My Egg Donation Stories:
By Lisa Marks Gmur
Eggs: Bought, Borrowed or Your Own, Once They’re Cooked, They’re All the Same!
By Lisa Marks Gmur
Just before my 38th birthday I met my husband. He was 10 years younger and not at all interested in fulfilling my dream of a large family. I had two daughters, ages 6 and 7 from a previous marriage and while he loved them, he also loved our every other weekend off. So I kept taking my pills, religiously. I sometimes broached the subject of children, but he wasn’t interested. And I wasn’t really worried about getting pregnant. Heck, in my 20’s I had gotten pregnant when I was trying really hard not to get pregnant, using all the paraphernalia of the day; diaphragm’s, condoms, even the sponge made famous on “Seinfeld.” But even with precautions, my 22-year old eggs were standing at attention, just waiting for Mr. Right, even if I hadn’t found him yet. And with my daughters, at 29 and 30, it was barely a minute between flushing my birth control pills down the toilet and standing, heaving over that same toilet as I stared at that little wand with two lines.
So really, I wasn’t worried. In fact, there were even a few scares when I missed a pill or two and thought I felt that familiar wave of nausea. Well, after nearly four years together, my husband had a revelation. He wanted babies. Okay, no problem. I would toss the pills and voila, I would get pregnant. Not quite. I had been off the pill for three months and still, no pregnancy. Plan B; a romantic weekend getaway. I even bought one of those ovulation kits believing that missing our “window” was the problem. I was positive that with properly timed sex we couldn’t lose. Well, I was wrong. At the age of 41, all a romantic weekend of unbridled, honeymoon-like sex brought me was a few more freckles, a slight suntan and a trash can full of negative pregnancy tests.
I have to admit, I was really shocked. I couldn’t believe that getting pregnant could be so hard, just because I was a little older. I quickly started reading and researching everything I could find on getting pregnant after forty. The odds were not great. However, there was some encouraging literature, including one book called “A Few Good Eggs.” That was it, I thought, all I needed was one good grade A egg. But it wasn’t forthcoming.
Silly me! It turned out that my eggs had aged, like me, and while I was ready to for round two of motherhood, they were not. My 42nd birthday was weeks away, when my obstetrician suggested, or rather insisted, I see a specialist: a Reproduction Endocrinologist. After the mandatory battery of tests showed all I suffered from was old eggs, we did “IUI,” intrauterine insemination, and we hit the jackpot on our first try. Unfortunately that egg wasn’t up to par. At the 7-week ultrasound, there was no heartbeat. It turned out we had something called a blighted ovum.
We tried IUI twice more, but failed to achieve a successful pregnancy. Because of my advanced age, (what many books call a geriatric pregnancy) our doctor recommended we move quickly to IVF and so we didn’t waste any time. We plowed full stream ahead. And even when our doctor wasn’t impressed with the number and quality of eggs during that first IVF cycle, we were confident, it would work. Like most couples first time up to bat, we had high hopes. In hindsight we should have cancelled the cycle. They retrieved four eggs, but only one fertilized properly. But still we were surprised when the pregnancy test was negative. And we were completely devastated and rather than try again, we stopped our pursuit of a baby.
Six months later while enjoying a lovely rosé on the beach in Tahiti, we decided to try again. A friend had told us about doing IVF with donor eggs and I must admit, we were both intrigued with this concept. Rather than a 5-10% success rate if we tried again with my own eggs, my doctor insisted it was closer to 80% with a 20-22-year old donors eggs. I already had two daughters with my own eggs, and even though they both had half of my genes, only one looked anything like me. I already knew how irrelevant and un-important having children resemble me was, so I quickly embraced the whole idea.
Of course, this decision didn’t come cheap. We re-financed our house and plunged once again into the world of test tube babies. And I read, a lot. I quickly became addicted to forums and blogs of strong women who already jumped off this bridge. We signed up with the egg donor agency and started scouring bio’s and photos of prospective donors. While I wasn’t looking for my clone, I was looking for my smile and someone who had similar interests and maybe even a few freckles, after being kissed by the sun. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t care about looks, I did. Of course I wanted someone I found attractive, but more than that, I wanted someone special.
My mind flashed back twenty years when I had filled out the same application I was reading now, when I signed up to be an egg donor. What had I written then? I remember writing about loving the beach, reading, running and champagne. I remember filling in the blanks about drug use, abortions and family history; my dad’s blue eyes, my mom’s dark hair. Never thinking I would ever be on the reading end of one of these forms. But here I was, considering every word, every exclamation point. And even though I already had children, I was just the same as every other women going through this process. Wondering if I could really do it, if I could really be okay with using someone else’s eggs, someone else’s genetics. Would it be weird to look at my kids and know they didn’t look anything like me for a reason and not just because of genetic Roulette. Would I love them differently than the children that shared my genes?
My husband and I both picked the same donor out of the line-up and so we knew it must be fate. Yes, there was something special about her. I think it was her smile. But we were too late, another couple had her on reserve and we went back to the drawing board. We were torn between a few, when the agency called and told us great news; our first pick was available after all. We quickly moved ahead, filling out forms, paying fees. It dragged out for nearly a year before everything aligned and finally after nearly three years and countless blood tests, injections and ultrasounds, I was pregnant.
But being pregnant didn’t stop those nagging questions, that pesky doubt; had we made the right choice? Should I have tried again with my own eggs? The pregnancy felt the same; my breasts swelled, I felt queasy morning, noon and night. And those familiar kicks at 18 weeks reminded me of the burgeoning life inside. And when he arrived 5 weeks early, I was thrilled to meet him and finally put all those badgering questions and all that irksome doubt to rest. We had made the right choice! He was our son and we were madly in love with him and with each other.
I met several other IVF moms at a mommy/baby yoga class shortly after my son was born and when one said, after learning my age, “you didn’t get to use your own eggs, did you?” I smiled and said, no, donor eggs. She said, yes, her too, and several others there as well. It was definitely comforting to meet others who had made the same choice. After meeting my daughters, they were comforted too! The whole gene thing was immaterial. Your baby, no matter how you get it, is your baby.
A year later, we thawed out and implanted two embryos from the same batch. Both took and I now have five beautiful children; all loved equally and completely. And when everyone insists how much my boy twin looks just like me, all I can do is smile, hoping the engaging smile of our egg donor is what makes him resemble me.