I have a lot of friends who believe that social media is a waste of time. I often agree with them. There are times I get sucked into reading about non-sense when I could be doing something more productive. However, social media also helped me through a dark period and let me know that I was not alone.
When Priscilla Chan (wife of Mark Zuckerberg) spoke openly about her three miscarriages and her fertility challenges there was an outpouring of posts and blogs about women in their 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s all sharing their personal stories of loss and intense challenges in trying to conceive a baby. Although I typically kept my social media posts to smiles and fun updates, I now felt compelled to share a “There was supposed to be a baby” post, too. It was the first time I felt that I could openly grieve the three losses I had and the roller coaster ride of in vitro fertilization (IVF). It was no longer a taboo topic and I found comfort in sharing my story and hearing about others who had similar experiences.
However, this was only part of my story…
My husband and I decided to take a break from all of the fertility treatments after three miscarriages and accepted that we would only have one child. We talked about how easy our life would be with just one, how we could continue to jet-set around the world with our little traveler and just how simple things were compared to our friends who had two or more children. I was not going to wallow in the sadness that at almost 40 years old I was entering “early menopause” and that my eggs were all mutated and shriveled up like a prune.
About a year later a few things happened in our lives that once again brought up our concerns about raising an only child and living in a city far from either of our immediate families. We decided to hop on the IVF wagon once again. As we started the process, we were told once again that having a natural child was not in our future. We received second and third opinions, all who agreed that we were no longer candidates for fertility treatments.
However, we were the perfect candidates for using an egg donor. An egg donor? As in my husband’s sperm and another girl’s eggs to make my baby? NO WAY. NOT A CHANCE. Talk about taboo. . .
Yet, once something that first sounded so bizarre becomes your reality, it quickly becomes your norm. And now I was looking through what seemed like Match.com for egg donors. It felt strange sorting through profiles and choosing genes that I would like my future child to hopefully have. It was quite a process, but my husband and I were on a mission and we moved forward with the process. I probably could write an entire article on this process alone (and maybe I will), but we ended up having an amazing experience.
In less than a year after we started our search, we welcomed an amazing little baby girl into our lives. She felt incredibly special to us from the moment she born, and she totally felt like she belonged to me. But what would other people think? How would I respond when people commented that she looked like me or didn’t look like me?
As I knew these questions and others would come up, I sought out a therapist who specialized in families who used egg donors and/or surrogates to conceive. She was super helpful and essentially explained that if this was our norm and wasn’t kept ‘a secret’ that it would be the norm for our daughter, and she would be much less likely to have issues when she was older. We would tell her that mommy and daddy were having a hard time making her, but we wanted her so badly that we sought out a special helper to bring her into our lives. The End.
Except this was not the end of our story. . .
When our sweet baby was five months old, I found out I was PREGNANT. WHAT? IMPOSSIBLE. I am infertile with geriatric eggs.
It was true. I was pregnant. You can’t imagine the shock and anxiety this pregnancy brought on. Somehow, my body was “re-set” after having our egg donor baby, so at the ripe ol’ age of 43, I gave birth to our third healthy baby girl. Aside from the shock of now having three children, two of whom were 14 months apart, I really questioned fertility medicine.
Could I have had a natural second baby without IVF and without the egg donor?
Did having the egg donor pregnancy truly reset my hormones and enable a pregnancy?
How did I have a “normal” baby at age 43?
Where is my faith and do I really believe that “she was meant to be here?”
Fertility truly brings up so many questions and challenges around our values and ethics, and it challenges our marriages (or at least it did mine). I’m glad that miscarriages are no longer taboo to talk about. I am sharing my story with the hope that those going through fertility issues who are thinking about options such as egg donors or surrogates won’t feel so isolated. We are so lucky to have many different methods to become parents. It may be an egg donor, a surrogate or adoption.
Whatever it is you choose to create your family, there should be no shame in sharing your story.
When I share my story, I still sometimes get awkward looks or comments like, “What will you tell her?” I will tell her the truth – that she was so wanted we used a special helper to make her. In her birth, she blessed us by helping us make her sister. How lucky we are to go from one to THREE.