HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (CBS4) – It’s estimated that there are nearly 600,000 embryos on ice in the United States. Some infertile couples will try for other children, but what happens to the frozen embryos left over?
One option is known as “snowflake adoption.” The couples donate embryos they have stored but don’t plan to use to other infertile couples. Those couples then give birth to their adopted child.
David and Renee Umeda of Highlands Ranch have a “snowflake” baby girl they call a miracle. They named her Hannah Faith. Hannah, because it means grace. And Faith, because, as Renee says, “Of the journey that it took for us to get her here after all these years.”
Hannah was born on April 12, 2014, but she’d actually been adopted 9 months earlier. Hannah is a “snowflake baby.” She is both one-of-a-kind and frozen, born from a donated embryo that had been stored in liquid nitrogen since 2009.
The Umedas married in 2003 knowing they wanted children.
“Renee was able to get pregnant rather quickly, but unfortunately soon into that pregnancy she miscarried,” said David Umeda.
Then in 2012, Renee found out she was in pre-menopause.
“It would be very unlikely that we would have biological children,” Renee said.
Renee works for Nightlight Christian Adoptions located in Loveland, the first agency to match extra embryos donated from other infertile couples with families hoping to adopt. The Umedas decided giving birth to another couple’s embryo was right for them.
“The idea of getting to experience pregnancy was just really neat for me. I really wanted that,” Renee said.
Dr. Lauren Roth is a University of Colorado fertility specialist.
“I haven’t had many people actually make that choice,” said Roth.
She says donated embryos can be problematic because they come from infertile couples.
“So, if the couple had a poor chance of pregnancy to start out with, so do you,” said Roth.
But the Umedas didn’t hesitate, in fact, they competed. As in a traditional adoption, they underwent a home study and created a profile of themselves. They were matched with an out-of-state couple who froze 12 embryos back in 2009.
“They choose us and we choose them,” said Renee.
Once in Denver, six embryos were thawed. Four didn’t survive. Two were transferred to Renee. Hannah Faith was born.
“I truly believe that God had her set apart as a little embryo for our family,” said David.
The Umedas hope to have more children with the remaining six embryos. Hannah already has three older siblings. Her story won’t be a secret. Hannah’s parents plan to tell her about the “snowflake baby” who melted their hearts.