Considering using an egg donor to complete our family was a really big deal for us. It was a bit scary, as this option was unchartered territory. We didn’t know anyone who had been an egg donor and didn’t know the process involved with finding one. We had attempted several rounds of IVF in order to give our daughter a sibling, but had no luck. Attempting another round of IVF using an egg donor was the next step in achieving our dream of completing our family.
We got married when I was 30, and my husband was 37. We had always talked about how much we wanted a family. We were aware that fertility can go downhill quite rapidly after age 30, so we tried to get pregnant straight after our wedding, but after 6 months, hadn’t had any luck.
As a health professional, I knew that we shouldn’t muck around in case of an underlying medical problem. It turned out there were problems, for both of us. We went to a fertility clinic and tests results showed my husband had an extremely low sperm count, and he also had a high proportion of abnormal sperm. It came as a pretty big shock, especially for him as he had no idea that he had any problems in that department. He had always joked that he was so fit and healthy that there would be absolutely nothing wrong with him. He was absolutely crushed. It really took its toll on our relationship to be dealing with a problem of this magnitude so early in our marriage. I just tried to make sure I was really supportive of him during this time, it wasn’t his fault. And later on, it turned out I had severe infertility as well, so we were both in the same boat!
Once we found out our chance of conceiving was so low, we had one round of IVF knowing that the chance of success was low. We had a day three transfer because the embryologist observed that the embryos were reasonably fragmented. The remaining embryos did not survive to blastocyst stage, so you can imagine our surprise when we got the phone call saying that I was pregnant. Thankfully this pregnancy proceeded successfully, and that embryo grew into our beautiful daughter who is now 4. Everyone was very surprised that it worked, despite such low odds of success.
I suppose things got interesting when our daughter turned 2. We really wanted to give her a sibling. We went back to the fertility clinic and had a blood test to check my AMH levels (the female fertility test which gives an indication of egg reserve levels). I was only 33 years old, but they had dropped from the high green zone to the low red zone which was completely unexpected. The clinic rang me with the news while I was in the car, and I pulled over and just sobbed and sobbed. This was really serious. We were now dealing with not only my husband’s infertility, but my own as well. It felt like the writing was on the wall, that we wouldn’t ever have another child. Still, we attempted three more rounds of IVF but my ovaries didn’t respond at all.
Because of how long we had tried to conceive, we were approved for public funding, and were allocated to Repromed. I was nervous about transferring to another clinic, as they didn’t know our story or have history with us. Guy Gudex (the Medical Director of Repromed) rang me and spent over an hour talking with me on the phone. I was instantly calm by the way he listened to me, reassured me of the options available for us to try, and talked me through it. I was just blown away by how much he seemed to care about what we’d been through.
With Repromed, we went through another two rounds of IVF and again my ovaries didn’t respond. I discovered some international literature about a unique treatment and spoke to Guy about it. I was impressed by how open he was and willing to consider other options, even adapting my treatment somewhat to replicate this. After a total of 5 attempts at stimulating my ovaries with IVF medication over several years, and having no response, we were satisfied that we had tried a multitude of drug regimes, so nothing was going to kick start my ovaries into life.
But we weren’t ready to give up on our dream of a bigger family. The embryologists were able to prepare healthy sperm from my husband’s sample, but we needed to consider the option of using an egg donor. At this point we were uncertain about how to find a donor and would need to spend many hours devoted to delving into the world of donation. A known donor? An unknown donor? National? International? Altruistic? Paid donation? Advertising? Ethical considerations? Financial costs? All options had their benefits, and their complications. The complexity of the situation was unnerving, and we were mindful of how important it was for us to proceed in a manner which did not harm anyone who was involved in the process.
We were stumped about what to do. One day, a friend messaged me to check in on how IVF was going. I wasn’t in a good place, and was honest, admitting it was going terribly and I poured my heart out to her via text message. She messaged me back and said she would like to donate some of her eggs. I was shocked!!!! I immediately accepted her extremely generous offer, but simultaneously felt worried that she might not know what she was getting herself involved in. My conscience told me that it was ethically important to give her some time to think about this, and to also give her every chance to reconsider whether she wanted to proceed at each step of the journey.
We had so many questions to consider. Would our friendship survive? Was this a good idea? What if we had differing views on parenting? How would she feel if the baby looked like her? Would she be traumatised by seeing a child who is genetically hers and regret it? How would her husband and children feel about her donating an egg?
We arranged to get together with our husbands and talk in more detail. All of us needed to be happy with the process, and how we would feel about creating a new person in some unique circumstances. We all had the opportunity to explore the idea, and talk over any worries or concerns we may have. We also needed to decide who would be privy to the process that we were embarking on, and whether the creation of an egg donor child would be public knowledge.
Once we knew we were going to go ahead with this, we went through the process of talking to Repromed and going through the counselling process and then of course egg collection and embryo transfer. Thankfully this cycle was successful, and we became pregnant with our beautiful second child! Words cannot describe how thankful we are to our egg donor. We feel like we have won the lotto.
We wanted our child to know her donor and for her to be a part of our daughter’s life. Our egg donor was really happy about that because we have all been through so much together that it is natural for her to feel close to us all. We asked our donor and her husband to be our child’s Godparents, and it is obvious that they do enjoy being in this role. Our daughter looks a lot like her donor, but we are actually okay with that. We have wonderfully warm feelings towards her because of what she has done for us, so when I see the donor in our daughter, it just makes me feel thankful.
The key for us was being really open and willing to have conversations about some uncomfortable topics. Being respectful of each other’s feelings is really important because IVF is an emotively raw process where everyone is quite vulnerable. Our donor and I see each other on a fairly regular basis because our friendship is as important to us today as it was prior to going through the egg donation process. We have always both been mindful of boundaries, and we don’t feel as if our families are blended. I’ve never felt like my daughter isn’t my own child because there is more to belonging than genetics. My body grew and nurtured my daughter, my blood nourished her, and our bond was created by the experience of pregnancy, birth, and caring for her.
Our donor and I are still best of friends. When our daughter was born, she was the first to meet her and together we opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate new life. We gave her a Tiffany’s bracelet with an eternity symbol on it. This symbol seemed appropriate to the situation, as it signified that our donor would always be a part of our lives and would forever be in our hearts and prayers.