We always hear stories about people getting pregnant so easily – the first time they try. “He just looks at me and I get pregnant!” But the reality isn’t always like that.
I started trying to get pregnant when I was 37 years old. My husband and I were finally ready, and after years of not trying, I assumed it would happen instantly. After the first go, I thought I was pregnant! I had all the signs, late period, breast tenderness, etc. But unfortunately, I was quickly let down. Month after month the same cycle would play out, but we kept trying.
My husband had a friend who was an infertility doctor, and he suggested I go and get my hormone levels checked. I remember being in the office, feeling as if he was going to tell us to go home and relax… you have plenty of time. But contrary to what I had believed, he advised me to start IVF right away. My diagnosis was advanced diminished ovarian reserve, with AMH levels so low, they were comparable to that of a 50 year old woman.
We did our first round of IVF and retrieved five eggs! We ended up with two embryos that made it to blastocyst. That was great news considering my prognosis. Following the advice of my doctor, we did genetic testing, but unfortunately the results came back abnormal. We were shattered. I wish I knew then what I know now – that sometimes an abnormality is a fluke in genetic testing. We had what’s known as mosaic embryos, which means that within the embryo, there are different proportions of normal and abnormal cells. These embryos can result in a viable pregnancy. But we didn’t know that, so we gave them up and kept trying.
We went to a new doctor and repeated this process over and over. Each cycle, my doctor would mention egg donation, but I just wasn’t ready to hear it. We went through five cycles of IVF, transferred over 20 embryos with no success, and despite all of that, I still wasn’t ready to consider a donor. In fact, when my doctor would bring it up, I would push back.
To me, the idea of pursuing egg donation meant I was admitting that something was wrong with me. It made me question my womanhood; it made me feel broken; it made me feel left out. It felt like I was giving up. However, each time the topic came up, the possibility of using an egg donor took hold a little deeper in my mind. Yet still, I wasn’t ready.
A few months had passed and I started a job in New York City. I heard about this doctor who was known as a God in the world of fertility. And I really needed a miracle. He said that he could get me pregnant if I started a new regimen with him. So my husband and I decided to try one last time. I went back to LA and got a baseline scan before starting our last cycle of IVF. The news was devastating. My AMH levels had gone from a 0.5 to a 0.1 and I only had one follicle to work with. His advice was to forgo our last and final cycle.
We were heartbroken. Nothing can really prepare you for this moment. I remember holding onto my husband and feeling like my dreams of being a mother were gone.
Infertility brings with it a ton of painful emotions. Feeling hopeless, feeling like a failure, like you’ve somehow become ‘less than’ other women. I started to doubt myself: who was I if I couldn’t conceive a child? How would my husband view me if this part of me was so “broken?” The gamut of emotions I was feeling daily was incredibly hard. Yet even so, I needed that time to process. I needed to grieve the loss of what I believed motherhood to be and redefine a new vision. I think that everyone going through a fertility struggle – both men and women – need that space.
A Path Forward
I grew up with the idea that my daughter or son would look just like me. I believed infertility would be somebody else’s story, not mine. So confronting that reality was hard – we said a lot of prayers, went through a lot of therapy, and had many long conversations.
My husband wanted to have a genetic child and the possibility egg donation was still lingering in my mind. So I decided to take the first step and talk about it. I had so many questions: would I bond with the baby? Would the child feel like mine? What if I couldn’t connect? What would people say?
I had to reconcile with all of this uncertainty and accept the fact that my journey was unique. I switched the lens. And once I started to accept this, I began to see donor conception differently. It was actually the most precious gift anyone could ever give me. Another woman had the ability to make me a mother. There is nothing more special in the world! I began to take the importance off of genetics and put my focus on my true heart’s desire… motherhood. DNA wasn’t going to make me a mom, but my ability to love and care for a child would.
Finding my egg donor
I think the biggest hurdle in pursuing donor conception was acceptance. Once we got through that, the process became exciting. I felt a weight lifted off of me. For the first time in years I didn’t have the pressure of “my biological clock ticking.” But the thrill quickly faded and the searching started to feel daunting. There were too many agencies, too many options, too many donors, and I started to feel lost and overwhelmed. By accident, I happened upon an agency. From the outside they felt like a blessing; they had so many donors that represented me. But unfortunately, after signing the contracts we quickly realized they were unethical and fraudulent. There was no turning back.
Egg Donation Cycle
Our first donor was 20 and had never done an egg retrieval before. I specifically asked if she was ready for the responsibility and was assured she was. Because of the lack of guidance from the agency she made a mistake on the final step of IVF and ovulated early, leaving no eggs for retrieval. I was devastated and to top it all off, I was on set playing a pregnant woman!
Eventually we found a different egg donor, and with hopeful anticipation, the cycle began. This time, the cycle resulted in just one embryo. How could this be? We transferred 20 embryos of my own and not one took. Now we only have one from our donor? I took some time to reflect on this and came to a realization. My donor was a lot younger than me. She was healthy and she already had a beautiful baby boy. I had no choice but to relax and accept that these were my circumstances.
Our prayers were finally answered, that one embryo implanted, and ten days later I was pregnant! What a journey! Looking back, I wouldn’t change a single aspect of it. Everything aligned, bringing our miracle baby into this world. Yet if there had been a company out there like Tulip, I definitely would have signed up. Tulip has years of experience in the business and only works with trusted clinics and agencies, protecting you from the very thing that happened to me. And having all donors on one database makes your search organized and simple.
I have a new perspective on donor conception now that my baby boy is here. I feel absolutely blessed that I was able to carry him. I gave birth to him, I nurtured him. He has my personality and smiles just like me. He may have my husband’s genetics – but I’m his mom and I always will be.
When I have my tough moments, I’m thankful that I have a supportive husband to talk things through with, and that I have the perspective now to know what really matters. Like they say… hindsight is 20/20.
My advice to hopeful parents
For other hopeful parents going through this process, no matter what part, it’s so important to talk about your feelings and allow yourself to grieve. You’re going through a journey that takes a huge emotional, mental and physical toll on you. Know that your fears are valid, but you need to work on shifting the lens. And no matter what way you get there – with your partner, with your friends, with adoption, with IVF, with egg donation – the love you share with others is what creates a family.
DNA isn’t what makes me a mom. It’s my ability to love and care for my son.