HOUSTON - "There is no playbook for this!" That's the theme of the merging Martin/Monroe families.
The story begins with Brooke and Chris Martin, who live in north Houston.
"We got through some infertility struggles in my late 20s. We eventually found out that I would have to undergo in vitro fertilization (IVF) to get pregnant, which is basically the transportation of getting everything together," explains Brooke.
"We always had faith that when we donated, that they would be taken care of. The couple would have to go through the same thing that we did, which was agonizing. I mean, people don't realize all that couples go through while dealing with this," explains Chris.
They went to a fertility clinic in Nashville, Tenn., where they lived at the time and underwent IVF.
Fast-forward to their dream come true! They implanted two embryos and got twin boys they named Matthew and Christopher. They still had eight frozen embryos remaining and had to figure out what to do with them.
"Given the choice of using them, letting them thaw out, donating them to science, or giving them back to the fertility clinic in Nashville, we chose that last option, because that was what we believe was right," states Brooke.
Fast-forward another 18 years. A family member called them, letting them know they'd been contacted and it could be their son. It was!
"For my 18th birthday, I asked for a DNA test just because my dad took one as well and found his biological family (because he was adopted). I doubted I'd find the biological parents that we have, but I contacted him and was like, 'Hey, I'm on your family tree. I don't know if you know anybody in your family who donated embryos or just gave away some kids.’ He told me he might know someone," explains Thomas Monroe.
That led Brooke and Chris to look him up on social media. They could barely believe their eyes.
"I saw his picture and my husband and I burst into tears and said that's our kid. There's no doubt, he looked just like our boys," reflects Brooke.
Wait, there’s more! He had siblings, triplets! That means Brooke and Chris have two more biological sons and a daughter, now 19 years old at this point.
Their triplets grew up in Nashville with loving parents Trey and Becky. However, tragedy struck the family a few years ago, when they lost their beloved mom, Becky, to cancer. It was tough at first for Trey to give the gift of a DNA test to his son, but he knew it was the right thing to do.
"I had a little trepidation, but I also had a history of having found my own biological family through DNA testing and that has been nothing but wonderful, so I knew it could work very well. With a lot of prayer and just attention to little things, that gave me some peace," states Trey.
He had told his triplets when they were younger about the embryo adoption and the Martins had also told their kids when they were younger in life.
"It was still definitely shock and awe factor, but I don't think it was as detrimental as for other people, because we always knew this was a random possibility of this happening," states Christopher.
Lauren reflects about the power of the embryo donation from Brooke and Chris.
"If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here. It's a group effort, of course! My mom had us and carried us but from the beginning, and it was them who blessed us, so I think in the end it helped us, and I really do think it was sent by my mom (Becky)," says Lauren.
Brooke is still in awe at the similarities between the five children. From athletics to music, they're all a lot alike. She says they even walk the same way, even though they grew up in separate households.
Chris is so happy to see that his prayers came true about the embryo donation.
"We realize that DNA/genetics go into this whole picture, but there's still a lot of nurturing involved. All these kids, now young adults, are exceptional children to us, and exceptional adults to the world, so we just are very thankful for that! They had a couple of parents doing the nurturing to make it happen, so kudos to Becky and Trey. We continue to pray and hope that they continue to grow and do well," states biological dad, Chris.
Brooke wants to make sure everyone knows that adopting embryos is an option.
"I've done a lot of research on it. One proponent of our story is to make people aware that it's an option. If they've been through in vitro and have embryos that they are not going to utilize to grow their family, there are options to donate them. Now, you can actually go through an official adoption where you can choose the family that adopts the embryos and goes through in vitro, so it's a lot more technological now. If you go through an open situation, then you get to stay in touch with the family and the child based on your own decisions. When we did it, that was an option," explains Brooke.
These two families are merging into one big happy family and cherish every moment they get together.
"They turned out to be really good people, and I’m so glad we found them," states Peter.
The Martins would love to be a resource for anyone with questions about this. Brooke says please feel free to reach out to them: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also find them on: https://www.facebook.com/ourlovemultiplied
For more information about embryo donation, click here.