Before Kahlie and I got married, we did what any smitten couple aspiring to have a godly marriage would do — we both printed and filled out John Piper’s Questions to Ask When Preparing for Marriage. As we worked our way through Piper’s questions, we came to the one about adoption that asked, “Would we consider adoption?”
At twenty-one years old and lacking wisdom I answered, “I desire to have biological kids first, but then, once financially stable, I wouldn’t mind pursuing adoption.” Kahlie’s answer was similar, but much shorter — I have always been the long-winded one! She wrote, “I would love to adopt one day.” We knew that, through faith in Christ, God had adopted us into His family, and we were eager to imitate our heavenly Father by adopting children into our family.
Trying to Grow Our Family
After filling out the questionnaire, we discussed these things, continued pursuing one another, and then tied the knot on November 23, 2013. By February of 2015, we were living in Wake Forest, North Carolina, I was attending Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and we were actively trying to grow our family. This proved to be much more difficult than we’d originally thought it’d be.
Not as Easy as we Thought
At twenty-one years old (when we filled out the questionnaire), we assumed having biological children and then adopting would be pretty easy. Sure, we knew our Bible clearly taught that the Lord is the one that opens the womb, creates and fashions babies within the womb of their mothers, and fills people’s quivers with children. And we knew that our Bible also taught that the Lord closes the womb. We were well aware of all the times the Lord plunged certain women through the trial of infertility in the Bible. What we didn’t really consider, though, is that the Lord would thrust the trial of infertility upon us. This is the nature of trials, isn’t it? Even though we know certain trials are possible, even likely, they still seem to come upon us unexpectedly.
“But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her” (1 Samuel 1:5-6).
Some Fertility Treatments
By 2017, Kahlie started going to a Duke fertility clinic. Since Kahlie has a hard time regularly ovulating, they prescribed her with certain medicines that would help her. Even though the medicines helped, our gracious God was still closing the womb.
Shortly after this, in 2018, we found out that Kahlie had a minor case of endometriosis. Even though it was minor, our fertility doctor said that it could be contributing to our infertility. So Kahlie scheduled an appointment, went under the knife, and had the cysts removed. With the cysts gone, we were hopeful that we’d be able to get pregnant. Our infinitely wise God, however, continued to keep us in the furnace of infertility.
With this, our hope began to fade. The feeling of discouragement kept welling up inside of us. Would we ever be able to have children? Would Kahlie ever experience the joy of holding our newborn baby? Would I ever feel the happiness of cradling my child?
And at times there was a feeling of bitterness. Pregnant women were frequenting the Planned Parenthood in Durham, NC, to have the life of their babies snuffed out every single day. People that were having pre-marital sex were frequently getting pregnant. And here Kahlie and I were, following Christ, serving the church, evangelizing unbelievers, and we couldn’t achieve pregnancy (terribly unbiblical thinking . . . WE KNOW)!
“But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Psalm 73:2-3).
As we continued to consult with our doctor, he informed us that the next step would be intrauterine insemination (IUI). An IUI is a medical procedure that basically takes the healthiest of my sperm and places it directly into Kahlie’s uterus around the time that she is ovulating and releasing eggs. The hope is that the healthy sperm will swim into the fallopian tube and fertilize an egg. In 2019, we had three IUIs done. None of these, however, enabled us to get pregnant. Our great God kept this trial on our shoulders, and He faithfully enabled us to have the strength to bear up under it.
“He will put his silver into the fire to purify it; but He sits by the furnace as a refiner, to direct the process, and to secure the end he has in view.” John Newton
We Didn’t Pursue IVF
Shortly after our last IUI, Kahlie and I moved to Longville, Louisiana, for an associate pastor position at First Baptist Church of Longville. As we moved to Longville, growing our family unit was still on our mind. If we wanted to have biological children, our next step would be in vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF is when they take mature eggs from the woman, healthy sperm from the man, and then seek to fertilize as many eggs as possible in a test tube.
There are a couple ethical reasons Kahlie and I didn’t want to do IVF. In a typical IVF cycle, they seek to fertilize as many eggs as possible so that they have the greatest chance of getting the most viable embryos (sometimes they end up with twelve to fifteen viable embryos). They then transfer one or two embryos into the uterus. The remaining embryos are then frozen until the couple decides they want to transfer one or two more.
The problem with fertilizing as many eggs as possible, though, is that human life begins at the moment of conception. Those embryos are babies at their earliest stage of development. Therefore, those frozen embryos that may never be transferred to the uterus, and most of them will never be transferred, are babies. And if those embryos are never transferred, they will remain frozen until they are discarded. To discard embryos is abortion.
Because of this, Kahlie and I had an ethical problem with IVF. The only way we could do IVF in a way that would honor the Lord is if we only sought to have a couple eggs fertilized. Though this was doable, it doesn’t have near the success, and it’s very expensive.
Looking at Adoption
With this in mind, we put a hold on trying to grow our family through fertility treatments (Kahlie did make me use essential oils at one point………I know I know)! Instead, in the tumultuous and chaotic year of 2020, we started looking at adoption. As I noted at the beginning, this is something we had the desire to do ever since our engagement. Now, in 2020, we were finally going to pursue it.
“Adoption is the highest privilege that the gospel offers: higher even than justification. . . To be right with God the Judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.” J.I. Packer
One of the first options we looked at was domestic adoption. Kahlie and I had two good friends that had just gone down the domestic adoption route, were placed with a beautiful baby girl, and were enjoying the sweet snuggles of a newly born baby! This was enticing, though we knew that it didn’t always work out like this. But as we considered the price of domestic adoption, we decided to look at other options.
Foster to Adopt
The second option we looked at was foster to adopt. Some couples in our church had fostered to adopt, and informed us that it was basically free. With this in mind, Kahlie and I signed up for a foster to adopt class. At this class, the social worker informed us that the primary goal of the foster system was reconciliation with the family. As Kahlie and I reflected on her statement, we began thinking that this may not be the best route for us since our main goal wouldn’t align with their main goal (though the reconciliation and restoration of broken families is a good thing).
At this point, we didn’t really know what to do. However, in God’s mysterious providence, I was scrolling through Facebook one night in March 2020 and saw where some friends of ours from North Carolina were four months pregnant. As I read their announcement, they mentioned an adoption process that I had never heard of —embryo adoption. So, embryo adoption was the third option we began to look at.
Embryo adoption is the process of adopting other people’s embryos. Earlier, I mentioned the ethical problem that comes with IVF. Well, just as domestic adoption is one of the God ordained solutions to abortion, so embryo adoption is one of the God ordained solutions to all these frozen and leftover embryos being discarded (aborted).
After a couple decides that they are not going to use their remaining viable embryos, they can donate them to fertility clinics. At these fertility clinics, couples like Kahlie and I can adopt them. And what makes embryo adoption unique from other forms of adoption is this: you get to give birth to your adopted baby!
We Pursued Embryo Adoption
As we studied up on embryo adoption, we began to get excited. With God’s guidance, around May 2020, we began the process of embryo adoption with the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. NEDC is a faith based non-profit embryo donation center that came highly recommended.
So we began the process, had home studies done with an awesome social worker that we grew to love, made our first visit to NEDC for consultation, selected embryos, and selected a date to go back to NEDC for transfer day. For us, transfer day was scheduled for December 2020.
Transfer day is the day you go in to have your selected embryos transferred. If the embryos implant in the uterus, then you are pregnant. If the embryos don’t implant in the uterus, then you are not pregnant. However, you don’t really know if the transfer is successful until 10-12 days after your transfer. So we went in on transfer day, had two embryos transferred, and then drove back to Louisiana and waited to see if the transfer was successful.
Our First Attempt Didn’t Work
Sadly, right after News Years Eve, we found out that the transfer wasn’t successful. We lost our two adopted babies. This was grueling. Nevertheless, even in the midst of the loss, Christ was faithful. He drew near to us, comforted us, and reminded us of all His promises.
On to Our Second Attempt
For couples that didn’t have a successful transfer, NEDC allows them to schedule another transfer day at basically half the price. So Kahlie and I scheduled another transfer day for February 2021. The deacons of our church were led by the Lord to give us three thousand dollars. A friend in our community was led by the Lord to give us a thousand dollars. With this, we had the transfer day scheduled and we had the money we needed to make it happen. GOD IS SO GOOD!
So in early February, Kahlie and I hopped in my truck and made the long drive to Knoxville, Tennessee, again. NEDC transferred three embryos, we got back in the truck, and headed back to Louisiana…and waited, again. After ten days we found out that the transfer was successful. We were pregnant! PRAISE THE LORD!
We are Pregnant!
At our first ultrasound (they do these regularly after you find out that you’re pregnant so that they can monitor everything), they found out that two of the embryos had successfully implanted in the uterus. It was a twin pregnancy. As we continued to get ultrasounds, though, it became increasingly clear that one of the embryos was not developing or growing. It was a non-viable pregnancy. Though this was tough, we were thankful to God that one of the babies was doing really well!
And as I write this, Kahlie is now twenty-one weeks pregnant with our adopted baby girl. We have decided to name this little girl Elizabeth (Eliza) Jane McDuffie. Our hearts are full!
Things We Learned
Our heavenly Father has taught us a lot through all this. He has taught us about His faithfulness, goodness, grace, and mercy in the midst of trials. He has shown us that He is all-sufficient and all-satisfying. He has taught us how to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice regardless of our own life circumstances. He has taught us even more about the value and dignity of human life — even a little frozen embryo! He has revealed to us the importance of being persistent in prayer. And most of all, He has given us a little better knowledge of the great sacrifice He made when He willingly gave His only Son up to death on a cross so that, through faith in Christ, we might become adopted children of God.