Warning! This one is a hard one for me to write and probably for some of you to read. it may bring up some memories and emotions, especially if you are also an IVF mom. If you’ve been following along on my journey of becoming a mommy of twins at almost 50 years old, you already know that I wasn’t able to use my own eggs to get pregnant. We had to go an alternative route to conceive our miracle babies. Until I met with our fertility doctor, I had no idea this was even an option. I thought for sure when we first started thinking and talking about having a family that our only option would be adoption. That turned out not to be the case.
I always wanted to be a mom, but for many reasons, it didn’t happen until I was 49. For more details on my past and why I waited so long to have children, read my “Deferred Dream“. “This” that I refer to above is the use of someone else’s eggs combined with my husband’s sperm to create embryos that are then inserted into my uterus with the hopes that at least one of the embryos implant and become a fetus. In our case, we got lucky and both embryos implanted. The whole using donor eggs and getting my body ready to receive the eggs while tricking my body into thinking that I’m already pregnant was a huge process. The process was super emotional, frustrating at times, and painful due to having to give myself shots to prepare for the embryo transfer but ultimately & thankfully, successful for us.
Choosing a donor was the fist step and probably the hardest. There are different ways to go about finding a donor if you decide to go the route we did to conceive. You can use the fertility center’s database of donors or you can pay more and use and outside donor agency that will then work with your fertility center to ensure quality and appropriate transfer of the eggs, etc… We looked at both options. The fertility center’s database was included in the total price that we paid for the entire process. If we had decided to use an outside agency there would have been an additional cost ($10k+) added to an already very expensive price tag. We honestly couldn’t really afford the price tag we paid and thankfully we only had to do one cycle of IVF to have a positive and successful outcome. For many couples, this process can take multiple tries and cycles and every cycle is more money and time. It can drain your budget and your emotions fast!
Because we couldn’t afford to pay an additional $10,000 to $20,000 to use an outside donor agency, we took our chances with the fertility center’s options for donors. The Center releases new donor information every Thursday at 4 pm. I would be at my computer with the link open and ready to start “shopping” for a donor at 3:55 pm every Thursday. I was so disappointed for several weeks when we couldn’t find the right donor. The Center had told us that we would have no problem finding a donor with similar attributes and characteristics to me. We wanted our children to look like us and our family to feel like it fit together. My husband and I both caucasian and have blonde hair and blue eyes. If we had children naturally, they would most likely be the same, blondies with blue eyes. Because of this, it was important for us to find a donor who resembled me in some way and had a lot of my same personality characteristics. This is harder to find than you would think. At the time we were searching for our donor there seemed to be more Asian and African American donors on the site than Caucasian donors. We even considered going with a donor of a different ethnicity than us. We ended up not having to do this. Honestly, we aren’t and weren’t against using a different ethnic egg donor but we didn’t want to have to explain to the world why our children look different than we do. This may be selfish of me, but if I am going to endure a long, hard pregnancy and go through everything I did to get pregnant and carry them to term, I didn’t want the world to question if I was their mom or not.
Through this entire process, we only found three viable and potential donors. But it took weeks to find each one. So after weeks of looking, not finding anyone that matched what our criteria were, I was really frustrated and ready to throw the towel in. Then finally, I found a donor who checked off all of our boxes and was perfect. I didn’t immediately hit the select button but instead waited to choose her because I felt I needed to talk with my husband. If I remember correctly, I may have been on the phone with him and we were going over her info and talking through it when all of a sudden she just disappeared right in front of our eyes. We took too long to review, hem and hawing, and second-guessing the process. Another couple had chosen our perfect donor. I was devastated. It had taken us weeks to finally find one that on paper anyway, was perfect. I cried and thought that was the end of it. I was sure we’d never find the right donor. I persisted and continued through the process telling myself that our donor was out there and we’d find her soon.
A few weeks later on a Thursday afternoon at 4:00 pm, I again found another donor that checked all of our boxes. This time, I hastily clicked accept and then printed her profile out and took it home for my husband to review. I wasn’t chancing that we’d lose another perfect donor. Yes, I did this while I was at work. I seriously had a matter of minutes each week to make a life-changing decision. That’s how crazy the process was.
It was also super competitive. We were one of probably hundreds of other couples who were doing the same thing at the same time every week. Once a couple selected a donor that donor was off the table for anyone else to ever review. The only way you would be able to see their information again was if the other couple decided not to use her for various reasons. There were also penalties if you chose a donor hastily then changed your mind. We tried to be very deliberate with our search and really tried to review everything in full before we chose the donor and took them off the market.
This donor actually isn’t the donor that we ended up using. Her genetic background and my husbands weren’t a good match. We had too high a likelihood of genetic abnormalities in our child or children if we went ahead with her eggs. We opted for all of the testings through this process, which is good because it allowed us to figure this out before we even started down the road with this donor.
At this point, I felt hopeless. I thought we had spent all of this money and didn’t see how we could find a donor that would work for us. But each week, I kept looking. I finally found a donor that resembles me and had so many of the personality characteristics that we were looking for. I knew in my heart she was the one. I called my husband urgently and told him he had to log in and read her profile quickly. I didn’t want to lose this one to another couple. He, of course, wanted to wait and talk it over. I told him, “No! We have to make a decision right now. We can’t risk losing her to someone else.” So he said, “Ok” and we read it together quickly and after about a minute of discussion I hit the button to select her. I then printed out her profile with photographs of when she was a baby and little girl to take home and read over in more detail. I felt really good about her and felt she was the one.
Selecting our donor was just the beginning. Then the testing and prepping for her retrieval and my embryo transfer started. It actually went fairly quickly considering how much there was to be done. I have to give kudos to our fertility center. They have the process dialed in and they handle it really well. I felt really taken care of and supported throughout the entire process. It was a little weird that I knew what our donor was going through to get ready for her egg retrieval and how she was going physically feel during and after her procedure. We sent her a very nice gift with a heartfelt card on the day of her retrieval. Our donor is anonymous to us but she and we did sign a form giving consent that at the age of 18 if our twins want to meet her, the center will release her information to them. I’ll talk a little more about that choice in a bit.
The entire process from finding the donor to having the embryos transferred to me took about two and a half months. That feels like a lifetime when all you want to be is pregnant. So you can imagine the stress and anguish I felft when once we finally had the embryo transfer we had to wait nine days to get official confirmation that we were in fact pregnant. Then we waited four more weeks from that point to find out we were pregnant with twins. What an amazing outcome. I was and am still so thankful to our donor. She doens’t know us and even though she was paid and all of the medications and procedure costs were paid for by us, she didn’t have to do this for strangers. She’s a very special person to me and I will always hold her in the highest regard. I have an enormous amount of love and gratitude to her and really do hope to meet her some day so that I can sincerly thank her in person.
I know this is getting long but I want to talk more about our decision to sign the document so that our kids can find and meet the egg donor in the future if they wish to. We have decided to tell them the truth about their conception. We feel it’s a beautiful story and they should know the truth. I know from personal experience how painful it can be not knowing the truth about your conception and heritage. I don’t want my sons to resent me or feel I lied to them their whole lives. I won’t get into the specifics of my story, but finding out in my mid twenties the truth of my own birth story was devastating for me and caused me to go through an identity crisis and other mental anguish for years. At the time, my story felt like a huge shameful family secret and no child or young adult should ever feel this way. I felt I was a burden to my family instead of a blessing. I want my sons to know that they were conceived with love. They were wanted and loved by so many, not only their parents, but this amazing woman who was willing to go through so much so that we could be their parents. They are a blessing to us and the entire world.
We have started to talk about how thankful we are for our donor in front of the twins. I tell them every day how much they are loved, not only by us and their grandparents (we Facetime with them almost every day) but also their egg donor. I tell them that we don’t know her name, but we know she is so special becasue she enabled us to be a family.
I know not all IVF with egg donor parents feel the same way about telling their children the truth about their conception. Some worry that their kids will resent them or not like them and rebel against them when they are teenagers. This may be the case for all of us no matter if we tell them the truth or not. I respect any other parents decision to tell or not tell, but because of my own experience and what I’ve seen with other IVF parents I truly believe that being honest and telling them the truth from a young age will make it so much easier to process and understand when they get old enough to really get it.
The whole process is very scientific and hard to process for adults, let alone little ones. I still have friends and family who are confused by the fact that we used someone else’s eggs but I carried the babies and was pregnant and then gave birth to them. To me, it’s a no brainer. I am their mom and the fact that I had to use someone else’s eggs to get pregnant is just a technicality. If I can offer one piece of advice to those who haven’t had much experience with IVF moms, especially IVF with egg donors. Please don’t ever ask an IVF mom if they are going to tell their kids about their “birth mom” when you mean to say their “egg donor”. If a woman is pregnant and gives birth then she is the birth mom no matter what. I know this is confusing, but since we have been transparent and honest about our story and using an egg donor, I’ve had to explain the difference between me being the birth mom and using a donor’s eggs more than I’d really like to admit. I will continue to explain it if I have to, but I really hope that instead of explaining that I am the birth mom people just see how much I love my kids and that I am so grateful and blessed to be their mommy. Then my hope is that it won’t matter how they were conceived, but rather what a blessing they are to us and the world. What an amazing conception and birth story they have. It really should be celebrated!
If you are an IVF mom or an IVF with egg donor mom, I’d love to connect with you. You are not alone and there is a tribe of other IVF and IVF with egg donor moms out there to support you! Please comment below or send me an email. I reply to all legitimate comments and messages. If you aren’t an IVF or IVF with egg donor mom but have questions or want to learn more about the process and all it entails to become a mom the way I did, also, please reach out!