Family turns to Facebook to find home for unused embryos

Story highlights

  • A Tennessee family placed a post on Facebook about its six, unused frozen embryos
  • A couple, struggling with infertility, stumbled upon the post and jumped at the idea
  • Experts: Tennessee has few laws covering open donations of embryos

Kelly Wallace is CNN's digital correspondent and editor-at-large covering family, career and life. Read her other columns on digital life and follow her reports at CNN Parents and on Twitter.

(CNN)Facebook has reunited siblings separated at birth, rekindled old romantic relationships and helped countless people find someone who understands what they are going through.

And now, the social media platform has helped one Tennessee family find a home for their unused embryos, according to CNN affiliate WSMV.
Angel and Jeff Watts of Mount Juliet, Tennessee struggled to conceive and turned to in vitro fertilization, which they say blessed them with two sets of twins, ages 3 years old and 16 months.
    The couple was then left with six unused frozen embryos, which they decided to donate and place with the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, WSMV reported.
    But two years later, the embryos were still unused and being housed at the donation center.
    "What I didn't realize is that there's a lot of competition out there," Angel Watts told WSMV in an interview. "That center has over 300 sets" of embryos, she said.
    Each set could be anywhere from one embryo to 24 embryos per donor, said Stephanie Wood-Moyers, marketing and public relations manager for the National Embryo Donation Center.
    "The more restrictions, stipulations that the donors place on the recipients, the longer it's going to take to find a match," she said.
    The average wait time for open communications arrangements such as the one Watts was seeking, where the donor has contact with the recipient, could be anywhere from six months to four years, she said.
    Frustrated and eager to find a home for her embryos, Watts went an unconventional route. She placed a post on Facebook, and detailed the kind of family she and her husband were looking for: married several years, in a steady loving relationship, strong Christian background, roots in Tennessee.
    "And I made sure I let people know, you know, this is not a gimmick, no games," said Watts. "I'm not getting any money for this."
    The Watts received hundreds of responses, and in less than three weeks settled on a family: Rayn and Richard Galloway of Cookeville, Tennessee.
    "We don't look like what people would statistically say 'Oh those people are infertile.' We just look like a happy, young married couple," said Rayn Galloway in an interview with WSMV.
    Couple receives embryo donation via Facebook
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      Couple receives embryo donation via Facebook


    Couple receives embryo donation via Facebook 01:50
    Rayn said she stumbled upon the post and jumped at the possibility. She recently visited with Angel Watts and her family.
    "Meeting them and seeing their children and seeing how they interact as a family, their interests, just their personalities as a whole, is very similar to my husband and I," she told WSMV.
    Angel Watts said she wants her kids to know the Galloway family because they will be genetically connected forever.
    "We'll be meeting them all along so they'll know us but they won't know us as parents," said Watts.
    Rayn, who plans to have two transfers of three embryos each, with the first transfer possibly by May, said she agrees with Watts on the importance of an open relationship.
    "Those are her babies, and she is giving me that gift," said Galloway. "The least that I can do is let her have a relationship, see those children and have a relationship for her own children's sake."
    Wood-Moyers of the National Embryo Donation Center said there are few laws in most states in the entire country that cover embryo donations in any form.
    "It's a little bit of uncharted territory," she said.
    That is why fertility doctors say counseling for anyone going through open donations is crucial so that both families can share their needs, wants and expectations.
    "If it works and people are careful, it will work well," Dr. Glenn Weitzman of the Nashville Fertility Center told WSMV regarding this unorthodox path of embryo donation.
    "That's part of our generation and our new age, our ability to communicate and communicate with a wide range of people on our own without having to go through what might be considered normal channels."
    Do you think using Facebook to find a home for unused embryos is a good idea? Share your thoughts with Kelly Wallace on Twitter or CNN Living on Facebook.