Photo Credit :: Laura Beck Photography
When I tell people we struggled with infertility, people usually nod and lean in to hear more about our story. They ask if we did IVF because that’s a term people are familiar with even if they don’t know what all it entails. When I tell them we did IVF with a donor egg, I frequently get blank stares. In light of National Infertility Awareness Week, I thought I’d break down what DE-IVF is, how it worked for us, and some answers to the questions I often receive.
What is DE-IVF?
For starters, let me start with a quick definition of IVF. In Vitro Fertilization is a reproductive technology in which an egg is removed from a woman, joined with a sperm cell from a man in a test tube (in vitro). The cells then fuse to form a single cell which continues to divide, becoming an embryo. The embryo is then transferred to the woman’s uterus to (hopefully) implant.
The main difference with DE-IVF is that you have two women involved. Your egg donor and your embryo recipient.
Why did you need an egg donor?
There are several reasons why couples may turn to egg donation:
● The potential to transmit a genetic disease to the child
● Poor quality eggs of the mother
● Premature ovarian failure
● Diminished ovarian reserve
● A history of pregnancy failure
Personally, I was diagnosed with “severely diminished ovarian reserve” and “poor egg quality”. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. For some reason, when I went through my preliminary infertility testing at 29, my egg reserve and egg quality were more suited to a 40 year old. I had a “beautiful” uterus, but my eggs weren’t sufficient or capable to the task.
How did it work?
Since there are two parties involved, we had to both go on a cocktail of medications to coordinate our cycles. This process takes about two months and involves more alcohol swabs and sharps containers than I’d care to remember. Once we were on the same reproductive page, our donor went through all the steps of IVF up until embryo transfer. While she was taking drugs to stimulate her ovaries, I was taking daily injections, pills and hormone patches to make my uterus a veritable Walt Disney World for an embryo (the happiest place on earth, get it?)
Our donor was closely monitored during the stimulation period, and when it was clear that the eggs were ready to be retrieved she took a trigger shot and I did the same. Once the eggs were retrieved they were fertilized using my husband’s sperm and we waited for the report on how many eggs fertilized successfully and of those, how many grew to the blastocyst stage (5 day old embryo).
On the big day our embryologist told us we had a “rockstar” embryo for transfer. Our embryo transfer went smoothly and 8 days after transfer we received the blood test results that we were indeed pregnant.
Was it hard to select a donor?
Yes. We reviewed hundreds of donor profiles. Our clinic did an thorough job of screening all egg donation applicants. They went through interviews, psychological screenings, and provided full genetic background information and health histories, but you are selecting someone who will be genetically linked to your child and that’s a heavy decision to make. I also had to come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be passing my genes on to my offspring. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but I came to peace with it and knew that if this worked for us, I would have the joy of carrying this baby, nurturing him and being his mother and that that counts for so much more than 0.1% of his genes. (Side note: Did you know that 99.9% of your genes are shared with all humans and only 0.1% of our genes result in the variations we see?)
So, you aren’t his real mom? 
This one sounds so much worse than I know people intend for it to come out. I know that it’s a foreign concept for many people (hence why I’m baring LOADS of personal info to hopefully educate and inform folks!). Yes, I am his real mom. I hoped and prayed for this little life for 7 years. I went to incredible lengths to prepare myself to carry him and was disciplined about what I did (and didn’t) eat and drink during my pregnancy. I labored and pushed him screaming into this world and have nurtured, held, rocked, sang, fed, diapered and snuggled him through his first years of life. I am his real mom. (P.S. you don’t have to experience pregnancy and childbirth to be a real mom either…that’s another post altogether).
Looks like a real mom to me.
Are you going to tell him?
Absolutely. I’ve been telling him about his story for a while now. When he was a tiny newborn, I whispered to him about the special woman who gave us an incredible gift so we could have a baby while rocking him at night. As he’s gotten older I have told him how this woman helped mommy so I could grow him in my belly. As he matures and can understand more we will share more age-appropriate details, but we plan to be very open with him. There are some really precious children’s books that help open up the conversation and make it a part of his story from an early age. It really is a beautiful story to tell and I want him to grow up knowing just how loved and wanted he was and still is.
What if he wants to meet the donor someday? 
We will support him in that endeavor. Our donor was anonymous, but there is a database where donors can provide their contact information and recipients can provide theirs in the event that both parties want to connect. We will cross that bridge when we get there, but I would hug her neck so hard and gratefully thank her for helping me become a mother.
Infertility impacts 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age and can be a very isolating disease to face. If you aren’t in the trenches of this fight, 1 in 8 is someone you know. If you are one of the 1 in 8, know that you are not alone. RESOLVE, the national infertility association, can provide support and resources. They also work tirelessly on behalf of the infertility community to bring awareness to the disease and educate our legislators and insurance companies. I’m here too! Leave a comment if you need an ear, or have questions. 



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