It's a controversial question -- what to do with unused embryos left over from in vitro fertilization? The FOX 12 Investigators have learned some of them are being adopted.
One local family has a baby girl who was once the frozen embryo of an Arizona couple.
Ten-month-old Ashley is a giggling, curious baby. Her mom said she's a miracle, a child she carried in her womb, who isn't genetically related to her or her husband. After discovering they couldn't have their own biological children, Samantha and Jordan Fife used traditional, costly adoptions for their two older girls, Michaela, 6, and Heidi, 3.
When the Brush Prairie, WA couple decided they wanted a third child, Samantha searched on Google for "adoption" and stumbled onto an unusual option.
"I clicked on this thing that said embryo adoption and I was like, well, what is that?" Samantha Fife said. "As long as you could carry a pregnancy, you had this option of giving birth to an adopted child."
As more and more families opt for in vitro fertilization, there's a surplus of hundreds of thousands of leftover frozen embryos. They're either stored, destroyed, used for medical research or donated to adoptive families.
The donation of embryos is a growing trend, with popularity in some religious communities, including evangelical Christians and members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. However, the Catholic Church cautions against embryo adoption, saying embryos should not be created in labs.
Samantha Fife's search took her to an embryo matching website and to the profile of a Phoenix, AZ couple, Vince and Dana Davis, who had used in vitro to build their family.
"We've got the dilemma, we've got five embryos, what do you do?" recalled Vince Davis.
The Davis family decided on embryo adoption. They were choosy, looking for a like-minded Mormon family.
"I had a long list, a really long list of who to adopt out embryos. I wanted this future baby if someday they met us to think that was pretty similar to the way I grew up," Dana Davis said.
After having their profile on the matching site for about a month, they couldn't find the right family, until Samantha Fife replied.
"There was Samantha and she said they were looking for embryos. I clicked on her web site and this amazing feeling came over me," Dana Davis said.
"I think she called me two days later, we were instantly best friends," Samantha Fife remembered.
The families drew up a legal contract. As it was considered a transfer of human tissue, there was no payment. The frozen embryos were released to the Fifes' custody and shipped to a fertility clinic in Olympia, WA.
Two embryos were implanted and one took; Samantha was pregnant. Nine months later, baby Ashley, who was stored as a frozen embryo in liquid nitrogen for four years, was born.
"I just looked at this perfect five-and-a-half pound peanut that I had grown and it was surreal, is the best word I can think of," Samantha said.
Some embryo donations are anonymous, others like the Fifes are open. The Davises said they wanted to give their unused, healthy embryos a chance at life.
"I'm not sure what the future entails of our relationship with each other. But I have every confidence that this little girl went to an amazing family and just so happy with our decision," Dana Davis said.
While some may view adopting embryos controversial, the Fifes call it a gift and also a less expensive option than traditional adoption of egg donation.
"I think this is a really good option for a lot of people, if you want to experience pregnancy, it's a great option," Samantha Fife said.
The Fifes still have three frozen embryos and are hoping to add at least one more child to their family.
Samantha Fife has now started her own embryo matching web site, where people seeking to adopt embryos can find people looking to donate.
She's already seen a few babies born thanks to connections made on her site.
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