“Excitement” and “shock” are the two words Rachel Halbert used to describe the moment she learned she was carrying triplets. This would be no ordinary pregnancy; Rachel was carrying triplets that she and her husband had adopted as embryos.
Weeks earlier, Rachel and her husband Aaron, both Caucasian, adopted two African American embryos. The couple had them implanted and were told they had just a 4 percent chance of having triplets. When Rachel began spotting in her pregnancy, she headed to a local clinic where the doctor informed her that one of the two embryos had split, resulting in identical twins, in addition to the other baby.
The Halberts already had two children, Ford and Catherine, both of whom they adopted domestically and transracially from their home state of Mississippi. As the couple prepared to move to Honduras where Aaron was going to be a missionary, they learned about embryo adoption. Rachel tells Babble, “I loved the idea of carrying the baby/babies and experiencing pregnancy,” and that she was motivated by the statistics. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 60,000 frozen embryos could be made available for adoption.
Embryo preservation and adoption has been a hot button issue in the United States.
Rachel recognizes the complexity, saying, “Embryo adoption can also be very difficult for the donor family. I know the decision to donate your frozen embryos for adoption is probably the hardest you’ll ever make. It can be so painful to know that someone else is raising your biological children. For some reason, whether medical or family size or financial or age, you are unable to have any more transfers.”
Rachel summarizes the essence of embryo adoption, as “unique and beautiful,” calling the biological parents who choose to donate their embryos “brave and selfless.”
Of course, some have questioned why embryos are adopted when there are so many children awaiting adoption.
Rachel says, “We were not saying that those lives are any more important than the lives of the babies and children waiting to be adopted all across the world. No, they are not any more important, but they are no less important either. All of our children’s lives are valued.”
The couple’s decision to adopt African American embryos wasn’t taken lightly. After much contemplation, the Halberts chose to maintain the existing makeup of their family as white parents and black children. Rachel revealed that she didn’t want Ford and Catherine to feel any different had they chosen to adopt and implant white embryos.
The public is fascinated with multiples and adoption, and the Halberts experienced both. Celebrities such as Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, Hugh Jackman, and Hoda Kotb stir up wonder, questions, and unfortunately, judgement, when they chose to build their families by adoption.
How do people react when they learn that all the children were adopted, the triplets were adopted as embryos?
Rachel shared with Babble, “Most of the time, people have a hard time wrapping their brains around it. Embryo adoption is not very common, so there’s usually a lot of explaining that happens. I think the most important thing I emphasize is that ALL five of them are our children. They are siblings. I usually stop there because their identity does not rest on how they entered our family. Yes, they are adopted. No, all five of them do not share the same genetics. But they are all ours. I loved them each before they were placed in our arms.”
Rachel’s life today as a mom of five children under age 4 is much as you’d expect.
“I would imagine that my life as mom looks a whole lot like the life of any mom. My days are filled with feeding five hungry kiddos, changing lots of diapers, tending to household duties, shepherding little hearts, loving on and playing with all five, doing/learning how to do hair of four beautiful girls and one handsome little guy, and finding a minute or two to eat some food myself. It is a joy and privilege to care for our five. I never knew I would be so blessed. I always wanted four or five children, but I never expected it would happen within three years!”
As to whether the Halberts are considering adoption again, Rachel told Babble, “We’ll see what the future holds. For now, we are enjoying this phase of life right now.” Ford, age 4, Catherine, age 3, and 1-year-old triplets, Ryley, Anne Waverly, and Whitley are keeping the couple busy and content.
As a mom of four children, all of whom adopted transracially at birth, one popular sentiment in the adoption community echoes in my mind after listening to the Halbert’s story: love makes a family. The Halberts entered into their adoption with love — the most necessary foundation for parenting, no matter how your children come to you.