A Mother by Other Means: An Infertility Journey
For women who want nothing more than to bring a child into this world, one that carries their bloodline into the next generation, a diagnosis of infertility (being unable to get pregnant after at least twelve consecutive months of unprotected sex) or impaired fecundity (an impaired ability to conceive and carry a child to term) is devastating.
According to data from the CDC, around 8.2 million women in the US alone suffer from some form of infertility or impaired fecundity. Treatment options vary widely, ranging from hormonal treatments to traditional IVF.
For most, donor egg IVF is a last resort.
This is how donor egg IVF became the path my husband and I took to complete our family.
Fulfilling the role of mother
Women have an archetypal role as the nurturer, the mothers of the world.
We are painted in every facet of society as caretakers, and if we have children, motherhood becomes the primary aspect of our identity. It is so ingrained in our society that in some places, motherhood is synonymous with womanhood. Many of us spent our childhood eagerly anticipating the day when we could hold our son or daughter in our arms and begin a chapter of life that we have waited our whole lives to write.
In fact, before we began trying to conceive, I knew the type of mother I would be – kind, yet firm; loving, but not coddling. Following in my own mother’s footsteps, I would be fair in discipline, listen intently, and encourage my children to follow their dreams… while also ensuring they learn proper limits and consequences for their actions.
I had the perfect vision.
How could I know my journey would be so different?
Looking on the brighter side
We often tell ourselves, “If we can’t have children of our own, it’ll be okay. We’ll just adopt.” But that naïve optimism usually lasts until that fateful appointment when, after what seems like forever trying to conceive, our doctors deliver that soul-crushing reality.
We can’t have children without the help of fertility services.
Once the initial heartbreak subsides, we begin to explore treatment options, because we still cling to the hope that we will be able to have a miracle baby, that the next treatment, the next IVF cycle, the next embryo implantation, it’s going to work.
It has to work.
We were meant to be mothers.
For my husband and I, this amounted to nine failed attempts to conceive through IVF and embryo transfers.
Nine courses of hormones and nine negative pregnancy tests.
It became clear that we were not going to be able to conceive and I would not give birth to a child with my family genes. There were still paths we could take to have a child, to have a family. But that child would be both ours and not ours.
It hurt, more than many can even imagine.
I grieved for the family that I always wanted, the family I would never have. My husband grieved as well, and we prayed. We knew that we would be able to love our children, regardless of how we were blessed to have them, but our family would never be what we had envisioned, what we had expected, when we married.
Our emotions were deep and took time to process– time I recommend that anyone in the same position take. Pray for guidance and be honest with one another about how you feel.
Don’t bottle up those fears and that sadness, or it will eat you alive.
Answering our prayers
We prayed, each time we underwent a cycle of IVF or an embryo transfer, that God would grant us the child we so desperately wanted. And while we did not conceive, our prayers were answered in the form of an adoption opportunity.
We were able to adopt our beautiful son. He was a blessing from above, but we knew in our hearts that God meant for us to have more than one child. We had so much love to give, and we wanted our family to grow.
Embracing donor egg IVF
When we tried to adopt a second child and failed, our hearts were broken yet again, but we were determined to have the family we knew we were meant to have, and began to consider donor egg IVF.
I was worried about the process, and I feared that we would, once again, be unsuccessful.
After praying over the decision, my husband and I knew it was the right one. The process was much simpler than I expected, and any lingering doubts about how a connection could be formed with my child disappeared when I saw that positive result and heard their heartbeats.
Twins, the doctor told us.
We were having twins.
Celebrating our success
All of the grief, the sadness, the anger, the fear, they were left behind in the wake of the joy and exhilaration of feeling their flutters and kicks.
I was pregnant!
We were pregnant!
When our beautiful babies came into the world, our family was whole. We spent so long trying so hard to bring one child of our own into the world, and we had finally been blessed with not one, not two, but three children that were unequivocally, irreplaceably, ours.
Genetics are not the only thing that make a family a family.
Love is what matters most.
The perfect vision I had of myself as a mother before donor egg IVF, and the reality that came afterwards, does differ slightly in execution. However, my motivation to provide a nurturing, consistent, and balanced home life for my children never changed – and that’s exactly what they receive.
To those women who are living with infertility and fear the looming possibility that a biological child is not in your future, please, do not lose hope.
Don’t you owe it to yourself to explore all your options?
With the guidance of your health care provider, egg banking services, and other infertility resources such as support groups, you don’t have to go through the process on your own. They will help you navigate this gut-wrenching decision and find your happy ending!
Monitoring What Your Child Eats
Your child’s likes and dislikes will change regularly and while they may despise mashed parsnip now it may be their all-time favourite in three or six months. Keep a basic record of the foods that you’ve tried and how well they were received. If something is refused, try it again in a few weeks or months. Monitoring what your little one has eaten and when could also be helpful in identifying any intolerances your child might have or develop. If you have any concerns about intolerance or allergies, please see your health visitor or GP.
Heidi Hayes is the CEO of Donor Egg Bank USA. She has more than 20 years of healthcare experience and has worked extensively in the field of reproductive endocrinology. Having been unsuccessful at traditional IUI and IVF treatments, Heidi personally understands the struggles of infertility. After many years of trying to conceive, she ultimately built her family through adoption and donor egg treatment. She always believed that if she didn't give up, her ultimate goal of becoming a parent would someday become a reality.