“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5

One Alabama family is especially grateful this Thanksgiving after receiving two little gifts from God almost a year ago.

Dalton and Mary Elizabeth Miller were born on one of the coldest days in Alabama history: December 23, 2022.

Their parents, Rodney and Mary Leah Miller, of Birmingham, had been waiting for that day for over ten years. Fertility challenges crushed their hearts frequently throughout that decade, but they knew God had a plan for them.

On that cold winter day, Mary Leah Miller said her heart was warmer than it had ever been.

"They were just so perfect and so cute and just amazing," Miller said. "We couldn't have asked for more perfect babies. It just makes me want to cry to think of how sweet God has been."

That precious moment is now frozen in time. The birth of the twins was long-awaited, and the way it came to be was an option the Miller family had never heard of until recently — embryo adoption.

Embryo adoption gives hopeful parents the opportunity to become pregnant, carry their child and give birth. Although there is no genetic connection to the parent, the process helps families who are unable to conceive, and it helps parents who were able to create embryos but were not able to use them in their own pregnancies.

The Millers started out with conservative fertility treatments for about a year before starting the in vitro fertilization process (IVF). IVF can be difficult, and the Millers were never able to have a successful transfer. They were eventually diagnosed as "unexplained infertility."

"So, that diagnosis itself was frustrating," Miller said. "You expect to go to the doctor and they find out what's wrong then they fix it."

After visiting a clinic specializing in difficult cases, they finally had a transfer on their sixth try, but Miller said the genetic material could not become viable.

Rodney and Mary Leah Miller Alabama News
Rodney and Mary Leah Miller attempted six IVF transfers over the course of a decade. While they enjoyed their time together as a young, married couple, they knew they were meant to have a family and vowed to never give up.

"We never had a viable pregnancy," Miller remembered. "I was hoping for a miracle so it was very disappointing."

At the time, the Millers had already spent so much money and time trying to have a baby of their own. Although they looked into traditional adoption, Mary Leah said she just knew God had a plan for her to become pregnant.

"It was in that season that I asked God, 'If it is not supposed to be our journey then please Lord, take that desire away,' because each month when the answer is, 'no no, no,' it's really disappointing," Miller said.

That's when a friend told the Millers about embryo adoption through the Snowflake Embryo Adoption Program, made possible through Nightlight Christian Adoptions. The nationwide program pairs families who want to adopt an embryo with families who are unable to use their viable embryos.

"It really gave us a renewed sense of hope," said Miller. "Not that we had lost hope but this really helped. We loved our sweet time together and we were thankful for that but we wanted a family. We went to the Snowflakes website and we both just knew that this was supposed to be our next step."

After speaking to a couple who had just given birth to their baby girl, the Millers started the process of finding the perfect match. Similar to traditional adoption, they had to fill out paperwork and have a home study. A difference was that Mary Leah Miller had to undergo a physical to ensure her body could carry a child.

There were options for what kind of adoption the family wanted to make: closed, open or semi-open. They chose a semi-open adoption.

After speaking with their pastor about the opportunity, they decided to go forward with transferring viable embryos. They adopted them and eventually achieved pregnancy. Mary Leah Miller said while she knows all expectant moms are excited, she was overjoyed even on her bad days.

"Pregnancy was just an absolute joy for me," she said. "Even the sickness because that was just confirmation that I had everything going as it should be. I might be one of the only people that was like very excited they got sick on a daily basis."

Miller said there was something special about carrying her children.

Mary Leah Alabama News
Mary Leah Miller pregnant with twins one month before giving birth.

"While I adopted my children, I can tell them that I carried them," she said. "I think I first would say for people of faith, we hear the Jeremiah Bible verse, 'I knew you before I formed you in your mother's womb,' and that fits just perfectly for us."

When it came time to give birth, she said the moment was a precious one because her doctor, who had been by her side for so long, was finally able to help her deliver her babies.

Through it all, the Millers never forgot their placing family who made it all possible.

"I think it's really hard to put into words," Mary Leah Miller said in tears. "It's just completely unexplainable but we have just absolute joy and thankfulness and just gratitude. There are many things that I have done in my life but I think the thing that I consider to be the highest honor is that a family looked at my husband and I and considered us worthy of their embryos and worthy to raise these children as our own and to create our own family because their family was not going to be able to do that. That is such a selfless act on their part."

The Millers are in communication with their placement family.

The Miller Family 2 Alabama News
The Miller Family. Photo: Angie Strit Photography.

"Our children will know their story and they will have the opportunity to meet their genetic parents," Leah Miller added.

This Thanksgiving, Dalton and Mary Elizabeth will be 11 months old. The Millers say they have so much to be thankful for and want to help spread the word so that others know there are options.

"It was a difficult journey but we would not change a thing," Miller continued. "For families that already filled their families or are unable to carry a baby, the embryos get a chance to become these tiny humans they are supposed to be."

The Millers hope more people hear about the Snowflake Embryo Adoption Program. The cost of embryo adoption is typically less than traditional adoption, but prices vary with location.

The Miller Family Alabama News
The Miller Family. Photo: Liz Allison Photography.

Dalton was the 1,000th baby born through embryo adoption, and Mary Elizabeth was number 1,001.

To learn more about the Snowflake Embryo Adoption Program, click here.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected].

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