The Balancing Act—When and How to Give Up On Your Own Eggs

By the time I decided that I wanted to be a Choice Mom, my odds of getting pregnant were already abysmal.  My doctor told me on Day 1, “I cannot ethically advise you to try IVF or other measures to get pregnant.  You should likely go straight to an egg donor.  But I cannot tell you what to do.  You need to do whatever you personally need to get closure.”

And she was right,  I just could not accept that I was infertile without trying to conceive with my own eggs.  I started out determined to do everything possible but quickly realized that there would be no limit to what might be possible to try.  With less than a 1% chance of getting pregnant, I had to be smart about what to try.  A better measure was feeling like I did the best I could. So, I gave it a really good effort after which I could put down the project and either walk away from having kids altogether or move onto the next most drastic option.

Even before I started trying to conceive, I could see that trying to get pregnant could stretch into years of hoping I’d beat the odds and convincing myself I should just try one more time.  I didn’t want to be 45 and giving birth.  But I also wanted to be realistic about my terrible odds by not letting my attempts to get pregnant drag on for several years.  I needed to satisfy the desire to see if I could beat the odds, but I balanced that by setting a time limit of about a year. 

Financially, I realized that the amount of money I’d be spending on trying to get pregnant would be minute in relation to the amount of money I would ultimately spend raising a child.  But, I did not want to run down the savings that I’d accrued in order to feel comfortable bringing a child into the world alone. I had to pick an amount of money that felt comfortable to me. I set a financial limit so that I wouldn’t throw too much money at a seemingly impossible task.  I asked myself what it was worth to me to try to get pregnant given the crazy odds.  How much was I willing to essentially throw away in the off chance I’d get pregnant. I picked a precise amount of money.  I did end up going over that amount by about $1000 but at least as I approached that budget I told myself I was nearing my limit and changed course soon after reaching my budget for using my own eggs.

Throughout all of my efforts, I never stopped planning for what felt like the worst-case scenario: egg donation or adoption. Initially, I felt that using an egg and a sperm donor would be akin to adopting a baby unrelated to me, not something I felt called to do. As a young child, I had always been fascinated with the question of nature vs nuture.  Rearing a child with my genes and watching how they were both similar and different to myself felt like part of the reason I wanted a child.

But throughout the year, I took time to warm up to the idea of not being able to conceive with my own eggs.  I’ve found that I make decisions best, when I gather research and then sit with the options and information.  Then I notice whether I am motivated to move forward and take action or gather more information or if I loose steam and interest. I didn’t completely bury my head in the sand and refuse to look at the options surrounding egg donation.  Instead, I started taking steps to gather information and see how I responded.

In order to let the idea of using an egg donor percolate, I did some research around the options for egg donation.  I started with my current reproductive clinic by getting information about the process and pricing for fresh and frozen eggs from their egg bank. I talked to a friend who had used an egg donor, met her daughter and watched them interact.  It was sweet and heart-warming and surprising how much her and her daughter resembled each other.  I read message boards about women who had used donor eggs and noticed that women who had used egg donors had no regrets and they often marveled at how much their children looked and acted like themselves. 

I also thought about what it would mean to carry a baby in utero. The baby would literally be bathing in my juices for a year—listening to my voice, tasting my food, experiencing my moods as my body’s various biochemicals traveled across the placenta.

At some point along the way, someone mentioned the concept of epigenetics-- the study of how variations in diet, stress and chemical exposure can affect which genes within a person’s genome actually express.  The implications for using an egg donor were enormous because it meant that if I carried a baby formed by completely unrelated egg and sperm, I would still has enormous influence over the “genetic” makeup of my child.

A year later, I was still not pregnant.  I had never even conceived. I eventually had to face that I was not going to get pregnant with my own eggs. 

That year was one of the hardest years of my life, fraught with constant hope and disappointment. Luckily, by the time I lost all hope of getting pregnant naturally using my own eggs, I was armed with tons of information about egg donation that helped me figure out how I felt about it emotionally. 

By the time I gave up on my own eggs, I was willing and actually even excited about using an egg donor. I felt very strongly about the importance of the time the baby would spend in utero. I realized that being pregnant, growing a child with my flesh and blood, giving birth and being able to breast feed were what I was seeking to feel linked to the child biologically.  And, once I decided to use an egg donor, I could change from saying to myself “if I get pregnant” to “when I get pregnant.” I’m not sure that this was actually the case now after meeting several women who have not suceeded in getting pregnant even with an egg donor.  But mentally it shifted for me.  And I believe that mental shift was a powerful component in getting pregnant. 

If you are faced with possibly needing to use an egg donor, I think there are many questions you can consider that might help you set appropriate limits, help you do whatever necessary to have closure, and make the choice of how to move forward.

1)   What are the doctors telling you about the odds of getting pregnant with your own eggs?  What do you need to do in order to have closure before moving onto egg donation or adoption or other options?

2)   What will it take to feel like you did your best? Do not frame as how can I do everything because it’s a never-ending money pit.

3)   How much money is reasonable to spend on trying to get pregnant with your own eggs?  Weigh the costs against how likely it is that you may get pregnant. If it's a complete long shot, set a finite amount of money, knowing that you will still need money to pay for an egg donor and raise the child.

4)   How much time can you devote to the effort to get pregnant?  How old are you and do you have any concerns about how old you will be when you give birth?  Or do you have other considerations about wanting to know the direction of your life sooner rather than later?

5)   What are you most attached to in wanting to use your own eggs? Ask yourself, what you think it means to use your own eggs?  Are you concerned about passing on your genes, your legacy, knowing the medical history etc? In many cases if you keep asking what that means, you will begin to see that most of the concerns are concepts that you don’t even really understand but yet you have a strong emotional attachment to the idea.  Keep asking yourself what these ideas mean and why they are important to you?  Keep peeling back the layers?  Can you deconstruct these tightly held emotional beliefs that when examined closely are often held together by vague notions?  

© Choice Mama Baby Project 2013