For several years now, Andy and I have been trying to get pregnant. We’ve been fairly quiet about it, telling only our parents and a very, very small number of close friends.
It didn’t take us long to realize that this wasn’t going to be easy — I was already 40 when we started seriously feeling like we wanted to be parents, so we weren’t terribly surprised when it didn’t happen right away. We consulted our doctors and had some tests done and discovered that, no, my eggs had very little chance of being fertilized.
You can probably imagine how disappointing that was. But it was also a relief for me. You see, I have an uncle with Huntington’s Disease, which is caused by a genetic defect. One of my grandparents had to have passed it on to my uncle (we’re pretty positive it was my grandfather, who had other health issues that could have masked HD’s early symptoms), so my late father had a 50% chance of carrying the gene, too. But he was never tested for it. And I’d rather not have the test myself. Considering HD is untreatable, it would be far too Sword of Damocles for me if I knew for sure that, sooner or later, I was going to come down with it. One of the reasons I put off thinking about having kids was the quandary it put me in where HD was concerned.
So. It wasn’t going to happen naturally, with my own egg, but that wasn’t entirely a bad thing.
Adoption? Awfully expensive. Not to mention personally intrusive. Between Andy’s atheism, and my Paganism, a lot of adoption agencies probably wouldn’t even consider us. Besides, I really wanted the experience of pregnancy, if it was at all possible.
Our next option was an egg donor. Which, we quickly found out was also exorbitantly expensive, seeing as how we’d have to basically hire a donor, and pay all the medical expenses she’d incur through the donation process. Then there’d be the IVF process to pay for, and finally the implantation itself.
Things were beginning to look a little grim.
Then Andy stumbled across some information about an emerging concept: embryo donation.
It turns out there are couples out there who have frozen embryos left over from their own fertility treatments, who would rather see them go to another fertility-challenged couple than have them destroyed. And in the last few years, a few clinics have started putting together programs. It’s less expensive than using an egg donor, because all the preliminaries have already been done.
Because it’s a new idea, it’s taken us awhile to find someone we can work with on it. A lot of the organizations doing this are religious in nature and won’t even consider a non-Christian family. And most of the rest are just getting started — they don’t have donor pools yet, among other issues. We eventually found two that looked promising and started seriously talking to them.
The one we eventually decided against was pricier but close enough to be a day trip. We got the feeling, though, that their embryo donation program was tertiary at best on their agenda — we found that we had a hard time getting timely responses to our questions.
But that’s okay, because even though the clinic we’ve chosen is in Fort Myers, Florida (a place we swore we’d be delighted never to see again after the last few months of my father and stepmother’s lives), the doctor heading it up is one of the big pioneers in the field.
I’m keeping this post, and others on this topic, private for now, because the success rate for embryo donation is only about 30% per try, and the fewer people who know ahead of time, the less stressful an unsuccessful attempt with be for us. I’m feeling optimistic that I’ll be going public with this whole thing round about the new year, though, or a little after.