I have been meaning to write this page for a very long time. My DS is about to turn 1 year old…and he is here because of donor eggs. But before he came, we had a long journey through infertility. We also battled with the decision to use donor eggs (DE). So here is what we learned for those of you who may now be at a stage of also considering DE. I hope my experience will help you make a decision that is right for you.
A little background
My husband and I did several rounds of IVF over several years. Two successful rounds unfortunately ended in miscarriage. It left us emotionally, financially and physically exhausted. We started our journey when I was around 35 (we also married when I was 31, thinking we had lots of time for having babies) and for around 4 years, our lives were one IVF cycle to the next. We ultimately did seven IVF cycles.
The first DE conversation with our FS
I remember the exact moment that I knew we would do DE….but I am getting ahead of myself. Around IVF cycle 5, my AMH level started to drop. They were still over 1.0, but just hovering over 1.0. (My FS will consider cancelling a cycle if your AMH is under 0.5) I think I was 37 at the time. This was the first time our FS brought up DE, but it was very casual and not something we were even remotely considering. We went ahead with the cycle, but it was unsuccessful. When we started preparing for cycle 6, I remember my AMH levels came back and had bottomed out at around 0.6. It was a drastic difference from my previous levels in cycle 5. This was when we had a more detailed conversation with our FS about the meaning behind low AMH levels. My FS explained that AMH levels are only one indicator of fertility, and that we have to take it with all of the other information we have to inform us of what our next steps are. So for those of you stressing about AMH….it is only one piece of information. However, given my age, my previous history of several failed IVF cycles….and my new AMH, we discussed DE for the first time. But, we still went ahead with cycle 6….which also failed.
The first DE conversation with my husband (before DE was on the table)
When we came home from our initial planning appointment for cycle 6 with our FS, my husband and I had a long discussion about moving to DE. We talked on and off over the next week. What is important here is that we were still in cycle 6, so DE was not really on the table yet. It was just another option, but not our reality. So our conversation covered the following:
1) Generally if we were ok with it. We were both open to it, but we were also still in a cycle, so it was not a reality (yet)…so it was not really on the table. But we were both open.
2) How did we feel about not having my DNA? I was ok with it. My husband was ok with it. However, when I asked him how he would feel about donor sperm (just to flip it a bit) he was absolutely opposed. So from his perspective, it was ok for my DNA to be left out, but not his. This was a difficult one for me….but I will continue this later.
3) Would we tell anyone? Absolutely not. We were both very clear on this from the beginning. We both felt that so few people even understood IVF, or at least the stigma was so great. So to now talk about DE….no way. Even with people who were doing fertility treatments…..no way. Unless you were considering or had done DE yourself, there was no point discussing it. People just don’t understand and could never give us the support we needed. At least, that has been our experience.
4) Could we afford it? DE is about double the cost of a ‘normal’ IVF cycle, which at the time was already a lot of money. We couldn’t afford DE, but we also couldn’t afford IVF and we had already done 6 cycles. We learned a long time ago, that if you want it to happen, you make a plan. So we decided we would cross that bridge when the bridge was in front of us.
Cycle 6 fails….DE is now on the table
I remember the exact moment when I knew our next cycle would be DE. The nurse called me to tell me the results of our 6th cycle. A failure, which I already knew because I always peed on sticks the day before. Anyways, at this point keep in mind, we had been with my FS and his staff for four years and many cycles. We had a great relationship and they knew us very well. So I said to the nurse, “What’s next? Do you think we should consider DE?”, to which she promptly said, “Yes. You have had a long road. DE is a good next step to consider.” So it was now on the table.
I went home and discussed it with my husband again, but more seriously. We revisited our previous conversation, but we were both much more vocal now that it was a reality. These are a few of the questions we discussed:
1) Were we still ok with it generally? Yes. We wanted to have a child. I wanted to carry that child. Adoption was not something we were prepared for at that point. If we could still have a successful pregnancy, that is what we wanted. We weren’t clear on some other issues, but we knew we still wanted to try for a successful pregnancy.
2) Were WE still ok with our child not having my DNA? Hmmmm. We got stuck here for a bit. Now that it was a reality, we spent a lot of time talking about this. I got hung-up on the fact that my husband was ok with us using DE, but was not ok if the tables had been turned and we had to use donor sperm. We spent a lot of time (or I spent a lot of time) trying to get him to appreciate that if we were willing to use DE, then it would be the same to use donor sperm. In the end, I decided to let it go. Men and their sperm – that is a whole other conversation. Anyways, I decided that DE was our reality, not donor sperm. So I needed to focus on what we were currently facing…and we were still ok with it. If you are considering using donor sperm, there are lots of people who have required this who can give you insight, as it has it’s own specific challenges.
3) Was I ok with our child not having my DNA? Now that DE was a reality, I struggled here. Overall, I was ok with DE but I had a lot of questions. I also realized that I needed to grieve for the loss of my DNA, which I don’t think I realized at the time. Would our child even remotely resemble us? or me? Would they have a medical history I wouldn’t know? What if they had an erratic personality? I was plagued by all kinds of questions. So I did a lot of reading on epigenetics and the DNA make-up of a DE child. I came to the conclusion (some science-based and some of my own rationalizing) that although part of my child’s DNA was not mine, they would still be 100% my husbands. I would also carry this child and grow every cell in their body (except 1). Their body would be made of 100% me (I rounded up from 99.99999%…lol), I would nourish that child and know that I grew them. In that process, I was in them. They would be a part of me. The environment I would create through pregnancy would impact how they developed and grew.
We actually took a bit of a break after cycle 6 to really think through these things and let it settle. If you are considering DE, it is an easy decision for some, and a much harder one for others. I know some people who would not even consider it, while others dive into DE very quickly. It is a very personal decision, and your partner and you may not see eye to eye on it. I think what helped us was that we had discussed it prior to it being a reality, so we already had some general idea of how we felt about it.
Good luck…wherever you are in this conversation.