Embryo donation made this Jewish St. Louis couple’s dreams come true

Rachel Bray-Spezia and James Spezia and their son, Wolfie.

RACHEL BRAY-SPEZIA, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

Getting pregnant with my son Wolfie wasn’t the easiest. We had to employ several reproductive medical treatments, medications and procedures. Ultimately, I did have a healthy and successful pregnancy after a family donated their remaining frozen embryos to my husband and me using a website that can only be described as “online-dating-meets-wanting-to-have-children.”

There is quite a bit of science and several legal steps to receive and medically transfer donated embryos, but in a nutshell it’s similar to the way that donated blood is used in a blood transfusion or donated kidneys are used in kidney transplants. To put it in a way that we all can understand, the ingredients came from someone else’s kitchen, but the challah baked in my oven.

While the science behind getting pregnant using donated embryos is truly something out of a Mary Shelley novel, the heart of embryo donation lies within the donors who offer the gift of life and parenthood to individuals and couples affected by infertility – people like my husband and me. Our donors – who literally gave us a piece of themselves so that we could be parents — are a same-sex female couple living in Rhode Island. Because they are both women, they had their own unique journey to have a child, but with the help of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), they now have a spunky 5-year-old daughter who is a 100% genetic sibling to my son. While many embryo donors and recipients remain unknown to each other, we (and our donors) always wanted to have a long term, lasting relationship and a genuine, natural connection. This would provide our child with healthy access to his genetic family and their daughter would have healthy access to her siblings.

When our donors gave us the official green light, things began falling into place fast and so did the butterflies in our stomach. Our minds were racing with all kinds of thoughts. On one hand, we were eager to have a child and felt 100% confident that this was our intended road to follow next. On the other hand, what kind of situation would we be putting ourselves and any future children in?

These women were still basically strangers to us — were we prepared to sign up for a life being connected to them? Would our future children be upset that their genetic mother and sister live in a completely different part of the country? Would they be confused about who their parents really are? What about the Jewish component? Would our children need to convert to Judaism?

And the fact that our donors were both women added another layer to an already seemingly complicated situation. We reached out to our tribe – a therapist skilled in the area of infertility, our close friends and family members, our rabbi. Slowly the layers of doubt faded and in April of 2017 we were legally — and humbly — the owners of four frozen embryos and ready to begin the medical part of our journey.

On Aug. 22, the day after the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017, another miracle from the universe happened. I had a procedure to have two of my four frozen embryos medically transferred in the hopes of getting pregnant — we lovingly call this day our “transferversary.” Although we lost one of the embryos early on, the other grew to be my son, who was born on May 7, 2018.

Our family isn’t so different from anyone else’s. At first, people would comment on the resemblance my son shares with my husband. I never really knew what to say. There were a couple of episodes where I would share our story and receive questions like, “Are you going to meet his real mom?” (Spoiler Alert: I am his real mom). But if we’ve learned anything from our son’s beautiful birth story, it’s that “love is love and family is family.” I can’t wait until Wolfie is old enough to understand how much he was wanted by us and by our donors. They made my dreams come true the moment they offered us their embryos. The only way I know how to repay them is by raising Wolfie to be as kind, loving and generous as they are.

We were fortunate enough to fly to Rhode Island with our son to meet our donors and their daughter in person before the COVID-19 pandemic, and for a moment the world froze. I realized standing there with my husband, our son, his genetic sister and her two moms that I didn’t just gain a child – I gained an extended family. In a world where many people like to argue that same-sex couples are unnatural because of the reproductive piece, I’m proud to tell people that the only reason I am a mother to my sweet Wolfie is because two women fell in love and created a family.

My son is a living confirmation to me that love is love and family is family. If anyone has been given an infertility diagnosis or would like more information about Embryo Donation or would simply like to share their unique family story with me, please feel free to email me at [email protected]

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