Maria Lancaster calls them" freezer babies," children born from leftover embryos. For Maria and her husband Jeff, it's personal. That's how their daughter came to be.
"There were only 10 babies born in the whole United States through embryo adoption when we started the process with Elisha," said Jeff.
By that time, the Lancasters had endured several miscarriages. Maria had almost given up hope, when her husband heard a radio interview about embryo adoption. She says it was an answer to a prayer.
" I thought. That is it. I just knew because all other options were over. We were too old to be considered adoptive parents for a baby born from anywhere. From any country."
They didn't know what to expect.
"It's a little bit surreal to look at a photograph of your daughter as a six-cell embryo," Maria admitted.
Elisha is now six-and-a-half. A few years after her birth, Maria decided to start her own embryo adoption service, teaming up with Cedar Park Church in Bothell, to make it easier for local couples to adopt embryos, couples like Tom and Stacy, who are expecting in November. They found the process very professional.
"Lots of paperwork. FBI background checks. Everything you go through with a normal adoption and foster application, but it's been pretty straightforward and worked out well," said Tom.
We're only using their first names because this is a closed adoption. According to Maria, both sides have to be in agreement regarding the level of contact they wish to share
"The donating families are under no obligation to donate. They can make their embryos available to us and then we find them a family match that they're comfortable with.
Tom and Stacy have learned a few things about the donating couple.They've seen pictures. They know each other on a middle name basis. They've shared information about medical histories, faith background, even hobbies.
Dr. Nancy Klein of Seattle Reproductive Services says embryo adoption--or embryo donation as it's called in clinical circles--isn't for everyone. For one thing, embryos aren't as successful after they're frozen. For another, some couples prefer to have their own biological children.
"It's actually a minority of my patients who seriously consider embryo adoption, but for those who have pursued that, it's really been a good fit all around," she said.
The Lancasters say they want to give infertile couples the same joy they have experienced with Elisha.
"Can't imagine life without her.Not at all. She is daddy's little princess and mommy's little angel," said Jeff.
Just then, Elisha points to her t-shirt and reads. "Mommy's little angel."
Her father laughs. "Oh it's even on her shirt. How about that? Every once and awhile, Dad gets it right."
Embryo Adoption Services of Cedar Park
For more information, contact Maria Lancaster at 425-214-4512