Eggs

16 Oct

A few years back, while I was pregnant with Logan, I thought a bit about how thankful I was that we were able to get pregnant. Then I thought about people who may not have it so easy. I thought about the people in my life that are in same-sex relationships, if they wanted to have families it would be harder. I pondered being a surrogate. I enjoyed being pregnant, I got wildly ill, but once that passed I loved the feeling of that life inside me. I loved having that ability, I still love it. I mulled over doing that for someone else.

When Logan was born, when I held him. When I watched him. When I felt him close to me and sensed his connection with me, the one he came from. I realized that a baby I carry is not one I could easily let go of. To feel them grow within me, and then to say goodbye, was too hard a thought to bear. Those women who can do it amaze me.

While we were trying to get pregnant the second time, it wasn’t easy. It took months. I hated my body. I was so mad at myself for not being able to do what was supposed to be natural, basic, my purpose. Looking back, reliving that anger, I thought again about helping someone else through something like that.

This past summer I started looking into what I could do, how I might contribute. I felt confident that carrying a baby for someone else was more than I could handle. It felt exciting and like something I could do in the beginning. I feared that once I was in it though I would want out. And that’s not something that seemed wise to take on feeling the way I do.

The other option is egg donation. I looked it up. What I came across was the common concern people seem to have. That women feel some connection to the offspring created from their egg. They share DNA, and for some that means family, in the emotional sense. For me, that means we share DNA, I share DNA with people I have never met. Some people go so far as to say to give your eggs to someone else is to give them your child. I don’t see that, I certainly don’t feel that. My children are the ones I’m raising, the ones I watch as they sleep, the ones I hold when they’re sad or sick, the ones I clean up after day after day. I don’t think their genetic make-up has anything to do with my love for them. If I believed that a genetic connection automatically meant an emotional connection I would have an even harder time rectifying my absent father.

I decided. I sought out a service that connected women wanting to donate or be surrogates with intended parents. I filled out the profile and submitted it. I got an e-mail saying my profile had been posted to this site. When I looked at other available donors on the list it seemed some had been registered there for some time, but were not currently in the process of donating eggs. I expected to wait indefinitely, perhaps never have my name picked. My profile was posted to the site on July 1st, on July 2nd I got an e-mail asking if I was willing to be a donor for a man who had selected my profile. My heart raced, I had already made the decision, I was ready but I really didn’t expect it so fast. Yes, I said yes. I wasn’t totally sure what it meant right away though.

When you look online for what it’s like to be a donor you come across varying accounts, I didn’t know the exact process. I didn’t want to assume that sites that told me it would be a certain way were correct. I wanted to know from the people I would be going through the process with. First step was a forty-some page package I needed to fill out before my screening appointment. Health history, intentions behind wanting to be a donor, genetic and family history. A lot of question, I had to call my Mom, and I had to call my Dad. The forms clearly said that if for any reason I would not be able to acquire the necessary information I should not pursue being an egg donor. The thought that my genetic father having left would affect my ability to help someone else was simply unacceptable, so I looked him up. I asked my questions and he answered them. It was quite civil, I could have been a telemarketer.

Next up an assessment by a psychologist, to make sure I was doing it for appropriate reasons. And that I wasn’t going to try to claim any children as my own in the future, I assume.

Then came the screening appointment, it was near the end of August. I still didn’t know if I was even acceptable as a donor. The tests involved blood work, internal and external ultrasounds and a physical. I had an IUS, something that would need to be removed if we were going to proceed. I had read a lot online about the removal, particularly in cases like mine where the strings that were meant to be used for removal had ‘migrated’. It was going to hurt, more than it had when I had it put in. I was scared, I wanted them to give me something so I wouldn’t feel it, the nurse brought me Advil, thanks. I told the doctor I was scared, he asked me what I do for a living. I’m a Mom. “Well, I couldn’t do that”, he said, “but this is what I do.” Okay, I laid back with my arms over my face, barely breathing and bracing for the pain. The nursed nudged me, it was over. Oh! Fear left me as I realized I hadn’t felt it. This doctor knows what he’s doing.

During the physical the doctor informed me that breastfeeding could not take place during this process, if I wanted to proceed I would need to wean Bella. I was a bit hesitant, she had been two for a couple of months. She was only nursing at night or if she wasn’t well. I knew it wouldn’t be fun to say no, it hurt my heart to make her cry. It was her special connection to her Mommy, only we shared those times. It took four days or so, she would go to bed with water in a sippy cup. We tried a bottle and she didn’t have a clue how to use it, I hadn’t thought about it. She had never used one before, it was a foreign concept for her. We got through it, I hope I haven’t done some unseen damage to her by stopping before she was ready. It was never my intention, I had defended her right to continue as long as she wanted. Then I waffled, I convinced myself it was for a good reason and that she had nursed longer than her brother and he is perfect. It still saddens me a bit, I could encourage her to start again but she has stopped asking so I’m going to let it lie.

The ultrasound showed a cyst, they’re not uncommon. The doctor told me he’d like to drain it, right away. I was terrified, it involved needles, and not in my arm. He said I could come back another time if I wasn’t prepared to do it that day. I knew if I left knowing I had to come back for it I wouldn’t sleep, I would go through every minute fearing what was to come. We did it, right away. Scott joined me in the procedure room, I watched on the ultra sound monitor as the mass slowly disappeared. I shook and cried in the recovery area. I didn’t know that was there, something was growing inside my body that i didn’t know about. That had become a substantial size and could have ruptured or twisted at any time. I could feel the empty space in my abdomen where it used to be. How had I not known it was there?

Over four hours later we were about ready to leave and the doctor informed me that he saw no reason why we couldn’t proceed. He sent me home with birth control pills to start in order to sync my cycle with the surrogates. We would start the IVF cycle in September assuming all the tests came back good.

I e-mailed the nurses. When would we know? The tests were good, we could move on.

I met with a lawyer, we had to discuss what I was committing to and what my responsibilities were. Also what the responsibilities of the intended father were. What would constitute a breach of our contract and what it would mean for us if either of us chose to back out. I wasn’t backing out, I wanted to do it. I was ready and excited.

The thought that in a few weeks I may have helped in the creation of an embryo  for someone who otherwise would not be having a child was exciting. It felt really good to think I could do that for someone.

Next up was my first appointment with the IVF medications, Scott drove me to the clinic in Toronto and the nurse showed me how to mix the medication, prep the needles and inject myself. I did the first two injections with her to ensure I was doing it right. I would do these two injections every morning for five days then come back to the clinic for a third. Four days after that I would do a final injection to prep the eggs for retrieval then they would put me to sleep and remove the eggs.

The first time I went to do the injections myself I was nervous. It was a Saturday morning, Scott was at work. The kids were eating breakfast. I had to do the injection at the same time every day. I had done it at the clinic at eight the day before, so there I was eight in the morning mixing the medication.

There were two needles, one in a pen, all I had to do was dial the dose then stick it in my tunny and depress the end until the full dose was in. Not too scary, and if I didn’t look I could barely feel the needle itself. The medication burned a little though. The second needle was a syringe. I had to mix the powder medication with a diluting solution then put the needle on the syringe and inject, again into the abdomen. This one was bigger. That Saturday morning I concluded I would prefer to get the worst one out of the way first, so I prepped the syringe. As I reached the end and the plunger was all the way down I got hot, and dizzy, and nauseous, and heavy. “Mommy has to lay down”, I mumbled as I slid to the floor. I was sweating and this black haze was surrounding my vision. I sat there, staring at the fridge trying to breathe and stay awake. This must be what people feel right before they faint. I can’t, the kids are here, there are needles on the counter, no one would know that I was unconscious. I stood up, I still had the second needle, the pen. I could handle that, no measuring required. Just get it over with then I can lay down. On day two Scott was home, I talked to him while the medicine went in. The other three days of those two needles I would call Scott in the morning and have him tell me a story while I injected myself. I needed the distraction, I also needed to know that if I did pass out he would know and be able to come home, or send help.

Side effects of my medication, most common ones anyway, headache, fatigue and irritability. Check, check and check. What I didn’t really expect was the feeling of my ovaries. As in I could feel them, I knew where they were. I asked the doctor, yes he said, the medication is causing your body to prepare multiple eggs, you normally only produce one per cycle. Your ovaries are swollen and will likely be heavy feeling. Cool.

It was a Tuesday. I was at home. My phone rang. The nurse asked if I was available to talk to the doctor. My breathing picked up, why is a doctor calling me at home, I had an appointment the next day, it seemed odd. They had told me when they drained the cyst that they could send away a sample for testing. I walked into a different room with the phone against my ear. Fear building in my stomach, the doctor came on the line. The tests that they had sent away that day had come back, unfortunately there was a problem. Breathing halted. The doctor has an accent and the first thing I heard clearly was “cystic” my mind went immediately to that cyst, the fact that it hadn’t been my first and what the tests may have revealed. I was wrong, it wasn’t anything to do with the cyst. They had found that I am a carrier for cystic fibrosis, he informed me that I should have my husband and children tested.

I didn’t understand what I had been told. I didn’t know what it meant, I’m a carrier. I should have my family tested. I went immediately into emotional denial and looked it up online. I learned pretty quickly that being a carrier means that I do not have cystic fibrosis but that I have half of the needed information to cause it. It’s hereditary and if Scott was the same kind of carrier that I was than there was a chance our kids could have the disease. I saw that 1 in 29 Caucasians are carriers, but that there is more than one variation of the mutation and that it takes two of the same kind to cause the condition in offspring. I could not find anything that told me at what age I would know for sure my kids were or were not affected.

The doctor hadn’t been able to get ahold of the intended father yet but we would proceed as planned for now until there was a decision from him. He may choose to proceed as usual and freeze the eggs until he was tested and ruled out that we may be the same kind of carrier, he may choose to pause until testing was done and possibly resume later or he may cancel all together.

I went to Toronto the next morning as planned. Had an ultrasound and sat down with a nurse to discuss the next medication and when I would be coming in next. She informed me they would need me in for one more day than I had planned, I was trying to figure out how I would work that out. The kids couldn’t come to this clinic and Scott had been driving me but he couldn’t take another day off work. The nurse went to talk to the doctor about it while I tried to figure it out, he came into the room while telling the nurse he would explain it to me. I was waiting for the you have to come here when we say and that’s all there is to it speech. That’s not what I got.

He sat down and sighed. They had talked to the intended father. He was weary of going forward knowing I was a carrier for CF. The doctor explained that at that point the plan was to give him a bit more time to decide, I would go home with my new medication and await instructions as to whether to proceed or not. I asked then if there was a way to know if my kids had cystic fibrosis, he asked me how old they are. “There are too many variables” he couldn’t say. I stood at the elevators waiting, fighting back the lump in my throat willing me to cry. Just get to the car, you can cry for the ride home.

My head was spinning, had all of this been for nothing? Were my kids sick? I read the night before that people with CF don’t usually live past 35. What if we wanted more kids? Would we take the risk again knowing that I’m a carrier? What if they decided to pause then start again, would I have to start the IVF all over again? It had been harder than I expected. As we reached the car I was trying to push the pain out of my head when my phone rang, it was a nurse from the clinic, “Where are you? Can you come back up?”

Back up the elevator and to the waiting room, the nurse called me after a bit, “The doctor will see you now.” He had just gotten off the phone with the intended father. They decided to stop for now, to wait for more tests. I had to go back down to the car and bring up the medications they had given me, there was no sense in holding onto them not knowing when, if at all, I would be using them again. Down the elevator again, don’t cry, just go home.

I got an e-mail later that night from the woman who runs the service that had connected me to the intended father. She was saying how upset she was with the way they were handling the situation, and said she didn’t think being a carrier for CF was a reason to terminate the process. What? A decision had been made? News to me. When I called her she wasn’t sure, it wasn’t until the next day when his lawyer informed my lawyer that I had been released from the contract, he didn’t want to proceed.

Ouch.

It hurt, more than I would have preferred. So much had happened. I was so excited. It was over. I was back in a place of being disappointed in my own body, how had I not known? Mad at the clinic for letting us proceed without having all the tests results back, it took four weeks for the genetic tests to come back but they had proceeded without them. I was also a bit confused, in some ways I was relieved. The IVF had made me feel not great, I had already decided it wasn’t something I would do again. And I had been nervous about being put to sleep for the retrieval, I’ve never been put under before. What if I didn’t wake up?

The woman who runs the service explained that it would be difficult to find intended parents willing to pair with me now that we knew I was a carrier. She asked if I was interested in being a surrogate. I closed my eyes. I thought about it, again.

No, I said no.

Sure I like being pregnant, and I would LOVE to be able to do that for someone else. But I wouldn’t be well, I wouldn’t be able to be there for my kids in the same way. I would have to have another c-section. I’d be out of commission for a while. There were more risks, risks I’m not willing to take when I have children of my own who need me. If I didn’t have kids, if they were grown up, I could probably do it. But not now. And I’m sorry, I wish I could.

Looking back the experience was not entirely negative. I met some very lovely people, I got rid of a big, scary cyst, and I learned about the CF trait that I carry. Something I would never have known otherwise. We are in the process of getting the kids to a genetic counsellor, it takes months.

If you’re interested in being a donor, I would recommend it. Being able to help someone like that is a wonderful feeling, I would guess, it was for me as I got close to it. Go here to learn more or start the process. You’ll meet Sally, and you’ll like her, I did. She answered all my questions and tolerated me excessive e-mailing, and was genuinely kind and helpful and every step.

 

 

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