Egg Donor Cycle—Originally Deemed a Failure Results in Twins
Remember my earlier post where I told you that the road to figuring out how my husband and I would ultimately build our family was long and winding? Our decision to move forward with egg donation was complex, to say the least. I really had no desire to pursue it and was focused on adoption. My husband, on the other hand, had doubled down and believed with all of his being that this would be our winning hand. Neither of us could have predicted how prophetic his metaphoric belief was to be. Ultimately, we decided to pursue adoption and egg donation to increase our chances of having a family. I happily agreed to project manage the adoption process and my husband, Brian, took on the egg donor endeavor.
Coincidentally, we connected with our adopted son’s birth mother just a few days after we signed the contract with our egg donor. We decided to put the egg donor process on hold until our son was born. Our donor decided to work with another family in the meantime. After having been through a cycle, she was only willing to commit to working with us up until a certain date. We literally waited until the last possible second of her commitment window. Our oldest was just 3 months old when we moved forward with the egg donor process.
Once our egg donor started her cycle, I was very clear about the level of involvement I wished to have. Bottom line, I really just wanted my husband to mark the dates on my calendar when I was due to be seen by my doctor. I did help choose our unknown donor and was present for the visits with our attorney to finalize the contract, however. Beyond that, I wanted as little to do with the process as was possible.
You may view my stance as being detached and cold. The losses that we suffered beforehand were so devastating to me that I had built a protective wall around my heart and had grown callused to the idea of carrying any future pregnancies. I never miscarried on my own; once we learned that our unborn children had been lost in utero, I carried them around waiting for the inevitable to happen but it just never did. During those days of waiting, I would go into my doctor’s office for status checks and every single time I would think, “Maybe they will see a heartbeat and realize that the baby is still alive.” It was torturous. In my last miscarriage, I came down with an infection and my doctor was forced to do an emergency D&C in the hospital. I was admitted overnight and was put on an antibiotic drip. I left with enormous horse pills that I had to take every 4 hours for 10 days. I would set my alarm clock to wake at 1 AM and 5 AM to gulp down my meds, gag from the nasty taste they left in my mouth and then cry myself to sleep.
I predicted that any future pregnancies would end in heartbreak and I had no desire to put myself through that again. Growing close and loving a little being whom I would never get to smell, hold, feed and care for didn't appeal to me whatsoever.
Going back to the phone call with our doctor, my original reaction was not one of concern or despair; I was actually aggravated and confused. I had instructed my doctor’s office to plainly write on any/all of my records that “ALL COMMUNICATION MUST GO THROUGH THE HUSBAND!”
I responded to my doctor's question by confirming that he was speaking to his intended patient. Then I firmly asserted that all communication was supposed to go through my husband as was indicated on my chart. He explained that he had other procedures to get through that morning and that Brian should contact his office with additional questions.
As I was standing next to my boss, whom I liked very much but had no intention whatsoever of disclosing that I was trying to get pregnant through an unknown egg donor, I excused myself so that I could call Brian with the news. Not surprisingly, he had a lot of questions. Frankly, I was totally annoyed that I had to be the one to address them. I undoubtedly instructed him to call our doctor’s office to get the answers that he needed and deserved.
Again, I realize that my behavior seems icy especially since Brian had suffered through the same painful losses as I. To be blunt, I was resentful towards my husband, about this particular issue, because I felt I had done my part and had been pushed to my emotional brink. I was angry because I felt that he was putting his own selfish desires ahead of my pain. I had sacrificed a great deal and I didn't think he fully appreciated the hell that I had been through emotionally and physically. Suffice to say, I wasn’t willing to participate in the minute details that were required in quarterbacking an egg donor cycle. My feeling was that if he was committed to carrying out this egg donor ‘thing’ he was going to have to have skin in the game too. I wasn’t amenable to letting him get off (pardon the pun) by delivering his man-sample to our doc's office and then transferring all of the other responsibilities over to me. NO, I was not. I was willing to show up for the necessary doctor’s visits but beyond that, he was going to take ownership of this undertaking.
When I arrived home and got out of the car and was walking into take care of our new, beautiful baby, I felt an enormous weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I recall thinking, “Ok, now we're done with all of this baby making business.” The earlier phone call had put to rest my relentless wondering and worrying. A newfound sense of freedom had come over me and it allowed me to start looking forward to our life with our baby boy. Quite simply, the finality enabled me to start breathing again.
The next morning the phone rang. I had just gotten out of the shower and was drying off. I picked up the phone with no expectation as to who would be on the other end again. It was the nurse from our doctor’s office. She stated that the donor egg had indeed fertilized and that I was to come in for the transfer the day after next. All I said was, “Ok.” I was puzzled by this notification because I remembered Dr. K. saying that ‘it’ had failed. I never anticipated getting a call from his office or that there would be any next steps. Well, so much for breathing!
I yelled downstairs to Brian and said, “It fertilized. We need to go in on Monday.” Understandably, he had a lot more questions and was just as baffled as I. Our exact conversation is a bit fuzzy but I am 100% certain that it ended with me snip-snapping, “Call the doctor!”
We went in that Monday and Brian couldn’t help but be a little excited. I was living up to my end of the bargain by undergoing the transfer procedure. We were given a card with a photo of our embryo on it. I recall wondering what I was supposed to do with the card when no pregnancy came of the transfer. It felt wrong to throw away a card with a perfectly nice picture of an embryo.
Anyway, Brian was allowed to be in the room and held my hand through the procedure. We waited for about thirty minutes. Brian is a very sentimental person but after all of this, my wistfulness was gone. My attention was concentrated on getting back to our, now, happy lives with our baby boy.
Fast forward to the first ultrasound, I knew that I had become pregnant as a result of the transfer but didn’t fully buy into the idea of it. Dr. K. said that he never thought we would get to this stage and I mimicked his skepticism. I took my place on the examination table and our doctor performed the ultrasound. Here’s what I heard next, “Huh! That’s interesting, I see 2 gestational sacs.” I looked at him and said, “What does that mean?” He said, “You are having identical twins.” WHAT? NO!, I thought. Then, I said, “No, we only had 1 egg.” (As an aside, being a twin myself, I never wanted twins. If our donor would have produced more eggs and more embryos would have developed as a result, it was my/our wish to transfer only 1 embryo at a time.) He looked at me and said, “You should know this since you are an identical twin, it split.” I looked at the screen in total disbelief and pointed to one of the white dots and said, “That is an air bubble and it will be gone in my next ultrasound.” He just laughed and said, “That is not an air bubble.”
The next day I left for a business trip in Florida. I was in denial about being pregnant with twins. However, when I went to bed that night cuddled up with one of our baby boy’s onsies, I started to panic about the idea of having 3 babies in 8 or 9 months. The following morning, I awoke to seeing blood -- not a lot but enough to think that I was miscarrying. I had never bled before so I thought, “OK, here we go with an actual miscarriage.” I called my doctor’s office and the nurse to whom I spoke said that there was nothing that could be done but just to wait and see.
I returned home and drove to my doctor’s office from the airport. Before he did the ultrasound, he said, “Bleeding is very common with twins.” I was completely agitated because I couldn’t understand why he kept harping on this twin thing. What I saw on the screen were those same 2 white circles that had appeared the week before. I was braced for the bad news. I figured that I was going to have to endure yet another D&C. Dr. K. said, “They are fine and they ARE twins. I am pretty certain that you are going to end up with 2 babies.” This was the very moment when the reality that I was going to be a mother to 3 babies in less than a year started to sink in and I was absolutely terrified. I was trying to get my head around the fact that just a few months before, I was on my hands and knees begging to be a mother. Now, I was feeling overwhelmed and insecure because I wasn't confident that I would be able to handle what God was giving me/us.
What I remember of their birth was feeling a huge sense of relief when I heard them cry for the first time. I was carrying posterior and only felt them move a few times throughout my entire pregnancy. The day I was taken to the hospital, the medical staff was having a difficult time picking up both heartbeats. I was convinced that my fears had come to fruition and that we would not be bringing home 2 babies. Trevor came out needing to speak to the CEO of the hospital right away. His screams were so fierce that I recall having a sense that he was going to be more than just ‘ok’.
Upon reflection, I am now able to understand that my inability to embrace the egg donor process was my way of protecting my heart. My detachment was elemental because I wasn’t going to allow for any future heartbreak especially since I had just found immense joy in raising our adopted son.
My pregnancy with Logan and Trevor was quite risky. I endured serious complications but the worst was that I was unable, or maybe even unwilling, to allow myself to grow emotionally close to them in utero. Admitting this is very difficult and makes me feel very ashamed. Given my history, I had built up a wall and had decided, unconsciously of course, that I would give into being the mother of these 2 children IF and WHEN they came to be born and were alive. Wow! The magnitude of that realization is striking me as I type. Let's just let that sit for a moment...
Of course I do wonder if my experience would have been entirely different if we were childless during the donor process and my pregnancy. But here's the thing, creating families through alternative methods is so very complex. There is no book titled, What to Expect When You Adopt or Have a Baby through Surrogacy or Egg Donation. We (you, me and everyone else facing infertility) have been dealt a hand that tests everything we thought we knew about ourselves, our partner and those trying to support us. When our children arrive, in whatever way that happens, we will love them with all of our being. That love is the only given in all of this.
Looking back, I am truly amazed at what it took to build our family. Clearly, my road to becoming a mother was laden with potholes. At times, I/we got off course and even lost our way. Once we arrived at our destination, it became abundantly clear that what we had endured was worthwhile and our journey was beyond extraordinary.
Handing out birthday cake to my sons and their preschool friends today was what I had envisioned when I was so desperate to become a mother. I fantasized about snuggling with my kids on their birthdays and that is exactly what I did this morning. It was glorious and it took me back to when they were these tiny, helpless little humans in the NICU and we worried and wondered, “Will they grow into healthy little boys?” I can attest that they most certainly have. The song that takes me back to the day that they were born is, Here Comes the Sun.
My life is good and full of meaning now. I sincerely hope that you will experience the same joy (and craziness) in the very near future!