Saturday, May 29, 2010

Journey to Egg Donor

I think I’m the first one of our small group to go with an egg donor. So I thought I’d share my journey if it could help any of you. I sincerely hope that you never get to this point.

It isn’t a snap decision to move forward with an egg donor. Being that I started my fertility journey at 42, it was mentioned as a possibility from the start. I think the clinic doesn’t regard it is that big of a deal….and it certainly helps their success rates. But to me, it was a very big deal. I wanted MY child. I wanted it to be connected to my family and carry down the awesome traits that my parents gave me. When I see kids who look like their parents or show the same personality traits, I’m jealous. I already had to compromise my dream and go for a sperm donor since Mr. Right never showed up. But in many ways, it was so much easier to pick a sperm donor. I didn’t have a picture of Mr. Right in my head, so I could look at the donors almost like a dating site (which I’ve done for years!). However, on the female side, I did know who should be the genetic mother of my child…it was me! And I don’t have a twin or sister to turn to. I kept hoping through all of my treatments that I’d finally have the month with the “golden egg” and I’d get pregnant. But when my first PGD came back with all 4 embryos being genetically abnormal, I had to face the fact that maybe all of my eggs were abnormal. (Does anyone else remember the scene of Young Frankenstein with the brain from Abby Normal?) It was one of the worst days of my life. That was over a year ago. But I’m certainly not a quitter. Last summer, when I had another PGD come back with all embryos abnormal, I asked myself the question: When do you give up on your own eggs? I didn’t have an answer. No one I asked had an answer….and I asked a number of women who had gone to DE and the counselor at my clinic. The counselor pushed hard for me to move onto adoption or DE so I wouldn’t be wasting my time. I started reading a book on Egg Donation. It made me cry. However, I still wanted to get one lucky month. I still desperately wanted a child who was genetically linked to me. I even got one month where my I had a “normal” embryo. It was BFN. But it egged me on (pun intended) to try again, which I did. However after 6 failed cycles…I knew that I couldn’t keep giving my body that level of drugs and hormones on the infinitesimally small chance that I might get a “lucky egg”. 6 is the number of times they’ll let a donor donate. 6 felt like the right amount of times for me to try. I’m very lucky that I could try that many times and that money didn’t hold me back. (Heck, you can earn a lot of money on the way to 44 when you aren’t spending it on kids or a husband!)

When cycle #6 failed in February, I knew in my head that my eggs were done. That my body was done. That I couldn’t put myself through that emotional torture again. However my heart was something different. I had to grieve for my eggs. I cried a river of tears (and I still have crying jags now). I ate comfort food (lots of chocolate and alcohol) and gained 7 pounds. I faced that big black pit of depression. I gave myself a month to do nothing regarding fertility. After a month, I knew I wasn’t getting any younger and if I wanted a baby, I had to start looking for a donor. My clinic had given me a list of recommended donor agencies. I agonized about looking at them. When I had a strong moment, I started to look up the agencies online. Most of the agencies had donor libraries that you could look at for free. For most you had to register, but that was non-binding. The libraries include photos and a profile. What struck me first was how few had “my nose”. I actually never liked my nose growing up. It is a bit big. But as I’ve gotten older, I like it. It is straight with no hook or bump. So many of the donors had cute button noses. I just couldn’t go there. I tried to tell myself to just go for smart and pretty, but I want a child who looks like they could fit into my family. I gave up looking after a couple of hours…but congratulated myself on taking the first step. Didn’t really like any of the women I saw, but at least I was moving forward again. It was a couple of more weeks before I had the strength to face the websites again. I expanded my search to a couple of more agencies online. Then it was April and I had turned 44. If I want a chance at a baby by 45, I need to get my ass in gear. So I spent a Friday night curled up with a cocktail and my computer looking at donors. I was primarily looking at “proven” donors, those who have had previous donor cycles. Heaven forbid that I go through all of this and get an infertile donor! I also decided to expand to include those who have already had a child and so are also “proven”. After staring at too many women and being non-plussed about them all, I finally stumbled upon one who looked like a possibility….she had my nose, or at least was pretty close to it, she had my forehead, my hair texture, my smile, my skin coloring…but not my hair color or eye color. And she is a doctor…so that ranked high for the smarts requirement. She had a child at 20. She is now 30. She looked like someone I could be friends with. When I called the agency the following Monday, I found out that she was available.

Next step, get an IVF lawyer. I put out requests for estimates from 3 which were recommended both by my clinic and the donor agency, and decided on one. She charges a $700 flat fee to go through all the legal contracts and spent an hour on the phone with me. Then I went to the donor agency and put down my good faith contract money and signed the initial papers to get the process rolling. That fee was $5775. The second fee is $7000 and that is the fee that goes to the donor for her “time and effort” gradually as we go through the process. Those fees don’t include the medical costs. I chatted with my clinic to find out what all those costs are and what, if any, of them might be covered by my insurance. Overall clinic costs are around $11,000 (not including drugs). I have enough insurance to cover the majority of that, but then I’ll hit my lifetime max. Since I already hit my lifetime max for fertility drugs, I’ll pay for those as well. However as the donor is young and healthy, I won’t have to pay for excessive amounts of drugs like I took. I wouldn’t be surprised if the total DE process equals $30,000 with maybe insurance covering $7-10k. This is not a cheap endeavor...especially coming off of my past 6 cycles where I spent over $30,000 of my own money beyond insurance.

If I wanted to, I could meet my donor or talk on the phone with her. I’ve decided against that. I’m too scared that she’d find something wrong with me or I’d find something wrong with her and I don’t want to put another roadblock up. I’ve said that if she wants to meet me I will, but I don’t think she is requiring it. So while I’ve seen the 24 photos online, this donation will remain anonymous. She has agreed to let the child contact her once the child is grown. It was one of my wishes as I have the same agreement on the sperm donor side.

The donor went for her initial medical screening with my RE yesterday. My RE sent me an email saying, “She is great.” I cheered out loud when I got that email. The nurse called to tell me that the donor’s antral follicle count was 12, she has above average ovarian volume, and that they really felt like she was confident about going through the full cycle. It is a huge relief to get over this first hurdle. Now we just wait for my period which should come in the next week or so and then the donor and I will align our timing with BCPs. If all goes well, embryo transfer would be late July or early August.

So, how did I know when to give up on my eggs? I knew when I couldn’t fathom doing another cycle. I just couldn’t do it to myself again both emotionally and physically. However the grieving process took months and I’m still not over it.

How did I know when I found the right donor? When I knew that I didn’t want anyone else to pick her before I could.

Why didn’t I decide to try adoption? This is more complicated. I think adoption is great. If I could sign up and get a great healthy baby in 6 months or a year…I’d do it. But that isn’t how it works….especially if you are single and 44. Nobody is going to pick me as the ideal mom instead of a great couple in their 30s. I’ve heard my fill of horror stories of wait times, international screw-ups, developmental problems, etc. And finally, I would like to be pregnant and give birth to my child. Therefore, donor eggs seem to fit better for me.

However, as with any IF plan, there are so many tough hurdles ahead. All the normal IVF issues of: Will she have a good response to stims? Fert. rates? Good quality embryos? Beta? Etc.

Feel free to ask me any questions you have regarding the process.

Friday, May 28, 2010

When IVF Works: Things the RE doesn't tell you

I want to highly recommend the site in the link (just click on the title of this blog post and it will take you there) because it's very calming during the 2-week-wait (and I assume early pregnancy as well). It's like an anti-anxiety remedy with no side effects.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Birthday Girl

I’ve never been the type of person who advertised or was excited about her birthday. Well, maybe up until I was 21. But after that, I never really cared – it was just another day spent in school or at work, and I was too busy with life to make a fuss or have a fuss be made over me. If my family wanted to take me out to dinner, that made me happy enough.

I thought turning 30 was soooo cool; I loved my life at that age. When I was 31, oh I had a fantastic year. I was even proud to say I was 32. Sure, I’d have my moments where the acceleration of the passage of time would hit me: “OMG I can’t believe I’m already in my 30s…man I’m OLD! Wasn’t it just yesterday I was stumbling home and puking my brains out after having too many Patron shots in celebration of the end of final exams?!?!”

(Yes I still get drunk, and yes I even occasionally puke – but you get the point.)

Well, I recently came upon my 34th birthday. And when the day arrived, I woke up, stayed in bed, and sobbed…and sobbed…and sobbed. And sobbed again. My phone was busy with happy birthday calls and text messages – all of which I ignored. It wasn’t a “happy birthday” at all. It was a horrible birthday, the worst birthday I’ve ever had.

Now, I have NEVER cried about getting older. But this birthday – this day – I was bonafide depressed, and couldn’t get out of it. Not because I am getting older per se, but because I am getting older while the rest of my life remains held back and on hold. I can’t move forward in my career – the career I so badly wanted. I turn down work because it will interfere with an IVF cycle. I can’t plan trips with friends. Hell, I can’t even plan a damn spa day with girlfriends. I avoid certain people and places because I am sick of putting on an act when the “So…when are you two planning on having kids?” question comes up. My husband never knows when he should request vacation time. The prior vacation times he’s received were wasted because we were stuck in town awaiting treatments.

My last birthday, I was still a happy person. Everything in our lives had fallen into place. True, by that time we were in the care of an RE, we were “infertility patients,” and all three IUIs had failed. And though I was terrified of IVF, and didn’t want to be one of “those people” who had to use IVF to get pregnant, I still had hope – no, CONFIDENCE – that IVF was going to be the answer. Because hey, we were “young,” and they couldn’t find anything wrong with us, so IVF was sure to work.

At least I’d finally have a child, and would be able to move on with my life.

And fit in.

And not feel like an awkward outcast at every social situation where the mommies would cluster together and I’d be left out.

At least I’d have a 2010 baby.

At least I’d have my first child before 35.

Hell, maybe by 34, I’d be pregnant again with #2.

So when I turned 34, 365 days later yet not one step closer to being pregnant, not only with no answers, but more questions instead, it hit me hard. I am one year closer to being in the next box, the 35-and-over box, the box where they say my chances of ever conceiving, even with the most advanced treatment medicine has to offer, plummet. If my chances were so good over the past year and it didn’t work, why should I think that it will work during the next year? Do I give up when I turn 35? Do I give up now?

I am now ashamed to admit my age. Now, when people think or say, “You should hurry up, time’s running out!” I have to agree with them.

Thanks a lot, IF.