best chances of being successful in growing their families. In contrast, we wanted to give life to an embryo that might not have had a chance otherwise. Since I have been blessed with great fertility, we knew some of those factors may not affect a successful transfer for me. We discovered two Vietnamese and Russian embryos who matched our family perfectly. I traveled to Portland to transfer our first one in September 2021. We knew the chances of pregnancy were fairly slim, but we also know God can do anything! So, we looked forward to announcing a pregnancy in October.
But sadly, we lost both of them that same week. The transferred one was never implanted. The second one had to be thawed at the same time due to being frozen together. He or she did not continue to grow in the embryology lab, and the embryologists were unable to refreeze it for a future transfer. Two little humans never even felt the warmth of a womb. These embryos were over 10 years old, and their chance of survival was around 30%. But we still love them fiercely and dream about meeting them someday. We’ve since named them Mercy and Promise, and they will always be in our hearts. They have already achieved the prize for which we are all living each day—an eternity with their Creator and Savior. It is a promise we believe in with all our hearts, and God gave mercy in that they never had to endure the heartaches of this world.
Being in IVF and embryo adoption Facebook groups, my heart has broken at the sheer number of losses that families go through to have children. And even the terminology used to explain these losses, "chemical pregnancy” and “failed transfer" —does not denote the worth and value of these embryos.
I lost two babies, but their presence changed this world through our story. We did not fail at anything as we ushered them into the arms of Jesus. It was His perfect plan all the time, despite the fact that they left us with empty arms. This loss might not seem significant to others because we already have twelve children, six that I have birthed and six that we’ve adopted. In that regard, we did not tell all our friends. Still, losing these babies has broken me, yet I trust the Lord’s plan too. No life is insignificant, and no loss is unworthy of grief. Many families have grieved the loss of babies before they held them and even after they had embraced them. One in every four women has lost a baby before they were born or before their first birthday. Many feel silenced because it is uncomfortable to talk about. We should be able to
Talk about them,
Call them by name.
Remember their birthdays.
Pray for their families.
Not to forget them.
A few months later, in November 2021, I traveled back to Portland to transfer another embryo. This time we chose two more embryonic siblings who were Filipino, Greek, Mexican, or Polish. We trusted God’s plan for them. Our first embryo took hold, and on Valentine's Day 2022, we found out I was pregnant.
Norie Musetta Rose was born on August 6, 2022. She is perfect in every way. And we look forward to transferring her sibling in 2023 or 2024!
We are so proud of our multicultural family. We feel it is in the heart of God to take in orphans, blend cultures together in love, allow the Lord to grow our family, and give children the love of a mom, dad, and extended family who may never have the opportunity.
Our miracle baby’s journey:
7.2.2016 Frozen in Time
7.9.2021 Donated with Love
9.30.2021 Adopted with Hope
11.11.2021 Transferred in Faith
8.6.2022 Born with Joy