As I’m writing this, our donor-egg IVF Miracle Baby (MB) has just turned 1 year old(!). I had big plans to continue posting regularly once MB arrived, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans…
Daycare closures aside, we’re feeling pretty lucky that we haven’t been strongly affected by the coronavirus. The main thing that has impacted us are the travel restrictions, as we had various friends and family from the US booked to visit our long-awaited MB. In particular, our good friend and egg donor, Marie, had tickets to fly over in March with her husband and kids. Living so far away, Marie has yet to meet MB (except over zoom), and unfortunately, with EU borders still shut to non-essential US travelers, it looks like that will remain the case for some time. (Go home 2020 — you’re drunk).
When I thought that Marie was coming in person, I had solicited questions from you all (via Instagram) to ask her about her experience as a (known) egg donor. Since we no longer know when she’ll be able to come, I decided to ‘interview’ her virtually instead. At this point, I’d like to give a big thank you to Marie, who not only gave us the gift of life, but who apparently now also has to put up with me peppering her with questions.
Before we dive in, there are a few things I want to make clear. Firstly, Marie didn’t get paid to donate her eggs to us. You’re actually not even allowed to pay egg donors here, so Marie did it purely out of the goodness of her heart (though I was happy to learn that she also enjoyed other perks of the experience, as you’ll read below). Secondly, Marie mentions researching surrogacy, but please note that she never followed through with this, so the opinions voiced are purely speculative. Finally, since Marie hasn’t met MB in person yet, I’ll focus on the questions about the beginning of the process (namely, why Marie volunteered to donate and what those around her thought). I think you’ll find her perspective quite interesting, so let’s get to it.
Allie: Ok, there are tons of questions that people wanted me to ask you as an egg donor, so let’s just start at the beginning. Donating your eggs is a big deal, both physically and emotionally…What made you want to donate?
Marie: I think I told you this before, but right after I had [baby #2], I was actually researching being a surrogate. I had such easy, uncomplicated pregnancies that I thought it would be an easy thing to do. I specifically thought it would be a no-brainer for those close to me (should the need arise) because I had such an easy time with my pregnancies. In the end, I didn’t pursue it. Then [2.5 years later], we knew you guys were struggling to get pregnant, but we didn’t know the details, and I remember that I sent you a message asking how it was going. You said that your only option left was egg donation, and at the time, I didn’t even know that was a thing! I showed your message to [my husband], and said “Should I offer?” And he was like “Sure, if you want to!” It was decided in like 10 seconds.* Because I had already been considering surrogacy, it seemed almost like a step down. It seemed less physically and emotionally taxing. Pregnancy is such an emotional process, and you get so attached to the baby after growing it and giving birth, that I actually think I would have had a harder time with surrogacy than egg donation. With egg donation, I know it’s my genetics, but it actually seemed physically and emotionally easier than what I’d already been considering.
Allie: I could definitely see that. Do you think that if you had known egg donation was a thing earlier, you would have ever considered donating to an egg bank?
Marie: I probably wouldn’t have donated to an egg bank, no. I don’t know that I would have seriously researched surrogacy for an anonymous person either, just because of the invasiveness of the procedure. I was much more willing to go through with egg donation knowing there was a personal connection. Especially because I wasn’t doing it for money. Maybe that sounds creepy to bring up money, but I think that’s probably why a lot of people do it (at least in the US). Like, for example, I found out once we started the process that my OB-GYN had donated her eggs to put herself through medical school (and then later she ended up needing IVF and had twins!)
In our case, you could see me go through the donation process, so we were really going through it together. Like whenever I’d get a test done, I’d call you right afterwards with the results, and it made it more exciting, if you know what I mean. It made it more special.
Allie: Totally — for me too obviously! Related question: If you wouldn’t have donated anonymously, would you have considered donating to someone you didn’t know already as an ‘identifiable’ donor?
Marie: Maybe? I guess if I was able to facebook-stalk them and sort of get a feel for them, then maybe I would have considered it? In our case, since it’s technically my genetics, I liked knowing that you would be good parents and that they would have a supportive grandparent system. Knowing the kid would be raised by a happy, healthy family made it easier. So I guess if I could get that feeling from someone new, I would have maybe considered it. I’d also want to know to keep track. You know how you hear those stories about guys who were sperm donors and discover years later that their sperm has been used for like 40 kids? Well I would want to know where all of my eggs went!
Allie: Yeah, I think that’s a very reasonable answer! Ok next question: What does [your husband] think about it?
Marie: He was sad he couldn’t be involved too! He was super excited. But it’s also because he has such a strong connection to you guys.**
Allie: Ahhhhhh, that’s so nice. I do remember him telling the clinic’s psychologist that he would donate eggs if he had them – HA! What about your extended family, to the extent that they know about it?
Marie: They were all really supportive. Initially my parents were just concerned for me that I would be attached. My dad was particularly concerned that if you were to have a difficult pregnancy, to the point where you lost the baby, or died yourself, how would that affect me knowing that I contributed to that.
Allie: Oh wow, that’s so interesting — I never even considered that angle!
Marie: Yeah, they were concerned that if something were to go wrong, would I be able to handle that. My mom was also concerned for my health going through the egg donation treatment — how I’d react to the IVF drugs and procedure. But she also said she thought it was such a selfless thing to do, and that I was being a wonderful friend.
Allie: You were! And thank goodness that nothing happened to me or the baby, but for the record, if anything had happened, we obviously would never have blamed you. (I really hope you already knew that!) Just one last question for today then: Looking back on it now, how do you feel about your donation experience?
Marie: I still feel great about it, I’m so happy it was successful. It was the best summer, getting to say that we “lived in Amsterdam” for a part of the summer is fun. It was a great experience for the kids too (the traveling part of it and experiencing another culture). I think being able to go through something like this and make a big vacation around it is part of what made it so fun. Also being with you guys as I was going through it, as opposed to doing it alone, sending the eggs on their way, and not having much follow-up, made it more meaningful. The women who do it that way are more selfless than I am 😉
I’ll leave it at this for the sake of brevity, and I’ll close by saying that I know there are many DEIVF mamas out there who used an anonymous donor and who (based on the questions you submitted) are looking for some insight into the type of person who would donate their eggs. While Marie can’t speak for other (anonymous) egg donors, I personally find her practical and drama-free attitude*** about the whole situation enlightening. In her words: “It may be my genetics, but it’s not my kid.” That chubby-thighed baby is all mine!
* Although Marie decided to offer almost instantly, we continued to discuss the possibility in the coming weeks/months, and I made sure to give her lots of outs during that time. Luckily for us, she never took one.
** My husband and I were roommates with Marie’s husband during grad school and actually introduced them. (Karma, right?)
*** I’m far less practical, as well as being highly sensitive and — frankly — a bit emo at times. I guess it’s a good thing that nobody ever needed me as an egg donor (for multiple reasons) 😉