Our struggle to conceive
I always kind of had a feeling that getting pregnant would be difficult for me. So as soon as my husband and I got married we started trying to get pregnant and then promptly requested the referral for a fertility doc at the 6-month mark (apparently with advanced maternal age, when 35 and over, you get to fast track this process.) IVF is common these days, and once you get moms talking, you find out many are also going through infertility treatments and thinking about options like donor eggs. This will be reinforced when you notice the packed waiting rooms at the infertility clinics. At our first consultation, they ordered blood tests and did an ultrasound to count my resting follicles (basically the number of eggs you have on deck to possibly be released as the lucky egg to go to the big leagues during your next cycle…).
Diminished Ovarian Reserves
My personal diagnosis is Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR). Which basically means the used by date on my eggs has mostly passed and I am working with the bottom of the barrel on my egg supply. It is not that I can’t get pregnant, but the chance of one of my last few good eggs getting released for the major leagues becomes ridiculously small. After spending many long scary hours googling my diagnosis I read story after story that having my own biological children would be difficult and it would be best to consider donor egg or adoption. When I first learned this I would bawl my eyes out every time I saw a family where it was obvious that the kids looked like their parents. I had to mourn the fact this most likely wouldn’t be my story, my children would not carry on my genes (which the more you think about it there are plenty of genes that we probably should take out of the larger gene pool anyway…).
What about donor eggs?
At our first meeting with our infertility doctor to discuss treatment plan my husband and I started the conversation by saying we did not want to hear about donor egg or adoption. We wanted to do all we could to try and have our own biological children despite the odds. During these moments you will look and cling to any and all success stories you can find on the internet. You become sure that these could also be your success stories despite the vast number of different infertility diagnosis out there that really make everyone’s “journey” unique (said in a snarky tone because this is never an enjoyable process). 3 years and 6 IVF attempts later we had four canceled cycles (either not enough eggs matured to go to retrieval or my eggs didn’t respond to the medication protocol) and two early miscarriages. Given my low egg count I was on the highest doses of meds with each protocol, so not only was it expensive and quickly all out of pocket (insurance coverage or lack thereof for fertility treatments is an entirely different long story) but the emotional roller coaster from going on and off meds was difficult to endure. I was ready to move on to donor egg earlier than my husband was. It took him a good 2 years to wrap his head around the idea and be ready to move forward. Even though I had come to grips with the idea of not having biological children, I was apprehensive of what to expect with an egg donor. With each procedure, you always hope for the best but prepare for the worst. Donor Egg was a whole new procedure so I didn’t know how to prepare for the worst. We had already been through so much and there is no way moving to donor egg could be the silver bullet everyone makes it out to be. I quickly had to learn first hand that you can have failed cycles with egg donor too!
More testing and new challenges
Once my husband and I were ready to start the egg donor process we had to go through more testing, including a visit with a social worker that would deem us mentally prepared for such a situation. Then comes all new situations of frozen versus fresh donors, anonymous versus open contracts with the donors, wading through vast databases of available donors and the meeting with fertility lawyer to understand what all these long contracts regarding the donor relationship meant. When you first get your personal code to access the database it is exciting but then you quickly realize from the many options very few fit your ideal donor characteristics. Quickly we learned that we had to give some must have traits and found that the essays the donors included helped us the most. You could often learn a lot more about the donor through the essays than through single word answers about their favorite subjects in school. What became most important to us was to feel we were choosing an egg donor that seemed to have a good heart and good values ( all through a few two paragraph essays on why they wanted to donate).
An egg donor at last
Finally, we found our donor! She seemed very sweet and hardworking. Since we had chosen the frozen egg donor route we purchased two egg lots in hopes of using the second egg lot for a genetic sibling. The two eggs lots were FedExed to our doctors’ office (that’s right FedEx, probably traveling next to your latest impulse Amazon Prime purchase you made. On the thaw date, we were so excited, until we got a call later that the eggs did not thaw well and out of 7 eggs only two fertilized. Ugh! Here we go again. By day 3 the two fertilized eggs did not progress well and we basically had to consider the cycle a fail. But now we had to decide if we even wanted to try again with a second lot of eggs from the donor or get a refund (given the disastrous results we became eligible for a refund under some clause in our contract I never even read because it apparently happened less than 5% of the time). We decided to get the refund and they agreed to honor a refund on the second egg lot too.
So back to square one… we became really attached to the idea of the one donor and knew that the selection process was grueling and filled with many donors that were not right for us. We were so emotionally drained and could not imagine picking a second donor. But as we always did we continued to move on because taking some sort of action was already made us feel better after each failed cycle.
Slowly we started to look through the database again and within two weeks we actually found another donor we both liked. We really didn’t expect to find another donor we liked so we were kind of in shock. We found out that she was a first-time donor and she had two egg lots available for us to try for the genetic siblings again. So again we schedule our thaw date and luckily the fertilization report that night was great. Everything progressed nicely and we had one beautiful embryo to transfer ( what you often learn is just because you have 7 eggs that do not translate into 7 embryos. Especially with frozen egg donors those 7 eggs often only result in one viable embryo.
After two weeks I went in for my beta (first pregnancy blood test) and the results came back negative. Are you kidding me? We were on our second egg donor and now down to our last egg lot, oh and of course out of pocket ridiculous amounts of money… We took an impromptu vacation to clear our heads and decide what we wanted to do with the last egg lot. Were we strong enough to sign up for a ninth failed attempt?
How do we proceed?
We decided to go ahead and schedule a thaw date for this last egg lot. For this thaw, we decided that we did not want any daily reports on the progress of fertilization and embryo progression. On the second day, my doctor called and I proceeded to give her an update on how I was feeling. Then it dawned on me that she would only be calling me if something was wrong with the progression of the eggs. So I immediately stopped and quietly asked what’s wrong… once again the thaw did not go well but two eggs did fertilize and one seemed to be developing into a nice embryo. Since we were now only working with one embryo she recommended we move to a three-day transfer since waiting for a five-day transfer would not increase our odds of success. We did the three-day transfer and both went with the mindset of this is not going to work but we need to complete the process before we could move on to our next step.
So I wait the two weeks (well I might have peed on a stick or 20 before the blood test so I already knew it was positive) and then go in for my beta. Yes! The beta confirms a positive pregnancy, but I had been here before. Each doctor visit we miraculously progressed nicely despite always being scared there was new devastating ending just around the corner. 9 mo this later we welcomed our healthy little boy!! He is amazing and now we have moved on to worry about how freaking expensive and nerve-wracking childcare is…
While we are loving every minute with our new little boy (ok I could do without some of the sleepless nights), there still is the question ha going out there whether we want or can even have genetic siblings. We used all of our eggs from the egg donor so now we have to see if she is willing to go through the process again. But that is another who,e can of worms for another day.