Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Views from this side of using donor eggs

I have talked with or read posts from many people who have adopted either conventionally or used donor eggs or sperm and they all say the same thing, "It doesn't matter at all! This is our child 1000%"

Really? Does it really not matter at all? Why do we try so hard to have our biological children if it really doesn't matter? Perhaps the view from here really is just that much different than the view with your baby in your arms - no matter how that child came to be yours. I can imagine feeling just like these parents in the end (although I think I would say it hardly matters at all), but I just can't completely accept / believe it from this side of the fence.

Here is what I do see from here.

For starters I want to give kudos to my RE for his cunning way of introducing us to the idea of donor eggs. After our third failed IVF, as I was sitting in his office waiting for the donor egg (DE) speech, he talked about how happy we will be when we hold our baby in our arms. (ahh . . nice image!) Then he told us how everything looks good - number of eggs, fertilization, even the embryos look good - but we aren't making a viable baby (hmmm . . .). After building me up a bit and hinting that it was an egg quality issue he closed the deal with, "Why don't we try one more time with your eggs and then move right to donor eggs if that doesn't work?"

WOW!!! He thinks I should try one more time with my eggs!!! Our backup plan sounds great too - 80% chance of having a live birth with DE at his clinic. We will have a baby!

And so it all felt pretty good until after our fourth failed IVF cycle. Suddenly DE was no longer the backup plan - it was the plan. The full force of not having your biological baby doesn't really hit you until it is your genes on the chopping block. I know this because we experimented with donor sperm and it felt very different.

Let me explain that a bit so that you don't think I am uncaring about my husband's position or just that self centered. When we did use donor sperm (DS) we used 1/2 DS and 1/2 Brad's sperm (on the third IVF). I told myself that if DS did make the difference then at least we would have a baby. DS was still the backup plan. I did notice how much I loved Brad's warm, brown eyes and beautiful eyelashes and how sad it made me feel that they wouldn't be his brown eyes even if we had a brown eyed baby. I also noticed how different he was from the rest of his family in terms of personality - maybe it isn't the genes that matter. Most importantly, he didn't seem to be that concerned. If he wasn't sad, how could I be? The experiment showed that the embryos grew equally well and none implanted. By the way, later I found out that he experienced pretty much the same emotions and thoughts that I did, but didn't feel like expressing it would help.

Now it is my turn.

At times I am angry - at myself for not going to an RE when I first suspected something was wrong 3 years before we finally went. Angry at Brad and my OB for not pushing me to do what I was too afraid to do. I am angry at my RE and embryologist and western medicine for not being able to help. I am also angry at books like The Infertility Cure which promises that you can make a difference if you are the "perfect little girl". Finally, I am angry at Ernest for being conceived in the first place. If that "miracle" had never happened we wouldn't have falsely believed we could get pregnant without IVF and most likely gone to the RE at least a year and a half sooner than we did.

And I am sad. I am sad that my perfect package of genes won't be a part of our child's life. I do believe the literature that suggests 50 - 70% of who we are - our personality, intelligence, interests, behaviors - come from our genes. I am a unique, special individual but mostly because of my unique combination of genes not because of my peer group or family or what I have decided to be true about myself. When I pictured raising a child, I pictured a baby that was 1/2 mini-me and 1/2 mini-Brad. Of course, the child would be best of each of us: my love of solving problems, Brad's tenaciousness, my ability to understand people, Brad's ability to easily socialize, my smile, Brad's beautiful eyes. We would raise the most happy, well adjusted person the world has ever known. She would be a genius too. He would melt peoples heart's with his easy laugh and intelligent wit.

Yes, yes, I know that is fantasy. I know no one gets a "mini-me" but most people let that fantasy go little by little as they discover their child won't be in the gifted program like mom was or doesn't really like to dance the way dad always envisioned. For me, that fantasy completely dissolved with one sentence from our RE. It was that sudden impact that left me questioning why I wanted to have a child in the first place.

Over that last 5 plus years, I have told myself many stories about how I wanted to parent. I wanted to teach my child to be happy - to appreciate each moment and to find joy in life even when things don't go as planned (I'm getting better at this every day). I hoped that we would be able to combat some of our cultural teachings such as being better than everyone else or being rich or having a "successful" career are the most important goals. I vowed not to live vicariously through our children. I promised myself that I would meet the child where she was at and not try to make her into some one she was not. And what do these goals have to do with where his genes came from? Absolutely nothing. So why am I having such a hard time letting go?

Perhaps, despite all my conscious thoughts about raising a child, I really did want to raise a mini-me. Maybe I really do want the chance to have a bright child who loved to dance so I could give him the opportunities that I wish I had as a child. Perhaps this has all really only been about healing my own childhood wounds. How unfair is that to a new life?

Now before you get too judgmental, take some time to listen to your own thoughts about parenthood or those of your friends. I think healing those childhood wounds is not uncommon. Most of us don't really think about it because having a child comes so easily. When you spend years and tens of thousands of dollars trying to build a family, giving up and not having children becomes an increasingly attractive option. That is when you really start to question your motives and perhaps learn some things about yourself you wish you hadn't.

There are also all those little losses. It hurts to know I won't be needed for the egg retrieval. I will sit at home while Brad goes to the clinic to fertilize someone else's eggs. When someone says, "Ooooh!! She has your eyes!", I'll know that she doesn't. "Her hair is so curly! I wonder if it will straighten out as she gets older like mine did?" Oh wait, her hair has nothing to do with mine. "Where did she pick up that habit?" Perhaps, it was programming from her genes.

Here is a pearl from what we have gone through trying to conceive a viable baby and from my recent grief in dealing with letting go of my biological child: I can choose to heal my childhood wounds before our child is born; I can be more aware of my subconscious motivations and, perhaps, be better at avoiding them; I can let go of how our child is supposed to be long before the child is who she is.

Some other good thoughts: Each cycle has a better chance of success than when we cycled with my eggs; we won't be doing the same thing and expected different results - and getting the same results; maybe, just maybe we will be coming to the end of this journey; I've changed my mind before about acceptable ways for us to build a family and I can do so again.

See? I can be optimistic!

23 comments:

sharah said...

You just put into words what I was trying to express when I was talking about adoption. From this side of the fence, there is a difference and it does matter. Thank you.

luna said...

hey kami, funny I just put out a call for a friend on this issue and I should have come here first (a year later).

wishing you a safe and easy birth and lots of rest to enjoy your new little one!

MrsSpock said...

I just re-read this on Bridges, and I would love to know how you feel about all this now that LB is here. Is it the same, completely different, or a mixture of both?

~Jess said...

I can completely understand many of your thoughts and feelings. My husband and I are using donor sperm. A lot of the things you said are things that I've thought myself, but in regards to my husband.

I think the majority of people who intentionally have a child (easily or not) see it as a way to right the wrongs of their own childhood.

~Jess said...

PS. Read your post through Bridges.

Brenda said...

I also just read this on Bridges. I identify completely. I still have my moments (and I may always).

annacyclopediaisworkingonit said...

I came over from Bridges, and am just completely stilled and humbled by the brilliance of this post. This is one I will need to read again - as I read through, I found myself just saying "YES!" at every sentence.

For me (pursuing DI) there is a sense that comes and goes of doubting my choices because I haven't reached that point of "it doesn't matter at all". In general, it get resolved by just trusting my intuition that this is the path that will bring us our child, but it is always painful when those fears and doubts resurface, and I worry that they will never fully leave me. But this post helps to calm those fears somewhat, and gives voice to some of the good parts about this journey - the parts that have made me grow into a better woman and a better mother, more able to be aware of my own process and my own place within a larger process over which I have no control.

Thank you so much for having written this and for sharing it on Bridges - I'm quite sure I never would have found it otherwise.

sarah said...

Thanks for not just focusing onthe end poitn. I feel like such a heel for feeling sad, angry, let down, and worried about...you name it. I'm doing the 'one last cycle' gambit, and then we're onto DE. Thanks for sharing so openly and honestly.

Anonymous said...

It is not the OB's place to push anyone into seeing an RE. It is only their place to provide information but the patient must pay the price for how they proceed.

I am not sure why you would say that western medicine let you down. Eastern medicine did not create the baby you currently have. If you left it to eastern medicine you would never have a baby.

You should thank western medicine and the American doctors and state of the art modern technology that gave you this precious little girl. Had you decided to rely on them much sooner, instead of proceeding down the natural path, you may have had the genetic child you wanted.

My husband is an RE for a notable clinic in NYC and he hears the common thread of women who abhor western medicine and have insisted on natural means to become pregnant only to run to him when they turn 40. Then they are only too eager to inject themselves with the "toxic" medicine they refused for years to get their baby. They leave pregnant by their eggs or donor eggs but are usually still proponents of the eastern medicine that gave them no baby. It is ironic and so ungrateful.

astrocat88 said...

I am 43 and went through an IVF-ICSI last Fall. Thanks to donor eggs I still have an opportunity to become pregnant. I have an IQ of 138, speak 4 languages, am attractive ... and I don't believe genes are the driving force. I believe love and a stimulating, positive environment are the main factors for producing loving, generous and kind children who will also be so as adults. No one knows what causes autism, for example (genes or a bothersome cold during pregnancy?). Furthermore, if one is going to use DE, I believe it is incredibly important to overcome one's fixation on one's own "genes" and embrace the donor's otherwise the resulting baby will certainly pick up on this! Shame and disappointment, although unspoken, are sensed like a dark cloud and create a very negative atmosphere. I have loved so much in my life that I have no doubt in my mind that I will love this baby! When I saw the DE's childhood photo, it was love at first sight and in fact, she was the one and only donor that was presented to us at IVFNJ. Western science is a God-Send! And I believe God gave us the intelligence to create technology and use it for positive means and this is definitely one of the most positive means of using technology.

Kami said...

Thanks for your comment, Astrocat. I agree, it is better to mourn the loss of a genetic connection before the feelings of loss or shame are passed on to your child. I may have jumped into a DE pregnancy a little too soon because I thought I could just decide that I would be ok with DE. It didn't work like that, but I think it worked (and is working) out well just the same.

I think with our current level of knowledge, we don't really know how genes and environment interact to create a person. My belief is that the greater component is genetics. I also wanted, for whatever reasons, to see my genetics in my offspring.

It is a different journey for everyone and some adjust more easily than others. I also believe that some of that adjustment needs to come after the birth of that DE baby.

Thank you again for reading and commenting.

Sian said...

This post is so honestly written. It verbalises everything that scares me about Donor IVF. I feel that I have dealt with my feelings about not using my genes. But I am not sure that my family really 'gets' it. Or maybe they feel too sad about it and don't wan to tell me.

lovestoread said...

wow... you said everything i couldn't let myself feel...

--thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am Astrocat 88 but I cannot remember my password ... Well, my optimistic comment about DE was back in Feb 22 which we were going to do at the end of April. Since then I have high risk HPV and had to have part of my cervix removed and, given my age, and the fact that I cannot take hormones of any kind for a year, we are going to do DE+surrogate! If I thought DE was a hard decision, imagine surrogacy. I keep thinking of that quote that "life happens as we are making plans". Good luck to everyone on the DE path!

Kami said...

Good luck Astrocat! I would love to hear how it all turns out.

Anonymous said...

This is Astrocat88 and my update: We are leaving for India the 2nd of October to finally give our first go at DE+Surrogacy! We are so excited that we could leave right now! Obviously using DE and surrogacy are no one's first choice because they are not "natural" choices but goodness how Time does wonders to ease one into accepting new situations. Like I said, I am now so excited and happy to be able to go this route (as opposed to doing nothing!) that I could pop! We are also pursuing adoption but that will take 3+ years to come through, so we are really doing all that we can do to eventually have our child.

Kami said...

Thanks for the update! I hope it all continues to go well.

Eve said...

Kami, I'm an editor with Adoptive Families magazine. Our readership includes families built through donor egg and other methods, as well as adoption. We read this entry with great interest, along with "Answers to questions about using donor eggs," and wanted to inquire about reprinting them in the magazine. I hope you don't mind my leaving a comment (not sure if this will immediately go public, or to your inbox), but I didn't see an email address listed anywhere on your blog. You can reach me at eve at newhopemedia dot com. I hope you'll consider this request and reach out. Thanks!

paula said...

Thank you so much for putting into words what has been storming around in my heart. We are now left with the back up plan as our only plan too and I am struggling with som many of the things you did. I am going to keep reading through your progress and hopefully I can find peace too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing all this. It is so nice to know I am not the only one thinking and feeling the things that you have. I am about to start my first cycle of IVF with egg donation. I am still struggling at times to come to terms with the fact that I can't have my own biological child but reading your blog has really helped. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your honestly and thoughfulness.

Anonymous said...

what is an RE?

Jenna said...

Hi Kami - I'd love to chat with you more. My husband & I have just been recently told that DE is our only option from our current fertility specialist. I'm wondering if seeking out a second opinion is worthwhile #1 for my own unanswered questions of maybe I still have viable eggs (somewhere) in my body, & #2 is it worthwhile because my lab work will be the same & will it be a waste of time? I'm 42 & my husband is 42 also. He has less than 2% normal sperm count & my FSH level is 87. I guess I'm starting to realize that our hope of having our own biological child is fading & that conception happening is slim to none without DE. .. I have wondered all the same things about no longer having the possibility of having a mini-me. I have great qualities (not being selfish) & it's sad to think about my baby not having those (at least from me). But other questions arise. Do I have to be the same blood type as the DE? I have a rare blood type (B-). What if none of the donors have ANY of my physical characteristics, so that we could have a genetic baby similar to me? How to choose this? Would we have to go to many other clinics just to find that 'perfect donor'? Will I love that baby just the same, knowing that he/she won't be made from me? I also wonder how much of my genetic makeup, influences a DE from another? Will some of my DNA 'seep' into that embryo that I will carry? ... So many unanswered questions & many more continue to flood through me. I also have experienced that anger, and on many varying levels. I assume this is normal. I still want to explore & feel that I want to exhaust every possible option to conceiving with my own (nearly non-existent) eggs. Is that selfish of me? I can't answer that question. I know it will be monetarily costly, lengthy as far as time useful or wasted, and emotionally draining of myself & of my husband's psyche. I just want to make the right decisions. Your blog has been super encouraging and helpful. I'm so happy to have found your blog, and would like to hear from you if you would be willing to chat. My email is Itsjenrn@gmail.com. Thank you again Kami!