In short, my eggs are shot. They’re old. Women’s eggs, like chicken eggs, have a shelf life. Girls are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have – about 2 million at birth. By the time she begins menstruation, she’s down to about 200,000…..give or take. If things go the way nature intends, that’s enough to enable her to have as many (or as few) offspring as she desires. The choice is meant to be hers.
However, nothing is perfect least of all nature. So female infertility may be due to many, many factors including but not limited to:
- Her genetic makeup and how she’s programmed to age
- lifestyle factors (smoking, drinking, recreational or prescription drug use, diet and exercise, sleep etc)
- Endocrine or auto-immune disorders (PCOS, endometriosis, Hashimoto’s, lupus, etc)
- other diseases (diabetes, cancer etc)
- injuries/damage to, or removal of, her reproductive organs
- any number of unexplainable ailments and complaints
This is by no means anything more than a brief glimpse into it.
I myself can at least partly blame my infertility on:
- a lifetime of being overweight and obese
- PCOS (which may have been caused by the weight, or the underlying cause of why I couldn’t lose it)
- who knows what else; there are so many possibilities
In our 12 years together, we tried:
- Doing it the old fashioned way
- tracking ovulation (basal body temp and, um…..other signs)
- special diets
- ovulation test strips and saliva test kits (Maybe Baby)
- Bowen therapy
- ovulation induction with clomid
- stimulated IVF
- Stimulated IVF with ICSI, calcium bath for the eggs and acupuncture
- Frozen embryo transfer with HCG infusion and acupuncture
**we never did IUI because by the time we saw a specialist that would treat us, I was so old (I was this shy of 41) he recommended we go straight to IVF. Otherwise we’d have done that too.
Structurally, there’s nothing wrong with me. My tubes are clear, my uterus is shaped like it should be with no alien-like growths or inhabitants. I don’t have endometriosis or auto-immune diseases, and my weight is now the lowest it’s been since high school. (I do have some more to lose but I’ve lost enough that I have a reliable menstrual cycle for the first time in……well, ever.)
I simply don’t ovulate (a regular menstrual cycle can happen even with no ovulation.) And now, if/when I do ovulate, my eggs are just too old to make anything with. They’re hard boiled. Fried. Poached. Over easy. Sunny side up with broken yolks. If I could put them in a bowl of water they’d float. They’re past their use by date. Sure, they look great on the outside (both cycles the embryologist said they were “beautiful eggs”), but we never could afford to do PGD testing, and so the consensus is that “beauty is only shell deep”.
Christian did have some mild issues with his boys when he was tested (low end of normal count, average motility, average morphology. But there was something else: the first cycle, when they put my girls in with his boys, it was a lot like how I remember school dances: my eggs were the fat girls his boys didn’t want anything to do with. Seriously, his boys swam all around and patently avoided my eggs. (Probably natural selection on a cellular level.). Out of 11 eggs, 10 were mature, and not one was asked to dance. That cycle was a flop. I was devastated, but insisted on going straight into another cycle. I couldn’t bear the thought that IVF wouldn’t work for us. I couldn’t even entertain the idea.
The second cycle, we added some stuff: slight increase on stims, ICSI (intra cytoplasmic sperm injection….basically the egg is impaled with a needle and the sperm forced inside. This I actually used in more IVF cycles than not) and acupuncture. I produced 22 eggs this time, again “beautiful”. 20 were mature. These eggs didn’t go to the dance (Petri dish). These eggs and sperm were forced into “arranged marriages” (ICSI). 20 good eggs, 11 fertilised. By day 3, only 7 were still growing. By day 4, 1 had succumbed leaving just 6. We chose the prettiest embryo to transfer on day 4, and we left the other 5 to grow to blastocyst stage (which is what a 5 day old embryo is called). Day 5, only 2 had survived and we had them frozen. We knew we’d go back to give the baby we just KNEW we were having a sibling. But that 4 day transfer didn’t take.
This is time I was beyond devastated. It was right before Christmas, a time I have trouble with in general, and my grief was palpable. It hung in the air like smog in a humid climate. I actively contemplated suicide. That was the worst Christmas on record. Horrible. I didn’t put up a tree or a single decoration. Not a single card was mailed out. I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.
Of course, I managed to get through it. I don’t know how. Christian feels things, but isn’t the worlds best when it comes to displaying emotions and talking about how he feels, whereas I can’t contain it, and it’s out there for the whole world to see. He keeps his feelings to himself, in an effort to protect me. It doesn’t make me feel protected though. It makes me feel alone, very alone and abandoned, and that he’s not as invested in having a family as I am, for lack of a better way of putting it. That’s not accurate, it’s just that we feel and process things differently.
That kind of grief combined with financial pressures from a fledgling small business, significant time spent apart, stress over a job I had been told I was being made redundant from (yet had not given any kind of date, just “we’ll let you know…..but you’re definitely OUT”), and just plain bad luck in a number of areas, and it was a recipe for disaster.
2014 was overall, probably not the greatest year in our marriage. After the failed cycle in December, I kind of lost my passion for…..pretty much everything I’d enjoyed, and threw in the towel on just about everything else. I quit taking my supplements, even though I need at least a daily multivitamin. I stopped using moisturiser. Performed only essential hygiene, and nothing in the way of beautification (shaving my pits, fine. Shaving my legs, only when I began to sound like a cricket when I walked.). I stopped wearing all but the most basic and slap dash makeup (foundation, a sweep of blush and a flick of mascara – and that required a Herculean effort). I returned to ponytail girl, even at work (I’m in a corporate office). In the hours after work I just holed up in my rented room in Melbourne, not wanting to talk to or see anyone. On the Fridays I’d drive the 3.5 hours one way to basically spend the next 2 days on the Internet, and wishing Christian would go to a job site or just ignore me. When we did communicate it was often tense, and I instigated many, many arguments and fights. I can’t tell you how many times I told him I just wanted a divorce, to split up and go our separate ways. I thought about suicide, a lot. I thought about walking away from everything…….disappearing and just starting over again somewhere else, as someone else. I was so depressed, so sad and broken and angry. Even spending time with our best friends and their kids annoyed me. I just wanted to be alone. Truly alone, with my iPad. I could escape reality in that.
But, I did have my sights on doing a frozen transfer in March. Then we had to postpone to June. June rolled around, and we had to wait until September. September rocked up and the transfer got pushed back to November. November came and we had to postpone to January the following year. None of this did a damn thing to help my depression. I told Christian it was January or that was it. We were done. It had to take place or I was out. He assured me, January was it. Even though I was still in a dark place, we did have a reasonable Christmas and New Years.
I just knew this frozen transfer was it. The odds at our clinic are actually better on FETs than fresh, plus it was a “third times a charm” thing. I followed the protocol to the letter. I did supplements (had started those for the September cycle and just kept going). Did positive visualisation (which is hard to do when you’re very negative). Stockpiled best wishes and lucky charms. It had to work. This was it, the last roll of the dice. I’d turned 42 in September, and was keenly aware of my age, and what role it played in all this. My doctor said another stimmed cycle was a waste of time and money. I knew he was right.
The frozen transfer was the only thing keeping me going. The only thing I could think about. It was the only thing keeping me afloat. At one stage it looked like we might have to postpone again, due to financial reasons, and it thought I’d lose my mind. I’d already started on the drugs. I was halfway there! Somehow Christian got the funds together, and the transfer happened on 16th Jan 2015.
I’d been paranoid for months that our 2 “frosties” wouldn’t survive thaw. Sometimes they just don’t. But ours did, and not only did they survive, they were thriving! I had acupuncture first, did the transfer, another session of acupuncture and then began the wait. The previous transfer I’d been a wreck, and my mind was never on anything but what I was feeling. Was that a cramp? What is that twinge? Did it take? How long has it been? Are my boobs sorer now than 10 minutes ago? It was like purgatory.
The FET? I was incredibly zen. I was mindful that I was pregnant until proven otherwise (PUPO, an acronym all infertile women grab onto like its a life raft in a raging current), but I found I actually wasn’t dwelling on it. I took this as a most excellent sign. I started to feel hopeful, and actually began to think about Christmas 2015, and how I’d be a mommy, finally. If both embryos took, they’d be due sometime in September. Perfect birthday gift! If only one took, 3 October. I couldn’t wait for Halloween! 5 days after transfer, I started to pass some brownish stuff and immediately Googled it (as all good infertiles learn to do!). I was concerned, but everyone insisted it was probably implantation bleeding. I called my nurse to be sure. She said to rest with my feet up and have a nice cup of tea. That it could be……wait for it…..implantation bleeding. Well that was all I needed to hear from the good nurse, and I was buoyed in my hope. I spent the next couple days staring at the picture of our embryos and talking to my belly.
2 days later. Red blood. And I knew I was facing a negative. I called my nurse, who told me to increase my progesterone, keep going with my other meds and take it easy the next few days, and to go in for the beta on 27th. “It could be anything or nothing. Don’t worry.” I tried so hard not to, but now I was a paranoid mess. I went to the toilet every 10-15 minutes monitoring the blood. Was it darker? Lighter? More red? Less red? Heavier? I don’t know how much TP I wasted checking. That afternoon, about 2pm, I was passing full on bright red flow. I’d been doing HPTs since the day of brownish spotting and they’d all been negative. This kind of bleeding? I knew it was over.
And I spent 2 days in what can only be described as the most awful, vitriolic, acidic, soul-destroying grief I’ve experienced in a long time – if ever. I abused my husband verbally and emotionally. I cursed him, God, myself. I hated on everyone and everything. I said horrible things about people I liked and loved, and even worse things about people I didn’t like, or even know. I screamed and cried and ranted and raged and threw things. I couldn’t project hard enough to satisfy what I felt.
The third day, I woke up and even though I was still just gutted, and I simply couldn’t work out what I was going to do with my childless life, I felt………not peace…..acceptance? Defeat? Surrender? I have no idea, but I made it through the day without crying once, or being nasty and hateful. I was, I suppose, subdued.
On the 4th day, Australia Day, I started to reconsider the ideas and suggestions I’d rejected and abused Christian for, and started to put together a plan.
For donor eggs.
Because a long time ago, 2001 I’d heard of donor eggs, and around 2007 I started noticing the mention of it on the fertility message boards I’d began stalking, and then in roughly 2010, I had a thought that I’d very probably end up needing them. Something told me to embrace it. I think I always thought, certainly hoped, that medicine and science would save me, and that my Plan B would be just a precaution. I learned about it and researched it and even though I had a lot of issues with it, I knew I’d do it.
If it came down to it.
It’s come down to it.
I still have some issues with it. To be honest they are mostly about fears I have for the future, fears that my rational self says are just that, fears. Will I love my DE child as much as I’d love my genetic child? Will my child love me? Will I be as good a mom to them as I would have if I’d been able to create them with my eggs? Will my love for them be absolutely 100% unconditional? Or only 98%? If it’s 98%, what kind of mother, no, what kind of person, would that make me? What if when the kid is a teenager we get into an argument over something (and we will, because that’s how it works) and s/he says, “you’re not even my real mom!”? Will I cop it on the chin and ask “Well if I’m not, then who is? I don’t see anyone else around here who pushed you out.”. Or will I be so hurt that I say something even more horrible back, “Well, you’re not my REAL kid.” or “Well, you’re not the kid I wanted.” Basically Im afraid of rejection, and failure. I know it’s part of growing up, pushing those buttons and boundaries. When you’re a kid (and even sometimes an adult) the only thing you have to fight back with is words. Which are worse than knives. Knives can be pulled out, but words can stab for life. I don’t know if I’m more scared of scarring, or being stabbed.
However, I’m not scared enough to not do it. I’m not worried enough about anything big and scary to disuade me. Nothing about it bothers me enough to make me pause in my planning. Because there’s only one thing I’m more afraid of than being hurt, and that’s of not getting the opportunity to BE hurt. I’m more afraid of never being a mother than I am of having my mothers heart hurt.
So, there you go. That’s the story of how 2 people with hope in their hearts have come to need some donor eggs to create a very much longed for family. 🙂