* Photo courtesy of author
My long road to parenthood “a donor experience”
I always knew I wanted children. I dreamed about it as a kid and could hardly wait to have my own family. But, sometimes things just do not work out as we planned. When I was 16, I had to have my right ovary removed due to a tumor that had become tangled upon itself. When I turned 21, the same symptoms occurred again, except this time on the left side, and I knew my dreams were beginning to shatter. The doctors said, quite simply, the ovary had to come out. This would leave me with no eggs, and therefore no way to ever become pregnant on my own. I was so angry at God, I was so scared, and I was upset that the ONE thing I was meant to do as a woman was being denied me.
Thankfully, my mother was a nurse, and she had the foresight and the idea that the surgery could be done, it had to be done, but the uterus was to be left intact. This sounded like an odd request, but if you keep reading, you will see it was genius! The surgery went as planned, and post operatively I had to take many hormones to keep my body “young.” Without them, menopause would occur at age 21.
At age 31, I was single, and started to think that the family idea was out of the picture, and a doctor had advised me that hormone replacement for over 10 years was not the best idea, so I quit them all, and forced my body into menopause.
At age 37, still single, I decided I was determined to still get what I wanted. I could challenge science, beat the odds, and have a baby. I knew it would be hard, expensive, trying, and scary, but I decided to try anyway. I found an amazing doctor in San Francisco, who made me feel I was not so odd. My story was not that different. She had seen this situation before, and it gave me hope. She explained I simply needed an egg donor and sperm donor. She made it sound very easy. Again there was hope. I was going to have the baby I had desired all of my life.
I set out to find an egg donor, which was tough! I had offers from family and friends, but decided going about it anonymously was the better option for me. There are many donor agencies in the Bay Area. I was so excited to get things rolling, I selected a donor right away. She was paid, examined by my doctor, and started her medications to “mass produce” eggs for me. After a cycle, which was about 3 weeks, it turned out my donor was not producing many eggs at all. So, my doctor decided she was not the best donor candidate. I returned to the donor agency, scoured the many books full of biographies and pictures, and picked another donor. The second donor had done it before, and the couple she had helped was able to have a baby. I was convinced it would work for me. Unfortunately, she had recently started a new job, and decided she could not make it to the multiple appointments required.
Again, I was disappointed, sad, and seemingly running out of money to continue. I returned to the donor agency, feeling defeated. I was beginning to believe maybe this was not going to happen for me. The ladies at the donor agency were so supportive and helpful, and really wanted me to succeed. They had a younger donor who had recently provided eggs for another couple, and she was willing to do another cycle for me. I jumped at the chance, because I was feeling almost desperate. She went to my doctor, was examined and started on hormones to “mass produce” more eggs. Everything looked great, she made many eggs. She was scheduled for that egg extraction and then her eggs would be fertilized (with the donor sperm I had chosen) and placed into my uterus.
Late in the day, the day of her extraction, I received a call from my doctor. She explained this donor was not a good candidate because she had a family history of hormone based cancers. Once again, my dreams shattered. In an instant–gone! By this time, the ladies at the donor agency had become like old friends. They knew what I needed and wanted, they were shoulders to cry on, and really helped me through an incredibly dark time. About one month later, they called and told me one of their donors had recently produced well for another family, and was willing to try again. At this point, as much as I knew she was in it for the money, I was hoping for some sort of divine intervention. I was out of money and this would have to be my last attempt. She saw my doctor, and everything went well. She started medications, and produced many eggs. Her retrieval went well. I believe there were 20 eggs for me to use! I was so happy. It seemed as though I had picked the right sperm because there was no trouble with them. They survived the thawing process and produced numerous sperm with good motility.
I was implanted with three fertilized eggs. I went home and laid in bed for three days, I was convinced if I did anything at all strenuous, they might literally fall out. I had to do everything right this time, because there would be no more attempts. Almost immediately, I was nauseous. I chalked that up to the hormones I was taking, both orally and by injection. As much as I wanted to be pregnant, I didn’t believe that the overwhelming urge to throw up was due to actually being pregnant. By day four, I went out to dinner, and although I would usually order a salad, I ordered a huge steak! That was sign number two something was really going on. I knew on the tenth day I was to do the blood test for pregnancy, but I was having a hard time waiting that long.
By the fifth day, I couldn’t stand it anymore–I had to know, so I took a store bought pregnancy test, and it came back positive! After that I was happy, and the blood test confirmed TWINS! I returned to work, and was cautious and careful. I didn’t want anything to go wrong. I had come so far, and had achieved the unattainable! At the very start of month three, I had some cramping. I was driving home from work and thought, I will just go home and lie down, and I will be okay. When I woke up from my nap, my bed was covered in blood and I knew that this was a bad situation. I went to the hospital to hear for myself, what I pretty much knew already.
After an eternity on an exam table, and still bleeding heavily, an ultrasonographer came in and showed me that there still was one heartbeat. A doctor I had never seen before came in and explained that yes, I had lost one embryo, and yes, I would most likely lose the other one. He had no idea what it had taken for me to get to that point. I went home and cried for the three days that they told me to be on bedrest. There would be no more tries, this was it and I was done, there was no more money, and most importantly, there was no more hope.
The bleeding stopped and the nausea did not…..I was still pregnant! I carried my daughter full term and had no other complications. In all of this, I thank my mom, for not allowing the doctors (who do not always know best) to take out my uterus. I went from the darkest, saddest, most hopeless time in my life to the brightest, happiest, hopeful time in my life, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat!
Christina , is a single 46 year old single mom. Her daughter is now 8 years old. She has a lot of questions about her arrival but handles it all pretty well. Christina challenged science, challenged mother nature, and she challenged herself, and in her own words “I WON!” At the time of her IVF treatments Christina had no idea about a doula’s role in before, during and after birth. If she had an opportunity to do it all over she would definitely hire a doula!