I Used an Egg Donor
IVF? Adoption? These tools for becoming a parent are discussed openly. But using another woman's eggs to get pregnant? It's the new taboo.
The logical next step
After our fertility doctor broke the news, we told him we'd mull over the idea of using an egg donor and get back to him. But I was already sold. Unbeknownst to Paul, a few days earlier I had scrolled through an egg-donor website—just in case—and surprised myself by how quickly I warmed to the concept.
Before we'd started down the road of fertility treatment, I had this vague idea that egg-donor IVF must feel like a second-rate option, a distressing last resort. But as I perused the donor database, it seemed nothing of the sort. It simply felt like the logical next step—between IVF and adoption—and I was grateful that technology offered us a back-up plan. Of course, some of the donors needed some serious help in the marketing department (one English major described herself as "calm, cool and collective"), but overall they seemed like an endearing bunch. A law student/snowboarder, a nurse with a flair for graphic design, an aspiring writer who'd climbed mountains—certainly among them was a worthy substitute for me, if it came to that.
And so, when it did, I was a step ahead of my husband. Paul had never considered that we might flunk out of IVF and at first couldn't fathom using an egg donor. He couldn't quite articulate why, but when I pressed, delicately, I got to the bottom of his objections: He worried he wouldn't love our children as much if their DNA wasn't entirely ours. He thought we should consider trying straight-up IVF again, on the off chance that a healthy egg or two would surface, but I vetoed that idea, pointing out that I was not a pincushion.
The doctor had told us about one couple with our diagnosis who had nonetheless tried again four times and ended up using donor eggs anyway. Given the physical discomfort of daily shots, the emotional costs of another failure and the high price tag—about $15,000 each time—no way was I going down that road.
Besides, who could say the Schlosberg genes were better than anyone else's? Certainly we have our strong points, including longevity; even my grandma Ruth—a lifelong chain smoker who stocked her Oldsmobile with emergency fudge cookies—lived to nearly 90. But in my clan, we also trend toward bunions, psoriasis, uncontrollable hair frizz and barely enough collective mechanical aptitude to operate an electric toothbrush. If somebody's DNA had to be sacrificed, I reasoned, better mine than my husband's. At least the undesirable traits in Paul's family—voting Republican, a fondness for holiday lawn ornaments—were not genetic.
If all this sounds entirely too rational, I did eventually have my own meltdown. A few days after the appointment, I spent a morning sobbing, mostly over having to wait so long for what came so naturally to others. I even resented couples who'd succeeded with regular IVF. No lawyers, psychologists or donor agencies involved—how easy they had it!
But these feelings faded after a few days. I defaulted to the approach I'd relied on during my dating days: press on, and meanwhile, do something fun. When I was single, I'd taken up road-bike racing. I'd quit competing before our trip to Chile, but now, with several months to wait before we could try with a donor, I cranked up my training. Better, I figured, to be infertile and fit than infertile and flabby.
Besides, becoming parents was still well within our control, something I had decidedly lacked during my quest for a mate. Sure, infertility sucked, but it sucked a lot less than my years of dating guys with the emotional depth of a dust mite. After all, there aren't any adoption agencies for husbands.
What I liked best about donor-egg IVF was that we'd both get to play a role in the creation of our child. Paul would provide the sperm; I'd provide the womb. Now all we needed were a few good eggs—that and my husband's blessing.
Given the depth of Paul's despair, I was surprised when after just a couple of weeks, Paul announced, "Let's do it! Let's find a donor." On our doctor's recommendation, he'd read a book about egg donation and felt we could be as happy as the families included in the book. He saw online that there were plenty of smart, athletic donors to choose from, but what really made him turn the corner, Paul said, was the procedure's high success rate. There was a great chance that we'd make a quick transition from being fertility patients to being parents.
Months later, Paul told me that from the beginning, he knew he'd come around, and he thanked me for giving him space to go through the decision-making process at his own pace. I never told him how hard it had been to keep my mouth shut.
Finding the right donor
With donor-egg IVF, you have two options: finding a donor you know or selecting an anonymous donor through an agency. Most friends assumed we'd prefer a familiar donor. Three even offered me their own eggs. (I thanked them profusely before explaining that they were, oh, about 15 years too old.) Several people asked whether I'd considered my younger sister as a donor. But the very idea of mating my sister's eggs with Paul's sperm would complicate our family dynamics in ways I didn't even want to imagine. "At least you'd know what you were getting," one friend said.
Comments like that drove me nuts. What DNA merger isn't one big roll of the dice? In some respects, though, I understood the sentiment. After all, we did find it comforting to have even partial genetic input and to know that our baby would be exposed to all the right nutrients in utero. Still, we harbored no illusions that we had more control than any other couple trying to have a baby.
And so, Paul and I began our donor-egg hunt, securing the passwords to several agency websites so we could get beyond the headlines and read the complete donor profiles.
Back when I was active on Match.com, I'd been clear about my search criteria: I wanted a smart, athletic guy who could use "I feel" in a context other than "I feel like pizza tonight." But now? What exactly were Paul and I looking for? Someone who looked like me? Someone who looked like Julia Roberts? How much weight should we give a donor's GPA or SAT score or the disconcerting revelation that her favorite food is "anything from the Olive Garden"?