Everyone who comes to consider donor eggs has been on a long and difficult fertility journey. I wanted to share our story to give others on this journey hope, and also to inspire more women to donate their eggs.
We came to parenthood late and conceived our first daughter naturally and relatively quickly when I was 39. We desperately wanted to have another child, and for our daughter to have a sibling, so started trying again when our daughter was one. We fell pregnant within a couple of months but sadly miscarried and then were unable to conceive again. After a further six months of trying, we had fertility tests which showed I had a low ovarian reserve and being 42 were told by the clinic we should try IVF but that time wasn't on our side. After an intense year of IVF cycles, many of which had to be abandoned as I wasn't responding to the drugs, we had to face the fact that we wouldn't be able to conceive with my eggs. The fertility clinic had suggested early on that we would likely have more success using donor eggs.
We never thought we would be in this position but had had time to think about it, come to terms with it, and feel comfortable with the idea. We investigated donor eggs and the impact on donor-conceived children (DC Network was a great source of information). Also, we had implications for counselling to help us decide if it was a route we really wanted to go down. Once we'd made the decision to try with donor eggs, we wanted to embark on it quickly and so decided that using frozen donor eggs was the best option for us. There aren't many clinics offering frozen donor eggs in the UK and after speaking with London Egg Bank and reading all the information they sent us, we felt confident in their experience and service.
Having been broken emotionally and financially by a year of IVF, we decided the security of the 2-cycle package was important for us and that it offered us better odds for success. Due to wanting to start quickly, we had looked at the frozen donor eggs database before our initial consultation and we went to the meeting excited to tell the consultant that we'd already chosen our donor. This donor seemed similar to me in her experience and outlook on life, she was also tall with blue eyes which was important for us as we are all tall with blue eyes. However, in the consultation, we were told that if we wanted to do the 2-cycle package then we had to choose from a different bank of eggs. These donor eggs had been successful in the past so there was more chance of us having success with them. This provided us with a dilemma as we'd set our hearts on the donor we'd identified and also meant there were likely to be donor-conceived siblings out there.
A key driver for going down this route was for our existing daughter to have a sibling so we decided if there were further siblings out there it can only be a good thing. So back to the drawing board, this time we didn't have access to the database and worked with the Matching and Research Coordinator who took our criteria and sent us profiles of potential matches.
There were only two donors who matched our height criteria, one with blue eyes and one with brown. Our Coordinator was happy to help when we couldn't decide what to do and sent through profiles of other donors with blue eyes who were shorter. We decided height was the most important criteria and went back to the original two and the donor we chose had brown eyes. It was actually the moving message in our donor’s profile that was the deciding factor, it made both of us cry but in a good way, and we felt her message would be something that would help support our child in the future and that the donor would be open to our child contacting her.
"The beauty of using frozen eggs is that you do not need to wait to find a donor and sync your bodies for fresh IVF cycles."
The egg donation journey was very straightforward. Everyone you interact with at the clinic is very supportive and positive and everything was clearly explained. We were able to use test results from our previous IVF clinic which saved time and money for us, and because we chose our donor quickly, we were able to embark on the first round straight away. We had our initial consultation in April and in June we had our embryo transfer.
Having been through a number of IVF cycles previously we knew what to expect, and in fact, frozen eggs IVF was a lot easier physically - no need for injections! When the batch of six eggs were thawed there were actually eight for us to use. Seven of these were fertilised and five were of good enough quality to use.
We'd never appreciated how emotionally charged trying for a baby is. When we came to London Egg Bank we were at the end of our journey following a miscarriage, multiple failed IVF attempts and one that resulted in a chemical pregnancy. We didn't believe it would work out for us and felt like we were going through the motions so that we could finally draw a line under having more children and move on with our lives. We didn't want to get excited and build up our hope for fear that it would fail again and couldn't believe our eyes when we saw the positive pregnancy test. We were incredibly lucky that the first embryo transfer was actually implanted and our amazing daughter arrived nine months later. The package we bought included embryo freezing for a year and we have now paid for a further year of freezing, just in case we decide to try for more we can use those frozen embryos.
"I clearly remember being in the postnatal ward crying tears of joy and telling my partner how it felt like she was completely mine, the feelings of love and protectiveness were there immediately."
With a donor-conceived child, you naturally worry that you may not bond with your baby, but that is true for babies that you conceive naturally as well. There's also no crystal ball to tell you how your relationship with your children will be over time. However, you have to trust that the love you have for, and give to, your children is enough.
There has been no question in our minds that our baby is ours. I've carried her for nine months, given her life and felt her move inside me. When she was born she didn't stop crying until she was in my arms, I was her safe haven and will continue to be that for all the time she needs me. I clearly remember being in the postnatal ward crying tears of joy and telling my partner how it felt like she was completely mine, the feelings of love and protectiveness were there immediately. The years of pain and anguish paled into insignificance once she was in our arms and she's slotted into our family perfectly.
What about the blue eyes you may be thinking? Well surprisingly she actually looks very similar to how our other daughter looked at her age, and after all the fretting about having a donor with brown eyes and worrying that the dominant brown-eyed gene would take over her eyes are now settling and are blue. Even if they were brown it wouldn't matter, she's a bubbly happy baby who is loved unconditionally and will always be loved (apart from when she's throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket and everyone is walking past giving us that look!).
"With a donor-conceived child, you naturally worry that you may not bond with your baby, but that is true for babies that you conceive naturally as well."
We will be open with both of our daughters about how they were both conceived and have already started talking about the trips to London to see the doctors who helped to make our baby. A major concern for us before we embarked on using donor eggs was how our existing daughter would react to this. However, now that we see the bond that they already have together and the fact that they will grow up with the same narrative, we don't think it will change how they see each other.
We told our close family and friends about our decision to use donor eggs and they supported us through this journey and will continue to do so. We will tell other people as and when it is necessary, in fact, the midwives and health visitors have all been really supportive and nobody has batted an eyelid over our daughter being donor-conceived.
Our priority is that our daughters both grow up confident in the knowledge that we love them both equally and that they can ask as many questions of us as they need to. We will also support our donor-conceived daughter to find our egg donor if she wants to.
Our advice to anyone thinking about embarking on the egg donation journey is to be kind to yourself. You've been on an emotional roller coaster to get to this point and you aren't going to get off of it any time soon. Take the time you need to make sure you are comfortable with the choice to go down this route. Ask questions and gather information about frozen eggs IVF to help you make an informed decision. Everyone at London Egg Bank is so friendly and helpful, that you are never made to feel like you are asking silly questions or wasting anyone's time. The beauty of using frozen donor eggs is that you do not need to wait to find a donor and sync your bodies for fresh IVF cycles. This removes an element of stress from the whole process and also means that once you are ready you can start treatment quickly.
We would love to be able to thank our donor in person. To think that the amazingly selfless donation of her eggs was able to create our baby and complete our family is astonishing.
To anyone who is reading this and is considering donating her eggs, you are truly amazing! It is an incredible act of kindness that will bring so much joy to people who otherwise wouldn't be able to conceive.