What I Want Others To Know About Donor Egg IVF
By Meta Getman
My husband Michael and I knew right away that we wanted to start trying to have kids when we got married. We found out fairly early on that Michael had low sperm count and low motility because he was being treated for another medical condition where they just happened to do a sperm analysis. Because of that, we jumped right into fertility treatments.
We did four IUIs, all of which failed before we were finally referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. It was after our initial meeting with our fertility doctor and additional testing that we discovered that I had low AMH. According to Extend Fertility, AMH, or anti-Müllerian hormone, is a hormone secreted by the ovarian follicles, so the higher your level, the more follicles (potential eggs) you’re expected to have. AMH testing is typically used as an indicator of your egg count. So, in short, my AMH levels were indicating that my egg reserve was low.
Moving on to IVF
At that point, my doctor wasn’t too concerned; however, we were told IVF would be our next step. We moved on to IVF with my eggs and did two back-to-back cycles. After two IVF cycles and two embryo transfers, we had nothing to show for it: I wasn’t pregnant, and we had no embryos to freeze. It was then that our doctor brought up the idea of donor eggs.
In all honesty, I was completely blindsided. It had never even crossed my mind that IVF wouldn't work for us with my eggs. I had never even heard of donor egg IVF as an option.
My doctor told us she thought IVF with my eggs could eventually work for us, but that it would probably take 8-10 rounds of fresh IVF cycles to get one embryo that would stick. We left her office that day completely overwhelmed and shocked.
Before we started IVF, my husband and I had said we would try three cycles, and if we didn’t have a live birth by then we would reassess. When we had that discussion, I truly didn’t think we would ever have to continue the conversation. But now it was becoming much more of a reality. We went forward with a third round of IVF with my eggs, but it resulted in the same outcome as the previous two. No pregnancy. No embryos to freeze. That was when we started to seriously consider donor eggs as a next step.
Coming to terms with using donor eggs
We did a lot of talking, researching (although at the time there was not a lot out there), and soul-searching. Donor eggs seemed like our best option if we wanted a family. All signs were pointing to the problem being an egg quality issue - I really wanted to experience pregnancy and we didn’t feel compelled to adopt.
Still, it was tough for me to come to terms with the loss of the genetic connection to my child(ren). I was incredibly sad that my child(ren) wouldn’t have my blue eyes, my blonde hair, or my family’s double chin. I worried that my child(ren) wouldn’t see me as their real mom because my eggs were not used to conceive them.
What I didn’t know back then is that these are all completely normal feelings to have when considering donor conception. Participating in a support group and meeting other people who were in the same position as us was very helpful. Over time, I was able to see that I wasn’t abnormal or broken. I even had the opportunity to connect with another parent of donor-conceived kids and hear about her experience, which was extremely positive.
I also got some great advice from the therapist we had to see as part of the donor egg process at our clinic who gave us great questions and things to think through so we would be prepared to talk to our children about their conception. All of these things helped me feel more equipped to handle situations that came--and would come--my way.
The Donor Egg IVF process
Throughout the entire process, my husband Michael was incredibly supportive. He and I process things very differently and make decisions differently. He is a ‘research and makes a quick decision’ person, and I am a ‘take my time and slowly consider all the options' person. We had a six-month wait to be matched to a donor through our clinic’s egg donor program, so he was the one who suggested we get on the waitlist before making a final decision. If it wasn’t for him and his rational thinking, emotional support, and constant encouragement I don’t know where I would have ended up. What we didn’t know at the time was that there are egg banks available like Donor Egg Bank USA that can provide frozen donor eggs and provide guarantees, payment flexibility, and hundreds of diverse donors to choose from.
As it turned out, the process wasn’t as overwhelming as I had built it up to be in my head. When we were matched with our egg donor, we got a one-page document about her which included her age, physical characteristics, education level, some family medical history, likes and dislikes, etc. We also got a baby picture of her. We then had a few days to decide if we wanted to move forward with her as our donor, which we did.
All in all, our donor egg IVF cycle was very similar to going through an IVF cycle with my own eggs but actually a bit easier. It is very similar to going through a frozen embryo transfer cycle because you are not doing the retrieval part of IVF, just the transfer part. I was on birth control for a while, then moved to injectable medications to prepare my body to welcome the embryo. I had to go in for monitoring ultrasounds and bloodwork, as well.
The mental & emotional toll
I will say, one of the most emotionally charged days I experienced was when Michael went to the clinic to give his sample so the donor eggs could be fertilized. I stayed home, and as a result, I felt very left out. It was an odd, lonely feeling where I felt like I was the mom, and yet I didn’t play a part at all on the day my twin daughters were conceived. However, all of those feelings went away the next day when we got the call about how many eggs had fertilized, and it was a distant memory when we had our embryo transfer.
What I wish I had known then is that our twins’ conception would play such a small part in the story of our family, as well as the story of their lives and who they become.
When we were deciding if donor eggs would be the path for us it felt like the donor egg part was so significant and would dominate our story forever. The truth is that our amazing girls are just as much a part of us and our family as if they had been conceived with my eggs. The donor egg piece, although an important part of the story, is not nearly as big of a deal now as it felt then. I do not think about them being donor-conceived all the time. In fact, I see myself in their faces, skin coloring, eye color, and their mannerisms.
Support & resources
If you’re considering donor eggs, Donor Egg Bank USA is a wonderful place to start for information and support. Not only do they have the largest frozen donor egg database in the U.S., but they also have a “Bring a Baby Home Guarantee” included with some of their financial plans, and their Assured Refund PlanTM offers up to six cycles of frozen egg donation treatments. Donor Egg Bank USA has helped thousands of others who have decided to continue their path to growing their family, and they have industry-leading success rates.
Today, my husband and I are very open with our kids about being donor-conceived. This was a decision we made before even moving forward with using donor eggs--that we would be open and honest with our kids about it from the very beginning. We never wanted this information to be a surprise to them, and we wanted it to be something that they looked back on and thought “I just always knew.” If you’re wondering how to talk to your children about donor conception, a few of my favorite children’s books on the topic are the Happy Together series by Julie Marie, You Were Meant for Me by Shari Sturniolo, and the Our Story series from the Donor Conception Network.
What I hope you take away from my story is this: the concept of donor conception can be scary, filled with unknowns, and very difficult to transition to. Know that it is okay to take time to pause, process, grieve, and consider your options before moving forward. Find support through your donor egg bank, a therapist or fertility coach, or others who have gone through it who can help answer your questions, provide encouragement, and help you make the best decision for you and your family. Lastly, know that this is just one page of your story; it’s not the whole book.
Meta Getman is a donor conception coach and mom to donor-conceived twin girls. She went through 4 IUIs, 3 fresh IVF cycles with her own eggs, and one donor egg cycle before getting her big fat positive. Now she helps women and couples facing a journey to parenthood they never imagined: using donor eggs, donor sperm, or donor embryos. Not only has Meta been through the devastation of infertility, but she realized that there were not enough easy-to-use tools and resources on donor conception to help patients feel confident in making these decisions. That’s why she created a FREE checklist called The Essential Donor Checklist for anyone who is considering donor conception, to help you think through some of the key questions about using a donor. You can also listen to her episode of “The Fertility Warrior’s podcast” called Myths of Donor Conception for more information.