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With perseverance and a little help, a baby

Snowflakes’ “placing families” choose the adoptive parents, then those parents can say yes or no to the match.

Adam and Hannah with baby Canaan
Adam and Hannah with baby CanaanRead moreKatie Cunningham

THE PARENTS: Hannah Swift, 31, and Adam Swift, 30, of Lancaster

THE CHILD: Canaan Jeffrey, born Oct. 7, 2022

HIS NAME: Canaan is the promised land in the Old Testament. “It came as the blessing after a time of barrenness and emptiness,” Adam says.

It was November 2021, and their future children — their “beans,” Hannah and Adam called them — were in a refrigerated truck on the way from a West Coast fertility clinic. The six embryos, produced by another couple during IVF procedures, had been in deep freeze for almost a decade.

The couple were adopting them, hoping that one or more of those frozen embryos, once transferred to Hannah’s uterus, would become the children they’d been envisioning for years.

Adam and Hannah were kids themselves when they met — 10 and 11 years old, chasing around the yard outside Grace Church at Willow Valley. “Everything started with a friendship,” Adam says. “By the time we were 17, 18 years old, we were in love.”

Hannah’s kindness was a powerful draw: the way her friends came to her for counsel, the way lacrosse teammates nicknamed her “Mama” for her wisdom.

And for her? “What girl can resist a guy with a guitar?” she says. “What I grew to appreciate is that Adam is very wise and discerning, much more patient than I am, very funny and easygoing.”

They managed a long-distance relationship while Hannah attended college in Virginia; Adam stayed home for Lancaster Bible College. The summer before Hannah’s senior year — her mother had died several months earlier — Adam arranged a scavenger hunt near Willow Valley Duck Pond, a path marked with cards for each of the 10 years they had known each other.

He’d had a ring made with the diamond from Hannah’s mother’s ring. That’s when she broke down and wept.

They married at Grace Church, where Adam is now pastor. “A lot of people, when they say ‘I do,’ in some ways they’re saying it to a stranger,” Adam says. “For us it was: I know this person.”

At the time, they were limping along on part-time jobs, so cash-strapped that just after the wedding, they tore open the cards they’d received so they’d have enough money to pay the rent and honeymoon at Adam’s family house near Penn State.

They’d already talked about children: a definite yes.

But nature equivocated. After trying for a year on their own, they consulted a fertility practice. Hannah became pregnant after one intrauterine insemination, then miscarried at three weeks. That was in late 2019, just before the pandemic.

Adam remembers lockdown as also being a time of healing. “I would get up as the sun was coming up and go on walks and spend time in prayer and try to process what had happened.”

They tried four more IUIs without success — ”the rollercoaster of hope and then disappointment, all the physical things, all the tests and medications,” Hannah says. At one appointment, a nurse mentioned embryo adoption; that same day, Adam read an article about the process on the Gospel Coalition’s website.

He was intrigued. Hannah was sold. “I thought: OK, yep, that’s what we’re going to do,” she says. “We wanted to be able to start our family with a baby.” And Adam realized that adopting an embryo — one that would otherwise remain frozen or eventually be destroyed — was in alignment with their values.

They learned about Snowflakes, a program of Nightlight Christian Adoptions. Like some agencies that foster open adoption, Snowflakes’ “placing families” choose the adoptive parents, then those parents can say yes or no to the match. A fertility clinic examines the frozen embryos and reviews the biological parents’ medical history to ensure the best chance of success.

Hannah and Adam needed a home study, a profile book, background checks, medical exams. They liked the idea that they would learn about their future child’s genetic and family history, that they could even meet the biological parents.

“We believe that God has created each and every individual and has a special plan, that he orchestrates our lives,” says Adam. “Every single one of us has a beautiful story.”

They received news of a match in August 2021. Next was the “contracts phase,” hashing out exactly what kind of communication they would have with the biological parents; in their case, it consists of a minimum of yearly photos and updates. “But at some point, if everybody agrees, we’d be open to a phone call, a video chat, or meeting,” Hannah says.

It was challenging to explain what they were doing to friends and family — the apparent conundrum of adopting and being pregnant. Adam’s mother commented, “This is like sci-fi,” and others just looked puzzled: “Wait, how does this work?”

The transfer happened at the end of January 2022, with the first embryo that physicians thawed. Right after the procedure, the couple stopped for a spontaneous IKEA trip, with Adam reassuring himself aloud the entire time: “We’re just going to walk around; she’s going to be fine.”

At 10 days, a blood test flagged good news. Hannah’s HCG levels were high. She was pregnant. The next nine months were relatively easy: very little morning sickness, a series of early ultrasounds that let them hear the heartbeat at six weeks.

“It sounded like a train,” Hannah says. “Chugga chugga chugga. He was still just a little bean at that point.”

She was due Oct. 13. But on the 6th, the baby failed a non-stress test; at the hospital, it turned out Hannah had preeclampsia. “They said, ‘Guess what? You’re not leaving this hospital until your baby’s born.’ I got induced that evening.”

She’d been pushing for two hours when a doctor said, “One more push, with a little help from the obstetric vacuum, and if this doesn’t work, we’re going to a C-section.”

That was all the motivation Hannah needed. Canaan arrived at 5:12 p.m., the 960th Snowflakes baby to be born. But reality didn’t truly sink in until the next day.

“It dawned on us: All that waiting, all that loss, all that disappointment, now that’s done,” Adam says. “The reward of persevering through all that is now in our arms. Incredible.”