Tuesday, September 16, 2014
– 16 and Pregnant
So, most people know the MTV show “16 and Pregnant”, where girls end up pregnant, usually because their boyfriends didn’t want to wear a condom (?!?!) and/or they were afraid that birth control would make them fat (yeah, how’d that work out for you?). Well, obviously, that does not reflect my situation because A) There was no chance of my accidentally getting pregnant and B) The age of 16 is so far in my rear-view mirror that it’s barely a blip anymore. But if you look closely at the title of this post, you’ll see that it doesn’t say “16 and Pregnant,” but, rather, “–16 and Pregnant.” And that, of course, has to with my choice of egg donation.
Rewinding a bit, I’m reminded of a conversation that I had with Dr. K during my last visit before he discharged me to Dr. W. He told me that, of all his patients, I was probably the one who went to egg donation the quickest. In fact, over the almost a year that I was his patient, he remarked more than once that I was moving through the process more quickly than most.
Of course, there are a variety of reasons for why it takes some people longer, and for why I made certain decisions in a rather expeditious manner. The first is a very basic reason, and that’s money. Fertility treatment is not cheap, and few insurance companies provide coverage for it. As a result, many women and couples must space out their procedures until they have the money to pay for it. As I have detailed in the past, my treatments have come out well into the low six figures (especially when factoring in the +/- 30% tax penalty I paid on the money I withdrew from the beneficiary IRA). But, Mom and Dad left me in a position to be able to pay for these treatments, so I was not forced to put anything off. Yes, I went through an obscene amount of money in a year, but it will end up being the same amount as if I had spread it out over a longer period, so there didn’t seem any point in waiting.
That, naturally, leads me to another factor – time. I’m 40 now. I started this process just shy of my 39th birthday. From a reproductive standpoint, I was already way too old to take my time in getting pregnant. Unlike a woman, or couple, who started treatments in their early thirties (or younger), I could not afford, biologically, to take several years to get pregnant. The risks just keep going up with age, and the odds become less favorable. So, it was sort of a “now or never” kind of situation.
You can start to get a picture of the progression here. I had the money and I didn’t have the time. I also tend to have an imminently practical streak, and I don’t believe in repeatedly doing something that hasn’t worked, hoping for a different outcome. So, after two failed IUIs, we did the testing to see what might be at issue, and found the blocked tube. That, along with a lower egg reserve, suggested IUI was not a practical approach. So I chose to move on to IVF. Obviously that was more expensive and invasive but, again, there didn’t seem much sense in trying another IUI and just hoping we got an egg out of the side that wasn’t blocked (waste of money and sperm in my mind!).
After the first failed IVF, when it was clear that I couldn’t produce a lot of eggs, I brought up the concept of egg donation to Dr. K. He seemed relieved because he had wanted to bring it up with me, but it can be a sensitive issue (more on that shortly). I knew that I still wanted to try IVF once or twice more with my own eggs, but figured I should lay the groundwork for the donation process.
So I tried IVF two more times. The second time resulted in the chemical pregnancy that has previously been detailed, and the third time resulted in once again not getting a viable embryo. At that point, it did not seem to make sense to continue down that path. My eggs were not cutting it, so it was time for a new approach.
This is where the final hurdle to egg donation can arise for many women and couples. Using a donor means that the mother will not have a genetic connection to their child. For many people, that is a difficult reality to come to terms with (as is using a sperm donor if the father’s sperm cannot be used). For some, it is a hurdle that they can never overcome, and that is perfectly understandable.
For me, it wasn’t really a huge deal. The genetic connection was never as important to me as simply being a mother. I won’t say it didn’t matter at all – there was a part of me that wanted to carry on a part of Mom and Dad. But (and again, I’ve written about this before), I never had any concerns about my ability to love a child or feel connected to a child that did not share my genetic make-up. I have previously discussed my attachment to my dogs, and we know that they have no genetic connection to me! So, when it came to the emotional aspect of “letting go” of the dream of my own genetic children, that was not such a huge step. My real dream has always been to be a Mom, however that might come about (adoption was always an option for me as well).
So, in the end, it became more of a question of what was the most practical and expeditious way to make my real dream of motherhood come true. Like I said, I didn’t have the time, or the inclination, to keep throwing money away on things that weren’t working. So the answer to the question of how I could become a mom became clear: egg donation. That, naturally, is where the title of this entry comes in. Through egg donation, Dr. K and I found ourselves working with 23-year-old eggs, rather than 39-year-old eggs, and that was the last ingredient we needed for success – eggs that were 16 years younger than me.
That was the trick. Younger eggs gave me an exponentially higher chance of getting pregnant (and it did work on the first try). As Dr. K put it, it put me in another stratosphere (from a less than 20% chance to a 60-70% chance). Even though we only got 2 embryos, they were far healthier than the ones we got from my own eggs (you can see it if you go back and look at the embryo pictures). And, the more I thought about it, the more I found comfort in the idea that this would give me a much higher chance of healthy babies too. My early screens showed a 1 in 7000 chance of Down Syndrome, while using my own eggs would have resulted in something more like 1 in 200. The risk of Trisonomy is far lower too. Overall, with 23-year-old eggs and 20 year-old sperm, my risks are the same as if I were 23 and had a 20 year-old partner.
So, for all practical purposes, this was definitely the right decision for me. It was a journey that seemed long, even though it was less than a year – but it fit a potential several years of emotional ups and downs into that time. And I am kind of grateful that I am able to put at least some of the risk factors largely out of my mind. And then there’s the comment from the in-house psychologist at RMA, who told me that a lot of her clients come back to her and tell her how freeing it is to know that any little issues their kids have (allergies, bad hair, etc) aren’t their fault! That’s a whole load of Mommy Guilt off the shoulders. So, yep, all in all, a good decision!