HOUSTON, Texas J.J. and Tracy Jones vividly remember the tears, the anguish and the heartache of infertility. With each month there was new hope. And, with each month, disappointment.
It was, they say now, an emotional ride.
The Houston couple tried for eight months to conceive before finally visiting a fertility doctor, who told them that J.J. had a condition that could deter conception. Still, the doctor said, the couple should be able to get pregnant. With good news in hand, they tried several rounds of artificial insemination. They tried different fertility drugs. Nothing, though, worked. At one point, they took an eight-month hiatus from fertility treatments to get away from the stress.
"Even when we took a break from the treatment, I still kind of held out hope that we could get pregnant on our own," Tracy, now 34, said. "So, each month was a roller coasterevery time I found out that we weren't pregnant again."
The Joneseslike most coupleswanted biological children. Tracy also had a strong desire to experience pregnancy. Each new treatment at the fertility clinic provided renewed optimism.
"(But) then you find out that it didn't work, and then there's that disappointment and grief," Tracy said. "With each cycle, it was very disappointing."
They tried three years to conceive, with no success. Then they learned about Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program, a non-traditional adoption program in which couples adopt surplus frozen embryos left over from in vitro fertilization. Although there is no guarantee of pregnancythe embryos might not implant in the wombit nevertheless provides infertile couples with the opportunity to experience pregnancy, and it gives the embryos themselves a chance at life in the world. There are an estimated 400,000 frozen embryos being stored in fertility clinics nationwide.
In addition to Snowflakes, other embryo adoption services include the National Embryo Donation Center in Tennessee and Embryos Alive in Ohio.
"Embryo adoption was just thrown in front of us," J.J. said. "Since we already had our hearts set towards adoption, it was almost like adoption with a bonusthat we could be both adoptive parents and birth parents."
Launched in 1997 in California, the Snowflakes program is similar to traditional adoption in that it involves a home study. During a Snowflakes adoption, each familythe genetic family and the adopting familyview blind bios until they see one they like. When there is a match, the agency arranges the adoption.
Generally, genetic families place their embryos up for adoption after they feel that their family is complete.
"We decided that we didn't really need the biological connection to feel like parents or to feel like the child is ours," Tracy said.
Finally, after the transfer and four long and often grueling years, J.J. and Tracy were pregnant.
"It was an amazing day," Tracy said of the day she discovered they had succeeded. "I took a pregnancy test before the actual blood test, and the only reason I did that was because I was so certain I wasn't pregnant. I was feeling no pregnancy symptoms. I was crying and saying, 'Why doesn't God want this for us?'
The pregnancy test stunned her.
"We were just beside ourselves. We couldn't believe it. It didn't sink in until the 20-week ultrasoundthat there was a baby with fingers and toes in there. It was really amazing," she said.
Their son, Jack Lewis Jones III, was born April 25, 2005, weighing eight pounds, three ounces. One month later, he would meet the president of the United States.
Jack Jones III, known as "Trey," was born in last summer as Congress debated a bill that would liberalize the Bush policy on embryonic stem cell research. That policy, adopted in 2001, prevents taxpayer money from being used for the destruction of embryoswhich is necessary for embryonic stem cell researchwhile the bill before Congress would allow it. The Bush policy does not ban privately funded research.
Seeking to put a face on the stem cell policy and to encourage embryo adoption, the Bush administration invited Snowflake families, including the Joneses, to the East Room of the White House in May 2005. Bush gave a speech and then met some of the families.
"He happened to mention in his speech that 81 children had been born through embryo adoption," J.J. said. "As he was exiting the press conference, Tracy's mother pushed Tracy out in the aisle and said, 'President Bush, here's No. 81.' Trey happened to be the youngest at that time."
Bush held Trey for a moment and kissed his head.
The next day, a picture of Bush and little Trey Jones was on the front pages of newspapers nationwide.
Because of their unique situation, the Joneses oppose embryonic stem cell research, but support non-embryonic sources, such as umbilical cord blood, placentas, fat and bone marrow, often called adult stem research.
"So much of the polling done is, 'Are you for or against embryonic stem cell research?' We have talked to many people, as a result of being thrust into this position of advocacy, who don't even know that that means the embryos have to be destroyed," J.J. said.
His wife agreed.
"There currently is no evidence that embryonic stem cell research will do anything," she said. "They've had zero cases of positive results."