what it’s like to: use an egg donor.

As we continue on our What’s It’s Like series, I am honored to introduce you to my friend Elena today as she opens up and shares her experience with using an egg donor. Elena and I connected on social media ages ago and since then, have been thrilled to cheer one another on through many ups and downs, ultimately celebrating the families we now have. I am excited and thankful for Elena’s willingness to share her story with us today!

Without further ado, here’s what it’s like to use an egg donor!

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The short answer for what it’s like to use an egg donor, simply put is, it’s incredible.  But let me rewind a bit and give you a little backstory about our journey and explain why that word describes what egg donation has been like for us.

I was introduced to the word “Infertility” in 2013.  I had of course heard it before, and it had even crossed my mind for the 2 years prior as my husband and I were trying to have a child since 2011 with no luck.  It was word I never knew would have such an impact on my adult life.  A word I never used in my vocabulary before we started TTC [trying to conceive].  A word; a diagnosis, which changed my life forever in ways I never thought possible, even to this day as we continue to build our family.  It brought pain, sadness, jealousy, anger and stress into my life and my marriage.  It robbed me of something that I envied women for, the ability to get pregnant naturally.  It stopped me from being able to advance my career for insurance reasons, it impacted relationships with friends, it cost me time and money—I, like most people, related that word most often to something negative.

But there is one thing that infertility brought into my life that truly outshines all of the negativism associated with it, one thing I never really expected to find, but found in absolute abundance and that is a wonderful community.  Because of this community, a connection was made in my life that at the time, I did not know would turn out to be one of the most valuable relationships I have in my life today.  When this connection first presented itself to me Joe and I were already veterans when it came to fertility treatments.  Not only did we try for 2 years naturally before moving forward with assisted reproduction in late October 2013 we had already been through 2 failed IUI’s, [(one ending in miscarriage), we were in the midst of our 3rd failed fresh, and 3 failed frozen cycles of IVF, and we were at crossroads.  We needed to either stop what we were doing, or try something else.

One day in late December 2015 I got a message on Facebook from a girl named Amy who had been following my story for a while.  She had gone through a few minor fertility treatments herself and was part of our community where she found me.  We had been friends on Instagram and Facebook for several months before she finally reached out to me.  She offered up herself as a surrogate.  I couldn’t believe this total stranger was offering up such a beautiful gift, however we were really hoping to try egg donation so that I could carry the pregnancy myself.  Amy did not hesitate for a second and instantly said she would gladly gift her eggs to us to help us build our family. 

I was in such shock and awe at this gift being offered to us by someone I had never met.  I told Joe and he was equally impressed with her generosity.  Neither of us were ready to give up on having a family and Joe was ready to do whatever I felt was right for us to move forward.  After so much heartache, after seeing 9 embryos be transferred and not one ever successfully stick, after all the time and energy we put into our journey so far, I knew that egg donation was the right path for us.  In March of 2016 we flew from Illinois to Georgia to meet Amy and her family and meet our RE.  We instantly connected with her, her husband Allen, and her two children Stella and Max.  By June we began our cycle and Amy provided us with 10 perfect eggs to be fertilized.  We found out the next day that 8 had fertilized and by transfer day on June 16th, we had 1 perfect 4AA [a highly graded embryo] to transfer and 5 more to be frozen.  I found out I was pregnant and on February 22nd 2017 we welcomed our sweet Georgia June into the world.

Using a donor, whether it be an egg or sperm donor, or even a donated embryo is a very unique situation.  There are anonymous programs, there are open programs, shared programs, there are many instances when friends and family will donate, and there are other infertile couples who have more embryos than they know what to do with so they donate them to other couples, there really is no defined relationship that comes with donation.  I can only speak for our situation using a known donor and I think both Joe and I and our donor can gladly say we really appreciate the open aspect of our relationship.

One question I get asked a lot & one thing that is discussed often in the world of donors is when you tell a child, if ever.  The general consensus around this topic is, yes, you absolutely tell your child and you begin to do so at a young age so that it becomes second nature to them.  What I love about our open donor relationship is the ability for Georgia to really know her roots and her history, to know that she has biological half siblings and a mother that she can one day meet.   The process for everyone will differ slightly depending on what route you choose to go.  With donated eggs we did not have to pay our donor anything for her pain & suffering (as it’s often referred to), but there can be costs in the upwards of $5-$10,000 just for the donor to put in their pocket.  We did pay out of pocket for her monitoring appointments, retrieval, and all medications.  We were very lucky to have all of our donors medications donated to us by the amazing people in this community along with some donated from our local clinic where I did my monitoring.  We also had to pay a lawyer $700 to draw up our donor agreement and file it.  I used one I had found who specializes in reproductive law from Marietta, Georgia.  We did everything via email and the process was very easy.  We had to provide this information to our clinic as proof that we had a legal contract in place before our cycle started.

A couple other big questions I get often are do I feel a connection to my baby, and did I feel it during pregnancy?  If you don’t have a child yet, this one is hard to understand because once your earth side baby and you finally meet, you will realize that your love for them far exceeds any kind of love you have ever experienced before, a kind of love you didn’t really know existed.  When it comes to pregnancy, I think it might be like this even with people who carry their own biological child, it sometimes takes time to feel a connection with a baby that’s still growing inside of you, you’ve never met them, you know that you love them unconditionally, but you may have some uncertainties about how you will feel once you become a parent.  Everyone’s experience is different.

And lastly, how did we know it was time to move forward with egg donation?  After all we had been through, I  just knew it was time to close the door on my eggs.  I was already beginning the process of accepting that I would more than likely never have a biological child of my own in the midst of our two week wait of our last cycle.  I listened to my intuition and followed my heart and it was the best decision we could have made for ourselves because it gave us our baby.  Family is not defined by DNA and biology, it’s defined by love and I knew that we would have more love for our baby than we could ever imagine.  For us, using an egg donor was simple, it was what made sense and our decision was solidified once we had our baby in our arms.  I will never regret or have any reservations about using an egg donor.  Doing so brought us the greatest joy we have ever known and I think I can speak for the many couples who have also used a donor to conceive their child, it was the best decision we made on our years-long journey.

If you are struggling with thoughts about using a donor of any kind, please feel free to contact me at babyridleybump@gmail.com I would be more than happy to answer any questions that you might have.

Elena is a small-town Illinois girl with a passion for writing.  Elena and her husband Joe have been married since 2011.  She began blogging in 2012, and what began as a place to document her pregnancy quickly evolved into a space where she openly shared a raw narrative about her struggles with infertility.  After 5 years of both natural and assisted attempts at reproduction, Elena and Joe welcomed their daughter Georgia into the world in February 2017. 

Connect with Elena more, and follow her along on her journey at her blog Baby Ridley Bump and on Instagram at @lenaridley. 

PS – Don’t miss a thing with this series! Follow along on Facebook and Instagram to catch each of the upcoming stories! I absolutely LOVE connecting with each of you!