After three years of hormone treatments and hospital visits, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when we were told that we would need IVF to have a baby. But it was. I was my ideal weight, a non-smoker and virtually tee-total. My husband was a normal, healthy man. Infertility wasn’t meant to happen to us.
I spent the weeks building up to our first IVF appointment immersed in research. I discovered two crucial points – firstly, IVF was unlikely to work on the first attempt if at all. Secondly, it was going to cost around £6,500 per cycle. This was a blow – we were financially secure, but finding this kind of lump sum, possibly more than once, was going to be a stretch and would certainly leave us heavily in debt.
Two days before our appointment, I heard an item on the radio about egg donation. Listening to women talking about how a stranger had given them the chance to have a family was very moving, and I wanted to do that for someone. If we could help a couple whose circumstances were even worse than ours, having to go through IVF would be more bearable. We started to read about egg donation and decided to ask about it at our appointment.
The pros and cons were explained to us thoroughly. We had to get over 8 eggs to be able to donate. These would then be shared out equally between us and our recipient. If there was an odd number, we would get the extra one. An unanticipated bonus for us was that the cost of our treatment would be borne by our recipient. After counselling we were accepted as donors. I filled in a personal statement to be read by any children resulting from my donated eggs. Far harder to fill was the box where I could write a direct message. What to say to someone you have never met, who is and is not your child?
It was so exciting – we were finally getting a chance at having a baby, and as a wonderful extra, so was someone else. Within a week we were matched with a recipient and our treatment began. I was fastidious about every injection, and was delighted on egg collection day when we were told that we could expect about sixteen eggs. However, when I came round from the general anaesthetic, the consultant had bad news. I had ovulated overnight, losing almost all the eggs. There were just two left – not enough to share. The decision on whether to keep or donate them had to be made immediately, so within thirty minutes of my coming round from the anaesthetic we chose to give them away. Aside from the financial concern, I couldn’t offer to help someone and then disappoint them because of something that wasn’t their fault.
It was then up to our recipient whether they wanted to accept such a small quantity of eggs or let us use them. They chose to accept the donation. Their chances of having a baby with such a small number of eggs were very low so they must have been desperate – I kept imagining how devastated they must have felt when the hospital had phoned them to say that there were only two. The guilt was terrible. I felt as if I had failed them and didn’t deserve the free cycle we then had the following month. This cycle failed but we had two frozen embryos, which I was sure would result in a baby for us after all we had been through.
My instincts had proved right when we used these embryos and I fell pregnant. My husband was working away at the time, so I rang him at 5am. He picked up the phone on the first ring and was delighted when I told him that he was going to be a father. But at work I developed stomach pains and by the time I got home I was bleeding heavily. I had to phone my husband again, three hours after my joyous first phone call, to tell him that I had miscarried. The day felt like nature’s worst practical joke. As we tried to come to terms with this over the coming days, the one comfort was the thought that maybe our recipient had been successful and that someone was having a baby, even if it wasn’t me this time.
We agreed that our next cycle would be our last, and that if this failed we would move on to adoption. We decided to egg-share again, as we had both found helping another couple to be a great comfort when things hadn’t worked out for us. The wait to find a new recipient felt like forever, especially as the last match had happened so quickly. After four weeks we were matched and treatment went ahead. I was so worried about losing all the eggs again and analysed every twinge, thinking it was ovulation. The hospital changed my medication, and as an additional precaution did my egg collection early in the morning. I came round from the anaesthetic and immediately started sobbing, convinced that I had lost the eggs again. But this time we got thirteen eggs, seven for us and six for our recipient. The relief was enormous. I had two embryos transferred resulting in our lovely daughter, born on Valentine’s Day. We have since been informed that our first donation of just two eggs was successful, and that another baby girl was born a few months before our own.
In October we decided that we would like to have another baby, and went to the hospital to find out if we could donate eggs again. As our previous cycles have resulted in three pregnancies (ours, our recipients and the miscarriage) we can. We are currently waiting for a match, but we are looking forward to helping another couple get closer to becoming a family next year.