One-year-old Oliver is a happy, healthy baby, but his story is very different from other infants. In fact, Oliver was frozen for nine years before his embryo was thawed and donated to his parents, Janeen and Dave Hergert.
The WNY couple tried for years to have children of their own. The couple was prepared to undergo a fourth round of IVF when Janeen heard about embryos that were being donated to couples in need through their fertility center, CNY Fertility Center. She and Dave decided to jump at the chance.
"We ended up with five embryos from the same family. And those embryos were created in 2007. They were frozen for nine years already," explained Janeen. "We ended up transferring one. And that is our son Oliver. "
Oliver's embryo was created in 2007, but he was born in early 2017. Every year some families donate the embryos they have left after undergoing fertility treatments, but the National Embryo Donation Center estimates that across the country there are about one million frozen embryos. In New York State, thousands of embryos are stored at different fertility centers.
"We have so many embryos that are stored. And so many of them, people don't know what to do with," said Dr. Robert Kiltz, who started CNY Fertility Center in Syracuse about 20 years ago. Today, the Center has locations in Syracuse, Rochester, Albany and Amherst.
Remaining embryos belong to the patients who created them, and those patients pay per year to keep them frozen. The Hergerts want people to know there is another option. They're encouraging people with remaining embryos to donate them to families in need, so they can have a chance to have children of their own.
"I can't imagine that it's an easy decision to give your babies essentially to someone else but I'm so glad they gave their embryos a chance at life, and they gave us our chance for our miracle," said Janeen.
"It really is giving the gift of life," echoed Dr. Kiltz. "We donate kidneys, and parts of livers, and bone marrow and blood. And I think what better thing to do in life than give life?"
The Hergerts have four remaining embryos which are Ollie's biological siblings. They are planning to use at least one more, and say when they're done with their family they will donate any remaining embryos so other hopeful parents have a chance to have a family of their own.