No one expects that they’ll need to use someone else’s eggs to conceive a child. Well, maybe a few do, but for most of us this is not the way we planned it. It’s a last resort, rather than a first choice. And it is a long and painful road to get to the point where you make that decision.
First, there is the decision to go to the fertility clinic, usually after months or years of dedicated effort to procreate and continual, repeated disappointment. At the fertility clinic there are the tests, the waiting, the fear. Then the shock of “The Diagnosis” – that condition that suddenly defines your reproductive potential and, by proxy, redefines how you see yourself. Then “The Treatment”. Whether it’s corrective surgery, medicated cycles, IUI’s, IVF, etc, it is invasive, expensive, time-consuming, soul crushing, relationship damaging and anxiety ridden. Add in generous measures of shame, guilt, fear, failure and anxiety and you can come close to understanding how absolutely devastating infertility can be. But, we all think that treatment will work for us, we all think we’re the lucky one. Maybe you are, but maybe you aren’t. If you are, congrats! But if you aren’t (and statistically most of us aren’t) – you search your soul and you muster your courage, because either you will move forward and try another treatment, or you will reevaluate and choose a different path. Both roads take immense courage and sacrifice. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat until your strength, patience, or bank account run out.
At some point during this process you will have a crisis of confidence, a crisis of self, a breakdown, a total loss of joy. There will be moments where you can’t go on, where you can’t get out of bed, where you can’t face your husband/wife/mother/father/friends/doctor/expectations/life. Days of extreme anger and frustration and “why me?”. There will be bargaining and pleading and praying. And there will be pain, both physical and emotional. Lots and lots of pain.
At some point during this process someone may say some version of “This isn’t going to work. I’m sorry. Despite all of the advances of medical science we can’t help you. You will never have children.” And at that point you will begin to consider things that you never imagined you would consider. For me, that was egg donation.
Early on, my RE asked me if we would consider using an egg donor. I gave her an absolute, unequivocal NO. No way, never, not ever would I ever even consider that. NO. NEVER. EVER. But, that was before 2 failed IUI’s, 3 failed IVF’s, 1 miscarriage, countless nights spent crying, untold numbers of heartfelt talks with my husband, and hundreds of hours of considering my dwindling options for motherhood. That was before I spoke to many, many people who decide to use egg donation to help create their families. And then, once I began to consider it, I was completely overwhelmed by my feelings about what that would mean for me, for my husband, any DE conceived children, our families…. Would I be the mother? Would I feel like an impostor? Would I love the child the same as if it was my own? Would my husband/family/society view me or my child differently? And how on earth do I choose a woman to replace me? Because that’s what it feels like initially – that you’re choosing a replacement. I didn’t think I could live with the decision to use an egg donor, but I also didn’t think I live with not having a child. (The adoption conversation we will need to save for another time). One of the wonderful ladies who follows my blog wrote to me and told me that at some point you magically turn a corner – it may be finding the right donor, or coming to terms with the situation, or completing the grieving process – and it suddenly feels ok. Not perfect, not ideal – but doable. And she was right. One day I woke up and it didn’t hurt to look at the profiles. I start to feel excited. I stopped looking for myself on the donor sites and started looking for traits I would like to pass on to my children. Somehow, lord only knows how, I was not only ok with donor eggs, but embracing the idea and excited to begin.
I chose to share our decision to use an egg donor with some close friends (we don’t plan on keeping our conception journey a secret from our children so we may as well start getting used to talking about it now) and unfortunately we were met with mixed reactions. I don’t know why I was surprised given that I was conflicted initially as well. But, it still hurt to have my friends tell me that our choice is “unnatural”, “deviant”, “desperate and selfish” and “horrifying”. Of course, those same people had to get off the phone with me to go put their children to bed. So, easy for them to make pronouncements from on high. But, I can understand their knee-jerk reaction. Truly, I can. But the thing that I wasn’t able to communicate to them and the point that I’m trying to make here is that no one arrives at this decision quickly. No one takes it lightly. We have all, every last one of us, been through hell before we arrived at this particular cross roads. I would wager that everyone who has ever chosen to use donor eggs gave it an incredible amount of thought and did an unbelievable amount of soul-searching. And something that I have learned from this is that my choices are for me, my husband and my family. These are the right things for US. They may not be the choices you would make, they may not be the right thing for your family. But I believe they are the right choices for me and my family. I hope that we get support, but if we don’t – oh well. I can live with that.