I received a lot of mail and comments after yesterday's post that had me reading into the evening! I got a lot of comments on Facebook, email and here on the blog about Gavin walking up the stairs. Admittedly, I thought I had shared that he was starting to do that in a previous post. It probably seemed that I was a little blasé the way I shared it yesterday! It's a HUGE deal and we are so proud and excited for Gavin. Next thing to tackle is going DOWN the stairs!
There was also a lot of personal emails asking questions about the egg donation process. So many that I thought I would explain it all here to tackle everyone's questions...and save me from responding to so many emails.
So, here's the deal. There are two ways to use an egg donor. A fresh cycle...and a frozen cycle. I'll explain both - and let you know how we decided to proceed.
In a fresh cycle, Ed and I would go in and look through many many many profiles. Almost like a dating service, to be frank. There would be a lot of choices of donors which we could narrow down by ethnicity, hair color, eye color, skin tone, etc. Even narrowed down there would still be many choices. We could even get very specific and add SAT scores or personality traits or favorite subjects in school or relationship with her family. For the record, all of the choices have excellent medical histories and have had psychological examinations. Once we settle on a donor, the fertility clinic calls her to let her know she was chosen by a family. She would then have to come in and start going through all the things I did gearing up for IVF. Ultrasounds, blood work, the birth control pill for a month, Lupron injections and stimulation injections. Then she would go in for egg retrieval under anesthesia...at which point she signs over all the retrieved eggs and they become the property of the doctor's office. And then, she is done. And paid handsomely. The egg recipients (the parents that choose her as their egg donor) are responsible to pay for her expenses. And typically, insurance doesn't pay for much (if any) of this. While the donor is going through all of this, the Mom (hopefully 'to be') is syncing her body with the donor - and then preparing her body with estrogen for the embryo transfer.
The second method is to use frozen eggs. Say a woman came to the clinic and chose donor "A" to go through a fresh cycle. Say they were able to retrieve 30 eggs in the retrieval. The parents decide that they only need 4 to fertilize. They can choose to freeze their donors remaining eggs (maybe for a possible related sibling down the road!) - but any leftover "excellent quality" eggs are then frozen in the fertility clinic's egg bank. Parents who want to choose frozen eggs would come in and look through a group of donor profiles that is much smaller than if they were going through a fresh cycle. Egg freezing is relatively new so doctor's offices like mine are slowly building up their egg banks. Once a donor profile is chosen, all that is left to do is prepare the Mom 'to be's' uterus with Lupron injections and estrogen to thicken her uterine wall before the embryo transfer.
Follow me so far?
Ed and I chose to go the frozen egg route. Why? Well, for one - the emotional factor. The fresh cycle seemed overwhelming. To know that someone is out there going through doctor appointments and doing injections and "oh my god - is she going to her appointments?" and "oh dear Lord what if she backs out halfway through??" - it seemed like a lot of stress. And then the extra stress at the end waiting to see if the eggs make it - I can't go through that again. The other reason was - we wanted less choices. I know that sounds crazy. But trust me - it's very easy to get "information overload" when you have too many choices. All of a sudden you think that SAT scores and hobbies means something. In my opinion - you don't know how ANY of your children are going to turn out - regardless of how they come to you. While it was important to me to choose a donor that had my coloring (dark hair, light skin, light eyes) the rest (like her musical ability or education) was a bonus. I just truly believe that God will send me the baby that I'm supposed to raise. And if that's no baby, then the message is also clear. And finally, the other factor was cost. Shock of all shocks was that our insurance would help us - but the truth is that using frozen eggs is MUCH less expensive than fresh eggs. By thousands and thousands of dollars. So it all added up to a no brainer decision for us.
What happens next? Well, I will soon start taking Lupron to quiet my uterus. Then they will put me on Estrogen to help thicken my uterine lining to help with implantation of the embryo. Once my body looks "ready", they will thaw the eggs of the donor we have chosen (who looks like a happy, joyful, pretty Irish woman!) and fertilize them with Ed's sperm. The lab will watch the embryos, just like they did both times I went through IVF and when they reach the right stage, they will be transferred into my womb.
I have received a lot of questions about how many embryos we plan to transfer...and what we will do with leftover embryos. Ed and I don't feel comfortable "discarding embryos". The two times I went through IVF we didn't have to worry about this issue at all. Only two of my embryos ever made it out of the lab...and then those two never made it in my womb. But the chances of that happening this time - using a young woman's eggs - are small. Very small. For that reason we are only asking them to thaw two eggs...fertilize two eggs...transfer one embryo...pray (a lot) that it works out...and either freeze or donate the remaining embryo.
I also had questions about how I would feel using a donor - if I would feel like this is someone else's child. (I really don't mind answering these questions, if you're wondering. I think these are common questions on a lot of people's minds.) I don't feel funny about this at all. In a body filled with cells, I am lacking one. To take one from a generous donor in order for Ed and I to make a baby - well that, to me, is incredible. After she gives me one cell (her egg) - the rest is up to us. Ed does the fertilizing...I do the baking...the baby is attached to me and nourished through the umbilical cord...I deliver the baby...breast feed the baby...raise the baby...photograph the baby incessantly...etc, etc, etc. I also feel strongly that character traits, mannerisms and even appearance can all be part of the nature vs nurture argument. This baby will be ours thanks to the gift of one cell from a generous angel donor.
That's how I feel about it.
So this Thursday I go back for another ultrasound to see if I'm ready to start the Lupron injections. They say that from the time you start Lupron to the embryo transfer is typically 3-4 weeks.
Oh, and you are a big part of this process too, you know. I will be carried through this, as usual, by your support. Something I never take for granted - and has helped me through so much over the last four years!!