June 7, 2019 | News | No Comments
7th Jun 2019
I get pregnant but don’t stay pregnant. I have a genetic disorder, which means my embryos are structurally unstable. I’m more likely to miscarry, but if I did birth a child they would not live past the age of six. I was completely devastated when I learned this. So removing my DNA from the equation was the obvious next step.
I had always planned on adopting. But as we started to explore our options, we realised it was easier to be active and pick an egg donor than passive and wait to be picked by a birth mother. And also, I am a stubborn motherfucker and I needed to finish what I started (pregnancy).
All of my embryos were created at the same time, during the very same egg cycle back in 2014, using my husband’s sperm. When it came to choosing an egg donor, I wanted someone who looked like she could be in my family. Basically someone tall, I’m 6ft 1in, with an angular face and wavy hair. I also wanted someone I could relate to, someone who we could hang out with and have a good time with. I’ve always told my eldest daughter how she was conceived and will tell the twins when they’re older. The donor and I haven’t stayed in touch, but if my daughters or son want to get in touch with her, then we will.
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The pregnancy felt no different with donor eggs, but this time I was more attached to the outcome. If you’ve had a miscarriage, you’re robbed of the innocence of the pregnancy. You see pink lines and you’re thinking, “I’m pregnant ”. But this time, I trusted my body with donor eggs – it’s good at being pregnant once it gets there.
It’s interesting to talk to other people about their path to motherhood. If you have struggled, you feel like you can’t complain. Sometimes I don’t feel like I can say, “I’m so goddamn tired,” because this is what I wanted. But just like everyone else, we infertile parents are entitled to have these feelings. You just have to know your audience (I would never complain to people trying to conceive).
The whole nature versus nurture thing just makes my motherhood more interesting. I think about it quite a lot. I joined Parents Via Egg Donation (PVED, disclaimer, I sit on the board), which is a great resource for support and information. One of the things PVED points out on its site is, if you transfer pony embryos into a horse, the resulting foals will be larger than regular ponies.
My daughter is in the 90th centile for height. So it’s like my bigger body has influenced what my uterine environment has created for her. Her mannerisms and interests are so similar to mine. The one thing that is different though is that I can’t see my side of the family physically represented in my children at all. There just isn’t a resemblance, that thread isn’t there.
I’ve always felt so positive about our choice, so it’s been easy to communicate that when explaining how my family came to be. You can hear a smile in someone’s voice, can’t you? If I stood in the corner, stammering out, “Unfortunately we had to use an egg donor,” that’s so different to me smiling and explaining, “We had this problem and we resolved it with this amazing woman who is a mother and stepped forward to help us.”
If you’re partnering with a surrogate, you can’t hide where your baby came from: if you’re two gay men, there are going to be questions; two mothers, the questions are equally invasive.
Egg donation tends to be more secretive because the assumption is that the pregnant woman is the mother and her eggs have been used. The huge change I’ve seen over the last four years is that more and more people are doing it and starting to talk openly about it. I’m happy to be part of this new attitude of openness.
There is no industry-wide standard in egg donation. There’s no regulation. But our clinic required our donor to have a genetic counselling screening, which we got a copy of, and all three of us to have a psychological evaluation. The psych screening isn’t about determining whether you’re fit to be a parent, it’s to make sure everyone has thought it all through. It’s important we found someone who is pragmatic, who has no emotional attachment to her gametes, and intended parents are encouraged to be open with their children about how they were conceived.
We were matched on 1 January, 2012, and I then started taking the contraceptive pill to enable my cycle to be synced with the donor’s. We transferred the female embryo that became my oldest daughter and another one that would have been her twin brother. The transfer was a year to the day that I learned my first spontaneous pregnancy had ended. Exactly four years later, on the same day, we transferred two more embryos which became our twins.
In my long journey to motherhood, the worst day was when I found out my AMH (anti-Müllerian hormone, which determines how many eggs you have in your reserve, and reflects your likelihood of having children) was so low that I was like a menopausal woman. This coincided withsix months’ of reconciling since the miscarriage, only to be told I’m infertile after all that. That was the worst day.
But if I hadn’t been referred to my RE (reproductive endocrinologist) to discover my AMH level was so low, to get me to do that genetic testing, I wouldn’t have known any of this. It was serendipitous really. Getting a genetic diagnosis made choosing egg donation much, much easier.
After PGS (preimplantation genetic screening), we had 10 embryos. We transferred two which resulted in our daughter, and froze the rest. When we came to try for a sibling, we had five failed cycles. I guess my uterus was so traumatised after my daughter’s birth (I had haemorrhaged). I thought I can’t do this much more. We decided to transfer two more and see. We wanted to transfer a boy and a girl, because that’s what we did with our daughter, therefore not choosing the sex.
I have this theory that some women only get pregnant at certain times of the year. All my pregnancies started in January/February – for me that’s my sweet spot. A few days after the transfer, I just knew it was twins. I was sitting with my husband and I looked at a big sub sandwich and told him how hungry I was, I was never hungry in the mornings. I told him I the sandwich. It was the greatest sandwich of my life. He asked me, “Do you think you’re pregnant?” And I just knew.