Our Donor Family.

One of the things that most of us don’t think about when we are selecting a sperm donor is the other women who have chosen that same donor before us.   We tend to focus on health history, appearance, CMV status and often we will look for a donor who has had successful pregnancies.  When you are searching through profiles, these attributes are often just a check box or one word answer.  The only face you look at is that of the donor.

I was one of the people who gave zero thought to the fact that my future child already had half siblings.  Once I was pregnant it hit me in a flash – my son had donor siblings (or diblings as some call them.)  I had this wonderful opportunity to see other children who were half of what my son would be.  Perhaps he would look similar to them?  It was too irresistible to not want to have a peek.

At 9 weeks pregnant I connected with other families who had used the same donor and found myself in a secret Facebook group with a bunch of women who had adorable little people – my sons half siblings.  It was pretty surreal and incredibly cool!

stock-photo-decisions-neon-sign-words-signage-motto-motivation-neon-light-quotes-and-sayings-wild-words-9d80fb9c-9a22-4f13-ac34-e74de28The decision on whether to connect with your donor group is, like everything else in this process very personal.

Some parentss feel that their families are enough and are very uncomfortable with the idea of connecting with their children’s half siblings.  They never look for them  and they never connect with them – they leave the decision 100% up to their child.

Some parents connect with the group but stay very much in the background.  Their main reason for being there is so that they can be aware of any health issues that might come up.  Maybe they also want to make it easier for their children to connect if they should want to in the future.

Then there are the male infertility recipients (heterosexual couples) and I’ve found that they are much less likely to connect and have a higher chance of not telling their children that they used a donor.  Some do tell their offspring but they stay away from the donor groups for the most part.  I know we have at least one couple that used our donor but they have not reached out to us.

choice-2692575_1920When I first connected it was mainly out of curiosity.  I wasn’t sure how much involvement that I wanted.  It was interesting but overwhelming.  We have some strong characters and I wondered whether or not I really needed this many new people in our lives.

Time went on and my son was born.  This group of women had become a cheerleading team of sorts – genuinely excited to welcome a new child into the group.  They were among the first to know that I had given birth and it was so fun to compare my baby’s picture to all of the other newborns!

I gave it some genuine thought.  I considered what I would want and what my future son might want.  I came to the same conclusion for us both:  Honesty and love.

I felt that hiding the donor family from my son could backfire.  He would feel lied to and could even resent me for the missed opportunity of getting to know others who were not only donor conceived – but by the same man who had helped gift life to him.  If I left my child out of gatherings and meet ups, other kids would form bonds and it would be much harder for my son to connect and form the kind of relationships that occur when you have been friends through all the awkward stages of life.

I decided that I would embrace the donor families and I can honestly say that it has been the best decision for us.  We have met multiple families and it has always been a very positive experience.  Some of these women have become very good friends – to the point that I now cannot imagine my life without them!  I am excited for our children to know one another and so glad that I have opened this door for my son so young.  I feel like he will never feel that it’s weird or uncomfortable – it will just be his life and another part of his amazing story.

footstepsAnd if my son decides that he doesn’t want to pursue friendships with these children when he is older, that’s fine.  It will still be his choice.  It will also be my choice to stay connected to the Mothers who have become friends.

We are going on vacation later this month.  It’s our second donor sibling meet up and this time we will have 10 children (7 families total.)  I’ve no doubt it will be absolute chaos but of the sweetest variety.

sea-1337565_1920We plan on doing a meetup for those who want to every year until the kids are old enough to do it on their own and then – who knows, maybe us Mums will just do it on our own.  We’ll pick somewhere exotic and enjoy our cocktails, kid free and full of stories.

IVF for the 3rd time.

After my miscarriage and the subsequent discovery that it had been a ‘blighted ovum’ which was not compatible with life, I started dreaming of ways to do one more round of IVF.

I was in the process of selling the house I owned with my Mother (but didn’t live in) and buying another property where we could both live in separate abodes.

This certainly wasn’t leaving me with any disposable income but what it did do was to clear my debt.  In order to qualify for a mortgage I had to roll my existing debts into my new mortgage.  My fertility loan had a very high interest rate due to lack of collateral… they can’t very well take the baby away if you fail to make payments and in my case there was no baby.  It was a relief to do this.

So there I was, with a new home and no debt.  It seemed like the perfect time to get back into debt and try again!  I made an appointment at the bank.  I remember the loan officer asking me if I was doing home improvements with the money.  I told her that a baby most certainly would be a home improvement for me!  Luckily I qualified and within 6 weeks of buying a new home I was back on the IVF train.

I’m telling you this because people are often mystified as to how I afforded IVF.  The answer is that I worked my ass off, picking up as many shifts at work as I could. After 2 rounds of IVF I rolled my debt into my mortgage.  In addition, I burned through all $15,000 of my savings doing IUI’s, buying sperm and meeting my health insurance deductible.

IVF Round III

This time I decided to come at it a little differently.  I decided to do PGD testing.  This is where they take a few cells from a day 5/6 embryo and test the chromosomes to ensure that the embryo has the best chance of viability.  There’s definitely some controversy to it but I wanted to try to reduce my risk of miscarriage if possible.

I was sure it wasn’t going to work and had steeled myself for the phone call with bad news that none of my embryos were viable.  It took almost 3 weeks for the results during which time I did my resolute best not to think about it.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I sent an email to the PGD coordinator asking if she had any news.  I remember the day so vividly.  I was about to attend my end of season work party.  I opened my email to the news that I had one, viable male embryo.  I happened to be with my heavily pregnant friend moments later.  My lost child would have been born within 2 weeks of her imminent baby.  I had missed her baby shower and she had been unaware of my pregnancy as I didn’t want to make her feel bad.  I explained all of this to her that night along with the wonderful news in my email.  We both shed tears of sadness and joy for each other.

I decided that I was going to wait for 3 periods/cycles until I transferred my perfect embryo.  I ate well, took good care of my body, rested and made space in my heart to receive a boy child.  I let myself imagine him (something that I’d never allowed myself to do before now.)

During this time, the relationship I had been in all year abruptly ended which was a blow.  He had been a great source of support and comfort during my miscarriage and a big distraction from the craziness that is infertility.  Whilst upsetting, I hadn’t been sure that I wanted his influence around my future child so I did my best to see it as a blessing.

I went to see my abdominal massage therapist and told her that once again I was preparing to accept a child into my womb.  She helped me to free the tension I had been carrying there since the loss and the break up.  We visualized my child.  I was finally ready.

On Tues Dec 8th 2015 I transferred my last hope into my uterus.  It was the most traumatic and uncomfortable of all the transfers but once done was declared to be ‘perfect positioning’!

I went out for celebratory dumplings… I wanted the first meal I had as a potentially pregnant woman to be a delicious one.  I kept the chopsticks for his memory box.

I swore I wouldn’t test early.

5 days later I caved and peed on a stick.  It was 7am and a squinter of a line appeared on the stick.

I awoke my mother to tell her!

Later that day I met with two friends who had also struggled with infertility and were miraculously both pregnant too!  I told them the news.  It had been my dream to be pregnant at the same time as these women and it had happened!

After more than 2 years of fertility treatments I was finally pregnant and this time, in spite of the fear, I felt like I might actually bring home a baby.

 

 

The Importance of Finding the Right Fertility Doc for you.

Once I had picked a donor, done a couple of IUI’s, had the HSG and had a couple more failed IUI’s I came to a realization;

I couldn’t stand my RE!!!

I had thought that all you had to do was find a Reproductive Endocrinologist and they would unlock the secret to getting you pregnant.  This was not the case.  I didn’t feel like I had an advocate in my RE.  I felt like I was walking through glue.  After 6 months of this I was ready to move to IVF and a new RE.

This time I did some research aka: I googled.  I called a couple of clinics and rejected the ones who would only accept applications via fax. (I’m supposed to have faith in your state of the art reproductive technology yet you won’t accept my emailed application?  No thanks… )

I loved my new RE.  He was a wealth of information.  He was encouraging.  He was never too busy for questions. He was up on the latest technology.  He never let me lose hope.

He eventually got me pregnant.

 

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:

These days it’s much easier to choose an RE thanks to a great new website called Fertility IQ.  You can use this site to research the clinics and REs in your area.  These are verified reviews from people who have actually used the clinics/RE’s.  I have submitted my reviews and I urge others to do the same OR to use this resource when choosing their RE.  I’ve heard so many horror stories of bad RE’s – especially from single women.  Fertility IQ will help you avoid them.   Incidentally, I am not affiliated with them, merely think it’s a service that everyone should know about!

Why you shouldn’t wait to get your fertility checked out…

One of the many things I wish I had known way before I did was that you can be proactive about your fertility.  You can go to your OB or find an RE and get your ‘fertility work up’.  What this means is having bloodwork done on day 3 of your cycle and then getting back a load of words and numbers that you spend 3 hours googling even though your RE has already explained what they mean to you.

This info; your FSH, AMH, E2 give an approximate idea of what might be going on with your eggs.  Mine came back pretty good but with low AMH (which a lot of RE’s don’t pay much attention to anyways.)  I decided to go ahead with a couple of unmedicated IUI’s before going through the more aggressive tests.  An IUI is where they use a catheter to bypass your cervix and place the sperm directly in there.  It’s painless and has a higher success rate than ICI (think turkey baster method.)

After a couple of IUI’s didn’t work I got an HSG which is where they shoot dye into your fallopian tubes to ensure they aren’t blocked.  Cue one of the most painful mornings of my life with a very unpleasant Doctor.  They are not always this painful but they are never enjoyable!

It was discovered that I am the proud owner of a Unicornuate Uterus (so called as it is the rarest of all the uterus abnormalities.)  I only have half a uterus which means that only one of my ovaries is attached.  When you google it it’s pretty terrifying.

uterus

Had I known about all of these tests I would have done them years before.  Why don’t they teach this stuff in school along with periods, wet dreams and sex?  So my friends, if you are thinking that one day you might want to have a little person, I highly recommend that you make a doctors appointment and get an idea of what’s going on in your invisible parts.

You’ll be glad you did.